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TLDH has the end in sight, but no revenue

Kevin Murphy, September 30, 2013, Domain Registries

Top Level Domain Holdings made less than $12,000 in the first half of the year, but says its new gTLD business may start generating revenue in the fourth quarter.

In its interim financial results, published this morning, the company also revealed that it plans to launch its own domain name registrar and, via a partnership, web site building tools.

Revenue for the six months to June 30, which was almost all due to monetization of its second-level domains portfolio, was £7,000 ($11,295), compared to £346,000 ($558,000) a year earlier.

TLDH’s loss for the period grew to £1.8 million ($2.9 million) from £1.5 million ($2.4 million).

But in a lengthy statement chairman Fred Krueger assured investors that he is “confident” that the long process of getting TLDH’s applied-for gTLDs to market is drawing to a close.

Looking forward, I am confident that ICANN will broadly continue to sign contracts in line with the timelines we announced in July 2013, allowing .LONDON potentially to begin its launch and initial marketing as early as the first half of 2014. Given the recent signing of contract between .KIWI and ICANN, we may see our first revenues as a back-end registry operator as early as Q4 2013, and revenue from the sale of domain names from our first wholly-owned new gTLD by Q1 2014.

The company currently has interests in 25 uncontested gTLDs and has applied for 48 more, according to Krueger.

With more private and ICANN new gTLD auctions coming soon, TLDH has cash on hand of £7.4 million ($12 million).

Given the average selling price of a new gTLD is currently $1.3 million, there’s seems to be little chance of TLDH securing its entire portfolio of applied-for strings without additional funding.

Losing private auctions could be a way to generate cash to win more than the nine auctions that its $12 million implies, however.

Krueger also revealed TLDH’s revenue plans beyond its Minds + Machines registry services business.

As we enter into this final phase, we are pursuing other potential revenue-producing ventures by developing our own registrar, and, in cooperation with the website-building company Needly, providing a clean path for users to get a complete online solution – a web presence and email, as well as a domain name.

Krueger is also CEO of Needly, which makes a web content management platform.

Tucows and TLDH buddy up on three gTLD auctions

Kevin Murphy, August 2, 2013, Domain Registries

Top Level Domain Holdings and Tucows have made a complex deal on new gTLD applications for .store, .tech and .group.

The partnership will see TLDH take a majority stake in .group, which it hasn’t also applied for, while Tucows will take minority interests in .tech and .store, which it in turn has not also applied for.

All three strings are heading to auction, with four applicants for .group, five for .tech, and six for .store.

How much each company owns of each registry will depend on how much they contribute to a winning auction bid.

TLDH CEO Antony Van Couvering said in a press release:

By combining our financial resources on these three domains not only are our chances of success improved in the auction round, but TLDH has the opportunity to acquire an interest in an additional top-level domain, .GROUP.

Tucows already plans to use TLDH subsidiary Minds + Machines as the registry back-end for the five new gTLDs it has applied for.

TLDH bags $10m in share sale

Top Level Domain Holdings has raised roughly $10 million by selling shares to institutional investors and directors.

The company, listed on the Alternative Investment Market in London, said today it has placed 110,375,276 new ordinary shares at £0.06 apiece.

The money will be used to help the company win some new gTLD contention set auctions and to promote the uncontested geo .london, which TLDH has been hired to manage.

The company is involved in 88 new gTLDs, some as applicant and some as back-end registry provider via its Minds + Machines subsidiary.

TLDH said it expects to start launching TLDs in the fourth quarter.

New hires at Donuts, DomainDiction and 101domain

Kevin Murphy, March 14, 2013, Domain Services

It’s been a busy week in the industry for executive switcheroos, with Donuts, DomainDiction and 101domain all announcing senior-level hires.

Today it emerged that Elaine Pruis, a long-time key member of the Minds + Machines team, has jumped to rival new gTLD applicant Donuts, where she’s now director of operations.

That’s quite a surprising move, coming so soon before gTLDs start getting delegated and — perhaps more importantly — contention set resolution deadlines start closing in.

DomainDiction, the gTLD-focused PR agency, has meanwhile lost one top expert and gained two others.

Pinky Brand, an alum of .mobi, Verisign and Iron Mountain, has gone solo, launching his own consulting business under the name [ PINKY ] • BRAND.

Former NetNames strategy director Stephane Van Gelder, an occasional DI guest poster, has been brought on as lobbyist and copywriter, while IP lawyer Bart Lieben has been hired for his considerable expertise in sunrise periods.

Neither man is on DomainDiction’s exclusive payroll, and continue to have other projects.

Finally, 101domain yesterday announced that it’s hired Joe Alagna as head of channel development. Alagna until recently worked in the registry world, as CentralNic’s general manager for North America.

Fight over new sports gTLDs gets real ugly

Kevin Murphy, January 10, 2013, Domain Registries

The battle for contested new gTLDs .rugby and .basketball is turning nasty.

Roar Domains, a New Zealand marketing firm whose gTLD applications are backed by the official international bodies for both sports, is promising to pull out all the stops to kill off its competition.

The company, which is partnered with Minds + Machines on both bids, has told rival portfolio applicant Donuts that it will attack its applications for the two TLDs on at least three fronts.

Notably, Roar wants Donuts disqualified from the entire new gTLD program, and plans to lobby to have Donuts fail its background check.

The company told Donuts last month:

while we have no desire to join the chorus of voices speaking out against Donuts, it is incumbent on us to pursue the automatic disqualification of Applicant Guidebook Section 1.2.1, and every opposition and objection process available to us.

Applicant Guidebook section 1.2.1 deals with background checks.

Donuts came under more scrutiny than most on these grounds during the new gTLDs public comment period last year due to its co-founders being involved at the sharp end of domain investment over the last decade.

Demand Media and eNom, where founder Paul Stahura was a senior executive, have lost many UDRP cases over the years.

A mystery lawyer who refuses to disclose his clients started pursuing Donuts last August, saying the company is “unsuited and ineligible to participate in the new gTLD program.”

Separate (pseudonymous?) public comments fingered a former Donuts director for allegedly cybersquatting the Olympics and Disney.

While Roar has not claimed responsibility for these specific previous attacks, it certainly seems to be planning something similar in future.

In addition, Roar and International Rugby Board, which supports Roar’s application for .rugby, say they plan to official objections with ICANN about rival .rugby bids.

The IRB told Donuts, in a letter shortly before Christmas:

As the global representative of the sport and the only applicant vested with the trust and representation of the rugby community, we are unquestionably the rightful steward of .RUGBY.

Without the support of the global rugby community your commercialization efforts for .RUGBY will be thwarted. We are also preparing an objection to file against your application in accordance with ICANN rules to which you will be required to dedicate resources to formulate a response.

Roar and the IRB are also both lobbying members of ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee, which has the power to file potentially decisive GAC Advice against any application.

Roar told Donuts recently:

Roar serves as the voice and arm for FIBA [the International Basketball Federation] and IRB in the New gTLD area. We are pleased to have obtained four Early Warnings on behalf of our applications, and fully expect the GAC process to be completed to GAC Advice.

The Early Warnings against the two other .rugby applicants were filed by the UK government — the only warnings it filed — while Greece warned the two non-Roar .basketball applicants.

Roar is also involved with the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) on its .basketball bid.

While commercial interests obviously play a huge role, there’s a philosophical disagreement at the heart of these fights that could be encapsulated in the following question:

Should new gTLDs only be delegated to companies and organizations most closely affiliated with those strings?

In response to the UK’s Early Warning, Donut has written to UK GAC representative Mark Carvell asking for face-to-face talks and making the case for a “neutral” registry provider for .rugby.

Donuts told Carvell:

We believe gTLDs should be run safely and securely, and in a manner that is fair to all law-­abiding registrants, not only those predetermined as eligible. A neutral third party, such as Donuts, can be best capable of achieving this outcome.

Donuts believes a neutral operator is better able to ensure that the gTLD reflects the full diversity of opinion and content of all Internet users who are interested in the term “rugby.”

As the IRB is a powerful voice in rugby, an IRB‐managed registry might not be neutral in its operations, raising questions about its ability to impartially oversee the gTLD. For example, will IRB/Roar chill free speech by censoring content adversarial to their interests? How would they treat third parties who are interested in rugby but aren’t part of the IRB? What about IRB critics or potential rival leagues?

Despite these questions, no .rugby applicant has said it plans to operate a restricted registry. There are no applications for .basketball or .rugby designated as “Community” bids.

The IRB/Roar application specifically states “anyone can register a .rugby domain name.”

Both .basketball and .rugby are contested by Roar (FIBA/IRB/M+M), Donuts (via subsidiaries) and portfolio applicant Domain Venture Partners (aka Famous Four Media, also via subsidiaries).

Roar is a sports marketing agency that is also involved in bids for .baseball, .soccer, .football and .futbol. The New Zealand national team football captain, Ryan Nelsen, is on its board.

Here are the letters (pdf).