Minds + Machines has made its first six-figure new gTLD domain sale.
The domain net.work was sold in a private deal to business consultancy BearingPoint for $100,000, the company said today.
It added that a “significant annual renewal fee” applies.
It’s one of 430 premium domains to have been sold in .work, M+M said, since it went to general availability in February.
The gTLD had just shy of 55,000 domains in its zone file yesterday, recent growth partly attributable to a deep discounting program.
M+M’s registrar currently sells .work domains for less than $2.
Minds + Machines co-founder Fred Krueger has been kicked out of his job as executive chairman of the company.
The news came as the new gTLD registry reported its first full year of results as a proper, revenue-generating company.
The company reported revenue of $1.9 million for 2014, compared to $56,000 in 2013.
Its report includes a “cash revenue” line of $5 million, to show off revenues that it has deferred to future periods due to standard domain industry accounting.
For accounting purposes, M+M was profitable to the tune of $22 million for the year, but almost none of that is from actually selling domains — $33.7 million of profit came from losing new gTLD auctions.
That’s not a sustainable or predictable part of the business — nobody knows exactly when or if ICANN will launch the next round of new gTLDs — but it did help M+M grow its cash pile to $45.7 million.
That pile may grow or shrink depending on how aggressive the company is in its 11 remaining new gTLD contention set auctions.
CEO Antony Van Couvering said that M+M is also eyeing acquisition opportunities as the new gTLD industry enters an early consolidation phase.
He said that M+M’s early priorities include a focus on selling premium domains that have higher than usual annual renewal fees.
At the same time as announcing its results, the company said Krueger, who founded M+M with Van Couvering in 2009 in anticipation of the new gTLD program, has quit.
While he’s technically resigned, he left no doubt in his unusually frank resignation letter that he’s actually been forced out by the M+M board of directors.
He wrote that the decision was “initiated by the board” and that his “decision” to leave “was unexpected – for me at least”.
He added that he was “OK with it, indeed supportive of it” and that he has no intention to sell off his substantial stake in the company.
Krueger will now focus on Mozart, a web site building software maker that he’s been leading for the last couple of years. M+M has a deal to offer Mozart to its registrants.
He’s been replaced, albeit in a non-executive capacity, by Keith Teare, an existing director.
Teare is a tech veteran perhaps best known in the domain industry for launching and running RealNames, which attempted to replicate AOL Keywords for the Internet Explorer browser at the turn of the century.
.london accounts for over 37% of sales in Minds + Machines’ portfolio of live gTLDs, according to company data released this morning.
M+M published registration figures for its 19 generally available TLDs as part of a trading update ahead of its full-year financials.
The data shows that four of its top five strings are geographic in nature.
|TLD||Domains||% of Portfolio|
The TLDs have launch dates ranging from April 2014 to April 2015.
It should be noted that .kiwi and .gop are run by M+M clients, with M+M providing the back-end only.
There’s a delta of up to 5% between these reg numbers and the numbers of domains appearing in the zone files of some of these gTLDs.
For example, we count 59,162 domains in .london’s zone file and 27,955 in .bayern today, suggesting that on any given day a couple thousand domains are not configured in the DNS.
In other TLDs, such as .kiwi and .work, the zone file numbers and the reg numbers have almost no difference at all.
The company also disclosed that in its registrar business “Premium Names”, which command a higher fee, account for 3% of its registrations and 25% of revenue.
M+M recently headhunted Trent Tucker from Rightside to manage premium name sales.
Afilias’ .kim has become the latest victim (beneficiary?) of adware, as robo-registrations boost the gTLD’s zone file and apparent popularity.
It’s the latest new gTLD, after .xyz and .country, to see its rankings soar after hundreds of gibberish, bulk-registered domains started being used to serve ads by potentially unwanted software.
.kim is today the 4th most-popular new gTLD, with 85 domains in the top 100,000 on the internet and 264 in the top one million.
A month ago, it had a rank of 223, with just 16 domains in the top one million.
The domain names involved — gems such as oatmealsmoke.kim, vegetableladybug.kim and tubhaircut.kim — have seen a boat-load of traffic and rocketing Alexa rank.
The reason for the boost seems to be a one-off bulk registration of about 1,000 meaningless .kim domain names in early February, which now appear to be being used to serve ads via adware.
In this chart (click to enlarge), we see .kim’s zone file growth since the start of 2015.
The spike on February 5, which represents over 1,000 names, is the date almost all of the .kim names with Alexa rank were first registered.
They all appear to be using Uniregistry as the registrar and its free privacy service to mask their Whois details.
These domains often do not resolve if you type them into your browser. They’re also using robots.txt to hide themselves from search engines.
But they’ve been leaving traces of their activity elsewhere on the web, strongly suggesting their involvement in adware campaigns.
It seems that the current (ab?)use of .kim domains is merely the latest in a series of possibly linked campaigns.
I noted in January that gibberish .country domains — at the time priced at just $1 at Uniregistry — were suddenly taking over from .xyz in the popularity charts.
The following three charts, captured from DI PRO’s TLD Health Check, show how the three TLDs’ Alexa popularity rose and fell during what I suspect were related adware campaigns..
First, .xyz, which was the first new gTLD to show evidence of having robo-registrations used in adware campaigns, saw its popularity spike at the end of 2014 and start of 2015:
Next, Minds + Machines’ .country, which saw its zone file spike by 1,500 names around January 6, starts to see its Alexa-ranked total rocket almost immediately.
.country peaks around February 9, just a few days after the .kim robo-registrations were made.
Finally, as .country’s use declines, .kim takes over. Its popularity has been growing day by day since around February 13.
I think what we’re looking at here is one shadowy outfit cycling through bulk-registered, throwaway domain names to serve ads via unwanted adware programs.
It seems possible that domains are retired when they become sufficiently blocked by security countermeasures, and other domains in other TLDs are then brought online to take over.
None of this necessarily reflects badly on any of the new gTLDs in question, or even new gTLDs as a whole, of course.
For starters, I’ve reason to believe that TLDs such as .eu and .biz have previously been targeted by the same people.
The “attacks”, for want of a better word, are only really noticeable because the new gTLDs being targeted are young and still quite small.
It takes much longer to build up genuine popularity for a newly launched web site than it does to merely redirect exist captive traffic to a newly registered domain.
What it may mean, however, is that .kim and .country are going to be in for statistically significant junk drops about a year from now, when the first-year registrations expire.
For .kim, 1,000 names is about 14% of its current zone file. For .country, it’s more like a quarter.
Minds + Machines made $4.4 million losing three recent new gTLD auctions, according to a company press release.
It’s withdrawn bids for .latino, .school and a third string it said it could not disclose due to the rules of the private auction.
M+M now says it has $45 million cash on hand.
So far, the company has withdrawn 31 new gTLD applications, almost half of its original 70. Not all of those were lost at auction.
It has 17 contested applications left and expects those contention sets to be resolved one way or the other by the end of June 2015.