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Amazon snubs ICANN auction to win .coupon privately

Amazon has won the new gTLD .coupon, after Minds + Machines withdrew its application this week.

I understand that the two-way contention set was settled privately via a third party intermediary, possibly via some kind of auction, with M+M ultimately being paid off to withdraw its bid.

.coupon was the only ICANN-managed “auction of last resort” scheduled for July, following the $600,000 sale of .信息 last week.

The next batch of ICANN auctions is now not due to happen until August, unless of course ICANN rejigs its schedule in light of the .coupon settlement.

It’s not clear why Amazon has suddenly decided it prefers the idea of a private commercial settlement after all, but it appears to be good news for M+M, which will see the majority of the cash.

However, it could be related to the fact that .coupon, and dozens of other Amazon new gTLD applications, recently made the switch from being “closed generics” to more inclusive proposals.

Amazon had originally intended that itself and its subsidiaries would be the “only eligible registrants” for .coupon, but in March it changed the application, among many others.

Now, Amazon talks in vague terms about .coupon names being available to “eligible trusted third parties”, a term that doesn’t seem ready to define before the TLDs are actually delegated.

It seems to me, from Amazon’s revised applications, that .coupon and its other gTLDs will be locked down tight enough that they could wind up being effectively closed generics after all.

When Amazon publishes its first eligibility requirements document with ICANN, I expect members of the Governmental Advisory Committee will be watching closely.

M+M profits by losing new gTLD auctions

Minds + Machines managed to make a profit in 2013, after years of losses, due to its participation in private new gTLD auctions, some of which it “lost”.

The company today reported operating profit of £776,000 for the year to December 31, compared to a £3.07 million loss in 2012, on revenue of £4.12 million. Profit after tax was £729,000.

“Profit was primarily a result from participating three private auctions,” CEO Antony Van Couvering said in a statement.

Chairman Fred Krueger added:

As we expected, private auctions have become the key method of settling contention between applications and we have benefited from this development, as it has enabled our cash to work on a leveraged basis: the domains we have lost in private auction (for example .property and .website) have helped finance new TLDs we have acquired such as .wedding and .garden.

Minds + Machines (then Top Level Domain Holdings) said last October that it had raised £2.97 million by losing the auctions for .lawyer and .website.

Excluding the auctions, it looks like the company made just £36,000 in revenue, all of which came from its registry back-end business.

.wedding and .green gTLD auctions raise millions

Kevin Murphy, February 25, 2014, Domain Registries

Two more new gTLDs — .wedding and .green — have been auctioned off, with proceeds amounting to millions of dollars.

Top Level Domain Holdings said in a press release that it won .wedding and lost .green, which cost it a net $2.23 million.

That’s the amount it paid for .wedding, minus its share of the .green winning bid and its ICANN refund for withdrawing its .green application.

I don’t think we can infer the exact sale price of .wedding from that, other than to say that it was definitely over $2.2 million.

TLDH did not say who won the .green auction. The only other remaining applicants, after Dot Green’s withdrawal last year, were Rightside and Afilias. Neither has withdrawn their applications yet.

In the .wedding auction, conducted by Applicant Auction, it beat rival portfolio applicants Donuts and What Box?

M+M sees 200,000 .london names in its future

Kevin Murphy, February 14, 2014, Domain Registries

Minds + Machines CEO Antony Van Couvering reckons the company’s forthcoming .london new gTLD could see as many as 200,000 domains under management, just from small businesses.

He told DI the target is realistic following the results of a YouGov survey of 1,001 London-based small businesses, which found that 26% were “likely” to buy a .london name.

From this, YouGov extrapolated that there are at least 218,140 companies ready to register a .london.

Van Couvering would not put a deadline on hitting the ambitious goal, but said that registry Dot London Domains and M+M as technical provider are “going to do our best to make the launch well-publicized and successful.”

Judging by the gTLD’s official web site, which carries quotes from the likes of Selfridges, the London Eye and Carnaby Street, there’s been a fair bit of outreach to recognizable London brands already.

Dot London backer London & Partners is the Mayor’s office’s official PR agency, so you can imagine there’s going to be some decent marketing resources thrown at marketing.

The .london gTLD is due to launch April 29 this year, according to the registry.

It’s been contracted with ICANN since November 14, so is running well over the average time to delegation of 70 days.

TLDH raises $33.6m to fight new gTLD auctions

Kevin Murphy, January 31, 2014, Domain Registries

Top Level Domain Holdings has raised £21 million with an institutional investor share placement to help it win some new gTLD contention set auctions.

Its total war chest following the $33.6 million-ish placement will be about $63 million, albeit with $15 million of that earmarked for a single, as-yet-unspecified auction.

The company is currently in 43 contention sets, most of which it apparently wants to resolve via private auction. TLDH said in a statement:

The Company believes private auctions provide a significant opportunity for the Company both to increase the number of high-value gTLDs within its portfolio and to generate cash from those gTLDs which it chooses to relinquish. Under the private auction process, the winning bid is divided equally and paid to the losing applicants net of the auctioneer’s fees.

As part of TLDH’s transition from a revenue-free penny stock to a trading company, it’s going to change its name to Minds + Machines Limited, via a reverse takeover of its subsidiary of the same name.

The company said the move will help with “stakeholder communications and branding”.

Finally, TLDH said that founding director Guy Elliott is to leave its board of directors and be replaced by new non-executive director Elliot Noss. Noss is of course CEO of rival registry/registrar Tucows.