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CentralNic gets 680,000 AlpNames domains for free, kinda

CentralNic has emerged as the gaining registrar for AlpNames’ entire portfolio of gTLD domains.

The company announced late last week that three registrars in its stable — Moniker, Key-Systems LLC and Key-Systems GmbH — will take over roughly 680,000 domains that were left stranded when AlpNames management went AWOL.

US-based Key-Systems LLC appears to be the biggest gainer. It will be taking over domains in every gTLD except .biz, .com, .info, .net, .org, which are going to Moniker, and .pro, which are going to the German Key-Systems division.

While most registrars see their domains under management concentrated in these legacy gTLDs, by volume AlpNames had far more registrations in new 2012-round gTLDs.

It had just 19,000 .com DUM at the last count, compared to hundreds of thousands in new gTLDs such as .top and .gdn.

CentralNic said in a press release that ICANN selected its registrars after a competitive bidding process, which I’ve previously outlined here, but that it did not pay for the names. So AlpNames, presumably, won’t be getting the payday it could have received under the rules.

The transfer won’t be entirely cost-free, of course. CentralNic is going to have to provide support to its incoming customers — who will all be emailed with the details of their new Moniker accounts — for starters.

There’s also the issue of abuse. AlpNames was notorious as a haven for spammers and the like, due to its cheap prices and bulk-registration tools, so CentralNic may find itself having to deal with this legacy.

But CentralNic said it expects these incidental costs to be “minimal”.

The transfers are a big boost for CentralNic’s registrar volume, at least in the short term. The three selected registrars had a combined total of roughly two million gTLD domains at the last count. CentralNic says it acts as registrar for over seven million domains across its 13 accreditations.

For every AlpNames domain that gets renewed, CentralNic gets paid. But if AlpNames’ own track record is any guide, I suspect there’s going to be a lot of drops over the coming year.

CentralNic and KeyDrive in merger talks

Kevin Murphy, March 14, 2018, Domain Registries

CentralNic and KeyDrive, two major European domain firms, are in merger talks, CentralNic confirmed this morning.

CentralNic said that the transaction, should it close, would be a “reverse takeover” of itself by KeyDrive.

That’s where a private company, in this case KeyDrive, reverses into a public one, in this case AIM-listed CentralNic.

Luxembourg-based KeyDrive is the holding company for brands including the registrars Key-Systems, Moniker and BrandShelter and the registries OpenRegistry and KSRegistry.

London-based CentralNic is a registry provider for the likes of .xyz, recent acquirer of Slovakian TLD .sk, and owner of registrars Internet.bs and Instra.

CentralNic said: “CentralNic and KeyDrive Group believe that the combination of the two businesses would have strong strategic logic and economies of scale, and would represent an opportunity to create a group with advanced technology platforms delivering significant recurring revenues for every major customer type within the industry.”

If a deal should be struck, it would happen in the second quarter, the company said.

The announcement was made today after news of the talks leaked.

Trading in CentralNic shares has been temporarily suspended.

Free .shop domains until Christmas

Kevin Murphy, December 13, 2016, Domain Registrars

The new .shop gTLD is likely to see growth over the coming week or so, as registrars begin to offer them for free.

Two retail registrars in the Key-Systems stable — Moniker and domaindiscount24 — said today they will offer a free .shop to each of their customers until December 23.

The offer is limited to one domain per account, so we’re unlikely to see the same level of growth, speculation and abuse we’ve seen in other TLDs that have offered free registrations.

Other popular registrars are currently selling first-year .shop names for $8 to $10, a discount on the usual retail price of between $25 and $30.

Interestingly and perhaps surprisingly, Key-Systems’ native Germany already has the most .shop registrations to date, with over a quarter of the 100,000 or so names registered so far to registrants in that country.

You have to go to number four in its geographic breakdown league to even get to the first Anglophone nation (the US).

Frakes to lead Moniker

Kevin Murphy, September 7, 2015, Domain Registrars

Domain industry veteran Jothan Frakes has been tapped to take over leadership of troubled US registrar Moniker.

Frakes will take over from CEO Bonnie Wittenburg.

The news emerged during the DomainFest Asia conference in Macau, at which Frakes is a speaker, overnight.

Moniker will be his first CEO gig, but he’s a bit of a jack of all trades in the industry.

Frakes has previously worked for Sedari, Minds + Machines, Oversee.net and Moniker.

He was one of the technical evaluators for the new gTLD program, subcontracted to KPMG.

For the last couple of years he’s been a key figure behind the NamesCon and DomainFest conferences.

It might be a wise hire for Moniker — Frakes is well known and well liked in the domaining community, somewhere Moniker’s reputation has suffered horribly over the last year.

Its market share has been plummeting for years, but matters were exacerbated in June 2014 with a disastrous switch to a new registration platform that was uniformly despised (read these comments) and broke everything.

US-based Moniker gets Euro data retention waiver

Kevin Murphy, September 11, 2014, Domain Registrars

ICANN has approved Moniker’s request for a partial waiver of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement based on European privacy law, despite the fact that the registrar is based in the US.

The data retention waiver for Moniker was one of a few granted to members of the KeyDrive group of registrars that were approved by ICANN yesterday.

KeyDrive is based in Luxembourg, but the waiver request was granted because complying with the 2013 RAA could violate German privacy law and Moniker’s data is stored in Germany.

ICANN said:

Registrar’s technical backend services provider as well as data storage and collection occur on servers hosted and operated in Germany, and is subject to German law. Accordingly, ICANN has determined that it is appropriate to grant Registrar a data retention waiver

Group members Key-Systems AG (a German company) Key-Systems LLC (an American company) also received waivers yesterday.

InternetX, part of Germany-based United Internet, and http.net Internet also had their requests approved.

The waiver process was introduced because the 2013 RAA requires registrars to store customer data long after their domains expire, which registrars’ lawyers say forces them to break local laws.

An EU directive implemented in many European countries says that companies cannot store personal data for longer than it is needed for the purpose for which is was collected.

Moniker gets a new CEO

Kevin Murphy, February 21, 2014, Domain Registrars

KeyDrive has appointed Bonnie Wittenburg, Key-System USA executive vice president, as the new CEO of sister registrar Moniker.

She replaces Craig Snyder, who was CEO of Moniker and SnapNames and remains CEO of SnapNames. Wittenburg keeps her EVP roles at Key-Systems.

“Through her expanded role she will drive cooperation and develop a synergistic relationship between the KeyDrive members,” the company said in a statement.

The KeyDrive stable also includes Key-Systems, NameDrive and KS Registry.

Wittenberg is a 15-year veteran of the domain name industry, with previous stints at Network Solutions and Iron Mountain.

Key-Systems to take a loss on .hiv domains

Key-Systems said yesterday that it plans to make .hiv domain names available at “below net cost price”, in solidarity with would-be new gTLD registry dotHIV.

The registrar said it will also offer free .hiv names at launch to organizations involving in fighting the virus via its Moniker and domaindiscount24.com retail registrars.

dotHIV, also a German company, plans to donate all of its profits to HIV/AIDs charities.

Its application is uncontested and has already passed Initial Evaluation, but is the target of Governmental Advisory Committee advice, which has put its bid on hold.

Despite this uncertainty, Key-Systems said it expects the Sunrise phase for .hiv to start in December.

Moniker and SnapNames join Key-Systems stable

Kevin Murphy, February 1, 2012, Domain Registrars

KeyDrive has acquired rival registrar Moniker and rival aftermarket player SnapNames from Oversee.net, according to a statement on the company’s web site.

The deal, which closed in January, would make the combined company the sixth-largest ICANN-accredited registrar, with over 5.4 million domains under management, KeyDrive said.

KeyDrive formed with the merger of German registrar Key-Systems and aftermarket services provider NameDrive last July. It’s based in NameDrive’s native Luxembourg.

The deal gives the primarily European company an additional footprint in the US market. Moniker is based in Florida, SnapNames in Oregon.

It’s a not-too-soon exit for Moniker, which had a disappointing 2011 largely defined by the super-fast churning of domains under management and the regular canning of staff.

I’ve been hearing rumors that the two Oversee units were on the auction block for months.

It’s the fifth significant piece of M&A in the registrar market in the last six months, following the sale of Go Daddy and Group NBT to private investors, Tucows’ acquisition of EPAG and NetSol’s move to Web.com

Terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed. Indeed, there does not appear to have been an official announcement yet, beyond the KeyDrive home page.

The deal was first reported by DomainNameNews.

More details as they come in.

Salesforce.com pays over $1.5m for data.com

Kevin Murphy, June 7, 2011, Domain Sales

Salesforce.com has bought the domain name data.com for “an amount that significantly exceeds the $1.5 million reserve”, according to Oversee.net.

The domain had been due to be auctioned during the company’s DOMAINFest in Barcelona tomorrow, but was taken out of contention early with the private sale.

While Oversee did not disclose the buyer or final sales price, the Whois record already shows Salesforce.com as the new owner. It was previously owned by United Business Media.

Oversee said the deal brings its year-to-date sales to $11 million.

ICANN threatens to shut down registrar flipper

ICANN has said it will terminate one of its registrars for non-payment of fees, the thirteenth such threatening letter the organization has sent out this year.

The unfortunate recipient is #1 Host Brazil, which has just a couple hundred domains under its belt in the generic top-level domains.

I may be wrong, but based on some cursory research I’m inferring that the registrar is basically a shell accreditation, acquired in order to flip to a larger registrar.

There are 10 other “‘#1 Host” registrars, such as #1 Host Australia and #1 Host Canada, listed on ICANN’s list of accredited registrars, almost all of which were awarded in late 2005 to the same Texan.

They all use the same logos and, due to the hash sign, all appear at the top of alphabetical lists of ICANN-accredited registrars.

Apart from the Brazil and Israel variants, most of the other “#1” accreditations have been acquired by Moniker at various times over the last few years, according to Internic and Whois records.

#1 Host Brazil faces de-accreditation (pdf) on August 24 unless it pays almost $9,000 in ICANN fees and provides evidence of $500,000 in commercial liability insurance.