Tucows is to become “the second largest registrar in the world” by acquiring eNom from Rightside, paying $83.5 million.
The deal will give Tucows another 14.5 million domains under management and 28,000 resellers, giving it a total of 29 million DUM and 40,000 resellers.
That DUM number, which appears to include ccTLDs, makes Tucows the undisputed volume leader in the reseller world and the second-largest registrar overall.
GoDaddy, the DUM leader, had about 55 million domains just in gTLDs at the last count.
Tucows CEO Elliot Noss told analysts that the deal, along with the April 2016 acquisition of Melbourne IT’s reseller business, were “individual opportunistic transactions”.
He said that Tucows will take its time integrating the two companies, but expects to realize cost savings (presumably read: job losses as duplicate administrative positions are eliminated) over 24 months.
The reseller APIs will not change, and Tucows will not migrate names over to its own existing ICANN accreditations. This could help with reseller retention.
For Rightside, the company said the spin-off will allow it to focus on vertical integration between its gTLD registry business and its consumer-facing registrar, Name.com.
Rightside had come in for a certain amount of high-profile investor criticism for its dogged focus on new gTLDs at the expense of its eNom and Name.com businesses.
Activist investor J Carlo Cannell, supported by fellow investor and Uniregistry CEO Frank Schilling, a year ago accused Rightside of putting too much emphasis on “garbage” new gTLDs instead of its more profitable registrar businesses.
Last June, it also announced plans to modernize eNom, which Cannell and others had accused of looking stale compared to its competitors.
New gTLD registry RightSide has slashed the minimum price of its so-called “Platinum” tier premium domains and dropped renewal fees for these domains down to an affordable level.
The price changes come as part of two new marketing initiatives designed to start shifting more of its 14,000-strong portfolio of super-premiums through brokers and registrar partners.
The minimum first-year price of a Platinum-tier name has been reduced immediately from $50,000 to $25,000.
In addition, these domains will no longer renew every year at the same price. Instead, RightSide has reduced renewals to a more affordable $30.
“We weren’t selling them,” RightSide senior VP of sales and premiums Matt Overman told DI. “There is not a market for $50,000-a-year domain purchases.”
Now, “we feel comfortable enough with amount money we’re going to make up-front”, Overman said.
However, premium renewals are not being abandoned entirely; non-Platinum premium names will still have their original higher annual renewal fees, he said.
RightSide has sold some Platinum names in the five and six-figure range, but the number is quite small compared to overall size of the portfolio.
But Overman said that “none of them sold with a $50,000 renewal”. The highest renewal fee negotiated to date was $5,000, he said.
Before yesterday’s announcements, RightSide’s Platinum names were available on third-party registrars with buy-it-now fees that automatically applied the premium renewal fees.
However, it seems that the vast majority if not all of these sales came via the company’s in-house registrars such as Name.com and eNom, where there was a more flexible “make an offer” button.
Under a new Platinum Edge product, RightSide hopes to bring this functionality to its registrar partners.
It has made all 14,000 affected names registry-reserved as a result, Overman said. They were previously available in the general pool of unclaimed names and available to registrars via EPP.
Each affected name now has a minimum “access fee” of $25,000 (going up to $200,000 depending on name) that registrars must pay to release it.
They’re able to either negotiate a sale with a markup they can keep, or sell at “cost” (that is, the access fee) and claim a 10% commission, Overman said.
A separate Platinum Brokerage service has also been introduced, aimed at getting more professional domain brokers involved in the sales channel.
Brokers will be able to “reserve” up to five RightSide Platinum names for a broker-exclusivity period of 60 days, during which they’re expected to try to negotiate deals with potential buyers.
While no other brokers will be able to sell those names during those 60 days, registrars will still be able to sell those reserved names.
Overman said that if a registrar sells a name during the period it is under exclusivity with a participating broker, that broker will still get a commission from RightSide regardless of whether they were involved in the sale.
“We won’t give that name to any other broker, but if it sells through a registrar they still get their 10%,” he said. The registrar also gets its 10%.
This of course is open to gaming — brokers could reserve names and just twiddle their thumbs for 60 days, hoping to get a commission for no work — but the broker program is expected to be fairly tightly managed and those exploiting the system could be kicked out.
RightSide will be making the case for the two Platinum-branded offerings at the upcoming NamesCon conference in Las Vegas, where it also expects to name its first brokerage partners.
GoDaddy has published a new specification designed to make it easier for domain owners to quickly set up web sites using third-party site-building tools.
Its new Domain Connect Initiative is tailored for customers who do not know how to configure a DNS record and do not care to learn,according to Charles Beadnall, senior VP of domains.
While signing up for a participating site-building service, Shopify for example, customers currently have to either figure out how to manually reconfigure their DNS or get GoDaddy’s customer support to talk them through it.
GoDaddy currently receives tens of thousands of customer support calls every year related to these scenarios, Beadnall said.
But using Domain Connect, instead they will be able to simply enter their domain name with Shopify and, after authenticating with their registrar (via OAUTH), their domain’s DNS will be automatically configured to point to their new site.
This saves the customer’s time and GoDaddy’s money.
Under the hood, it works using a series of templates, authored by the service providers, which instruct the registrar or DNS provider in how to set up the domain to use the service, Beadnall said.
Due to the high risk of malicious exploitation, it’s not completely frictionless. Service provider templates must be manually pre-approved and white-listed by registrars, Beadnall said.
As the system does not involve domain registration or transfer it’s not really within ICANN’s policy wheelhouse, so the spec has instead been published via the IETF.
It has already been embraced by leading rival registrars eNom, Name.com and United Domains, as well as toolmakers including Microsoft, Shopify and Wix.
The announcement of Domain Connect was made a couple of weeks ago while I was off sick.
More information and documentation can be found on the Domain Connect web site.
Demand Media has completed the spin-off of its domain name business, Rightside.
Shares in the new company, which will be listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange, went to existing Demand Media shareholders.
Trading under the ticker symbol NAME, Rightside stock started off at $16.77 yesterday morning and is currently trading at around $15.07.
Rightside comprises number two registrar eNom, retail registrar Name.com, new gTLD portfolio registry United TLD (which is branded Rightside), and its share of auction house NameJet.
It is headed by CEO Taryn Naidu and chairman David Panos.
The company also today named its initial board of directors.
ICM Registry has partnered with a company called Model Centro to offer free .xxx domain names to porn performers.
Model Centro offers porn models a managed fan site and social networking service. It’s free to the models, with the company taking a 15% slice of whatever subscription fees are taken from their fans.
The arrangement seems to be related to the sale of Models.xxx, which ICM held back as a premium name until this week but which now mirrors the old modelcentro.com.
The deal will see each Models.xxx user get one free .xxx domain.
It also means ICM’s Adult Performer Program, which reserved the names of 3,500 porn stars and allowed them to be claimed for free via Name.com is no more.
The company said in a statement that the two-year-old program has been scrapped.
The new deal is probably better for .xxx. Because Models.xxx is a web site service, each free domain given away is going to turn into a site almost immediately, potentially increasingly the gTLD’s visibility.
The same group that runs Model Centro also recently acquired the premium bukkake.xxx, while another bought extreme.xxx and public.xxx. The three sold for a total of $150,000, according to the registry.