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Rightside sells eNom to Tucows for $83.5m

Kevin Murphy, January 23, 2017, Domain Registrars

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.

Since then, Rightside has rebuffed separate offers for some or all of its gTLDs by rivals Donuts and XYZ.com.

Last June, it also announced plans to modernize eNom, which Cannell and others had accused of looking stale compared to its competitors.

RightSide cuts super-premium fees in half, drops premium renewals

Kevin Murphy, January 11, 2017, Domain Registries

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 spearheads Domain Connect spec

Kevin Murphy, September 27, 2016, Domain Registrars

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 spins off Rightside

Kevin Murphy, August 5, 2014, Domain Registries

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 scraps free .xxx porn star offer, starts new one

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.

Disadvantaged kids need your money after terrible Name.com charity drive

Kevin Murphy, March 13, 2014, Domain Registrars

Domain name registrar Name.com carried out what can only be described as a completely abysmal charity fund-raising drive during this week’s South by Southwest conference, and disadvantaged kids need your help as a result.

During the conference, Name.com got one of its more photogenic customer support guys to go around the streets of Austin, Texas, asking random passers-by to high-five him.

The high-fives were recorded on a great big electronic device the guy carried on his back. For every high-five he got, Name.com promised to donate a nickel ($0.05) to charity.

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The campaign was videoed and published on the company’s blog (here, here, here, and here)

The end result of this was 10,000 high-fives, which raised an absolutely pointless $500 for the charity concerned, which is the Austin Children’s Center, a very worthy-sounding cause.

The Austin’s Children’s Center provides services for child victims of abuse in Austin, Texas.

But if you watch all of the Name.com videos linked to above, you’ll learn rather more about Name.com than you will about the charity it’s supposedly raising money for.

And all this effort raised a pathetic $500.

There are people reading this post who have regularly spent more than that on dinner.

During the final video, a representative of the charity, the Austin’s Children’s Center, says “We have to raise 65% of our annual budget, and this year it’s $7 million.”

So Name.com raised a whopping 0.007% of its chosen charity’s annual funding needs, while putting rather a lot of effort into attempting to raise its own corporate profile.

I gather that the highfive-counting electronic gizmo that the CSR carried around on his back in the videos costs around $1,200 to buy, meaning that the stunt actually ran at a loss.

Name.com could have donated an extra $1,200 to this charity if it had not run the stunt at all.

That’s assuming, of course, that it didn’t pay the guy carrying the camera, or the guy who did the editing, or the guy who wrote the blog post, or the guy who sent me the press release today…

This kind of crap makes me sick.

I donated $25 to the Center today in protest at Name.com’s bullshit.

If you want to donate in protest too, which I strongly encourage you to do, do it here.

Not many people have donated yet. This charity really does need your help.

If you’re not convinced yet, watch this video and then donate if you find it funny.

Demand Media to spin off domains business as Rightside

Kevin Murphy, November 6, 2013, Domain Registrars

Demand Media has confirmed its plan to spin off its domain name business into a separate company.

The new firm will be called Rightside. As the (rather good) name suggests, it will include the company’s interests in over 100 new gTLD applications and registries.

As well as United TLD, it will also include eNom, Name.com and Demand’s stake in NameJet.

Rightside will be based in Kirkland, Washington, and headed by new appointed CEO Taryn Naidu, who’s been running Demand’s domain unit internally for the last couple of years.

Demand Media mulls eNom spin-off

Kevin Murphy, February 20, 2013, Domain Registrars

Are the synergies between domain name registrars and content farms not all they were cracked up to be?

That’s a question emerging from last night’s news that Demand Media is planning to spin off its domains business, which includes number-two registrar eNom, into a separate public company.

The company, reporting its fourth-quarter earnings, said that it’s looking into the possibility of breaking up content and domains into two separately-owned businesses.

The new domain company would comprise eNom (wholesale) and Name.com (retail) on the registrar side, any new gTLDs Demand manages to win, the formative registry back-end business, and its stake in NameJet.

“We believe that a separation of the two independent companies will better position each business to pursue their increasingly diverse strategic priorities and opportunities,” CEO Richard Rosenblatt told analysts.

The spin-off would have revenue of over $150 million a year and margins of almost 20%, chief financial officer Mel Tang added.

Rosenblatt said new gTLDs will be “transformative” for the domain industry, saying that Google, Amazon and dot-brands will help grow consumer awareness of the world beyond .com.

Demand has filed 26 new gTLD applications of its own, and has 50-50 rights to 107 more with Donuts.

Previously, Demand has stated in regulatory filings that it used data gathered from domain name lookups to create ideas for the content farm side of its business. It’s not clear if that would continue after a split.

Name.com “will carry as many TLDs as possible”

Kevin Murphy, January 7, 2013, Domain Registrars

Demand Media executive vice president Taryn Naidu said newly acquired registrar Name.com plans to carry as many TLDs as possible, but urged new gTLD applicants to start distribution talks with registrars as soon as possible.

“It’s going to be challenging to offer all of them,” Naidu told DI today. “We’re asking registries to come talk to Name.com early and often to make sure they get the shelf space.”

“They have to come with a plan, and make sure they’re ready to go to market,” he said.

Demand Media announced the acquisition of Name.com earlier today. The deal, for an undisclosed amount, will see the 30-strong Denver, Colorado-based company join number two registrar eNom in the Demand stable.

Name.com is almost 10 years old and has almost 1.5 million domains under management, the majority of them in gTLDs. eNom has over 12 million domains spread across scores of registrar accreditations.

Naidu said that the forthcoming new gTLD market was a major reason for the deal.

While eNom is primarily a channel player, Name.com is all about the customer-facing retail side of the registrar business.

Owning Name.com could give Demand Media a faster way to market the dozens of new gTLDs that it has itself applied for, as well as the 300 it has partnered with uber-applicant Donuts on.

Naidu declined to comment on details of the Donuts relationship, but I’d be quite surprised if a commitment to carry its TLDs is not part of the deal.

He also said he’s not too worried about alienating eNom’s existing reseller channel, pointing out that main retail rivals such as Go Daddy and Tucows also have extensive reseller networks.

“In many regards having access to a retail player like this will help us serve our resellers by better understanding their needs,” he said.

ICM offers free .xxx domains to porn stars

Kevin Murphy, February 22, 2012, Domain Registries

ICM Registry and Name.com have teamed up to give a free one-year .xxx domain name registration to 3,500 selected porn stars.

It’s part of ICM’s Adult Performer Program, which saw these performers’ names initially reserved.

According to ICM, Name.com has pre-paid for the first year’s registration, valid until February 3 next year, but participating individuals will of course be free to move to another registrar if they choose.

That works out to $210,000 in registry fees, if I’m understanding the deal correctly, which seems like a bit of a risk given the general hostility to .xxx from the mainstream porn industry.

Name.com charges $84.99 for .xxx domains.

The Adult Performer Program came in for a bit of criticism last year, when some actresses tried to defensively register their names not realizing they had been reserved.