Domain drop-catching service DropCatch.com has added five hundred new registrar accreditations to its stable over the last few days.
The additions give the company a total accreditation count of at least 1,252, according to DI data.
That means about 43% of all ICANN-accredited registrars are now controlled by just one company.
DropCatch is owned by TurnCommerce, which is also parent of registrar NameBright and premium sales site HugeDomains.
Because gTLD registries rate-limit attempts to register names, drop-catchers such as DropCatch find a good way to increase their chances of registering expiring names is to own as many registrars as possible.
DropCatch is in an arms race here with Web.com, owner of SnapNames and half-owner of NameJet, which has about 500 registrars.
The new accreditations would have cost DropCatch $1.75 million in ICANN application fees alone. They will add $2 million a year to its running costs in terms of extra fixed fees.
That’s not counting the cost of creating 500 brand new LLC companies — named in the new batch DropCatch.com [number] LLC where the number ranges from 1046 to 1545 — each of which is there purely for the purpose of owning the accreditation.
In total, the company is now paying ICANN fixed annual fees in excess of $5 million, not counting its variable fees and per-transaction fees.
Because the ICANN variable fee is split evenly between all registrars (with some exceptions I don’t think apply to DropCatch), I believe the addition of 500 new registrars means all the other registrars will be paying less in variable fees.
There’s clearly money to be made in expiring names.
Web.com has acquired dozens of registrars from rival/partner Rightside, seemingly to boost the success rate of its SnapNames domain drop-catching business.
I’ve established that at least 44 registrars once managed by Rightside/eNom have moved to the Web.com stable in recent weeks, and that might not even be the half of it.
All of the registrars in question are shell companies used exclusively to register pre-ordered names as they are deleted by registries, usually Verisign.
The more registrars you have, the more EPP connections you have to the Verisign registry and the better your chance at catching a domain.
Web.com runs SnapNames, and is in a 50-50 partnership with Rightside on rival drop-catcher NameJet.
The two compete primarily with NameBright’s DropCatch.com, which obtained hundreds of fresh ICANN accreditations last year, bringing its total pool to over 750.
Web.com has fewer than 400 accreditations right now. Rightside has even fewer.
It’s usually quicker to buy a registrar than to obtain a new accreditation from ICANN.
If Web.com finds itself in need of more accreditations in order to compete, and Rightside is happy to let them go, it could be possible to infer that SnapNames is doing rather better in terms of customer acquisition than NameJet.
But the two services recently announced a partnership under which names grabbed by either network would be placed in an auction in which customers of either site could participate.
This would have the effect of increasing the number of caught names going to auction due to there being multiple bidders, and thus the eventual sales prices.
TurnCommerce acquired another 299 registrar accreditations from ICANN over Christmas week.
The company, which is behind domain properties including DropCatch.com, now has at least 452 registrars in its stable. That’s over 31% of the 1,456 total currently reported by Internic.
Each of the new accreditations is named “DropCatch”, followed by a number from 446 to 751. Each has a matching .com domain as its nominal base of operations and an associated LLC shell company.
At $4,000 a year for the base accreditation fee, TurnCommerce must be spending close to $2 million a year in ICANN fees alone.
Companies in the drop-catching business acquire large numbers of registrars in order to control more batches of connections with which to spam gTLD registries with “add” requests when potentially valuable domains expire and are deleted.
With almost a third of all accredited registrars now operating under the same control, one imagines TurnCommerce’s chances of securing the names it wants have been significantly improved.
As well as DropCatch, TurnCommerce runs retail registrar NameBright and premium sales site HugeDomains. It has plans to launch additional services at Expire.com and PremiumDomains.com shortly.
Its latest crop of registrars means ICANN has accredited over 2,200 companies since the gTLD registrar market was opened for competition 15 year ago, though many have allowed their contracts to lapse or, less frequently, have been terminated by ICANN compliance efforts.