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Tucows and Namecheap exit $14m .online deal

Tucows and Namecheap have both pulled out of their joint venture with Radix to run the .online registry.

Tucows revealed the move, which will see Radix run .online solo, in a press release yesterday.

Both Tucows and Namecheap are registrars, whereas Radix is pretty much focused on being a registry nowadays.

While financial terms have not been disclosed, Tucows CEO Elliot Noss had previously said that each of the three companies had funded the new venture to the tune of $4 million to $5 million.

I estimate that this puts the total investment in the deal — which includes the price of winning .online at auction — at $13 million to $14 million.

Noss has also hinted that the gTLD sold for much more than the $6.8 million paid for .tech.

.online has not yet been delegated.

Noss hints at winning .online auction bid

Kevin Murphy, November 13, 2014, Domain Registries

A triumvirate of domain name companies led by Radix paid well over $7 million for the .online new gTLD, judging by comments made by Tucows CEO in an analysts call yesterday.

As the company reported its third-quarter financial numbers, Noss said of .online, which was recently auctioned:

While we are bound by confidentiality with respect to the value of the transaction, we can point to amounts paid in other gTLDs’ auctions in the public domain — like $6.8 million for .tech, $5.6 million for .realty, or the $4.6 million that Amazon paid for .buy — and let you decide what you think .online should be valued, relative to those more narrowly targeted extensions.

Radix won the private auction with financial backing from Tucows and NameCheap.

The three companies intend to set up a new joint venture to manage the .online registry, as we reported yesterday, with each company contributing between $4 million and $5 million.

Assuming at least one company is contributing $4 million and at least one is contributing $5 million, that works out to a total of $13 million to $14 million, earmarked for the auction and seed funding for the new venture.

Based on that knowledge, an assumption that the new company will want a couple of million to launch, and Noss’s comments yesterday, I’d peg the .online sale price in the $10-12 million range.

Radix business head Sandeep Ramchamdani told us yesterday that the company plans to market .online with some “hi-decibel advertising” and participation in events such as Disrupt and South by Southwest.

Russian hackers breaking in to NameCheap accounts

Kevin Murphy, September 2, 2014, Domain Registrars

If you have an account at NameCheap, now might be a good time to think about changing your password.

According to the registrar, hackers based in Russia are using a haul of a reported 4.5 billion username/password combinations to attempt to break into its customers’ accounts.

Some attempts have been successful, NameCheap warned.

The attackers are using credentials stolen from third-party sources in a large-scale, automated attempt to log in to user accounts, disguised as regular users, the company said in a blog post.

NameCheap said:

The vast majority of these login attempts have been unsuccessful as the data is incorrect or old and passwords have been changed. As a precaution, we are aggressively blocking the IP addresses that appear to be logging in with the stolen password data. We are also logging these IP addresses and will be exporting blocking rules across our network to completely eliminate access to any Namecheap system or service, as well as making this data available to law enforcement.

While the vast majority of these logins are unsuccessful, some have been successful. To combat this, we’ve temporarily secured the Namecheap accounts that have been affected and are currently contacting customers involved requesting they improve the security for these accounts.

Affected users have been emailed, the company said.

NameCheap suspects the attack is linked to a reported cache of 1.2 billion unique username/password combinations amassed by a hacker group from databases vulnerable to SQL injection.

The registrar pointed out that its own systems haven’t been hacked. Customers should only be vulnerable if they use the same username and password at NameCheap as they use on other sites.

NameCheap gets contract breach notice

ICANN has sent a formal breach notice to top ten registrar NameCheap, saying the company failed to comply with a mandatory audit.

ICANN also claims in the notice (pdf) that the company has failed to keep its web site up to date with pricing information required by policies.

NameCheap, which says it has over three million domains under management, may be the largest registrar to get to the formal, published breach notice stage of the ICANN compliance process.

But it should be noted that while the company is accredited and must comply with its Registrar Accreditation Agreement, it does almost all of its business as an eNom reseller.

Just a handful of domain names are registered under NameCheap’s own IANA number.

NameCheap: a top ten registrar?

Kevin Murphy, January 20, 2014, Domain Registrars

eNom reseller NameCheap is actually in the top 10 largest registrars in terms of domains under management, judging by data in regulatory documents filed by eNom parent Rightside.

According to a Rightside SEC filing related to its spin-off from Demand Media, NameCheap accounted for 23% of the company’s total domains under management as of September 30.

With the same document declaring Rightside has over 12 million names under management as of the same date, NameCheap apparently looks after just under 2.8 million domains.

By my reckoning, this means NameCheap is very probably the ninth-largest registrar by DUM out there, sandwiched between GMO Internet and FastDomain.

My comparison is not completely apples-to-apples — NameCheap’s number may include ccTLD registrations and I’m levering the company into a gTLDs-only league table — so may not be fully reliable.

But it’s the first solid indication of the size of NameCheap’s business I’ve seen in a while.

While NameCheap is accredited by ICANN in its own right, it has never registered more than a handful of domains under its own name, leaving it in the sub-900 range in the DUM league table.

According to Rightside, NameCheap is under contract to exclusively use eNom’s wholesale services until December 2014, but the deal does have one-year renewals built in.

Second .online gTLD bid and third ‘guardian’ dot-brand withdrawn

Directi appears to be the last man standing in the three-way tie-up for .online, following the latest new gTLD withdrawals.

Namecheap has dropped its .online application, closely following Tucows, which dropped its bid a couple of weeks ago.

The three companies announced a deal in March to see them cooperate to win the contested TLD, but at the time it wasn’t clear which applicants would pull out.

Directi’s bid (filed by DotOnline Inc under the Radix brand) remains. It has already passed Initial Evaluation, which may be part of the reason its application was chosen as the “winner”.

The gTLD is still contested, however. Directi is competing with Donuts, I-Registry and Dot Online LLC.

Separately today, a curious two-way dot-brand battle seems to have had its final twist, with Guardian Life Insurance’s withdrawal of its application for .guardianlife.

The insurance company and newspaper publisher Guardian News and Media had both applied for gTLDs containing the string “guardian”. There were originally five, but only two remain.

It now looks like Guardian News will get .theguardian, having previously conceded .guardian to its brand rival and dropping its bid for .guardianmedia.

It appears that there’s been more than a bit of strategic applying, and maybe some deal-making, here.

Neither remaining application is contested, and neither have objections. It’s likely that .guardian is captured by the Governmental Advisory Committee’s advice against “closed generics”, however.

Tucows, Directi and Namecheap to combine .online gTLD bids

Kevin Murphy, March 27, 2013, Domain Registries

Three applicants for the .online gTLD appear to have settled their differences in what I believe is the first public example of new gTLD contention set consolidation.

Tucows, Directi and Namecheap said today that that they plan to “work together to manage the .online registry.” From the press release:

applicants for the same TLDs have begun to compete, negotiate, and, in some cases, join forces to ultimately produce one winning bid.

The first such alliance was revealed today, when domain industry veterans Directi, Tucows and Namecheap announced that they would work together to manage the .online registry.

The companies are of course three of the most successful domain name registrars out there.

The press release does not specify how the combination will be carried out. Under ICANN rules, two of the applicants would have to drop their applications. It’s not possible to resubmit as a joint venture.

It also does not acknowledge that there are three other applicants for .online — Donuts and smaller portfolio applicants Dot Online LLC and I-REGISTRY Ltd — which are not party to the agreement.

NameCheap resurrects anti-SOPA transfers promo

Kevin Murphy, January 14, 2013, Domain Registrars

NameCheap has decided to bring back the promotion that saw roughly 20,000 domain names transferred to it from Go Daddy, in protest of the company’s stance on US legislation, a year ago.

Its “second annual Move Your Domain Day” will be on January 22, with inbound transfers costing $3.99 (a buck cheaper than last year) on domains in the five biggest gTLDs.

It will donate $0.50 to the Electronic Frontier Foundation for every transfer, escalating to $1 and $1.50 if it gets more than 10,000 and 20,000 domains respectively.

The original promo was an opportunistic move to capitalize on Go Daddy’s support for the censor-happy Stop Online Piracy Act, which caused a great deal of controversy a year ago.

SOPA is now of course dead, and the senior Go Daddy executive who was most vocally in support of the bill, general counsel Christine Jones, is no longer with the company.

Go Daddy eats humble pie after SOPA boycott

Kevin Murphy, December 30, 2011, Domain Registrars

Go Daddy lost tens of thousands of domain name registrations totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost recurring revenue due to yesterday’s SOPA-related boycott.

NameCheap, the eNom reseller that spearheaded the campaign against Go Daddy, said on Twitter that it had raised over $25,000 for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, suggesting that it saw over 25,000 inbound transfers using its SOPASUCKS discount code.

Twitter noise also suggests that several other registrars, such as Name.com and Gandi, gained from the protest.

The boycott went ahead due to Go Daddy’s former support of the Stop Online Piracy Act, which many Americans believe will infringe civil liberties by erecting a great big DNS firewall around the country.

The company withdrew its support for the bill before Christmas, but many customers either chose to ignore its new stance or to point out that “not supporting” did not necessarily mean “opposing”.

Frankly, I think many people just wanted to lash out, and withdrawing business from a company with an established reputation for being a bit downmarket is a lot easier than, say, turning off SOPA-supporting ESPN or cutting up your SOPA-supporting Visa card.

Warren Adelman, Go Daddy’s new CEO, issued this statement last night, clarifying the company’s position:

We have observed a spike in domain name transfers, which are running above normal rates and which we attribute to Go Daddy’s prior support for SOPA, which was reversed.

Go Daddy opposes SOPA because the legislation has not fulfilled its basic requirement to build a consensus among stake-holders in the technology and Internet communities. Our company regrets the loss of any of our customers, who remain our highest priority, and we hope to repair those relationships and win back their business over time.

The company has over 50 million domains under management. Even if 50,000 were transferred to other registrars, that’s still only 0.1% of Go Daddy’s installed base.

Name server records compiled by DailyChanges also heavily suggest that the company sold over 43,000 new domain registrations yesterday.

The fact that Adelman chose to eat humble pie rather than pointing this out was probably a wise PR decision.

Also, NameCheap deserves some kudos for running a very effective social media campaign.

Let’s all beat up Go Daddy!

Kevin Murphy, December 27, 2011, Domain Registrars

I think it’s fair to say that Go Daddy is ending 2011 on a bum note.

A handful of competitors, notably Namecheap, are exploiting the recent outrage about the company’s support for the Stop Online Piracy Act (since recanted) to really stick the boot in.

NameCheap today called for December 29 to be marked as Move Your Domain Day and is currently sponsoring the hashtag #BoycottGoDaddy on Twitter.

It also said it will donate $1 to the Electronic Frontier Foundation for every domain transferred to it that day using the coupon code SOPASUCKS.

Other registrars are joining in with somewhat less gusto.

Dotster, for example, is offering cheap transfers with the discount code NOFLIPFLOP, a reference to Go Daddy’s changed position on SOPA.

So what’s the net effect of all this on Go Daddy’s business? It’s difficult to tell with much accuracy at this point.

NameCheap claims to have seen 40,000 inbound transfers in the last week, most of them presumably coming from former Go Daddy customers.

That’s going to be a difficult claim to verify however, even when December’s official gTLD registry reports are published a few months from now.

Unlike most ICANN-accredited registrars, NameCheap does not register domains directly — it has fewer than 200 .com domains under management, according to the most recent registry report.

The company started off life as an eNom reseller and appears to have never gotten around to migrating its customers.

(I wonder how many people transferring their domains this week are aware that some of their fees are probably flowing into the coffers of Demand Media, another popular internet hate figure.)

Several media articles have sourced DomainTool’s DailyChanges service for numbers of transfers out of domaincontrol.com, Go Daddy’s default name server constellation.

But as Andrew Allemann and Elliot Silver have already noted, those numbers are not a reliable indication of how many domains are being transferred from Go Daddy to other registrars.

Here’s a graph showing the transfers in and out of domaincontrol.com since the start of the month.

graph

Transfers out briefly overtook transfers in this week, but by a negligible number.

The two big spikes you can see – both of which occur before the boycott began on December 22 – can be attributed to domainers (possibly a single domainer) moving thousands of domains from domaincontrol.com to internettraffic.com, a parking service, and back again.

Those movements had nothing to do with SOPA or the boycott, nor do they indicate that the domains were transferred away from Go Daddy. Name server changes != transfers.

Facts shouldn’t get in the way of a good story, however.

That’s probably why NameCheap seems to have got away with its insinuations about Go Daddy “blocking” transfers yesterday, which turned out to be highly questionable.

It transpires that transfers into NameCheap were failing not because of any nefarious activity by Go Daddy, but because NameCheap’s Whois queries were being automatically rate limited.

This was likely because NameCheap failed to white-list the IP addresses it uses for port 43 Whois look-ups either using ICANN’s RADAR tool or by notifying Go Daddy directly.

Registrar expert Jothan Frakes said as much on this blog yesterday, as did Michele Neylon of the unrelated registrar Blacknight on Twitter.

Go Daddy senior direct of product development Rich Merdinger suggested in a statement last night that NameCheap looked for the PR opportunity before picking up the phone:

Namecheap posted their accusations in a blog, but to the best our of knowledge, has yet to contact Go Daddy directly, which would be common practice for situations like this. Normally, the fellow registrar would make a request for us to remove the normal rate limiting block which is a standard practice used by Go Daddy, and many other registrars, to rate limit Whois queries to combat WhoIs abuse.

NameCheap has naturally disputed this interpretation of events, saying it had tried to get in touch with Go Daddy but received no response for 24 hours (Christmas Day, presumably).

Regardless of the he said/she said, the narrative in the media and on Twitter for the last couple of days has been pretty clear — Go Daddy: Bad, NameCheap: Good.

The SOPA story seems to have hit a nerve, and there are no shortage of pissed-off Go Daddy customers with horror stories to recount or just general criticisms of the company’s fairly brash image.

Warren Adelman picked a hell of a time to take over as CEO.