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NCC sells Open Registry at huge discount

Kevin Murphy, January 6, 2017, Domain Registries

NCC Group has followed through on its promise to divest parts of its domain business, selling the Open Registry collection of companies at a huge discount to the original purchase price.

KeyDrive and a mysterious entity called Terrain.com SA have together acquired the companies for €3.75 million ($3.97 million).

That’s compared to the minimum of £7.9 million ($12 million) NCC originally paid just two years ago.

NCC said in a statement that the sold companies are:

  • Open Registry SA, a registry back-end provider with a handful of new gTLD clients.
  • ClearingHouse for Intellectual Property SA, aka CHIP, which provides software and billing support for the Trademark Clearinghouse.
  • Nexperteam CVBA, a tiny registrar.
  • Sensirius CVBA, the original Open Registry company, a new gTLD consultancy.

Missing from that list is Artemis, the new gTLD registry for .trust, which NCC separately acquired from Deutsche Post for an undisclosed sum in February 2014.

NCC is also keeping hold of its data escrow business, which is widely used by gTLD registries to comply with ICANN rules.

It’s not clear how the sold companies are being divided up between the two buyers.

KeyDrive is the Luxembourg-based holding company for the registrars Key-Systems and Moniker and other domain firms.

Terrain.com appears to belong to EuroDNS chair Xavier Buck, who was chair of Open Registry until NCC bought it, but the domain itself doesn’t seem to resolve right now.

NCC said that €2 million will be paid up front and €1.75 million will be deferred for 18 months.

NCC buys Open Registry for up to $22.6m — a gTLD registry now owns part of the TMCH

Kevin Murphy, January 20, 2015, Domain Registries

NCC Group has acquired registry back-end provider Open Registry in a deal that could be worth as much as £14.9 million ($22.6 million).

The deal means that NCC, which runs the new gTLD .trust via subsidiary Artemis Internet, now owns a back-end, a registrar and a piece of the Trademark Clearinghouse, in addition to its original core domain business of providing data escrow services to registries.

According to NCC, the acquisition is for a minimum of £7.9 million ($12 million), with the rest to be paid over three years if Open Registry meets performance targets.

Open Registry had revenue of €3.7 million ($4.3 million) in 2014, turning a profit of €15,000 ($17,300).

Its core business is as a back-end provider for new gTLD applicants. It has about 20 on its books, mostly European dot-brands and cities.

Part of the company’s business is CHIP, the Clearinghouse of Intellectual Property, which along with IBM and Deloitte runs the ICANN-sanctioned TMCH, which all new gTLD registries must use in their Sunrise and Trademark Claims launch periods.

It also owns a small registrar, Nexperteam, which has about 8,000 domains under management.

The Benelux company employs eight people.

Open Registry’s founding CEO Jean-Christophe Vignes joined Artemis as head of domain operations in 2013.

NCC buys .trust new gTLD from Deutsche Post

Kevin Murphy, February 17, 2014, Domain Registries

NCC Group, owner of .secure applicant Artemis, has bought the rights to .trust from Deutsche Post, which has an uncontested bid for the new gTLD but decided it doesn’t want it.

The price tag of the deal was not disclosed.

NCC, which is also one of the two major data escrow providers supporting new gTLD applicants, said in a statement:

Deutsche Post originally obtained the gTLD through ICANN’s new gTLD allocation process during 2013 but has now chosen not to utilise it.

NCC Group will use .trust as the primary vehicle for launching its Artemis internet security service, which aims to create global internet safety through a secure and trusted environment for selected customers.

The Group remains in the contention stage with its application to ICANN for the .secure gTLD. It believes that there will be a benefit in having a number of complementary named gTLDs, all of which offer the same high levels of internet security.

While Artemis has applied for .secure, it’s facing competition from the much richer Amazon.

Its initial hope that Amazon’s bid would be rejected due to the controversy over “closed generics” seems to have been dashed after Amazon was allowed to change its application.

NCC may be characterizing .trust as an “additional” security TLD, but it’s quite possible it will be its “only” one.

Deutsche Post, which as owner of DHL is the world’s largest courier service, has passed Initial Evaluation on .trust but has not yet signed its ICANN contract.

ICANN’s web site still shows Deutsche Post as the applicant for .trust and it’s not clear from NCC’s statement how the transfer would be handled.

Artemis signs 30 anchor tenants for .secure gTLD

Artemis, the NCC Group subsidiary applying for .secure, says it has signed up 30 big-name customers for its expensive, high-security new gTLD offering.

CTO Alex Stamos said that the list includes three “too big to fail” banks and three of the four largest social networking companies. They’ve all signed letters of intent to use .secure domains, he said.

He was speaking at a small gathering of customers and potential customers in London yesterday, to which DI was invited on the condition that we not report the name of anyone else in attendance.

Artemis is doing this outreach despite the facts that a) .secure is still in a two-way contention set and b) deep-pocketed online retailer Amazon is the other applicant.

Stamos told DI he’s confident that Artemis will win .secure one way or the other — hopefully Amazon’s single-registrant bid will run afoul of ICANN’s current rethink of “closed generics”.

He expects to launch .secure in the second or third quarter of next year with a few dozen registrants live from pretty much the start.

The London event yesterday, which was also attended by executives from a few household names, was the second of three the company has planned. New York was the first and there’ll soon be one in California.

I’m hearing so many stories about new gTLD applicants that still haven’t figured out their go-to-market strategies recently that it was refreshing to see one that seems to be on the ball.

Artemis’ vision for .secure is also probably the most technologically innovative proposed gTLD that I’m currently aware of.

As the name suggests, security is the order of the day. Registrants would be vetted during the lengthy registration process and the domain names themselves would be manually approved.

Not only will there not be any typosquatting, but there’s even talk of registering common typos on behalf of registrants.

Registrants would also be expected to adhere to levels of security on their web sites (mandatory HTTPS, for example) and email systems (mandatory TLS). Domains would be scanned daily for malware and would have manual penetration testing at least annually.

Emerging security standards would be deployed make sure that browsers would only trust SSL certificates provided by Artemis (or, more likely, its CA partner) when handling connections to .secure sites.

Many of the policies are still being worked out, sometimes in conversation with an emerging “community” of the aforementioned anchor tenants, but there’s one thing that’s pretty clear:

This is not a domain name play.

If you buy a .secure domain name, you’re really buying an NCC managed security service that allows you to use a domain name, as opposed to an easily-copied image, as your “trust mark”.

Success for .secure, if it goes live as planned, won’t be measured in registration volume. I wouldn’t expect it to be much bigger than .museum, the tiniest TLD today, within its first few years.

Prices for .secure have not yet been disclosed, but I’m expecting them to be measured in the tens of thousands of dollars. If “a domain” costs $50,000 a year, don’t be surprised.

Artemis’ .secure would however be available to any enterprise that can afford it and can pass its stringent security tests, which makes it more “open” than Amazon’s vaguely worded closed generic bid.

Other ICANN accredited registrars will technically be allowed to sell .secure domains, but the Registry-Registrar Agreement will be written in such a way as to make it economically non-viable for them to do so.

Overall, the company has a bold strategy with some significant challenges.

I wonder how enthusiastic enterprises will be about using .secure if their customers start to assume that their regular domain name (which may even be a dot-brand) is implicitly insecure.

Artemis is also planning to expose some information about how well its registrants are complying with their security obligations to end users, which may make some potential registrants nervous.

Even without this exposure, simply complying appears to be quite a resource-intensive ongoing process and not for the faint-hearted.

However, that’s in keeping with the fact that it’s a managed security service — companies buy these things in order to help secure their systems, not cover up problems.

Stamos also said that its eligibility guidelines are being crafted with its customers in such a way that registrants will only ever be kicked out of .secure if they’re genuinely bad actors.

Artemis’ .secure is a completely new concept for the gTLD industry, and I wouldn’t like to predict whether it will work or not, but the company seems to be going about its pre-sales marketing and outreach in entirely the correct way.

First .blog new gTLD applicant revealed

Colombian domain name registrar My.co has become the first company to reveal that it will apply to ICANN for the .blog generic top-level domain.

Manager Gerardo Aristizabal told DI today that the application will be made through a company called Primer Nivel (“First Level” in Spanish).

My.co (officially Central Comercializadora de Internet) is the main partner in the bid. Other unspecified investors are also on board.

Qinetics, the Malaysian registry services provider that does business as RegistryASP, has been contracted to run the registry back-end.

My.co already uses Qinetics for its .co registrar gateway, which provides .co registration services to 20 other registrars, according to Aristizabal.

UK-based CommunityDNS has signed up to provide the DNS, while NCC Group has been named data escrow provider, he added.

“We believe .blog will provide a great address for establishing blogs online, and will become the Internet space for freedom of speech and information,” Aristizabal said.

It goes without saying that .blog will be a heavily contested – I would say probably the most heavily contested – gTLD.

Whenever anyone asks me what gTLD string I think stands the best chance of success, I always point to .blog.

It’s a no-brainer.

Media analysts NM Incite (great name) tracked 181 million blogs in 2011, up by about 25 million from 2010. A gTLD that could grab just 1% of that business would still be a nice little earner.

Not only is there an enormous potential market, but .blog doesn’t (as far as I know) have any of the legal baggage that will scare away potential applicants for strings such as .web or .music.

If .blog goes to auction, expect it to fetch eight figures.