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Neustar prices .brands at $10k

Neustar has unveiled extremely aggressive entry-level pricing for “.brand” applicants looking for a registry services provider – just $10,000 a year.

For the size of company expected to apply for .brands, that’s a rounding error. It may as well be free.

It’s called the Brand Assurance Package.

Applicants should not expect much for the money though – the package seems to be targeted at those that want to grab a .brand TLD in the first round, but may not do much at the second level initially.

It basically looks like a defensive registration package.

It covers application support and the registry infrastructure, but Neustar plans to ask clients to upgrade to more expensive services should they expand their .brand strategy in future.

Prices for those services have not been announced, but it would be a good idea to find out what they are before signing up – migrating a TLD between registries may not be trivial.

The fee does not cover ICANN’s application fees, which start at $185,000, of course.

There’s a market for this kind of thing. You need only read some of the marketing trade press to discover that there are a heck of a lot of brand managers scratching their heads about new gTLDs right now.

Many are taking a “wait and see” approach.

The problem with that strategy is that after April 12 next year we have no idea when – or, frankly, if – companies will next get their chance to apply for a new gTLD.

If Coca-Cola gets .coke in round one and .brands turn out to be a success, that could put Pepsi at a competitive disadvantage if it is left stranded in .com space, for example.

In addition, if you share your brand with a company in another vertical, applying in the first round is a must-have, unless you fancy your chances with ICANN’s untested objections procedures.

Neustar eats own dog food, plans .neustar bid

Neustar has become the first domain name registry to publicly reveal its own “.brand” top-level domain application, announcing this week a .neustar bid.

The company is one of many offering registry services to brand owners that want to run their own custom TLD, so it makes marketing sense for Neustar to put its money where its mouth is.

But it may also run the risk of diluting its .biz brand (such as it is), depending on whether or not it plans to migrate its primary site, neustar.biz, entirely to .neustar.

Neustar is one of only a handful of companies to announce .brand bids. Canon and Hitachi are the two best-known, but others including IBM and Nokia have expressed serious interest.

ICANN has previously predicted as many as 200 .brand bids in the first round, which begins January 12, 2012.

M+M gets into bed with Neustar

Minds + Machines has committed to use Neustar’s registry services for some of its new top-level domain applications, the companies have announced.

M+M parent Top Level Domain Holdings said in a press release that the companies:

will work together exclusively in respect of all geographic gTLDs pursued by TLDH, apart from a short list of those already in progress. TLDH will oversee sales, marketing, registrar relations, ICANN compliance and other management functions, while Neustar will provide back-end registry and DNS services.

The deal may cover applications including .bayern, .berlin, and .mumbai, judging from the press release.

M+M will continue to use Espresso, its version of the CoCCA registry platform, for non-geo TLDs.

Under ICANN rules, geographical TLDs will require the support of the respective governments.

Reading between the lines, it appears that demand for proven scale and financial stability may have been the primary driver for the deal.

Neustar manages .us and biz, among others, while M+M has a far shorter track record. Neustar has annual revenue of over half a billion dollars, compared to TLDH’s approximately $100,000.

Rules for registry-registrar mergers proposed

ICANN has revealed how it intends to enable incumbent domain name registries to also become registrars, ending a decade of cross-ownership restrictions.

The industry shake-up could allow companies such as VeriSign, Neustar and Afilias to become accredited registrars in their own top-level domains later this year.

Hypothetically, before long you could be able to go directly to VeriSign for your .com domains, to Afilias and Public Interest Registry for .info and .org, or to Neustar for .biz.

The changes could potentially also kick off a wave of consolidation in the industry, with registry operators buying previously independent registrars.

ICANN’s proposed process is straightforward, requiring just a few amendments to the registries’ existing contracts, but it could also call for governmental competition reviews.

Registries will have to agree to abide by a Code of Conduct substantially the same as the one binding on wannabe registries applying later this year under the new gTLD program.

The Code is designed to stop registries giving their affiliated registrars unfair advantages, such as lower prices or preferential access to data, over other ICANN-accredited registrars.

Registries would also have the option to adopt the registry contract from the new gTLD Applicant Guidebook wholesale, although I expect in practice this is unlikely to happen.

ICANN would be able to refer vertical integration requests to national competition authorities if it determined that cross-ownership could cause “significant competition issues”.

VeriSign would be the most likely to be hit by such a review, but it’s also the only registry that does not appear to have been particularly hamstrung over the years by the forced separation rules.

The proposed process for registries to request the contract changes has been posted to the ICANN web site and is now open for public comment.

.CO to accredit 20 more registrars

Kevin Murphy, April 26, 2011, Domain Registries

.CO Internet is looking for more registrars to start selling .co domain names.

The company has just released a request for proposals, saying it plans to accredit up to 20 new registrars over the next 12 months.

.CO’s registrar channel was limited by its agreement with the Colombian government to 10 registrars in its first year of business – the government had originally wanted only three, to limit gaming – but that restriction no longer applies.

While there are only 10 .co registrars currently, a few of them operate reseller channels or gateways that have enabled unaccredited registrars to also sell the domains, albeit on non-optimal terms.

According to the RFP, .CO is particularly interested in registrars that are willing to promote the .co TLD by either bringing it to new markets or making it the subject of special marketing campaigns.

While .co operates outside of ICANN control, the company is sticking to its policy of only accepting ICANN-accredited registrars into its channel.

Also, only registrars that are already accredited to sell .biz domains (as well as .com and .net) will be able to offer .co, presumably due to the fact that Neustar is the registry provider for both.

This effectively excludes about 115 registrars, many of which are shell or legacy accreditations used for drop-catching.

There are certain unspecified “special considerations” that apply to corporate-focused registrars, according to the RFP, presumably because they tend to be rather low-volume and generally focused on defensive registrations.