France-based registrar OVH is to make up to 50,000 domain names in its new gTLD .ovh available for free.
According to its web site and a bulletin send to customers today, the regular price of £2.69 ($4.35) will be waived for the first year and renewal pricing will be discounted.
The first 20,000 names registered will renew at £1.01 ($1.63), the remaining 30,000 names will renew at £2.03 ($3.29). There will be a limit of five domains per customer.
While “free” is not an unusual business model in the new gTLD round, .ovh is noteworthy for several other reasons.
It’s the first “dot-brand” new gTLD to accept registrations from third parties, for starters.
It’s also the only live dot-brand belonging to an accredited domain name registrar.
The restrictions on the gTLD also raise eyebrows — in order to register a name in .ovh, you need an OVH customer number.
So while the .ovh names should in theory be available via third-party registrars, such registrars would have to capture the OVH customer number of their own customers — or encourage their own customers to become OVH customers — in order to process the registration.
Unsurprisingly, there’s no mention of any approved third-party registrars on the official .ovh web site.
General availability begins at 1000 UTC Wednesday October 2.
Thanks to Andrew Bennett for the tip.
Bayern Connect took its .bayern new gTLD into general availability yesterday and secured close to 20,000 registrations.
This morning’s zone file count shows that at least 19,121 domains were registered during .bayern’s combined sunrise/landrush period, which ended a few weeks ago.
GA kicked off at 1300 local time yesterday.
There are no local presence requirements to register names, according to the registry’s web site.
Bayern in the German word for Bavaria, Germany’s second most-populous state. It has 12.5 million inhabitants, 1.5 million of whom live in its capital, Munich.
It’s the third most-successful geographic gTLD launch of the current round, after .london’s 35,000 names and .berlin’s 33,000.
On a per-head basis, however, the numbers don’t look so good.
While .koeln, the gTLD for the city of Cologne, had one registered domain for every 79 inhabitants at the end of its first GA day, .bayern has one domain per 663 people. The numbers for .berlin and .london were 106 and 240 respectively.
Retail giant Safeway has removed itself from the new gTLD program entirely, last week withdrawing all four of its applications.
The $139-billion-a-year company had applied for the dot-brands .safeway, .vons, .justforu and the generic .grocery, but all four bids are now showing as withdrawn.
Now that Safeway has withdrawn, the only remaining applicant for .grocery is rival retailer Wal-Mart.
.grocery had been applied for as a “closed generic”, in which Safeway would be the only eligible registrant.
The ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee had advised against closed generics on consumer protection grounds.
When ICANN pressed applicants for such strings to clarify whether they were in fact “closed generics”, Safeway denied (pdf) that .grocery was.
Wal-Mart, on the other hand, said that its .grocery would be restricted to Wal-Mart and its affiliates.
If there are any companies clamoring to get on the new gTLD bandwagon, they’ve got some waiting to do.
Based on a sketchy timetable published by ICANN this week, it seems unlikely that a second application round will open before 2017, and even that might be optimistic.
While ICANN said that “based on current estimates, a subsequent application round is not expected to launch until 2016 at the earliest”, that date seems unlikely even to senior ICANN staffers.
“The possibility exists,” ICANN vice president Cyrus Namazi told DI, “but the probability, from my perspective, is not that high when you think about all the pieces that have to come together.”
Here’s an ICANN graphic illustrating these pieces:
As you can see, the two biggest time-eaters on the road-map, pushing it into 2017, are a GNSO Policy Development Process (green) and the Affirmation of Commitments Review (yellow).
The timetable envisages the PDP, which will focus on what changes need to be made to the program, lasting two and a half years, starting in the first quarter 2015 and running until mid-2017.
That could be a realistic time-frame, but the GNSO has been known to work quicker.
An ICANN study in 2012 found that 263 days is the absolute minimum amount of time a PDP has to last from start to finish, but 620 days — one year and nine months — is the average.
So the GNSO could, conceivably, wrap up in late 2016 rather than mid-2017. It will depend on how cooperative everybody is feeling and how tricky it is to find consensus on the issues.
The AoC review, which will focus on “competition, consumer trust and consumer choice” is a bit harder to gauge.
The 2009 Affirmation of Commitments is ICANN’s deal with the US government that gives it some of its authority over the DNS. On the review, it states:
If and when new gTLDs (whether in ASCII or other language character sets) have been in operation for one year, ICANN will organize a review that will examine the extent to which the introduction or expansion of gTLDs has promoted competition, consumer trust and consumer choice, as well as effectiveness of (a) the application and evaluation process, and (b) safeguards put in place to mitigate issues involved in the introduction or expansion.
The AoC does not specify how long the review must last, just when it must begin, though it does say the ICANN board must react to it within six months.
That six-month window is a maximum, however, not a minimum. The board could easily take action on the review’s findings in a month or less.
ICANN’s timeline anticipates the review itself taking a year, starting in Q3 2015 and broken down like this:
Based on the timelines of previous Review Team processes, a rough estimate for this process is that the convening of the team occurs across 3-5 months, a draft report is issued within 6-9 months, and a final report is issued within 3-6 months from the draft.
Working from these estimates, it seems that the review could in fact take anywhere from 12 to 20 months. That would mean a final report would be delivered between September 2016 and July 2017.
If the review and board consideration of its report take the longest amount of time permitted or envisaged, the AoC process might not complete until early 2018, a little over three years from now.
Clearly there are a lot of variables to consider here.
Namazi is probably on safe ground by urging caution over the hypothetical launch of a second round in 2016.
Given than new gTLD evaluations were always seen as a “rolling” process, one of the things that the GNSO surely needs to look into is a mechanism to reduce the delay between rounds.
Today news has reached us via various channels that seven new gTLD contention sets have been settled, all is seems via private auction.
Notably, Afilias has lost the opportunity to run the Chinese-script version of its 14-year-old .info TLD to Beijing Tele-info Network Technology Co, the only other applicant.
The Beijing company’s application says the string .信息 means: “knowledge or message in the form suitable for communications, storage, or processing, which is closely related to notions of form, meaning, pattern, perception, representation, and entropy.”
Afilias said it means “info”.
Separately, in a press release today, Minds + Machines said that it has won the auctions for two gTLDs — .law and .vip — and lost the auctions for several more.
In .law it beat NU DOT CO, Donuts, Radix, Merchant Law Group and Famous Four Media. In .vip it beat Google, VIP Registry, Donuts, I-Registry and Vipspace Enterprises.
From the auctions M+M said it lost we can infer that .design and .realestate contention sets are also now settled, but we haven’t seen any withdrawals yet so we don’t know the winners.
M+M said it netted $6.2 million cash by winning .law and .vip and losing .design, .flowers, .group, .realestate and .video.
From today’s new withdrawals we can see that Uniregistry won .auto against Fegistry, Donuts and Dot Auto, while Donuts won .memorial against Afilias and dotCOOL.
UPDATE: Thanks to Jim in the comments for the reminder that the “Chinese .info” auction happened back in June. The TLD fetched $600,000 at an ICANN last-resort auction.