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101domain shifts blame to Google as premium buyers offered 50% discount

Kevin Murphy, April 30, 2014, Domain Registrars

101domain has offered a 50% discount to customers that were sold premium new gTLD domains for a vastly reduced price, and has tried to shift some of the blame to the registry, Google.

The offer was made in a letter (pdf) to affected registrants — previously hit with delayed invoices for thousands of dollars for domains they bought for $12.99 — sent yesterday.

It indicates that the registrar is prepared to eat at least part of its pricing error on both first-year registrations and subsequent annual renewals.

101domain told customers:

  • You now have until June 23, 2014 to make a decision whether to delete the name or pay for the premium name.
  • If you want to keep the name(s), 101domain will offer you a 50% discount on the first year premium price and a 25% discount on premium annual renewals.
  • If you give up your name(s), we will give you a credit on 101domain.com for any future purchases equal to 25% of the price of the premium name.

Previously, affected registrants had been told to pay up or have their domains deleted the following day.

As we reported last week, almost 50 domains in Google’s .みんな (“.everyone”) were sold for $12.99, despite some being earmarked by the registry as “premiums” with annual fees of up to $7,000.

In its letter to customers yesterday, 101domain characterized Google’s system for handling premiums as non-standard and difficult for registrars to work with.

Google’s list of premium names was circulated to registrars via an email, and the registry had no EPP commands for checking out whether a name was premium in real-time, the registrar says.

There was also no way for registrars to prevent the registration of premiums and no way to check with the registry for premium sales, it added.

It seems clear from the letter that the discounts now on offer mean that if registrants choose to keep their names they’ll be getting them at less than the registry fee — 101domain will eat the difference.

We contacted Google and requested them to work with us on the matter since we felt strongly that both sides were responsible to right the situation. Google offered no assistance other than extending the date to delete the names — telling us it was our problem.

Despite this seemingly generous response to domainer outrage, at the least one affected customer is not impressed.

In an email to DI last night the original registrant that first alerted us to the pricing problem described the latest 101domain offer as “lame”.

Microsoft dumps .live gTLD bid

Kevin Murphy, April 24, 2014, Domain Registries

Microsoft has abandoned its application for the .live new gTLD, leaving the erstwhile dot-brand in the hands of either Donuts or Google.

I found this quite surprising initially, as “Live” has been a core, cross-platform brand for the company, covering services such as Windows Live, Xbox Live and Office Live. The company also owns live.com.

But it recent years the brand has started to be phased out.

While Xbox Live is still a thing, Windows Live was closed down in April 2013 and Office Live seems to have suffered a similar fate in 2012, after the new gTLD application phase ended.

The withdrawal means that the .live contention set now only comprises Google’s Charleston Road Registry and a Donuts subsidiary. It’s likely headed to ICANN auction.

Unlike Microsoft, both remaining applicants propose open-registration spaces.

.nokia — a dot-brand without a brand?

Kevin Murphy, April 22, 2014, Domain Registries

Will .nokia be the next withdrawal from the new gTLD program?

It seems possible, if reports about the death of the Nokia brand are to be believed.

The news blog Nokia Power User reported yesterday that Nokia the company will be renamed Microsoft Mobile following the close of the $7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia by Microsoft this Friday.

The blog, which may live to regret its own choice of brand, quoted from a memo from the company to business partners, reading:

Please note that upon the close of the transaction between Microsoft and Nokia, the name of Nokia Corporation/Nokia Oyj will change to Microsoft Mobile Oy. Microsoft Mobile Oy is the legal entity name that should be used for VAT IDs and for the issuance of invoices.

However, in a blog post confirming the April 25 close date, Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith did not mention a rebranding.

The domain name nokia.com will live for up to a year, he said:

While the original deal did not address the management of online assets, our two companies have agreed that Microsoft will manage the nokia.com domain and social media sites for the benefit of both companies and our customers for up to a year.

What does that mean for the .nokia gTLD application?

According to the ICANN web site, Nokia is currently “in contracting” for the dot-brand.

It would not be unprecedented if it were to withdraw its application, however. Back in February 2013, the American insurance company AIG withdrew its bid for .chartis after a rebranding.

.guru first new gTLD to 50,000 names

Kevin Murphy, April 18, 2014, Domain Registries

Donuts’ pioneering .guru yesterday became the first new gTLD to surpass 50,000 domain name registrations, according to today’s zone files.

DI PRO makes today’s total 50,210, having added 209 names yesterday. Technically, that means .guru passed the 50k mark on Wednesday, but I’m excluding some infrastructural domains used by the registry.

The gTLD went into general availability January 29, so it’s passed this milestone in 78 days, therefore selling on average 643 names per day. That average is skewed obviously by the low-volume seven-day premium phase and a sharp spike when names hit baseline pricing on February 5.

If we assume that the average price for a .guru is $20 (which I’m guessing is probably not too wide of the mark), then the gTLD is already million-dollar business.

For a while it looked as if number-two new gTLD .berlin was going to overtake .guru and might have hit 50k first, but its relative growth compared to .guru slowed down a few weeks ago.

According to our zone file analysis, there are 556,063 new gTLD domains today.

First .london anchor tenants named

Kevin Murphy, April 18, 2014, Domain Registries

The forthcoming .london gTLD has earmarked its first 28 domain names, most of which are going to some famous, and not-so-famous, local brands.

Judging by the list of names, registry Dot London Domains is going for a relatively classy bunch of anchor tenants, which is probably why I wasn’t invited to the launch event earlier this week.

Judging by newspaper reports, the registry managed to get a celebrity businesswoman, Deborah Meaden, to cut the ribbon, as well as a glowing endorsement from the mayor, Boris Johnson.

Dot London Domains is affiliated with London & Partners, the marketing arm of the mayor’s office.

The list of names, which come from the pool of up to 100 that the registry is allowed to set aside for promotional purposes before sunrise begins on April 29, was revealed by today’s .london zone file.

About half a dozen appear to be reserved for the use of the registry itself.

Three registrars also get their names — 1and1.london, fasthosts.london, godaddy.london — which seems to confirm that .london will get valuable Go Daddy distribution.

These are the others. I have to say, only a handful are household names over here. I had to Google about half of them.

absolutelymagazines.london — a publisher of the women’s magazine Absolutely, apparently.

dating.london — it’s going to be interesting to see who gets control of this, the only dictionary word so far on the list. Like all the others on this list, it currently belongs to the registry.

exterionmedia.london — an advertising company specializing in billboards and such, formerly CBS Outdoor. I’ve seen this brand quite a lot on public transport, which could be good news if it starts using a .london URL.

fortnumandmason.london — Fornum & Mason, an upmarket department store. Far too classy to let the oiks like me through the door.

londonlive.london — a TV station dedicated to London that I didn’t know existed.

meantime.london — probably the Greenwich-based brewing company called Meantime.

metrobank.london — a bank, currently using metrobankonline.co.uk.

penniblack.london — Penni Black, a catering company.

remoracleaning.london — a cleaning company that currently uses a .com.

scoffandbanter.london — a restaurant chain specializing in British food.

standard.london — the London Evening Standard, the capital’s widely-read free daily newspaper. When the paper announced its participation in .london on its Wednesday front page, pretty much every commuter in the city will have seen it.

symphonyorchestra.london — The London Symphony Orchestra.

techhub.london — a Google-backed shared work-space for tech start-ups, just down the street from DI HQ.

theallstars.london — Not sure. Possibly these musicians.

thecommitments.london — The Commitments, a West End musical based on the movie and novel of the same name.

westhamunited.london — West Ham United, one of London’s several Premier League football teams.

whufc.london — also West Ham.

wingstravel.london — a travel agency specializing in oil and gas industries. Interestingly, its current web site uses a .travel domain: wings.travel.

The .london gTLD goes to sunrise April 29, with general availability slated for September 9.