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ICANN split between GNSO and GAC on IGO names

Kevin Murphy, May 7, 2014, Domain Policy

ICANN’s board of directors has refused to choose between the Generic Names Supporting Organization and the Governmental Advisory Committee on the issue of intergovernmental organization protections.

In a resolution last week, the board decided to approve only the parts of the GNSO’s unanimous consensus recommendations that the GAC does not disagree with.

The GNSO said last November that IGOs should not have their acronyms blocked forever at the second level in new gTLDs, going against the GAC consensus view that the acronyms should be “permanently protected”.

The GAC wants IGOs to enjoy a permanent version of the Trademark Claims notifications mechanism, whereas the GNSO thinks they should only get the 90 days enjoyed by trademark owners.

Instead of choosing a side, ICANN passed a resolution last Wednesday requesting “additional time” to reach a decision on these points of difference and said it wants to:

facilitate discussions among the relevant parties to reconcile any remaining differences between the policy recommendations and the GAC advice

The decision is not unexpected. Board member Bruce Tonkin basically revealed the board’s intention to go this way during the Singapore meeting a couple of months ago.

The differences between the GAC and the GNSO are relatively minor now, and the board did approve a large part of the GNSO’s recommendations in its resolution.

IGOs, the Olympics, Red Cross and Red Crescent will all get permanent blocks for their full names (but not acronyms) at the top level and second level in the new gTLD program.

International nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) will also get top-level blocks for their full names and protection in the style of the Trademark Claims service at the second level.

The dispute over acronyms was important because many obscure IGOs, which arguably don’t need protection from cybersquatters, have useful or potentially valuable acronyms that new gTLD registries want to keep.

Millions spent on new gTLDs as 11 auctions settled

Kevin Murphy, April 30, 2014, Domain Registries

New gTLD portfolio applicants settled at least 11 new gTLD contention sets last week, sharing the spoils of a private auction that looks to have totaled seven figures in sales.

Applicant Auction carried out auctions for 13 contested strings last week, which I believe lasted at least three days.

I’ve been able to determine that Donuts won six sets, Uniregistry won three and Minds + Machines won two. Radix seems to have lost at least five auctions, walking away with a great big pile of cash instead.

.hosting — Uniregistry won after Radix (which owns .host) withdrew.

.click — Uniregistry beat Radix.

.property — Uniregistry won after withdrawals from M+M and Donuts.

.yoga — M+M won, beating Donuts and Uniregistry.

.garden — M+M beat Donuts and Uniregistry again.

.娱乐 — Donuts won this string (Chinese for “.entertainment”) after Morden Media withdrew.

.deals — Donuts beat M+M and Radix.

.city — Donuts beat TLD Registry and Radix.

.forsale — Donuts beat DERForsale.

.world – Donuts beat Radix.

.band – Donuts beat What Box?

Minds + Machines disclosed this morning that the four auctions in which it was involved cost it $5.97 million.

It’s not possible to work out how much .garden and .yoga cost the company; the $5.97 million figure is net of the money it won by losing .property and .deals, ICANN refunds and auctioneer commissions.

However, it seems reasonable to assume that the average price of a gTLD, even not particularly attractive ones (.garden? Really?), has sharply risen from the $1.33 million I calculated from the first 14 auctions.

In January, M+M raised roughly $33.6 million for auctions with a private share placement. The company is listed on London’s Alternative Investment Market.

The company said it now has an interest in 28 uncontested applications.

Also today, the Canadian Real Estate Association withdrew its Community application for .mls, but this is not believed to be related to the auctions. It has a non-Community application for the same string remaining.

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.