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New gTLDs now outnumber the old TLDs

There are now more 2012-round new gTLDs alive on the internet than there are legacy TLDs.

With today’s addition of five new strings, including .brussels and .surf, there are now 312 delegated new gTLDs and 308 others in the DNS root zone file.

The legacy TLD count includes the original eight gTLDs such as .com and .gov, 285 ccTLDs (including 36 IDN ccTLDs), and 15 gTLDs added by ICANN in the 2000 and 2003 rounds.

With just shy of 1.2 million domains under management (including all the registry-reserved and freebies) the new gTLD program currently accounts for about 0.4% of all registered names.

About 140 new gTLDs are in general availability. The rest have been delegated but are either in sunrise periods or pre-sunrise periods.

ICANN smacks new gTLDs for pre-sunrise auctions

Running a premium domain name auction before you’ve finished your new gTLD sunrise period is Officially Not Cool, according to ICANN’s compliance department.

People who won premium new gTLD domains in auctions that took place before sunrise periods now face the possibility of losing their names to trademark owners.

.CLUB Domains, and probably XYZ.com, operators of .club and .xyz, two of the highest-volume new gTLDs to launch so far, appear to be affected by the ICANN decision.

ICANN told .CLUB that its “winter auction“, which took place in late February, may have violated the rules about allocating or “earmarking” domains to registrants before sunrise takes place.

Meanwhile, NameJet has cancelled the auction for deals.xyz, which “sold” for $8,100 late last year, suggesting that .xyz’s pre-sunrise auction is also considered ultra vires.

ICANN told .CLUB that its auction sales “constitute earmarking” in violation of the rule stating that registries “must not allow a domain name to be allocated or registered prior to the Sunrise period”.

.CLUB had told its auction winners that a sunrise period registration would prevent them from getting the domain they wanted and that they would be refunded if a sunrise registrant emerged.

But ICANN evidently told the registry:

Irrespective of whether “[a]llocation was expressly conditioned upon any Sunrise claim,” or whether any Sunrise claim was made, the pre-selection, pre-registration or pre-designation to third parties, in this case via .Club Domains’ “winter auction,” constitutes improper allocation.

I kinda thought this would happen.

Back in November, when XYZ.com ran its first .xyz auction — about six months before its sunrise even started — CEO Daniel Negari told us he believed it was “comfortably within the rules“.

We said the auction “seems to be operating at the edge of what is permissible under the new gTLD program’s rights protection mechanisms, which state that no domains may be allocated prior to Sunrise.”

I’ve not yet been able to definitively confirm that .xyz is affected by this ICANN decision, but .club definitely is.

.CLUB Domains told its auction winners today that the names they won are now subject to a 60-day period during which they could be obtained by trademark owners.

If no trademark owner claims the name, .CLUB said it will give the auction winner a 10% rebate on their purchase price.

The email states:

We are placing the domain on hold for 60 days, during which time a Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) holder will have the opportunity to purchase the domain at Sunrise rates. Although, the domain is not currently in the TMCH, if a trademark holder should file in the TMCH over the next 60 days, the domain will be offered to that registrant. However, if the name is not claimed by filing in the TMCH over the next 60 days, your transaction will move forward as planned.

Although we disagree with ICANN compliance’s position on this matter, the actions we are taking are necessary to ensure that we are not offside with ICANN compliance in any way. We understand that you have been caught in the middle of this issue due to no fault of your own. Given these circumstances, we are offering you two options:

1) Should you decide to complete this transaction, we will issue you a payment of 10% of the purchase price after the transaction closes in 60 days, assuming the name is not registered by a TMCH mark holder because of the delay.

2) At any time during the 60 day period you have the option to rescind the auction bid and not purchasing the domain.

dotBERLIN pulls plug on free domain giveaway

The .berlin registry has apparently halted the promotion that has given away tens of thousands of free domain names, citing unexpectedly high demand.

According to 101domain, a registrar that started giving away .berlin domains for free yesterday:

As of 1pm PST today, June 18th, the free .BERLIN promotion will unfortunately come to an end.

According to the dotBERLIN registry, demand was exceedingly above their anticipated volumes, so they have decided to pull the plug early.

The promotion, which led to domainers registered tens of thousands of names, was due to end on Friday.

Why has dotBERLIN pulled the plug? I have to wonder whether it is related to the company’s own registration policies, which are not particularly domainer-friendly.

The .berlin TLD started today at 121,193 names, according to its zone file, up 5,227 on the day.

Over 70,000 of those names were registered in the last two days, and most of those are believed to be freebies handed out by InternetX and, as of yesterday, 101domain.

As we reported yesterday, one domainer, DomainProfi, is responsible for over 23,000 of these registrations.

Another massive registrant, as DNW reported today, is Sedo-affiliated DomCollect, part of the same group (United Internet) as InternetX. It has over 30,000 .berlin names.

It’s difficult to see any of these names being developed or used in any meaningful way — they seem to be currently parked — yet the dotBERLIN registration policy may require it.

The English translation of the policy (pdf) states:

5.2. Conditions for the content and use of domain names

As the gTLD .BERLIN is a so-called “community based” gTLD, where the registration of domain names is subject to restrictions, a domain name must be put into use within 12 months of registration.

If the registrant sets up a web site which can be reached via the registered domain name, the content of this site must have be directly related to the authorisation to register

The first part of that seems simple: you have to “use” the domain within a year or risk losing it.

The “authorisation to register” appears to be the registrant’s self-declared “economic, cultural, historical, social or other connection to the German capital, Berlin”.

I interpret the two paragraphs together to read: “You must use the name in a manner that reflects your connection to Berlin”.

Does this mean parking is prohibited? There’s nothing explicit banning it, but I’d say it’s definitely a grey area. It seems to be down to the decision of the registry.

I asked dotBERLIN for clarification this morning but have not yet received one.

For the registrants, there seems to be little risk, however. They haven’t paid for their names and probably don’t intend to renew any that they can’t sell before renewal time.

Are you ready to sell your new gTLD yet?

Applicant Auction wants to know.

The company, which was set up to help resolve new gTLD contention sets, has started pitching its services to the owners of gTLDs that are already delegated.

An email sent out to applicants this week says:

Many people approach us with interest in purchasing strings, so we are offering a new auction where gTLD owners can sell their string in a open auction.

I gather that the company is targeting both live registries and applicants for uncontested strings.

It’s sad to say, but I think there might even be a market for it.

The laid-back “if we build it, they will come” mentality among applicants seems to have been a lot more prevalent than I had anticipated, which has resulted in depressing sales for some new gTLDs.

Will any of them decide to cash out early rather than putting in the time and money to make their businesses work over the long haul? It remains to be seen.

.berlin rockets to 116k on free domain offer

A promotion from dotBERLIN saw .berlin more than double its registration count yesterday, as speculators (apparently) swooped to claim over 61,000 free domain names.

The new gTLD ended the day with 115,966 domains in its zone, up 67,347 or 138% on the day.

That makes it the number two new gTLD again, snipping at the heels of .xyz, which has 144,474 names.

But, like .xyz, the numbers are not an accurate reflection of demand.

Giving away free domains seems to be the way to go if you want to quickly rack up your registration count with scant regard for actual end user purchases or renewal rates.

dotBERLIN said yesterday that it was celebrating 50,000 registrations with a five-day offer seeing registrars sell the names for no more than €5.55 ($7.53).

But some registrars are actually offering them for free.

InternetX is one such registrar, and it appears to have taken the vast, vast majority of all the new .berlin registrations yesterday.

Digging into name server records, it appears that at least 61,000 names were registered via InternetX-owned registrars. Of those, over 23,000 appear to have been registered to a single domainer.

InternetX, to the best of my knowledge, wasn’t forcing the domains on its customers, which is what Network Solutions did with .xyz.

According to its web site, the offer was limited to 50 domains per customer, though there appears to be an option to purchase obtain more.

The domainer with the cache of 23,000 names appears to be an InternetX reseller.

The numbers are big, and they may well convert into revenue-generating renewals for dotBERLIN, but right now I don’t think they’re especially reflective of demand among end user registrants.