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China conference leads to 49% .vip spike

The Global Domain Industry Conference, held in China over the weekend, has led to a huge boost in .vip domain sales.

Registry Minds + Machines told the markets this morning that the recently launched gTLD hit 404,892 as of 1600 UTC yesterday, up 49% from Friday.

CEO Toby Hall confirmed to DI that China is very much behind the spike, and that the conference helped raise the profile of .vip.

Billings and orders have now hit $5.5 million, up from $3.2 million on May 22, M+M said. That number includes sunrise and premium sales.

At GDS, M+M sold eight .vip domains auction for a total of $232,000 before auction commissions, which very likely inspired the spike in base-fee registrations.

Photos of GDS published on social media yesterday show a packed auditorium, with hundreds of attendees.

While M+M makes much of the fact that it has not used a “freenium” strategy for .vip — which it says may lead to better renewal rates than competitors — retail prices are still pretty damn cheap.

At West.cn, its leading Chinese registrar, a .vip can be had today for about $3. It’s closer to $10 at GoDaddy.

Today’s batch of zone files have not yet been published by ICANN for verification, but yesterday there were 245,872 names in .vip.

.xyz tops 5 million domains as penny deals continue

XYZ.com became the first new gTLD operator to top five million domains in a single TLD last night, when .xyz added almost 1.5 million names.

According to our parse of today’s zone file, .xyz has 5,096,589 names, up 1,451,763 on yesterday’s 3,644,826.

On Monday, the number was just under 2.8 million.

The massive spike came after what was supposed to be the final day of a three-day discounting blitz, as registrars sold the names for $0.02, $0.01 or even nothing.

Uniregistry, which sold for a penny, seems to have claimed the lion’s share of the regs.

The company supplied DI with data showing it had processed over 1.16 million registrations on June 2, about 90% of which CEO Frank Schilling said were .xyz sales.

At its peak, Uniregistry created 95,793 new domains in an hour, this data shows.

Judging by the numbers published on its home page, the registrar has pretty much doubled its domains under management overnight.

The rapid growth of .xyz is very probably not over.

Some registrars said they will carry on with the penny giveaways for an extra day.

At least one popular registrar, NameCheap, told irritated customers that the popularity of its $0.02 offer meant it had a backlog of registration requests that would take 12 to 24 hours to process. Those may not have showed up in the zone file yet.

In addition, .xyz prices are expected to be dirt cheap — just $0.18 at Uniregistry, for example — for the rest of the month, at least at the 50-odd registrars XYZ says are participating in its promotion.

Amazingly, .blockbuster will soon be a gTLD

Video rental chain Blockbuster may have gone the way of the the 8-track, the VCR, and the Nokia cell phone, but it will soon have a gTLD of its own.

The .blockbuster gTLD application completed its pre-delegation testing with ICANN this week and is now with IANA/Verisign, ready to go live on the internet in the coming week or so.

It’s a fairly straightforward dot-brand application, even though the brand itself is pretty much dead.

Blockbuster, which at its peak in 2004 had 9,000 rental stores in its chain, was rescued from its Netflix-induced bankruptcy by TV company Dish Network back in 2011.

Dish applied for .blockbuster in 2012 when the brand was still, if only barely, a going concern.

However, since that time all of its remaining Blockbuster stores have been closed down and the Blockbuster-branded streaming service has been renamed Sling.

The web site at blockbuster.com is a husk that hasn’t been updated since 2014.

And yet the brand will shortly be at the cutting edge of online branding by having its own new gTLD.

A dot-brand without a brand? Surely this will be among the most useless new gTLDs to hit the ‘net.

Donuts’ new 50% price hike explained

Donuts’ new pricing model for 10 of its new gTLDs, announced yesterday, has caused some confusion for registrants and will make life more complex for registrars.

The company said yesterday that from October it plans to raise its wholesale fee by 50% for new registrations in .camera, .camp, .cleaning, .dog, .glass, .kitchen, .plumbing, .shoes, .solar and .toys.

It’s a substantial increase for domains that typically retail for between $25 and $40, and Donuts has clearly got an eye on profitability rather than volume.

But, crucially, the increased fees will not apply to renewals of existing registrations.

This introduces an unfamiliar pricing paradigm to the domain name industry — the notion of variable renewal pricing for non-premium domains.

Let’s do an example, assuming the wholesale fee is currently $10 (it isn’t, but Donuts does not disclose its wholesale fees).

If you were to register example.dog today or before October 1, the wholesale renewal fee for that domain would be $10 for as long as you held that domain. In 20 years, you’d still be paying Donuts $10 a year in renewal fees.

But if you were to register the same domain name after October 1, you’d be paying Donuts $15 a year in renewal fees.

Donuts told DI last night that the only way an already-registered domain in one of the affected gTLDs would see an increased fee is if it deletes and is re-registered.

The current, lower, wholesale fee will continue to apply if you transfer your domain to a new registrar. It will even apply if you sell your domain to a new registrant, according to Donuts.

In practice, how much you actually pay depends on your registrar, of course.

Registrars may decide to have variable renewal fees at the retail level too or, probably more likely, they may apply a uniform renewal price. In the latter case, current .dog domains would be 50% more profitable than domains registered from October 1.

Under the hood, the new model introduces complexities for registrars, described to DI by one registrar as a “pain”.

They’ll need to update their systems to account for the varying rates and will need to pass data about renewal tiers between each other when domains are transferred.

If Donuts were to raise prices every two years, and applied the hike to more gTLDs, pretty soon there’ll be a lot of tiers to track.

But variable pricing is not completely unheard of, and is regulated to an extent by ICANN.

The standard Registry Agreement, which applies to all Donuts’ gTLDs, forbids registries from charging some registrants higher renewal fees than others.

But there are exceptions. If the registrant explicitly agrees to the renewal fee at the point of registration, it’s legit. Donuts and others already use this exception in order to charge higher prices for premium name renewals.

The purpose of that part of the contract “is to prohibit abusive and/or discriminatory Renewal Pricing practices”, preventing registries imposing higher fees on customers that are using domains very profitability, for example.

Donuts to hike prices 50% on some TLDs

While some new gTLD registries are all about the giveaways and deep discounting, Donuts has taken the unprecedented decision to actually increase its prices.

The company announced today that it will add a whopping 50% to its wholesale fee for 10 of its TLDs.

The TLDs are: .camera, .camp, .cleaning, .dog, .glass, .kitchen, .plumbing, .shoes, .solar and .toys.

While Donuts does not disclose its wholesale fees, these domains typically retail for $25 to $40 for non-premiums.

We could be looking at a .dog at GoDaddy, for example, going up from $40 a year to $60 a year, if the increases are passed on proportionately.

None of the 10 TLDs in question have set the market alight, volume-wise. They’re all struggling around the 3,000 to 6,000 domains mark, according to zone file data.

Seven of the 10 zones have actually been shrinking in recent months.

All but one of them went to general availability in the first half of 2014, so have been on the market about two years.

The new prices will kick in October 1, Donuts said.

Renewal prices for domains registered before that date will renew at their original wholesale fee, the company added.