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Verisign plans TLD standards group

Kevin Murphy, September 22, 2014, Domain Tech

Verisign is trying to form a new industry standards-setting association for domain name registries and registrars.

To be called the Registration Operations AssociationTM (yes, according to its web site it is apparently already trademarked), Verisign wants potential members of the group to meet in October to figure out whether such an association is needed and what its remit would be.

But the Domain Name Association apparently has other ideas, suggesting in a recent blog post that the DNA would be the best place for these kinds of technical discussions to take place.

In the second of a series of three blog posts revealing the ROA plan, Verisign senior director Scott Hollenbeck said:

The primary purpose of an association would be to facilitate communication and technical coordination among implementers and operators of the EPP protocol and its current extensions to address interoperability and efficiency obstacles.

EPP is the Extensible Provisioning Protocol used by registrars to transact with all gTLD and many ccTLD registries. It’s an IETF standard written by Hollenbeck over a decade ago.

One of the problems with it is that it is “extensible” by design, so every time a registry extends it to deal with a peculiarity of a particular TLD, partner registrars have to code new connectors.

In a world of hundreds of new gTLDs, that becomes burdensome, Hollenbeck explained in his posts.

An industry association such as the formative ROA could help registries with common requirements standardize on a single EPP extension, streamlining interoperability.

That would be good for new gTLDs.

It’s no secret that many registrars are struggling to keep up with new gTLD launches while providing a good customer experience, as Andrew Allemann pointed out last week.

The need for cooperation seems plain; the question now is what is the correct forum.

While Verisign is pushing for a new group, the DNA reckons the task could be best-performed under its own umbrella.

Executive director Kurt Pritz blogged:

Given its multi-functional and global diversity, the DNA will be an effective place to coordinate discussion of these issues and to involve broader domain name industry involvement.

Verisign isn’t a DNA member. In fact, it appears to be the only significant back-end registry provider in the western world not to have purchased a membership.

But Pritz said in his post that technical discussions would not be limited to DNA members only — anyone would be able to participate without coughing up the $5,000 to $50,000 a year the group charges:

Recognizing that industry-wide issues are… well … industry wide, the DNA Board determined that this work must include those inside and outside the DNA, welcoming all domain name industry members. Scott and others from Verisign and other firms are invited regardless of whether they join the DNA.

So is the industry going to have to deal with two rival standards-setting groups?

In the many years I was a general Silicon Valley tech reporter, I must have written scores of articles about new technologies spurring the creation of competing “standards” organizations.

Usually, this involved pitting an incumbent monopolist such as Microsoft against a coalition of smaller rivals.

It makes for great headlines, but I’m not sure the domain name industry is big enough to support or require multiple groups tackling the same problems.

With resource-strapped registries and registrars already struggling to make new gTLDs work in any meaningful way, I doubt their geeks would appreciate duplicating their efforts.

I don’t know whether the DNA or ROA would be the best venue for the work, but I strongly suspect the work itself, which almost certainly needs to be done, only needs to be done once.

Verisign wants interested parties to meet in Los Angeles on October 16, just as the ICANN meeting there concludes. The meeting may also be webcast for those unable to attend in person.

Accent wins .tickets auction after $1.6m CentralNic investment

Kevin Murphy, September 22, 2014, Domain Registries

Accent Media, one of four applicants for .tickets, has won the new gTLD at auction after receiving a $1.62 million investment from CentralNic.

As part of the deal, Accent has dumped Afilias as its back-end provider and will switch to CentralNic instead.

Competing applicants Donuts, Famous Four Media, Shubert Internet and Tickets TLD are now expected to pull their applications, though none appear to have had their withdrawals accepted by ICANN yet.

It’s not clear how much .tickets sold for.

CentralNic acquired a 12% stake in Accent in exchange for its investment. Both companies are based in the UK.

The deal is believed to be unrelated to the $1.5 million investment in a gTLD applicant that CentralNic announced — with the proceeds earmarked for auction — last week.

Accent has applied for a quite restricted TLD, with anti-fraud measures at its heart. Its authenticated registration process is described as being a bit like the process of buying an SSL certificate.

CentralNic CEO Ben Crawford said in a statement:

The “.tickets” Top-Level Domain will be a compelling new tool to assist consumers to easily identify legitimate and trusted ticket sales sites, as well as empowering venues, entertainers and sports organizations to improve their use of the internet for enabling fans to purchase tickets. This investment realizes our strategy of investing in Top-Level Domain applicants as well as operating as a business partner to their operators.

Which made more money — .website, .press or .host?

Kevin Murphy, September 19, 2014, Domain Registries

Radix Registry launched its first three new gTLDs yesterday, and the first day’s numbers make an interesting case study in how difficult it can be to judge the health of a TLD.

Based on zone file numbers, .website was the clear winner. It had 6,340 names in its zone at the end of the day, compared to .host’s 778 and .press’s 801.

There’s clearly more demand for .website names right now.

But which made the most money? That’s actually a lot harder to figure out.

To make those calculations accurately, you’d need to know a) Radix’s base registry fee, b) the promotional discounts it applied for the launch c) which premium names sold and d) for how much.

None of that information is publicly available.

If we were to use Go Daddy’s base retail pricing as a proxy guide, .host was hypothetically the biggest money-spinner yesterday. At $129.99 a year, it would have made $101,132.

Because .website only costs $14.99 at Go Daddy, it would have only made $95,037, even though it sold thousands more names.

But Radix offered registrars what appears to be steep discounts for the launch. Go Daddy marked down its .host names from $129.99 to $49.99. That would make revenue of $38,892, less than half of .website.

With the discounts in mind, .host didn’t have as good a day from a cash-flow perspective as .website, but it arguably looks healthier from a long-term revenue perspective.

That’s all based on the snapshot of today’s zone files and an obviously incorrect assumption that Go Daddy sold all the names, of course.

Complicating matters further are the premium names.

Radix has priced a lot of its names with premium renewal fees and Radix business head Sandeep Ramchandani said that the company sold five five-figure premium names across all three gTLDs.

Given the relatively small amount of money we’re talking about, those five sales would have significantly impacted the three new gTLD’s relative revenue.

.website gets 6,500 regs in first four hours

Kevin Murphy, September 18, 2014, Domain Registries

The new gTLD .website got over 6,500 registrations in the first four hours of general availability, according to Radix Registry.

The TLD has been characterized as the first exciting, properly generic English-language new gTLD to launch.

With that in mind, one wonders whether 6,500 is a great start.

Bear in mind that .website has commodity .com pricing ($14.99 or thereabouts retail) and that Radix offered its registrars a promotional discount for the launch — 6,500 names does not equal a lot of money.

But it’s still early days (hours), and we don’t know how many of the registered names carry premium prices.

Radix’s premium names renew annually at the premium prices, as we’ve seen previously with gTLDs from the likes of Donuts, Uniregistry and Minds + Machines.

.website went to GA at 1600 UTC today, having been delayed 24 hours by a pricing glitch.

Radix has been conducting a sweepstakes on Twitter all day to guess the number of day-one registrations in .website. The prize is a Go Pro camera.

Based on nothing more than gut instinct, I went for 9,888, thinking I was probably erring slightly on the low side.

CentralNic invests $1.5m in mystery gTLD applicant

Kevin Murphy, September 18, 2014, Domain Registries

Registry back-end provider CentralNic has stumped up $1.5 million to back a new gTLD applicant in a forthcoming private auction.

CentralNic CEO Ben Crawford declined to identify the beneficiary.

The company has also not disclosed what stake in the target company it will obtain if it wins the auction.

Here’s the entirety of the statement the company released to the market this afternoon:

CentralNic plc (AIM:CNIC), the internet platform business which derives revenues from the global sale of domain names, today announces that the Group intends to invest US$1.5 million in a Company which is in a contention set to acquire a new generic Top-Level Domain (“gTLD”). The funds will be placed into an escrow account, pending the resolution of the contention set, with the winning applicant expected to be resolved by a private auction within the next two weeks. The investment is contingent upon the Applicant Company successfully obtaining the rights to the gTLD by winning the auction. If the company is unsuccessful, the funds will be returned in full to CentralNic by the escrow agent.

Assuming CentralNic is investing in an existing registry services client, possible beneficiaries include Top Level Design, Fegistry, Merchant Law Group and XYZ.com.

These clients have more than 20 applications in contention right now, but not all of them could plausibly head to private auction soon.

Some have been blocked, some are in contention sets with applicants that do not participate in private auctions, and some strings have been applied for by more than one CentralNic client.

With those criteria in mind, one could possibly narrow down the target string to: .auto, .cafe, .chat, .design, .forum, .gay, .golf, .law, .news, .now, .realty, .school, .style or .sucks.