Did Verisign suffer from a massive 2,600% increase in the number of deleted .com domain names this April?
Not quite, although the bizarre spike in deletes may have highlighted an area where the company was previously out of compliance with its ICANN Registry Agreements.
April’s .com registry report, filed with ICANN and published last week, shows 2.4 million domains were deleted, compared to just 108,000 in March and 90,000 in April 2013.
The spike looks surprising, and you may be tempted to think it is in some way related to the arrival of new gTLDs.
But look again. Could .com, a registry with over 116 million domains under management, really only see roughly 100,000 deletes every month? Clearly that number is far too low.
So what’s going on? I asked Verisign.
The company said that it has implemented “voluntary” changes to its reporting of deleted domains, based on the standard new gTLD Registry Agreement, which specifies what must be reported by new gTLD registries.
Prior to the April 2014 monthly reports, and per the ICANN gTLD registry reporting guidelines, Verisign reported on only deleted domains outside of any grace period.
There are five “grace periods” permitted by ICANN contracts: the Add Grace Period, Renew/Extend Grace Period, Auto-Renew Grace Period, Transfer Grace Period, and Redemption Grace Period.
The familiar Add Grace Period allows registrars to cancel registrations within a week of registration if the registrant made a typo, for example, and asked for a refund.
The Redemption Grace Period covers domains that have expired and do not resolve, but can still be restored for 30 days at the request of the registrant.
According to Verisign, before April, domains that were deleted outside of any of the five grace periods were reported as “deleted-domains-nograce”.
From April, the company is reporting domains only as “deleted-domains-nograce” if they delete outside of the Add Grace Period.
According to my reading of the .com contract, that’s what Verisign should have been doing all along.
The contract, which Verisign and ICANN signed in late 2012, defines “deleted-domains-nograce” only as “domains deleted outside the add grace period”. There’s no mention of other grace periods.
The same definition can be found in the 2006 contract.
It appears to me that Verisign may have been under-reporting its deletes for quite some time.
Verisign said in response that it does not believe it has a compliance issue. A spokesperson said: “[We] voluntarily updated our reporting of deleting domain names so that our reporting is aligned with ICANN’s reporting clarifications for the new gTLDs.”
As much as 41% of domains registered in new gTLDs are parked with pay-per-click advertising, according to research carried out by Verisign.
That works out to over 540,000 domains, judging by the 1.3 million total I have on record from June 29, the day Verisign carried out the survey.
Domains classified as carrying “business” web sites — defined as “a website that shows commercial activity” — accounted for just 3% of the total, according to Verisign.
There are some big caveats, of course, not least of which is .xyz, which tends to skew any surveys based on “registered” names appearing in the zone file. Verisign noted:
XYZ.COM LLC (.xyz) has a high concentration of PPC websites as a result of a campaign that reportedly automatically registered XYZ domains to domain registrants in other TLDs unless they opted out of receiving the free domain name. After registration, these free names forward to a PPC site unless reconfigured by the end user registrant.
On June 29, .xyz had 225,159 domains in its zone file. I estimate somewhat over 200,000 of those names were most likely freebies and most likely parked.
The practice of registry parking, carried out most aggressively by Uniregistry and its affiliate North Sound, also threw off Verisign’s numbers.
Whereas most new gTLD registries reserve their premium names without adding them to the zone files, Uniregistry registers them via North Sound to park and promote them.
Tens of thousands of names have been registered in this way.
Coupled with the .xyz effect, this leads me to conclude that the number of domains registered by real registrants and parked with PPC is probably close to half of Verisign’s number.
That’s still one out of every five domains in new gTLDs, however.
Judging by a chart on Verisign’s blog, .photography appears to have the highest percentage of “business” use among the top 10 new gTLDs so far.
Verisign also found that 10% of the names it scanned redirect to a different domain. It classified these as redirects, rather than according to the content of their final destination.
Momentum Events has cancelled its planned new gTLD conference, which was due to take place in Amsterdam next month.
The Digital Strategy & DotOps Congress was designed primarily for potential dot-brand gTLD applicants — with free tickets on offer for eligible companies — but Momentum said there was not enough demand.
A Momentum rep tells me it was looking like fewer than 100 people were going to attend.
“[M]arket response to this event thus far has demonstrated that the use of TLDs by brands is still a developing area and at this time we are just a bit too ahead of the curve,” the company said in an email to participants. “As such and in consideration of your time, we decided to proceed with cancelling this event.”
The conference was to be held at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Amsterdam, Netherlands from September 18 to 19.
Momentum is tentatively thinking about rescheduling the show for the first quarter next year.
It’s not the first new gTLD conference to be cancelled due to the slow uptake of new gTLDs. The third .nxt conference was abandoned twice in 2012 due to lack of demand and delays in the ICANN process.
Unlike the .nxt situation, where some attendees said they did not get refunded for their event passes, Momentum tells me people who had already paid for tickets can be refunded.
They’ll also be offered access to other Momentum conferences — either the rescheduled spring conference or a more imminent brand-oriented show — as an alternative.
Google and Microsoft seem to have settled their contention set for the .docs new gTLD, with Google emerging the victor.
Microsoft withdrew its application for .docs this week.
It’s not clear how the deal was made, but Google is known to have participated in private auctions for other strings.
Google Docs is of course Google’s office document service.
Microsoft also has a Docs service, a collaboration with Facebook at Docs.com, but it seems to have been in beta since April 2010 and, by the looks of the site, isn’t what you’d call a success.
Google and Amazon have started making deals to settle their new gTLD contention sets.
Google won three contention sets against Amazon this week, judging by the latest withdrawals, while Amazon won two.
Amazon won .talk and .you after Google, the only other applicant, withdrew.
Neither company appears to have a “You” brand, unless you count YouTube, but the .talk settlement strongly suggests that Google Talk, the company’s instant messaging client, is on the way out.
When Google applied for .talk in 2012 it intended to give Talk users custom domains to act as a contact point, but in 2013 Google started to indicate that it will be replaced as a brand by Google Hangouts.
The withdrawal seems to suggest that the existence of a gTLD application, a relatively small investment, is not an overwhelming factor when companies consider product rebranding.
I wonder what effect a live, active TLD will have on similar decisions in future.
But Google won the two-horse races for .dev and .drive and after Amazon withdrew its applications.
Google has a product called Google Drive, while Amazon runs Amazon Cloud Drive. Both companies have developer programs, though Google’s is arguably the more substantial of the two.
Google has also won .play — Google Play is its app store — after Amazon, Radix and Star Registry’s withdrawals. Amazon does not have a Play brand.
Google has also withdrawn its application for .book, leaving six remaining applicants, including Amazon, in the contention set.
I don’t currently know whether these contention sets were settled privately or via a third-party auction.