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Free .cloud domains on offer to pioneer brands

Aruba, the recently anointed .cloud gTLD registry, plans to give away up to 100 free .cloud domains to trademark owners as part of its launch program.

The Italian company also today revealed a rough launch schedule that will see sunrise begin mid-way through the fourth quarter.

Participating in Aruba’s “Pioneer” program will be free for trademark owners with a decent marketing plan, a brand-match domain, and a web site that can go live at the end of September.

Up to 100 domains can be allocated for promotional purposes before sunrise begins, per ICANN rules.

Those looking to grab a generic dictionary word in .cloud “may require further negotiation and incur additional costs”, the registry web site says.

Wannabe pioneers have until August 21 to submit their ideas.

Aruba, which beat Minds + Machines, Symantec, Amazon, Google, CloudNames and Donuts to .cloud at private auction last November, plans to go to general availability early next year.

New gTLD sales miss ICANN estimates by a mile

New gTLD registration volumes failed to live up to ICANN’s expectations by a long, long way in its fiscal 2015.

When ICANN’s FY15 ended on Tuesday, new gTLDs had fewer than 6 million domains in their collective zone files.

That’s just 18% of ICANN’s original early 2014 estimate of 33 million domains and just 39% of its revised March 2015 estimate of 15 million names.

It’s going to be harder to compare future new gTLD performance to ICANN’s projections, as the program enters its second year of live activity.

The organization’s recently published draft fiscal 2016 budget does not have a “total registrations” number to compare to the 15/33 million projection in last year’s budget.

It does, however, predict 12.5 million billable registrar transactions in FY16, which began yesterday.

Billable registrar transactions include renewals and transfers, however, so ICANN is not saying that there will be 12.5 million extant new gTLD registrations this time next year.

You might be surprised how many new gTLDs have changed hands already

At least 86 new gTLD registry contracts have changed hands since the end of 2013, I have discovered.

ICANN calls the transfer of a Registry Agreement from one company to another an “assignment”. Global Domains Division staff said in Buenos Aires last week that it’s one of the more complex and time-consuming tasks they have to perform.

So I thought I’d do a count, and I discovered some interesting stuff.

Donuts/Rightside

The biggest beneficiary of incoming assignments so far is of course Rightside, aka United TLD Holdco, which has so far taken over 23 of the gTLDs applied for by Donuts.

The two companies have had an agreement since the start that allows Rightside to take on as many as 107 of Donuts’ original 307 applications.

Interestingly, Rightside sold .fan to AsiaMix Digital after Donuts had transferred the gTLD to it.

Amazon

We also discover that Amazon is repatriating its gTLD contracts en masse.

So far, 21 gTLDs applied for by Amazon EU Sarl — the Luxembourg-based company Amazon uses to dodge tax in other European countries — have been transferred to US-based Amazon Registry Services Inc.

Amazon EU has made money losing new gTLD auctions.

Given the company’s usual MO, I have to wonder whether Amazon Registry Services, under the US tax regime, plans to make any money at all from its new raft of gTLDs.

Subsidiary changes

Speaking of tax, four gTLDs associated with the Hong Kong-based Zodiac group of applicants have been transferred to new Cayman Islands companies with similar names.

A bunch of the other assignments appear to be registries shifting contracts between various subsidiaries.

IG Group, a large UK derivatives trader, has assigned seven gTLDs (such as .forex, .markets and .spreadbetting) to newly created UK subsidiaries, for example.

Also, Ireland-based Afilias transferred the .green RA to a new Irish subsidiary, while Germany-based .srl applicant mySRL has sent its contract to a Florida-based sister company from the InternetX stable.

There are several other example of this kind of activity.

Actual acquisitions

As best as I can tell, there have been only eight actual post-contracting acquisitions so far: .trust, .fan, .meet, .reise, .xn--ses554g, .rent, .theatre, and .protection.

The only one of those I didn’t know about — and haven’t seen reported anywhere — was .meet, which Afilias seems to have sold to Google back in February.

It should be noted that while I’ve counted 86 assignments, I may have missed some. At least one — XYZ.com’s acquisition of .security from Symantec, does not appear have been completed yet, judging by ICANN’s web site.

Afilias promises cash for LGBT cause with .lgbt sales

Afilias has promised to donate a slice of .lgbt registration fees to a LGBT organization for the next few months.

The company, which acts as registry for .lgbt, said it will give $20 to the It Gets Better Project for every name registered through October 11.

It Gets Better is a US-based non-profit devoted to supporting LGBT people through their often rough teenage years.

Afilias said the promotion is meant to celebrate the recent legalization of same-sex marriage in the US and Ireland.

The October 11 end date was picked because that is National Coming Out Day in the US.

.lgbt names currently retail for roughly $45 to $60 a year.

First example of .sucks cybersquatting?

The .sucks domain has been generally available for a little over a week now, and I’ve found what may be the first example of somebody attempting to sell one to a brand owner.

amherstcollege.sucks is one of only a handful on non-registry-owned .sucks domains to have a web site already indexed by Google.

The site solicits commentary about Amherst College — a liberal arts university in Massachusetts that owns a US trademark on “Amherst” — but does not yet publish any such criticism.

However, the phrases “AMHERSTCOLLEGE.SUCKS DOMAIN NAME + WEBSITE IS FOR SALE” and “IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN PURCHASING THIS DOMAIN AND WEBSITE CONTACT US” appear prominently on the bare-bones WordPress blog currently running at the site.

The Whois record shows “THIS DOMAIN IS FOR SALE” as the registrant organization.

Under the UDRP, offering a domain for sale is usually considered enough to meet the “bad faith” part of the three-prong cybersquatting test.

I doubt it’s the only example of a .sucks domain matching a brand currently listed for sale by a third-party registrant, but it is the first one showing up in Google.

It’s still early days; the other .sucks domains with sites and a Google presence are a mix of redirects, mirroring and placeholders.

Microsoft-owned microsoft.sucks is one of them. It redirects to a Bing search results page.

The $250-a-year .sucks gTLD, managed by Vox Populi registry, currently has fewer than 5,700 domains in its zone file. Growth has ground almost to a halt over the last few days.