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Five killer TLDs nobody wants (and five rubbish ones)

Kevin Murphy, September 1, 2010, Domain Registries

Not including the incumbents, there are roughly 130 known new top-level domain applicants at the moment, covering everything from music to sport to health.

While several would-be TLDs, such as .gay and .eco, are known to have multiple applicants, there are some no-brainer strings that so far no company has staked a claim on.

Here’s five, off the top of my head.

.blog

Apparently there are something like 400 million active blogs on the internet today. And that’s just in the English language. I’ll take 1% of that, thanks.

.sex/.porn

We may already have .xxx by the time the first application round opens, but that’s no reason to prevent the porn industry taking its fate into its own hands and applying for either of these strings.

Both of these potential TLDs are category killers, moreso than .xxx. According to Google’s keyword tool, [sex] and [porn] each get 24.9 million searches per month, compared to 20.4 million for [xxx].

Yes, it will add even more defensive registrations costs, but it could be run on a cheap-as-chips basis, with free grandfathering, and without the expensive policy oversight body that they all seem to hate so much.

.sucks

The only UDRP-proof TLD. No sunrises, no trademark worries, just tens of thousands of disgruntled former employees happily slandering away.

That’s the theory, anyway. To be more mercenary, this is the one TLD guaranteed to make millions in defensive registrations alone.

Esther Dyson said she liked the idea back in 2000, and I agree with her. The internet needs a renewed dose of anarchic freedom of speech.

.poker

Online poker is worth billions. The term [poker] attracts far more interest than [casino], some 20 million searches per month, according to Google.

The value of the landrush auctions alone would be enough of an incentive for a registry to apply for .poker. Registration fees could also be set pretty high.

And, for balance, five rubbish TLDs.

Again, I’m not talking about guaranteed flops that have already been announced (.royal anyone?), but rather the TLDs that appear attractive at first look, but would, in my humble opinion, almost certainly fail hard.

.book

Sure, every year something like 400,000 books are published in the UK and US, but how many of them really get marketed to the extent that they need their own web site? Very few, I suspect.

And if you’re planning on using the TLD to sell books, good luck trying to train the world out of the Amazon mindset.

.kids

A legal nightmare, requiring a bloated policy oversight body to make sure all content is kid-friendly, which is pretty much impossible when nobody can even agree what a kid is.

You need look no further than the spectacularly unsuccessful government-mandated .kids.us effort to see what a waste of time a .kids would be. It has fewer domains than .arpa.

Still, it kept the politicians happy.

.news

A smaller market than you’d think. Google News only sources from about 25,000 publications, and only 4,500 of those are in English. How many will want to make the switch to a new TLD?

I’d say a .news TLD would struggle to hit six figures.

.secure

No, it isn’t. This is the internet.

A .secure TLD would be a PR nightmare from launch day to its inevitable firey death six months later.

.any-fad-technology

Back in 2000, there was an application for .wap. Really. It almost makes .mobi look like a good idea.

Pretty much no technology is immune from this rule. You can’t build a sustainable business on a string that’s likely to be tomorrow’s Betamax. Even the humble DVD has a shelf life.

Nokia considers new TLD application

Kevin Murphy, August 31, 2010, Domain Registries

Is Nokia planning to add its name to the list of “.brand” new top-level domain applicants?

That’s the intriguing possibility that emerged during a conference call of ICANN’s vertical integration working group yesterday.

Nokia working group representative Tero Mustala said, “our company is considering the possibilities to apply for a new gTLD”.

The revelation came as one of the disclosure statements that each participant was obliged to make, and should probably not be taken as an official company position.

As far as I know, this is the first time that the mobile phone giant has been connected to a new TLD bid. But is it a .brand? Unknown.

Nokia is an old hand at TLD applications, being among the over a dozen companies that financed the successful .mobi sponsored TLD application back in 2005.

In the 2000 “test-bed” round, it applied for .mas, .max, .mid, .mis, .mobi, .mobile, .now and .own but failed on technological grounds.

Under the new TLD application process, unsuccessful 2000 applicants get an $86,000 credit towards their new application, if they apply for the same string(s). That’s not an amount of money Nokia would care too much about, obviously.

There have been very few publicly disclosed .brand applications. Canon was the first and loudest. A couple of other companies, such as IBM, have been dropping hints.

Who voted against three Arabic ccTLDs and why?

Kevin Murphy, August 17, 2010, Domain Registries

Two ICANN board members voted against the recent resolution to grant Arabic top-level domains to Palestine, Jordan and Tunisia, it has emerged.

ICANN has published the preliminary report for its August 5 board meeting, which breaks down the votes for each of the 27 resolutions and provides a minuscule amount of color about the discussions.

While the resolutions approving internationalized domain names for Singapore and Thailand were carried unanimously and without discussion, the three Arabic-script IDNs were discussed and received two negative votes and three abstentions.

So which two board members voted against these ccTLDs and why?

Beats me. The IDN ccTLD fast track process is one area where ICANN is quite secretive, and the report does not break down the substance of the discussion or the identities of the directors.

Strangely, two resolutions I would consider much more controversial faced less opposition.

The report shows that the resolution passing ICM Registry’s .xxx domain to the next stage of approval was carried unanimously, and that only one director voted against the .jobs amendment.

ERE.net has more on the .jobs story.

East Africans to seek regional TLD

Kevin Murphy, August 17, 2010, Domain Registries

The East African Community has reportedly started planning to apply to ICANN for its own top-level domain, .eac.

I must confess, I’d never heard of the EAC before. I’ve discovered it’s an intergovernmental organization comprising five African nations – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda – that’s been around in its current incarnation for about 10 years.

It’s one of those rare organizations granted a .int domain, currently living at eac.int.

According to AfricaNews.com, internet experts from the five countries have met to discuss applying for .eac. Geoffrey Kayonga, director of the Sanvei Institute of Technology in Kigali, Rwanda, is quoted:

We are trying to see how best we can most probably create a taskforce that is going to ensure that we obtain the regional code called ‘.eac’

There’s already a movement to create a .africa TLD for the whole of the continent, which was recently given the nod by tech ministers within the African Union.

Casino.com plotting top-level domain bid?

Kevin Murphy, August 16, 2010, Domain Registries

Is this the first gambling-related new top-level domain applicant?

Casino.com, in this frankly odd press release, seems to be dropping hints that it would be interested in applying for a new TLD when ICANN opens up the bids next year.

Discussing the controversy over the porn-only .xxx domain, the release goes on to say:

In spite of this, online casino sites are considering the idea of a unique domain as well, hoping that it will give them the same impact as governments and schools by using .gov and .edu.

It would of course be a huge shock if there were no gambling TLDs proposed in the first round.

I expect a .poker or .casino TLD could be quickly flipped for millions, given the potential value of their sunrise auctions. Casino.com itself was sold for $5.5 million, back in 2003.

Of course, actually applying to ICANN for .poker could be an expensive gambit. With multiple applicants, it’s one TLD that could easily head to auction.

Top-level domain count likely to top 300 this year

Kevin Murphy, August 16, 2010, Domain Registries

Perusing the big stack of marketing literature that I picked up at ICANN Brussels in June, I noticed that few companies agree about how many top-level domains currently exist.

Mildly surprising really, given that the official count isn’t especially difficult to come by. According to IANA’s database, there are 292 delegated TLDs today.

That number breaks down like this:

251 ASCII ccTLDs
9 IDN ccTLDs
4 gTLDs
3 “restricted” gTLDs
1 “infrastructure” TLD
13 “sponsored” gTLDs
11 test IDN TLDs

Interestingly, according to IANA, there are only four vanilla, open gTLDs – .com, .net, .org and .info.

I wonder how many sites NeuStar has shut down because .biz is “restricted” to business users? Or how many .mobi domains have been put on hold for breaking the “sponsored” guidelines.

The list does not yet count the six IDN ccTLDs that ICANN’s board approved August 5. So there are actually 298 approved top-level domains today.

In the IDN ccTLD pipeline as of Brussels were also Qatar, Singapore and Syria, which had met string approval but were not yet delegated, and about 15 others that had not.

There are two (or three) more voting meetings for ICANN’s board this year, and so it seems likely that the delegated TLD count will break through the 300 mark before 2011.

dotFree’s “free” domain names explained

Kevin Murphy, August 12, 2010, Domain Registries

As I reported a couple of days ago, a Czech company called The dotFree Group wants to apply to ICANN for a .free top-level domain, and will offer domain names for free.

Now for the small print – not all .free domain names will be free, and there will be strict limitations on how many free domains any given individual is able to register.

Here is an email interview I conducted with dotFree chief executive Dominique Piatti, which I think covers the basics of the business model and contains a few surprises.

I’ve corrected a few typos, but other than that it’s unedited.

DI: Applying for a new TLD will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and running it over the longer term will cost more. How does dotFree plan to cover the cost of running a free TLD?

Piatti: We are working with Venture Capital companies together from Eastern Europe and have an estimated turnover of EUR 1.25 million for 2011. In addition to this we are generating substantial revenue with our current projects www.cz.cc (which is a free second-level domain name registry) and with the Domain Registrar Script which is currently in version 1.3.5 (www.registrar-script.cz.cc).

DI: .free could be a desirable TLD for domain investors. Will there be any limitations on how many .free domains an individual is allowed to register? What would prevent a single person registering hundreds of thousands of .free domains?

Piatti: Yes, currently we plan that each individual is allow to have 1 .free domain at no costs within their account. If a user plans to have more domain names he can upgrade to VIP status (eg. $5/year and you can hold up to 20 domains in your account) similar like we have it successfully tested with www.cz.cc over the past 12 months. We have an advanced fraud detection tool developed which identifies double accounts owned by the same person.

DI: Do you anticipate a .free aftermarket? Would somebody be able to register, for example, “poker.free” for free and then sell it to somebody else for hundreds of thousands of dollars?

Piatti: Yes, we launch .free the same way as any other TLD in the market with the difference that every individual can have a .free domain at no costs. We will launch similar to the most recent TLD’s like .co and .me with premium domains, auctions etc. Also, aftermarket sales are possible therefore.

DI: Would “premium” domains also be free, or would you charge for them like you do with premium .cz.cc names?

Piatti: All our premium domains will cost around $5/year and will not be free. There are around 200,000 premium domains planned.

DI: Do you anticipate selling .free domains via registrars like Go Daddy and eNom, or would you expect to sell direct to the end user?

Piatti: Both. In our business plan we have the ICANN accredited registrars as distribution channels listed but we will also distribute those .free domain names directly over our own website.

DI: Would there be a “landrush” period? Would you auction premium names or would it be first-come-first-served?

Piatti: The launch will be very similar to .co and .me with everything it takes to make .free a highly successful gTLD.

DotFree wants to give away .free domains

Kevin Murphy, August 10, 2010, Domain Registries

A Czech company has become the latest to say it will apply for a new top-level domain, but it’s got a unique twist – domain registration will be free.

The dotFree Group, based near Prague, says it will apply for .free and offer the domains free of charge.

.FREE is going to be a generic Top Level Domain, which is going to be available for free, as the name itself says. Individuals, companies, organizations, groups, etc. are going to be able to register their .FREE website under a desirable name.

Can: open. Worms: everywhere.

  • How many registrars will actually want to carry this TLD?
  • How will dotFree fund its ICANN application fee and ongoing running costs?
  • Will there be a landrush? How will that work?
  • Will there be an after-market? With a no-risk investment, .free would be a domainer’s paradise.
  • How will the registry prevent rampant abuse by spammers?
  • Are these guys serious?

I’ve got a call in, so maybe we’ll find out more soon.

The dotFree Group already offers free domain names at the third level under cz.cc, and sells a pricey script so anyone can become a “registrar”.

The company sounds like it already has the infrastructure to support a small TLD.There are apparently 50,000 .cz.cc domains registered today, which already makes it bigger than some gTLDs.

(Hat tip: @dotRadio)

Iron Mountain beds another registry

Kevin Murphy, August 10, 2010, Domain Registries

Iron Mountain puts itself about a bit, doesn’t it?

The company has signed a co-referral deal with wannabe new top-level domain registry operator UrbanBrain. The deal appears identical to one it inked with Central Registry Solutions in May.

Under these deals, Iron Mountain will refer potential TLD applicants to UrbanBrain (or CRS) and the registries will refer their clients to Iron Mountain for data escrow services.

The press releases don’t make it clear under what circumstances clients will be referred to UrbanBrain versus CRS, but given UrbanBrain is Japanese it could be along geographical lines.

Again, I ask: who benefits most?

My guess is still Iron Mountain, which has already got a pretty tight grip on the ICANN-mandated data escrow market. I can’t see it sending as much traffic to the registries as it receives.

.XXX to run the ICANN gauntlet yet again

Kevin Murphy, August 6, 2010, Domain Registries

Bring on the Christians!

The contract between ICANN and ICM Registry to run the .xxx adults-only top-level domain is to be submitted for an ICANN public comment period, again.

ICANN’s board resolved yesterday to publish the proposed registry agreement for comment for at least 30 days.

But it has not yet decided whether to refer the deal to its Governmental Advisory Committee, which remains ICM’s major potential pitfall on its route to the root.

As long as the public comment period kicks off quite soon, the ICANN board could be in a position to make that call at its weekend retreat, September 24.

The .xxx application has generated more public comment over the years than all other ICANN public comment periods combined.

Its last such period, earlier this year, saw thousands of comments, most of them filed in response to outreach by right-wing American Christian groups.

Objections are also regularly received from members of the Free Speech Coalition, a porn trade group.

I expect this forum will be no different. It will be interesting to see what tactics are rolled out this time, given previous failures.

Here’s the meat of the latest resolution:

RESOLVED (2010.08.05.21), upon receipt of ICM’s application documentation, ICANN Staff is authorized to post ICM’s supporting documents and proposed registry agreement for the .XXX sTLD for public comment for a period of no less than 30 days.

RESOLVED (2010.08.05.22), upon completion of public comment period, ICANN Staff shall provide the Board with a summary of the public comments and shall make a recommendation to the Board as to whether the proposed registry agreement for the .XXX sTLD is consistent with GAC advice.

RESOLVED (2010.08.05.23), once the Board has received the above public comment summary and recommendation from the ICANN Staff regarding the proposed registry agreement for the .XXX sTLD, the Board shall at its next possible meeting, consider this recommendation, and determine, consistent with the ICANN Bylaws, whether a GAC consultation shall be required.