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Donuts confirms six-figure .news buyer used a fake name

Mike Texas is in fact noted conspiracy theorist Mike Adams.

New gTLD registry Donuts confirmed with DI over the weekend that the buyer of six figures worth of “platinum” .news domain names used a fake name.

The company last week said that a company called WebSeed bought registry-reserved names including science.news, climate.news, medicine.news, health.news and pollution.news.

After a small amount of digging, I discovered that these sites were affiliated with a controversial site called Natural News, which is regularly criticized for spreading bogus, anti-science content.

I suspected that “Mike Texas”, the WebSeed CEO quoted railing against “fake news” in Donuts’ press release, was very probably a pseudonym for Natural News owner Mike Adams, who calls himself the “Health Ranger” but peddles theories often characterized as dangerous.

Yesterday, Donuts told us that, following DI’s coverage, it has managed to confirm with Texas that he is in fact Adams. The company has changed its press release accordingly.

I will note that the most compelling piece of evidence connecting Texas to Adams was a pre-GDPR Whois record.

Donuts makes six-figure .news sale to dangerous conspiracy theorist

Donuts has sold a package of “platinum” .news domains to a network of dubious news sites peddling what many describe as dangerous pseudo-scientific nonsense.

A company called WebSeed acquired science.news, food.news, health.news, medicine.news, pollution.news, cancer.news and climate.news from the registry for an undisclosed sum in the six-figure range last December, Donuts said.

It appears that the same buyer has acquired several other presumably non-platinum .news domains, including vaccines.news, nutrients.news, menshealth.news and emergencymedicine.news

The sites have already been developed, incorporating a back catalog of “news” content from other sites under the same ownership, and Donuts reckons searches for “climate news” and “science news” already return the matching domains prominently (they don’t for me, but Google can be fickle).

Unfortunately, the domains seem to have been sold to a leading purveyor of misinformation and conspiracy theories.

That’s right, climate.news now belongs to a climate change denier, vaccines.news belongs to an anti-vaxxer, and medicine.news belongs to somebody who values alternative remedies over science-based medicine.

As far as I can tell, pretty much all of the content on the network of .news domains comes from Natural News, the controversial site owned by “Health Ranger” Mike Adams.

Natural News has been fingered as an “empire of misinformation” and a leading contributor to the “fake news” crisis that has been blighting society for the last few years.

Check out climate.news today to be treated to Adams’ theory that climate change is nothing but a conspiracy peddled by the UN and the mainstream media.

Over on vaccines.news, you’ll find a scaremongering story about how the measles vaccine has killed more people than measles over the last decade.

(Gee, I wonder why measles isn’t killing anyone any more? Could it be that we have a fucking vaccine?).

On medicine.news, Adams himself writes of “PROOF that vaccines target blacks for depopulation”.

And at pollution.news, you’ll find any number of articles discussing the “chemtrails” conspiracy theory.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not scientifically literate enough to debunk most of the content on these sites, but I know quackery when I see it.

Donuts’ press release goes to suspicious pains to point out that the sites’ content is “thoroughly researched” and advertising is “limited and relevant to the sites’ content”.

In fact, the advertising seems in most if not all cases to lead back to Adams’ own stores, where he sells stuff like water purifiers, dietary supplements and alternative medicines.

The Donuts press release also quotes the founder and CEO of WebSeed, one “Mike Texas”.

Now, I have absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Mr Texas is not a real person.

But.

Whois records (remember those?) show that the original registrant of science.news was one Mike Adams of WebSeed LLC, and WebSeed.com, while under privacy for some years, was originally registered to Adams’ Taiwan-based company.

It goes without saying that Donuts, as a neutral registry, is under no obligation whatsoever to police content on the domains it sells. That would be a Bad Thing.

But I can’t help but feel that .news has the potential to take a big credibility hit due to the content of these sites.

Imagine a fox, buying up all the good .henhouse domains. It’s a bit like that.

Apple using apple.news as (yawn) redirect service

Kevin Murphy, September 22, 2015, Domain Registries

Apple has become the latest famous brand to deploy a new gTLD domain in the wild.

The domain apple.news has been observed this week being used as a URL redirection service by its Apple News app.

It seems that when somebody shares a link to a news site via social media, using Apple News, the app automatically shares an apple.news redirect link instead.

The domains apple.news and www.apple.news do not resolve to web sites (for me at least) but Google has already indexed over a thousand apple.news URLs. Clicking on these links transparently punts the surfer to the original news source.

UPDATE: Thanks to Gavin Brown for pointing out in the comments that apple.news does resolve if you specify “https://” rather than “http://” in the URL. The secured domain bounces visitors to apple.com/news.

It puts me in mind of .co’s original flagship anchor tenant, Twitter, which obtained t.co five years ago and continues to use it as its core URL redirection service.

It’s impossible to tell what impact t.co had on the success of .co — the domain was in use from .co’s launch — but it surely had some impact.

.news, a Rightside TLD, had just over 24,400 domains in its zone file yesterday. We’ll have to see whether Apple’s move has an impact on sales.

Taryn Naidu, Rightside’s CEO, said in a press release:

This is just the start, but Apple.NEWS is the most significant use of a new top-level domain (TLD) yet, and I am very excited at the promise and potential that this development signals. Whether they’re used as a complementary domain, content-sharing links (bit.ly, but with branding) or a simple re-direct, new domain extensions have a real and important place in every company’s overarching brand strategy today.

There’s no denying that having popular software automatically generating links for your gTLD is a great way to raise awareness.

But is this as significant as Apple actually launching a web site at apple.news, or switching from .com to .apple, and encouraging people with marketing and branding to actually type those domains into their browsers? I’m skeptical.

Donuts wins five more new gTLD auctions

Kevin Murphy, December 3, 2014, Domain Registries

Donuts added five new gTLDs to its ever-growing portfolio this week, as the results of five private auctions were revealed.

The company won the following strings:

.news — went to Donuts after withdrawals from Merchant Law Group, Amazon, Radix, Uniregistry, Famous Four Media and Primer Nivel. As somebody with a vested interest in the news media, I’m glad this one went to a registry with an open registration policy.

.golf — Donuts beat Famous Four, Dot Golf and Fegistry.

.casino — Donuts won after withdrawals from Famous Four, Afilias and dotBeauty.

.school — Donuts beat Fegistry, Uniregistry and Minds + Machines.

.football — Donuts beat Famous Four.

The registry currently has 156 delegated TLDs, more than half of those it originally applied for. It has another 99 active applications in various stages of pre-delegation.

Directi expects all 31 of its gTLDs to be contested

Directi has applied for 31 new top-level domains and expects all 31 of them to be contested, according to CEO Bhavin Turakhia.

The company has budgeted $30 million for its unashamedly mainstream portfolio of applications – which includes the likes of .web – but that’s not including what it expects to spend at auction.

“I expect there to be contention in all of them,” he said. “Whether they will end up going to auction… we’re completely open to strategic partnerships with other industry players who we believe can add value and join hands with us, based on merit. We’ll be evaluating this on a case by case basis.”

“Something like a .web, there’ll be enough competitors out there that it will certainly go to auction, no matter what,” he said, adding that he expects at least 10 rivals for .web.

Directi has applied for: .web, .shop, .bank, .law, .music, .news, .blog, .movie, .baby, .store, .doctor, .hotel, .play, .home .site, .website, .click, .online, .one, .ping, .space, .world, .press, .chat, .city, .deals, .insurance .loans, .app, .host, and .hosting.

The company is applying via its new business unit, Radix, using ARI Registry Services as its back-end registry provider.

Turakhia said he expects to use a traditional registry-registrar model for most of the domains, assuming Directi wins its contention sets.

“The strings that we have gone for are strings that are relevant to all registrars so we expect there to be significant adoption,” he said.

“If eNom were to apply for .web and .shop – and they probably will – and if they were to win those TLDs, then our registrar businesses would definitely carry them irrespective of the fact that we have our own TLDs,” he said. “There are only so many good viable strings out there.”

Most of Directi’s gTLDs, if approved, will be completely unrestricted.

For .movie, .law, .doctor and .bank there will be some tight restrictions, Turakhia said. (UPDATE: he later added that .insurance and .loans will also be restricted).

Some will also have additional rights protection mechanisms that go above and beyond what ICANN mandates in its standard registry contracts.

But none of its applications are “community” applications, the special category of application defined by ICANN.

Turakhia said he doesn’t think some of the applicants trying to “sneak through” as community applications will be successful.

“We’re treating these as all generic strings for anyone to register domains in,” he said. “.music for me does not represent a community. I could be a bathroom singer and want a .music domain name.”

“If you treat music lovers as a community then 100% of the world is part of that community.”