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PIR sets its sights on .ngo

Kevin Murphy, August 1, 2011, Domain Registries

The .org registry hopes to add .ngo – for Non-Governmental Organization – to its stable of top-level domains, when ICANN opens its new gTLD program next year.

It may well face competition for the domain, however.

It’s quite difficult to narrowly define what an NGO is, but the Public Internet Registry plans to adopt a fairly broad definition that will give it potentially “millions” of new registrants.

“We’re looking at global, regional, and local NGOs, we’re engaging with all of them,” said PIR chief Brian Cute. “This acronym is something that these organizations strongly identify with.”

Cute said PIR has letters of support from some NGOs already, but is not prepared to disclose the identities of its supporters just yet.

Many NGOs are based in emerging markets – according to Wikipedia, India has as many as 3.3 million of them. PIR hopes to encourage domain growth in developing nations, Cute said.

With that in mind, we’re probably not looking at super-premium pricing, though PIR is not talking specific details of its plan yet.

It will be a self-designated “community” application, meaning it will qualify for a Community Priority Evaluation in the event that ICANN receives more than one bid for .ngo.

When a CPE kicks in, applications are scored against a number of criteria and have to get 14 out 16 points in order to win a contested gTLD without going to auction.

Those 14 points are not easy to win, however. Even .ngo, with its commonly understood meaning, may be a hard call.

As it happens, there is already potentially one other .ngo bidder.

The British charity Article 25 has been pondering a .ngo application since 2008, according to its web site at dotngo.net.

That initiative seems to have roughly similar goals to PIR — global, restricted, non-profit — and VeriSign seems to have been engaged as a possible registry services provider.

PIR plans to stick to its existing back-end infrastructure provider, Afilias.

As a community application, it will be a “closed domain”, Cute said. Unlike .org, there will be eligibility criteria to pass before you’re allowed to register a domain name.

PIR also plans to apply for internationalized domain name transliterations of .org, in Chinese, Hindi, Cyrillic and Arabic, Cute said.

Here‘s the site for the application.

VeriSign’s upcoming battle for the Chinese .com

Kevin Murphy, February 16, 2011, Domain Registries

Could VeriSign be about to face off against China for control of the Chinese version of .com? That’s an intriguing possibility that was raised during the .nxt conference last week.

Almost as an aside, auDA chief Chris Disspain mentioned during a session that he believes there are moves afoot in China to apply to ICANN for “company”, “network” and “organization” in Chinese characters. In other words, .com, .net and .org.

I’ve been unable to find an official announcement of any such Chinese application, but I’m reliably informed that Noises Have Been Made.

VeriSign has for several quarters been open about its plans to apply for IDN equivalents of its two flagship TLDs, and PIR’s new CEO Brian Cute recently told me he wants to do the same for .org.

While neither company has specified which scripts they’re looking at, Chinese is a no-brainer. As of this week, the nation is the world’s second-largest economy, and easily its most populous.

Since we’re already speculating, let’s speculate some more: who would win the Chinese .com under ICANN’s application rules, VeriSign or China?

If the two strings were close enough to wind up in a contention set, could VeriSign claim intellectual property rights, on the basis of its .com business? It seems like a stretch.

Could China leapfrog to the end of the process with a community application and a demand for a Community Priority Evaluation?

That also seems like a stretch. It’s not impossible – there’s arguably a “community” of companies registered with the Chinese government – but such a move would likely stink of gaming.

Is there a technical stability argument to be made? Is 公司. (which Google tells me means “company” in Chinese) confusingly similar to .com?

If these TLDs went to auction, one thing is certain: there are few potential applicants with deeper pockets than VeriSign, but China is one of them.

UPDATE: VeriSign’s Pat Kane was good enough to post a lengthy explanation of the company’s IDN strategy in the comments.

Cute sees .org’s future in new TLDs

Kevin Murphy, January 14, 2011, Domain Registries

The Public Interest Registry sees new top-level domains as an opportunity to strengthen the .org brand as well as add new TLDs to its stable, according to newly appointed CEO Brian Cute.

“We have the new round of gTLDs opening up soon, and I see that as genuinely an opportunity for PIR, so a lot of our strategic focus will be there,” Cute said in an interview.

Internationalized domain name TLDs will play a major role in this strategy. Cute said that “expanding .org into the IDN world” will be the key focus.

While PIR plans to apply to ICANN for several IDN variants of .org, there’s less interest in expanding into ASCII strings or outside of the company’s “public interest” mission.

“We not particularly looking at that opportunity,” Cute said.

He also believes that the large number of new TLDs ICANN is expected to authorize could actually strengthen .org as a brand.

“There will be lots of new entrants, lots of new competition,” he said. “The environment will be one where if we play our cards right, we’ll be able to be successful and in fact flourish.”

Cute was named CEO of PIR earlier today. Previously, he worked at Afilias, a close partner, so his learning curve at his new employer will be relatively gentle.

He said he doesn’t plan to shake things up much.

“I don’t see any need to make any major course corrections to our strategy,” he said. “It’s now a matter of execution. There will be new competition so we will have to execute well.”

Registrars “unprepared” for DNSSEC

Kevin Murphy, August 23, 2010, Domain Tech

Only one in 10 domain name registrars believes it is fully prepared to offer DNSSEC services today, according to new research out from Afilias, the .info registry.

The Registrar DNSSEC Readiness Report (pdf) also shows that a perceived lack of customer demand for the technology has translated into ambivalence at most registrars.

DNSSEC is a standard extension to DNS that helps prevent domain name hijacking through man-in-the-middle attacks.

The survey shows that 9.86% of registrars say they are “fully prepared” to offer DNSSEC to customers now, with 52.2% saying they were “somewhat” prepared. The remainder were not at all prepared.

A little over a quarter of respondents rated DNSSEC a “high” priority for the next 12 months, with less than 3% saying it was an “extremely high” priority.

Two of the biggest reasons for the lack of urgency were lack of customer demand – 59% of registrars said they saw no demand at all – and difficulties developing key management systems.

Despite this, when asked the question “Should TLD registries support DNSSEC?”, a whopping 80% responded in the affirmative.

I expect interest in the technology will pick up early next year, when VeriSign signs the .com zone.

The Afilias survey was conducted electronically earlier this month. The sample size was quite small, with only 71 respondents, and most of them were on the smaller side by domain count.

The report was released to coincide with Afilias’ launch of a broad effort to add DNSSEC support to all of the TLDs for which it provides registry services.

The company already offers the technology in .org, and that will now be extended to gTLDs including .info and ccTLDs such as .in. You can read the release at CircleID.

Second-tier TLDs gain aftermarket traction

Kevin Murphy, May 4, 2010, Domain Sales

The average aftermarket selling price of domain names in second-tier TLDs is creeping up, according to the latest numbers from Sedo.

Sedo’s latest quarterly sales review shows that namespaces such as .biz, .info and .org are selling for far better money than they were a year ago.

In fact, the median selling price of .biz, .org, and .net domains is now higher than that of .com.

The price of .biz names, which only accounted for 1% of overall sales, has almost doubled in the last four quarters, up 97% at $537.

The .info namespace fared almost as well, recording a median price of $418, up 91% on the $219 recorded in the second quarter of 2009.

The long-established .org has also appreciated over the last 12 months. Its median price rose 45% to $550.

While there’s no doubt that .com is still where the high-end money is, the median price for a .com was only $510, a 24% increase over the same period.

Sedo has started reporting median prices because big one-off sales can have an impact on the mean averages it also reports.

Its full Q1 Domain Market Study report can be downloaded here.