Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

.ceo smartens up in new promo video

Kevin Murphy, December 10, 2014, Domain Registries

Struggling to find its tone?

PeopleBrowsr has done a full 180 in its attempts to market .ceo through online commercials.

In its latest video, the company has gone for a straightforward grey-hair-in-a-suit-addresses-camera concept.

It’s a far cry from its first attempt, published a year ago but now flagged as “private” on YouTube, which comprised PeopleBrowsr staffers dicking around the office in Donald Trump masks.

It also represents an evolution from the cartoony, but much more respectable, effort from February.

“The video was produced over many months – with feedback and collaboration from over 100 of our early adopter CEOs,” the company said.

Now, .ceo is being positioned as a “business card” for CEOs that enables social networking opportunities.

The gTLD, which went to general availability in March, currently has fewer than 1,800 domains in its zone file, though PeopleBrowsr pegs its number of registrations at “almost 2,000”.

dotBest cancels landrush

Kevin Murphy, April 17, 2014, Domain Registries

PeopleBrowsr has decided to cancel the landrush phase for its forthcoming .best new gTLD, citing “very little engagement” from registrants.

The TLD is due to go to sunrise today. Two days after it ends on May 19, it will go directly to general availability.

VP of operations Michael Deparini said in an email:

Many of our registrars have given us feedback that there has been very little engagement with the TLD Landrush Phase. We have decided to cancel Landrush.

We are excited to announce that we will open General Availability (GA) ahead of schedule to commence on May 21 at 16:00:00 GMT (12pm EST).

PeopleBrowsr is also the company behind .ceo, which launched two weeks ago with just 250 names in its first couple of days on the market — about 40% of which belonged to one cybersquatter.

.ceo currently has 798 domains in its zone, making it the fourth-smallest of the 74 new gTLDs that currently appear to be selling names.

Dodgy domainer owns 40% of .ceo’s new names

Kevin Murphy, March 30, 2014, Domain Registries

What do Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, Jeff Bezos and the Saudi royal family have in common?

Their .ceo domain names all belong to the same guy, a registrant from Trinidad and Tobago who as of last night was responsible for 40% of hand-registered .ceo domains.

Andrew Davis has registered roughly 100 of the roughly 250 .ceo names sold since the new gTLD went into general availability on March 28, spending at least $10,000 to do so.

I hesitate to call him a cyberquatter, but I have a feeling that multiple UDRP panels will soon be rather less hesitant.

Oh, what the hell: the dude’s a cyberquatter.

Here’s why I think so.

According to Whois records, Davis has registered dozens of common given and family names in .ceo — stuff like smith.ceo, patel.ceo, john.ceo, wang.ceo and wolfgang.ceo.

So far, that seems like fair game to me. There are enough CEOs with those names out there that to register matching domains in .ceo, or in any TLD, could easily be seen as honest speculation.

Then there are domains that start setting off alarm bells.

zuckerberg.ceo? zuck.ceo? oprah.ceo? trump.ceo? bezos.ceo?

Sure, those are names presumably shared by many people, but in the context of .ceo could they really refer to anyone other than Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump and Jeff Bezos?

I doubt it.

Then there are a class of names that seem to have been registered by Davis purely because they show up on lists of the world’s wealthiest families and individuals.

The domains slim.ceo, walton.ceo, and adelson.ceo match the last names of three of the top ten wealthiest people on the planet; arnault.ceo matches the name of France’s second-richest businessman.

getty.ceo, rockefeller.ceo, hearst.ceo, rothschild.ceo… all family names of American business royalty.

Then there’s the names of members of actual royalty, the magnificently wealthy Saudi royal family: alsaud.ceo, saud.ceo and alwaleed.ceo.

Still, if Davis had registered any single one of these names he could make a case that it was a good faith registration (if his name was Walton or Al Saud).

Collectively, the registration strategy looks very dodgy.

But where any chance of a good-faith defense falls apart is where Davis has registered the names of famous family-owned businesses where the name is also a well-defended trademark.

bacardi.ceo… prada.ceo… beretta.ceo… mars.ceo… sennheiser.ceo… shimano.ceo… swarovski.ceo… versace.ceo… ferrero.ceo… mahindra.ceo… olayan.ceo…

There’s very little chance of these surviving a UDRP if you ask me.

Overall, I estimate that at least half of Davis’ 100 registrations seem to deliberately target specific high net worth individuals or famous brands that are named after their company’s founder.

The remainder are generic enough that it’s difficult to guess what was going through his mind.

On his under construction web site at andrewdavis.ceo, Davis says:

I am the owner of Hundreds of the Best .CEO Domains available on the web.

My collection comprises of the Top Premium .CEO Domains (in my opinion).

My list of domains contains the First or Last names of well over 1 Billion people around the world.

I offer Email and Web Link Services on each of these sites, so that these Domains can be shared with many people around the world, particularly CEOs, Business Owners and Leaders, or those aspiring to become one.

On each of Davis’ .ceo sites, he offers to sell email addresses (eg contact@bacardi.ceo) for $10 a month and third-level domain names (eg blog.walton.ceo) for $5 a month.

A UDRP panelist is going to take this as evidence of bad faith, despite Davis’ disclaimer, which appears on each of his web sites. Here’s an example from bacardi.ceo:

This Website (Bacardi.CEO) is NOT Affiliated with, nor refers to, any Trademark or Company named “Bacardi”, that may or may not exist.

This Website does NOT refer to any Specific Individual Person(s) named “Bacardi”.

This Website aims to provide Services for ANY Person named “Bacardi”, particularly: CEOs, Business Owners and Leaders.

Bacardi.CEO is an Independent and Personal Project/Service of Andrew Davis.

I must admit I admire his entrepreneurship, but I fear he has stepped over the line into cybersquatting that a UDRP panelist will have no difficulty at all recognizing.

Davis has already been hit with a Uniform Rapid Suspension complaint on mittal.ceo, presumably filed on behalf of billionaire Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal and/or his company ArcelorMittal.

It’s not clear from the name alone whether mittal.ceo is a losing domain under URS’ higher standard of evidence, but I reckon the pattern of registrations described in this blog post would help make for a pretty convincing case that would put it over the line.

I should add, in fairness to .ceo registry PeopleBrowsr, that the other 60% of its zone, judging by Whois records, looks pretty clean. Small, but clean.

Slow start for .ceo with fewer than 400 names sold

Kevin Murphy, March 30, 2014, Domain Registries

The new .ceo gTLD has had a disappointing launch.

In the first 30 hours of general availability, which began on Friday afternoon, the TLD has managed to scrape just 378 registrations, according to the latest zone file.

That includes 100 names that were registered during the sunrise period.

Jodee Rich, CEO of PeopleBrowsr, the .ceo registry, told DI that the company sold about 40 premium names at $999 per year on the first day and that revenue for the first six hours was about $100,000.

The baseline retail price for .ceo names is $99.

There is a tiered pricing structure, and Rich said that only four out of its 40-something accredited registrars were ready to handle it, which may have impacted sales.

He added that .ceo has over 3,000 pre-registrations which he hopes to start seeing convert over the coming days.

Nevertheless, 378 domains is a poor showing by any measure.

On day one of GA, it was the eighth-fastest growing new gTLD by domain volume. Today, it’s ranked 52nd out of the 52 new gTLDs that have gone to full, baseline pricing general availability.

TLDH opens up list of 70,000 premium names for all new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, January 14, 2014, Domain Services

Top Level Domain Holdings has ramped up its new gTLD pre-registration effort with a new database service that enables registries to automatically collate and price their premium names.

The new OpenDB.co service builds on the Online Priority Enhanced Names system we reported on during the ICANN meeting in Buenos Aires a couple months ago.

TLDH chairman Fred Krueger told DI today that new gTLD registry operators will be able to automatically generate a list of up to 70,000 premium names — with associated prices — for their TLD(s).

It works using a proprietary taxonomy of strings in 500 categories, put together by about 30 people working for TLDH, and baseline .com pricing estimates calculated by various online tools such as Estibot.

If you’re the registry for .web, for example, you might decide that all premium .web domains are worth 50% of the .com price, and you could create your premium names list accordingly with just a few clicks.

But if you’re the registry for a narrower, niche gTLD, you might want to assign values by category, subcategory or individual name.

If you’re .poker, you might decide that names in the OpenDB “gambling” category are worth 300% of .com, due to the affinity between the TLD and the second level, and that “sports” names are worth 50%, but everything else is worth just 1% of the corresponding .com name.

A possible drawback of the system might be that the algorithmic .com price estimates underlying it are just that — estimates, based on factors such as Google search volume and Adwords cost-per-click.

Online tools that do this kind of price estimation are quite often criticized or mocked for under- or over-pricing names in existing TLDs.

Another drawback might be that while 70,000 is certainly a lot of strings, it might not dive deeply enough into the potential premium pool for very niche gTLDs.

If the service catches on, I expect it will wind up competing with consultancies that offer expertise-based pricing, such as Right Of The Dot, and brokerage platforms such as Sedo.

So far only PeopleBrowsr (.ceo, .best) has openly committed to use the system.

TLDH says that it will start offering any names in OpenDB via its affiliated Minds + Machines registrar, with a 20% markup.

There’s also an OpenDB API that registrars can use to add these premium names to their own storefronts, Krueger said.

You snooze, you lose new gTLD sunrise coming soon

Kevin Murphy, January 10, 2014, Domain Registries

Trademark attorneys and brand management executives take note: January 21 will see the launch of the first first-come, first-served sunrise period we’ve seen in a new TLD in a long time.

FCFS means that domain names will be allocated to participants immediately, rather than at the end of the sunrise period.

For those responsible for acquiring domain names for mark owners — many of whom are accustomed to waiting to the last minute before submitting sunrise applications — this is a change of pace.

You snooze, you lose.

To date only Regiodot’s German geographic gTLD, .ruhr, has officially confirmed (pdf) that it intends to use a FCFS policy during its mandatory sunrise period.

That’s due to kick off on January 21.

The precise time that the sunrise will begin — important when you’re looking at a FCFS policy — does not appear to have been published yet.

UPDATE: the time has been published (see comments below this post) and it’s 1000 UTC.

Under ICANN rules, to use FCFS registries need a “Start Date” sunrise, which runs for 30 days but requires a 30-day notice period before it begins. Regiodot told ICANN about its sunrise dates December 18.

The alternative “End Date” sunrises run for 60 days, have no notice period, and domains are only allocated to mark owners — usually using auctions to settle contention — after the 60 days are over.

Other than .ruhr, only PeopleBrowsr’s .ceo has said it wants to run a Start Date sunrise. However, PeopleBrowsr will not run its sunrise on a FCFS basis, preferring the end-date allocation/auction method instead.

.ninja springs to life as a squirrel as 19 new gTLDs get delegated

Kevin Murphy, December 29, 2013, Domain Registries

ICANN may be taking Christmas week off, but Verisign apparently isn’t — another 19 new gTLDs were delegated to the DNS root system last night.

Most belong to Donuts: .training, .builders, .coffee, .codes, .education, .florist, .farm, .glass, .house, .holiday, .international, .institute, .solar, .repair and .solutions.

United TLD, the Demand Media/Rightside business that is also providing Donuts’ back-end, had .ninja and .kaufen (German for “buy”) delegated.

PeopleBrowsr’s .ceo also went live, as did I-REGISTRY’s .onl (for “online”).

Donuts is already redirecting its latest batch of nic.[tld] domains to donuts.co.

The web site at nic.ninja currently shows this image as part of a placeholder page:

UPDATE: It occurs to me that this might actually be a prairie dog or something, rather than a squirrel.

Is this the worst new gTLD video yet?

Kevin Murphy, November 26, 2013, Domain Registries

If you’re trying to market a new gTLD aimed solely at CEOs, and your messaging is security, credibility and authority, what’s the best medium to get that message across?

Why, it’s white rap of course! In Donald Trump masks!

That’s apparently the thought process of PeopleBrowsr, the applicant for .ceo, anyway.

The video below got its first airing during a joint PeopleBrowsr/TLDH party at ICANN 48 in Buenos Aires last week.

I was on a bio break at the time and missed the premiere, but I was assured by other party-goers that it was the most painfully awkward video ever screened at an ICANN meeting.

After PeopleBrowsr published it on YouTube today, I was not disappointed. Enjoy a true classic:

Is social media the answer to the dot-brand problem?

With many dot-brand gTLD applicants still unsure about how they will use their new namespaces, the maker of the Kred reputation service is proposing social media as the answer.

Speaking to DI today, Kred CEO Andrew Grill said that one dot-brand applicant — a bank — has already committed to use parent company PeopleBrowsr’s new Social OS platform for its gTLD.

Social OS is being marketed as a way for companies to quickly launch their own social media networks along the lines of Facebook or LinkedIn.

Dot-brands would be able to own the customer relationship and get access to much more data about their users than they get with the limited “Like”-oriented Facebook platform, Grill said.

End users would be able to use these vertical networks using their existing social media log-in credentials, he said.

The company plans to use the platform in its own gTLD, .ceo, which it has applied for uncontested.

Grill said he talked to about 100 people at the recent ICANN meeting in Durban and expects to come away with five to 10 additional customers for the Social OS platform.

While the value proposition for new gTLD owners seems fairly reasonable, in general I’m quite skeptical about the internet’s need for more social media sites.

Any such service operated by a dot-brand would have to have a fairly compelling value proposition for end users.

Grill said that a car maker, for example, could use its own gTLD social media network to keep in touch with its customers — giving them a second-level domain when they buy one of its vehicles.

A bank, meanwhile, could offer services such as customer-to-customer transaction apps for users who have second-level domains in its gTLD. If registrations were limited to existing banking customers, a greater level of security would be baked in from the start, he said.