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$33 million .org contract up for grabs

Kevin Murphy, February 16, 2016, Domain Registries

Public Interest Registry, operator of .org, has put its back-end registry services contract up for grabs.

The deal could be worth around $33 million a year, judging by its current relationship with incumbent back-end Afilias.

PIR said in a statement today:

The organisation desires to contract with a qualified back-end registry services provider that shares a similar reputation and holds itself to the highest operational and ethical standards. The selected back-end registry service provider should be a “valued business partner” – an organisation that combines outstanding qualifications in service delivery with the ability to engage Public Interest Registry in a business relationship that seeks strategic and innovative approaches to enhance the capability and efficiency of service delivery.

The contract was actually supposed to end in January, according to the Internet Society resolution that approved it back in 2010.

According to PIR’s most recent available tax return (pdf), Afilias was paid $33.2 million in 2014.

It was paid $31 million in 2013 when its total revenue for the year we know to be $77 million. So it’s a pretty big deal for Afilias.

The payments are mainly, but not exclusively, for domain name registry services, according to PIR’s tax returns.

Afilias also operates a few additional services related to PIR’s expansion in the non-governmental organization market, such as a database of NGOs used for validation purposes.

But if we over-simplify things, a roughly $33 million annual payout for a 10-million-domain zone works to something in the ballpark of $3 per name per year.

Given some of the numbers I’ve heard thrown around over the last few years, I expect there are a few back-end providers out there that would be more than happy to offer a cheaper deal.

It will be the first time Afilias has had to fight for the .org contract since 2010, thought PIR has done a couple of analyses over the last few years to make sure it’s getting a fair deal in line with market prices.

Since 2010 the number of back-end registry providers has exploded due to the advent of the new gTLD program, so there will be more competition for the .org contract.

That said, none of the new providers are yet proven at the scale of .org, which has over 10.6 million names at the last count.

PIR expects to award the contract before December 2016.

Interested vendors have until March 5 to express their interest on this web site.

PIR goes live with three non-Latin .org gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, March 10, 2014, Domain Registries

The internet has its first IDN versions of legacy gTLDs.

Public Interest Registry had three new gTLDs delegated over the weekend, all non-Latin versions of its flagship .org.

The gTLDs were .संगठन, which means “organization” in Hindi, and the Chinese .机构 and .组织机构, which seem to be two ways of saying “organization” too.

They’re not strictly speaking transliterations, as they represent whole dictionary words conceptually related to .org, rather than trying to approximate the spoken sound of “org”.

The .com equivalents Verisign has applied for in other scripts are actually meant to sound the same as “com” without actually meaning “commercial” or “company” in their language.

Because PIR has taken a different approach, there’s no grandfathering for existing .org registrants.

These three new gTLDs will be unrestricted, according to PIR’s applications, but will have slightly stricter rules on abuse — no porn will be allowed, for example.

PIR rebrands, talks up “Facebook-like” new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, September 30, 2013, Domain Registries

Public Interest Registry is dropping the .org from its primary branding in preparation for the launch of its new gTLDs.

CEO Brian Cute said that branding the registry around .org “made a lot of sense when we were a single product company”, but that the time has come to put the PIR name front and center.

PIR logoThe new logo incorporates “Your”, as a result of focus groups, testing and because Cute says “really reflects to us our commitment to the communities we serve”.

PIR has applied to ICANN for .ngo, for Non-Governmental Organization, along with Latin equivalent .ong and four transliterations of .org in Cyrillic, Hindi and Chinese.

Cute told DI that the plan for .ngo and .ong is to have a space in which, unlike .org, the identities of the registrants have been validated.

There’s going to be a searchable directory, a portal, and a “Facebook-like” service for registrants, he said.

“We’re going to have profile pages, so if a registrant doesn’t want to stand up a full website, there’ll be a Facebook-like profile they can populate,” he said.

It sounds like PIR is thinking about a template-driven approach to getting content on .ngo domains, somewhat similar to how .tel works (though it won’t be mandatory in .ngo) or Employ Media’s .Jobs Universe.

But Cute said neither of those concepts inspired PIR, which is building its profile service from scratch.

It’s an interesting way to market a TLD, and I’m positive that PIR won’t be the only new gTLD applicant to do something along these lines.

Three gTLD contracts to be renewed next week

Kevin Murphy, August 16, 2013, Domain Registries

ICANN is set to belatedly renew the .info, .org and .biz Registry Agreements next week, according to the just published agenda of its board of directors’ next meeting.

The .info and .biz contracts expired last year, while .org’s expired in April. All three were extended while ICANN and the registries — Afilias, Neustar and PIR — figured out how much of the new gTLD Registry Agreement to incorporate into the renewed deals.

They wound up agreeing to, among other things, mandating the use of the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement in all three gTLDs, but only on the condition that Verisign agrees to the same terms for .com and .net.

The three contracts didn’t go far enough for some, such as the Intellectual Property Constituency, which wants new gTLD rights protection mechanisms such as Uniform Rapid Suspension to be added.

The approval of the three renewals is on the consent agenda for the ICANN board’s August 22 meeting, so it seems unlikely that there will be any huge changes to the previously published draft contracts.

Also on the agenda for next week are the redelegations of the ccTLDs for Botswana (.bw) and Portugal (.pt).

Soon Verisign could sell .com domains direct

Kevin Murphy, October 22, 2012, Domain Registries

With little fanfare, ICANN last week formally approved new rules that could allow incumbent registry operators to own registrars that sell domains in their own gTLDs.

The policy would give the likes of Verisign, Neustar and Afilias the right to become affiliated with registrars that sell .com, .biz and .info names respectively.

These registries would have to sign up to the standard new gTLD registry agreement first, or submit to contract renegotiation in order to drop their current cross-ownership bans.

In either case, they would become bound by the new registry Code of Conduct, preventing them from offering preferential terms to their affiliated registrars.

The new rule came into effect following the ICANN board meeting on Thursday, at which this resolution was passed.

ICANN had already dropped cross-ownership restrictions for new gTLD registry operators, but held back from bringing in the same rules for incumbents due to concerns from competition authorities.

After exchanges of letters with the European Commission and US Department of Commerce, these concerns appear to have dried up, however. ICANN said in its resolution:

it appears that there is no longer any reason against extending the approved process to existing registry operators for their own TLDs.

This action will be an advantage for the ICANN community, as it will provide the opportunity for treating all registry operators equally with respect to cross-ownership restrictions.

Registries would have their requests for contract changes referred to competition authorities for comment before ICANN would approve them.

Based on previous comments, Verisign might have a struggle with respect to .com but the other incumbents might have an easier time renegotiating their deals.

Neustar has been particularly outspoken in its desire to get rid of the contractual language preventing it owning a .biz registrar, so we might see that company first to get into talks.

Both .biz and .info contracts are up for renewal before the end of the year.

Domainers not welcome in one-character .org auction

Kevin Murphy, October 10, 2012, Domain Sales

The Public Interest Registry is to auction 85 one and two-character .org domain names, but only to organizations that promise to use them in a manner consistent with the .org brand.

The sell-off, branded Project94, will be handled by Go Daddy and eNom, which have each been provided with half of the available portfolio.

Discounting legacy registrations, 94 domains were released when PIR amended its contract with ICANN earlier this year, but nine of them are being held back because they match ccTLDs.

It’s going to be a straightforward auction, but to get a chance at bidding your idea will have to be vetted first.

“We want to see these names used in a way that reflects the brand attributes and the values of .org,” PIR CEO Brian Cute told DI today.

“Before getting into the auction there will be a filter where the applicant has to say the purpose to which they’re going to put the .org that they’ll be bidding on,” he said.

People wondering whether the .org auction is a park-and-flip opportunity seem to be out of luck.

I believe it’s the first time that a TLD registry has merged the RFP and auction phases of their allocation process when they release previously reserved one and two-character domains.

PIR, which is a non-profit, says it will earmark the auction funds for special projects, such as encouraging deployment of new technologies like DNSSEC.

The full list of names being sold can be found at Project94.org

As new gTLDs enter a new phase, the first wave of announcements crashes

Go Daddy, Web.com and the Public Interest Registry were among the first to reveal their new generic top-level domain plans as ICANN’s new gTLD program enters the “reveal” phase.

Announcements from several companies were timed to closely coincide with the closure of ICANN’s TLD Application System at a minute before midnight UTC last night.

After a false start (false end?) on April 12, and weeks of subsequent procrastination, the end of the new gTLD application window seems to have gone off without a hitch.

We’re now entering a new phase of the program, one which is expected to hold far fewer secrets.

Between now and the official Big Reveal, currently targeted for June 13, I’m expecting a deluge of announcements from new gTLD applicants, no longer scared of encouraging competitive bids.

Any company with any hope of standing out from the crowd of almost 2,000 applications needs to make its presence felt as loudly and as early as possible.

.web

The first to do so was number-three registrar Web.com, owner of Network Solutions and Register.com, which confirmed its long-expected bid for .web shortly before midnight.

It’s one of many companies with a claim to the gTLD, in what is certain to be a fiercely fought contention set.

The firm reckons, dubiously, that it has rights due to its trademark on Web.com, which I predict will be anything but a slam dunk argument when it comes to a Legal Rights Objection.

“We believe we possess the natural platform from which to successfully market the new .WEB top level domain since we are the sole owner of the Web.com trademark as issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark office,” CEO David Brown said.

I wonder what the other 300 or so owners of web.[tld] domain names think about that.

.bank and .insurance

The Association of National Bankers and the Financial Services Roundtable, both US trade groups for the banking industry, provided the first post-TAS announcement to hit my inbox, at 0006 UTC.

The groups have confirmed their joint bids for .bank and .insurance, having wisely decided against the less SEO-friendly, less intuitive .banking, .invest, .investment, and .insure.

These proposed gTLDs will be secured and restricted, but they still face the substantial risk of objections from European banking regulators.

There’s also one other unconfirmed .bank applicant.

.home and .casa

Go Daddy has also revealed its two applications, giving the scoop to Domain Name Wire. It’s applied for .home and the Spanish translation, .casa, in addition to the previously announced .godaddy.

While they look benign on the face of it, I’m expecting .home to face opposition on technical grounds.

It’s on DI PRO’s list of frequently requested invalid TLDs, due to the amount of traffic it already gets from misconfigured routers.

Go Daddy may also face competition scrutiny if it wants to act as a registry and registrar, given its overwhelming dominance of the registrar market.

Both applications are also likely to find themselves in contention sets.

.ngo and .ong

The Public Interest Registry cleverly got its .ngo and .ong bids some big-readership attention a few hours ago by letting Mashable think it was getting a scoop. Ahem.

To be fair, the .ong application – a translation of .ngo for Spanish, French and Italian markets – was news. Both will target non-governmental organizations, of which there are millions.

The .ong bid stands a reasonable chance of being challenged due to its visual similarity with .org – which PIR already manages – but ICANN’s similarity tool only gives it a score of 63%.

.cloud and .global

Finally this morning, CloudNames announced applications for .cloud and .global, two unrestricted gTLDs being pitched explicitly as alternatives to .com, .biz and .info.

“A .cloud domain will allow businesses and individuals to have their own cloud on the Internet. Likewise, a .global domain will allow businesses to secure a position on an international level,” CEO Rolf Larsen said in a statement.

They’re the first examples of both strings to be announced, but CloudNames expects them both to be contested. I suspect the buzzy .cloud will be the harder to obtain.

More layoffs planned at NetSol

Kevin Murphy, October 17, 2011, Domain Registrars

Web.com plans to lay off more people than previously expected at recently acquired domain name registrar Network Solutions, according to a report.

“There is significantly more overlap than we originally estimated, and so it’s likely going to be more headcount reduction,” CEO David Brown said in a Reuters interview.

He named marketing, development, and engineering as areas where the merged company plans to cut more than $30 million in costs.

If there was any doubt about it, he confirmed that NetSol’s incumbent CEO faces the chop. Lower-level staff appear to have safer positions.

At least two senior NetSol executives have already jumped shipped since the acquisition was announced.

Senior director of policy Statton Hammock left to form his own consulting business a month ago, and last week senior policy manager Paul Diaz joined the Public Interest Registry.

Web.com announced its $561 million acquisition of NetSol in early August. It had already acquired the company’s old rival, Register.com.

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.

Japanese quake victims get free .org renewals

Kevin Murphy, April 11, 2011, Domain Registries

The Public Interest Registry and 15 domain name registrars are working together to auto-renew .org domains that expired during the aftermath of the recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

According to a PIR press release, registries and registrars will waive their renewal fees for one year.

The deal is only good for .org domains registered to a Japanese address that were due to expire between March 11 and June 11 this year.

Participating registrars include: Go Daddy, Ascio, INDOM, WebNic.cc, Net 4 India, Discount Domains, Fabulous, Blacknight, Dotster, Moniker, Spirit Domains, Advanced Internet Technologies, Japan Registry Services, PSI-Japan, Network Solutions, and NameSecure.

Additional details can be found at the PIR web site.