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Afilias retains .org back-end deal

Kevin Murphy, November 15, 2016, Domain Registries

Public Interest Registry is sticking with Afilias to run the .org registry back-end.

The announcement came yesterday after a open procurement process that lasted for most of 2016.

Over 20 back-end providers from 15 nations — basically the entire industry — responded to PIR’s February request for proposals, we reported back in March.

Afilias retaining the contract is not a huge surprise. The bidding process was widely believed to be a way for non-profit PIR to reduce its costs, believed to be among the highest in the industry.

PIR said yesterday:

Afilias was selected as the best value solution based on the objective criteria and requirements set forth in Public Interest Registry’s procurement process. It is anticipated that Afilias will commence operations under the new contractual agreement on Jan. 1, 2018.

It’s very likely that the new deal will be worth a lot less to Afilias than the current arrangement, which costs PIR about $33 million per year.

In 2013, the last year for which we have Afilias’ financials, .org brought in $31 million of its $77 million revenue.

It’s believed that PIR is currently paying about $3 per domain per year, but Kieren McCarthy at The Register, citing unnamed industry sources, reckons that’s now been bumped down to $2, saving PIR about $10 million per year.

The .org gTLD has about 11.2 million domains under management, but its numbers have been slipping for several months, according to registry reports.

Nominet has sights set on .org after M+M deal

Nominet chief Russell Haworth is hopeful that its new outsourcing deal with Minds + Machines will help it win a much more lucrative back-end contract — .org.

The company is among the 20-plus companies that have responded to Public Interest Registry’s request for proposals, as its back-end deal with Afilias comes to an end.

Nominet is one of a handful of companies — which would also include Verisign, Afilias, CNNIC and DENIC — that currently handles zones the size or larger than .org, which at over 10 million names is about the same size as .uk.

It, like PIR, is also a not-for-profit entity that donates excess funds to good causes, which could count in its favor.

But Haworth told DI today that showing the ability to handle a complex TLD migration may help its bid.

“I personally think that it would stand us in good stead, but we’ll have to see how the process plays out,” he told DI today. “With .org there’s 19-odd players pitching for that, so it’s a fairly competitive field.”

If the migration were to happen today, we’d be looking at around 300,000 domains changing hands. It’s likely to be a somewhat larger number by the time it actually happens.

Collectively, it will be one of the largest back-end transitions to date, though the largest individual affected gTLD, .work, currently has fewer than 100,000 names in its zone.

Haworth said that the plan is to migrate M+M’s portfolio over to Nominet’s systems one at a time.

He was hesitant to characterize the migration process as “easy”, but said Nominet already has such systems in place due to its role as one of ICANN’s Emergency Back-End Registry Operators.

Earlier this year, Nominet temporarily took over defunct dot-brand .doosan, in order to test the EBERO process.

A back-end migration primarily covers DNS resolution and EPP systems.

It sounds like the EPP portion may be the more complex. Some of M+M’s gTLDs have restrictions and tiered pricing that may require EPP extensions Nominet does not currently use in its TLDs.

But the DNS piece may hold the most risk — if something breaks, registrants names stop resolving and web sites go dark.

Haworth said Nominet is also talking to other new gTLD registries about taking over back-end operations. Registries signed three, five or seven-year contracts with their RSPs when the 2012 application round opened, and some are coming up for renewal soon, he said.

Nominet says it will become a top ten back-end after the M+M migration is done.

Over 20 companies fighting for .org contract

Kevin Murphy, March 31, 2016, Domain Registries

More than 20 companies want to take over the back-end registry for the .org gTLD, according to Public Interest Registry.

PIR put the contract, currently held by Afilias, up for bidding with a formal Request For Information in February.

It’s believed to be worth north of $33 million to Afilias per year.

PIR told DI today that it “received more than 20 responses to its RFI for back-end providers from organisations representing 15 countries.”

That represents a substantial chunk of the back-end market, but there are only a handful of registry service providers currently handling zones as big as .org.

.org has about 11 million names under management. Only .com, .net and a few ccTLDs (Germany, China and the UK spring to mind) have zones the same size or larger.

PIR said it would not be making any specific details about the bidders available.

The non-profit says it plans to award the contract by the end of the year.

$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.