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Sex.xxx sells for $3m as PussyCash cites SEO value

Kevin Murphy, May 29, 2014, Domain Sales

ICM Registry has sold a package of 40 premium .xxx domain names with a total value of $5 million to Barron Innovations, operator of the PussyCash porn affiliate network.

The headline sale in the batch is sex.xxx, which carried a standalone $3 million price tag.

That’s the first .xxx name to sell for a seven-figure sum. The previous record for a single name was $500,000 for gay.xxx.

It’s also the highest-priced non-.com domain name ever sold, according to publicly available sale prices.

It beats shopping.de, which went for the euro equivalent of $2.85 million in 2008, making sex.xxx the 10th most-expensive domain we know about.

Sex.com is of course the highest priced domain ever sold, going for $13 million in 2010.

According to ICM, Barron bought cam.xxx, phone.xxx and black.xxx for undisclosed six-figure prices. The deal also included web.xxx, market.xxx, mate.xxx and education.xxx, the company said.

Barron is evidently affiliated with webcam-oriented porn sites ImLive.com and Webcamwiz.com, as well as the related lead-generation program PussyCash.com.

PussyCash was subject to this glowing review (NSFW) in the adult industry press recently and is apparently a bit of a big deal in that world.

ICM tells me Barron had been studying the search engine optimization performance of .xxx for some time before signing the deal. Shay Efron, spokesperson for the buyer, said in a press release:

We have studied the undeniably superior performance of .XXX domains in terms of SEO and conversion rates and decided to make a huge splash by acquiring the very best keyword generic names available. We evaluated SEX.xxx, the flagship domain, and decided it has the potential to became the leading brand in the entire adult industry, so it was an obvious part of a very large deal.

The company intends to develop the names, according to a press release.

This is pretty good news for ICM (because of the cash) but it’s also promising for new gTLDs as a whole.

I’m not privy to Barron’s research, but if it’s confident enough in the SEO benefits of .xxx to spend $3 million on one name, that might be a signal that other niche gTLDs could see the same benefits in future.

It might not happen overnight — ICM launched .xxx two and a half years ago — but premium names could appreciate in value, assuming new registries manage to get some actual users building sites.

Registrars screwing up new gTLD launches?

Kevin Murphy, March 18, 2014, Domain Registrars

Some of the largest domain name registrars are failing to support new gTLDs properly, leading to would-be registrants being told unregistered names are unavailable.

The .menu gTLD went into general availability yesterday, gathering some 1,649 registrations in its first half day.

It’s not a great start for the new gTLD by any stretch, but how much of it has to do with the channel?

I tested out searches for available names at some of the biggest registrars and got widely different results, apparently because they don’t all properly support tiered pricing.

Market leader Go Daddy even refuses to sell available names.

The .menu gTLD is being operated by a What Box? subsidiary, the inappropriately named Wedding TLD2.

The company has selected at least three pricing tiers as far as I can tell — $25 is the baseline registry fee, but many unreserved “premium” names are priced by the registry at $50 and $65 a year.

For my test, I used noodleshop.menu, which seems to carry the $65 fee. Whois records show it as unregistered and it’s not showing up in today’s .menu zone file. It’s available.

This pricing seems to be accurately reflected at registrars including Name.com and 101domain.

Name.com, for example, says that the name is available and offers to sell it to me for $81.25.

Name.com

Likewise, 101domain reports its availability and a price of $97.49. There’s even a little medal icon next to the name to illustrate the fact that it’s at a premium price.

101domain

So far so good. However, other registrars fare less well.

Go Daddy and Register.com, which are both accredited .menu registrars, don’t seem to recognize the higher-tier names at all.

Go Daddy reports the name is unavailable.

Go Daddy

And so does Register.com.

Register.com

For every .menu name that carried a premium price at Name.com, Go Daddy was reporting it as unavailable.

With Go Daddy owning almost half of the new gTLD market, you can see why its failure to recognize a significant portion of a new gTLD’s available nice-looking names might impact day-one volumes.

The experience at 1&1, which has pumped millions into marketing new gTLD pre-registrations, was also weird.

At 1&1, I was offered noodleshop.menu at the sale price of $29.99 for the first year and $49.99 thereafter, which for some reason I was told was a $240 saving.

1&1

Both the sale price and the regular price appear to be below the wholesale cost. Either 1&1 is committed to take a $15 loss on each top-tier .menu name forever, or it’s pricing its names incorrectly.

A reader informed me this morning that when he tried to buy a .menu premium at 1&1 today he was presented with a message saying he would be contacted within 24 hours about the name.

He said his credit card was billed for the $29.99, but the name (Whois records seem to confirm) remains unregistered.

I’d test this out myself but frankly I don’t want to risk my money. When I tried to register the same name as the reader on 1&1 today I was told it was still available.

If I were a new gTLD registry I’d be very worried about this state of affairs. Without registrars, there’s no sales, but some registrars appear to be unprepared, at least in the case of .menu.

Go Daddy risking Oscars wrath with .buzz premium domains?

The new gTLD registry Dot Strategy included many famous brands on its list of premium .buzz names, including two that could get its partner, Go Daddy-owned Afternic, in hot water.

Until a couple of hours ago, nic.buzz carried what appeared to be thousands of premium listings, organized by category and carrying prices of $1,000 and up, some of which seemed to target brands.

The names of several sports teams, such as 49ers.buzz and blackhawks.buzz, were listed for sale in the sports category (hat tip: Valideus‘ Brian Beckham).

I also spotted listings for domains such as photoshop.buzz (an Adobe software brand) in the technology category and hobbit.buzz (believe it or not, “Hobbit” is a trademark) in an entertainment category.

But the ones that really caught my attention were academyaward.buzz and academyawards.buzz, which carried prices of $1,900 each.

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That’s surprising because if you try to buy these domains you’ll be instructed to contact Afternic, which is handling the premium process. And as of September, Go Daddy owns Afternic.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hands out the Oscars and owns “Academy Award” and “Academy Awards” trademarks, has been locked in litigation with Go Daddy for the last four years.

The Academy claims that Go Daddy is cybersquatting due to its practice of making money parking its customers’ domains, including domains containing Academy trademarks such as academyawardz.com.

Most recently, Go Daddy tried to get the appointed judge in the case kicked out, alleging that she’s in the Academy’s pocket.

While the lawsuit is certainly controversial, attempting to sell $3,800 worth of domain names matching the Academy’s marks probably wouldn’t help Go Daddy look less cybersquatty to its opponent.

It could be argued that many of the premium names that match brands are also generic — Black Hawks could be helicopters and I’m sure there are plenty of academies in the world that hand out awards.

A legitimate registrant could buy many of these trademark-matching listed names and fight off a UDRP, I reckon.

But when somebody lists the name for sale in a category appropriate to the class of trademark, I’d say that makes the name look a lot less generic.

Bieber is a surname presumably shared by many people, but when you list bieber.buzz for sale in a category related to entertainment it can only really refer to one person.

Somebody yanked the premium listings section from the nic.buzz web site after I requested comments from Dot Strategy and Go Daddy a few hours ago. This post will be updated should I receive said comments.

.buzz is currently in its sunrise period and is due to go to general availability in mid-April. As I’ve said before, it’s one of my favorite new gTLD strings and I wouldn’t be surprised if sells quite well.

UPDATE: Go Daddy said: “Afternic is working with dotStrategy, Co. (the .BUZZ registry) to review the list and revise as appropriate.”

Right Of The Dot partners with Heritage for hybrid auctions

Kevin Murphy, January 15, 2014, Domain Services

Domain sales consultancy Right Of The Dot and collectibles auctioneer Heritage Auctions have made a deal to bring hybrid live/online auctions to the new gTLD space.

According to a ROTD press release, such services will be made available for new gTLD contention set resolution and premium second-level domain sales.

Heritage is pretty new to the domain name space, but its IP division is headed by Aron Meystedt, current owner of symbolics.com, the world’s oldest .com domain.

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.

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