Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

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.

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.

New .org contract could make registrars sign up to 2013 RAA

Registrars risk losing their right to sell .org domain names unless they sign up to the new 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement.

The change is among several proposed to Public Interest Registry’s .org Registry Agreement with ICANN, which was published for public comment over the weekend.

Amendments to the .org RA, which came to the end of its six-year term in April, are very similar to those put forward for the .info and .biz contracts last month.

But .org is a far larger and more popular TLD, putting more pressure on more registrars to sign up to the 2013 RAA, with its new Whois verification and privacy service obligations.

For registrars on the 2009 and 2001 RAAs, the clock would start ticking the day that registrars representing two thirds of all .org registrations sign the 2013 RAA.

That threshold could be met in .org if the top eight or nine registrars make the switch.

PIR would then get 60 days to tell its remaining registrars that they have 270 days to move to the new RAA. Any registrar that failed to adopt it in that time would lose its right to sell .org domain names.

As with the .info and .biz contracts, the provisions related to the 2013 RAA would only kick in if Verisign asks for the same changes for its .com and .net agreements, which may never happen.

Other changes proposed for the .org contract include:

  • Cross-ownership restrictions. PIR will be able to own a registrar under the new deal, lifting the long-standing ban on gTLD registries selling domains in their own TLD.
  • Price increases. PIR will be able to raise its .org registry fee by 10% per year, from its current level of $8.25.
  • Code of Conduct. PIR will have to abide by the same registry Code of Conduct as new gTLD operators, which contains provisions mainly related to equal registrar access.

The propose .org contract is open for public comment until August 12.

PIR starts pre-registration for .ngo domain names

Kevin Murphy, February 19, 2013, Domain Registries

Public Interest Registry has become the first major gTLD registry to start taking pre-registrations for a not-yet-approved gTLD.

PIR said today that it’s allowing non-governmental organizations to register an “expression of interest” for .ngo and .ong domains.

Pre-registrations are of course free and non-binding. They’re mainly a way to opening the marketing communications channel with customers well in advance of the launch of a TLD.

PIR does not expect to launch .ngo or .ong until 2014. Its ICANN evaluation priority numbers for the two TLDs are 810 and 958, in the first half of the list.

Pre-registration is not a new concept, of course, but it’s one generally embraced more often by registrars (eNom and United Domains are the two most prominent examples) rather than incumbent registries.

For PIR to start engaging directly with potential registrants is one of the first signs that, in the wake of ICANN’s lifting of the ban on vertical integration between registries and registrars, the new gTLD market won’t be playing by the old rules.

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.

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.