A hedge fund manager known for causing trouble at the companies he invests in has savaged Rightside, saying its focus on new gTLDs at the expense of its registrar business is ruining the company.
J Carlo Cannell of Cannell Capital is looking for some serious bloodletting.
He wants Rightside to cut 20% of its staff, close offices, unify its products under the eNom brand and replace two of its directors.
He’s threatening to wage a proxy war to replace the Rightside board if he doesn’t get what he wants.
He wrote a scathing letter to Rightside chair Dave Panos last month, which was published in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing today.
NAME’s registrar has become like a crazy aunt kept in the basement, one that you refuse to adequately clothe or feed, but who steadfastly spins straw into gold used to subsidize a stable of largely substandard new GTLDs such as .democrat, .dance, .army, .navy, and .airforce. Most of these new GTLDs are irrelevant and will never be sold in material volumes. NAME is holding back the growth potential of your registrar by pushing garbage extensions to a user base that quietly knows better.
NAME is Rightside’s Nasdaq ticker symbol.
Cannell revealed he owned a 7% share of Rightside last month — paying reportedly just shy of $11 million for 1,389,953 shares.
He wants Rightside to sell off “or even abandon” some of its weaker gTLDs, which “should not consume all the resources of our Company at the expense of the assets that are currently profitable”, while keeping “gems” such as .news.
His letter doesn’t pull any punches.
Cannell is perhaps best known for his widely publicized tussle with Jim Cramer, TV show host and co-founder of financial news site TheStreet.
Rightside has become the latest gTLD registry to open up in China.
The company said today it has created a Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise, basically a local subsidiary, in the country.
This is the same beachhead in China taken by Minds + Machines and Famous Four Media recently.
Draconian Chinese government regulations on domain registries and registrars require formal accreditation before domain names can be used by Chinese citizens.
Opening up a local office or working with a local proxy appear to be requirements to obtain this accreditation.
Rightside points out that 45% of new gTLD domain names — 5.4 million — are registered in China. Its own portfolio has seen 90,000 of these.
.xyz made a bit of a splash with domain investors in 2015, but is the meaningless string “xyz” inherently attractive? Even at the second level?
Rightside seems to think so.
The registry, which does not operate .xyz, is planning to auction at least four “xyz” domains during next Monday’s live auction at the NamesCon conference in Las Vegas.
Rightside today disclosed that xyz.sale, xyz.market, xyz.news and xyz.live will be among about a dozen registry-reserved short domain names– such as q.sale and z.pub — it will attempt to sell.
The only meaningful domain on its list is the absolutely fantastic, category-killing viral.video.
It’s difficult to see the “xyz” names as anything other than attempt to cash in on the popularity of .xyz domains among the investors, many of them Chinese, currently pumping money into the domain market.
XYZ.com’s .xyz gTLD has over 1.7 million domains in its zone file today, making it the largest-volume new gTLD by a considerable margin.
I’m not sure there’s any causal connection here, but it should probably be noted that Daniel Negari and Michael Ambrose, XYZ.com’s CEO and COO respectively, recently acquired a substantial chunk of Rightside.
The two men disclosed November 30 that they had paid over $8.5 million to buy almost 10 million shares — or roughly 5.2% of the company — on the open market.
The NamesCon auction kicks off at 1400 Pacific (2200 UTC) on Monday at the Tropicana in Vegas. It’s being managed by RightOfTheDot and Namejet.
Apple has become the latest famous brand to deploy a new gTLD domain in the wild.
The domain apple.news has been observed this week being used as a URL redirection service by its Apple News app.
It seems that when somebody shares a link to a news site via social media, using Apple News, the app automatically shares an apple.news redirect link instead.
The domains apple.news and www.apple.news do not resolve to web sites (for me at least) but Google has already indexed over a thousand apple.news URLs. Clicking on these links transparently punts the surfer to the original news source.
UPDATE: Thanks to Gavin Brown for pointing out in the comments that apple.news does resolve if you specify “https://” rather than “http://” in the URL. The secured domain bounces visitors to apple.com/news.
It puts me in mind of .co’s original flagship anchor tenant, Twitter, which obtained t.co five years ago and continues to use it as its core URL redirection service.
It’s impossible to tell what impact t.co had on the success of .co — the domain was in use from .co’s launch — but it surely had some impact.
.news, a Rightside TLD, had just over 24,400 domains in its zone file yesterday. We’ll have to see whether Apple’s move has an impact on sales.
Taryn Naidu, Rightside’s CEO, said in a press release:
This is just the start, but Apple.NEWS is the most significant use of a new top-level domain (TLD) yet, and I am very excited at the promise and potential that this development signals. Whether they’re used as a complementary domain, content-sharing links (bit.ly, but with branding) or a simple re-direct, new domain extensions have a real and important place in every company’s overarching brand strategy today.
There’s no denying that having popular software automatically generating links for your gTLD is a great way to raise awareness.
But is this as significant as Apple actually launching a web site at apple.news, or switching from .com to .apple, and encouraging people with marketing and branding to actually type those domains into their browsers? I’m skeptical.
Rightside’s application for .cam will be un-rejected after the company beat Verisign in an appeal against a 2013 String Confusion Objection decision.
That’s right, .cam is officially no longer too confusingly similar to .com.
The new panel wrote:
Based on the average, reasonable Internet’s user’s experience, and the importance of search engines, in the [Final Review Panel]’s view, confusion, if any, between .COM and .CAM is highly likely to be fleeting. While a fleeting association may create some “possibility of confusion” or evoke an “association in the sense that the string brings another string to mind,” both such reactions are insufficient under the ICANN SCO standard to support a finding that confusion is probable.
It’s not quite as clear-cut a ruling as the .shop versus .通販 ruling last week, relying on the appeals panel essentially just disagreeing with some of the finer points of the original panel’s interpretation of the evidence.
Relating to one piece of evidence, the appeals panel found that the original panelist “improperly shifted the burden of proof” to Rightside to show that .cam was intended for camera-related uses.
Rightside was one of two applicants given the opportunity to appeal its SCO decision by ICANN last year, largely because two other .cam applicants managed to pass their Verisign objections with flying colors, creating obvious inconsistency.
Taryn Naidu, Rightside’s CEO, said in a statement:
We always felt strongly that the first panel’s decision was seriously flawed. How can .CAM in one application be different from the .CAM in another application when evaluated on the basis of string similarity? The fact is, it can’t.
It’s always struck me as unfair that Verisign did not get the chance to appeal the two SCOs it lost, given that the panelist in both cases was the same guy using the same thought processes.
The question now is: is the appeals panel correct?
I suppose we’ll find out after .cam goes on sale and unscrupulous domainers attempt to sell .cam names for inflated prices, hoping their would-be buyers don’t notice the difference.
The other two .cam applicants are AC Webconnecting and Famous Four Media. All three will now go to auction.