CentralNic’s registry back-end business may have got a big boost by last week’s news that Google has adopted a .xyz domain for its new parent, but it is not yet the biggest back-end provider.
That honor still belongs to Rightside, which currently leads CentralNic by a few hundred thousand names, according to zone files.
When Google started using abc.xyz as the primary domain for its new company last Monday, it caused a sharp spike in .xyz’s daily zone file growth.
The volume-leading new gTLD’s zone had been netting about 3,000 domains per day over the previous week, but that number has risen to almost 8,000 on average since the Google announcement.
While undoubtedly good news for XYZ.com and CentralNic, the growth has not been enough to propel CentralNic into the top-spot just yet.
CentralNic said in a press release today that it currently has 1,444,210 domains, making it the “number one registry backend”.
But according to DI’s numbers, Rightside has at least 1,701,316 domains in new gTLDs running on its back-end.
The CentralNic press release, as well as an earlier piece on The Domains, both cite ntldstats.com as their source.
That site had been listing Donuts as the top new gTLD back-end provider for over a year, with CentralNic in second place.
The problem is that Donuts is not a back-end provider. Never has been.
The portfolio registry disclosed right from the start that it was using Rightside (then Demand Media).
A Donuts spokesperson confirmed to DI today that it still uses Rightside.
The company runs its 190 delegated new gTLDs on Rightside’s back-end. Rightside manages another 39 of its own on the same infrastructure.
Combined, these gTLDs make up 1,701,316 second-level domains, making it the largest back-end registry provider.
Rightside’s .ninja appears to be the victim of a broad, highly effective affiliate marketing scam that targets Indians and exploits Facebook’s trademark.
Today, 11 of the top 12 most-visited .ninja domains are linked to the same attack. Each has an Alexa ranking of under 15,000. They’re all in the top 40 new gTLD domain names by traffic, according to Alexa.
The domains are com-news.ninja, com-finance-news.ninja, com-important-finance-update.ninja, com-important-finance-news.ninja, com-important-update.ninja, com-important-news.ninja, com-important-news-update.ninja, com-finance-now.ninja, com-finance.ninja, com-news-now.ninja and com-personal-finance.ninja.
The domains do not directly infringe any trademarks and appear innocuous enough when visited — they merely redirect to the genuine facebook.com.
However, adding “facebook” at the third level leads users to pages such as this one, which contains a “work at home” scam.
Indian visitors are told that that Facebook will pay them the rupee equivalent of about $250 per day just for posting links to Facebook, under some kind of deal between Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.
It’s all nonsense of course. The page is filled with faked social media quotes and borrowed stock photos.
Not only that, but it uses Facebook’s logo and look-and-feel to make it appear, vaguely, like it’s a genuine Facebook site.
The links in the page all lead to an affiliate marketing campaign that appears, right now, to be misconfigured.
Infringing trademarks at the third level in order to spoof brands is not a new tactic — it’s commonly used in phishing attacks — but this is the first time I’ve seen it deployed so successfully in the new gTLD space.
It would be tricky, maybe impossible, for Facebook to seize the domains using UDRP or have them suspended using URS, given that the second-level domains are clean.
But it seems very probable that the domains are in violation of more than one element of Rightside’s anti-abuse policy, which among other things forbids trademark infringement and impersonation.
Rightside registrar eNom is to offer domains in several Rightside gTLDs for $0.99 over the coming days.
Today, .rocks domains can be obtained for the special price. They’re usually $12.99 a year.
The price does not apply to renewals. Customers have to use the promo code “pocketchange”.
Rightside stablemates .forsale, .reviews, .ninja and .social will get the $0.99 treatment for one day each over the coming week.
As we’ve learned over the last several months, super-cheap domains boost TLDs’ numbers as some of the internet’s less than ethical characters bulk-register thousands of throwaway domains at once.
So far, gTLDs such as .xyz, .country and .kim have been affected by these spikes, which I currently believe are related to typosquatting campaigns in legacy gTLDs.
I would not be at all surprised if Rightside becomes the latest registry to see its volume swell for similar reasons.
A week from now, new gTLD registry Rightside is to release over 20,000 two-character domain names.
The releases will come across all of its delegated gTLDs, but exclude letter-letter combinations.
Only letter-number, number-letter and number-number combinations will be available, following ICANN’s partial lifting of the ban on two-character domains back in December.
Strings such as “a1”, “2b” and “69” will presumably become available.
Rightside said the domains will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis, with prices ranging from $200 to $50,000.
The registry has almost 30 delegated new gTLDs, including .auction, .software, .lawyer, .sale and .video.
If you’re interested, set your alarms for 1700 UTC on March 18. That’s when all 20,000 drop.
Two-letter domains are still reserved, pending the outcome of ICANN’s government-delayed release process.
Two more new gTLD contention sets have been settled by auction, one a case of a portfolio applicant prevailing over a closed generic applicant, the other a case of a brand owner paying off a portfolio applicant.
Donuts has won the right to .jewelry over $10 billion-a-year jewelry firm Richemont, owner of brands including Cartier.
Richemont applied for several TLDs, some of which were generic terms. It was awarded .watches uncontested, but apparently didn’t want to fork out as much as Donuts for the matching .jewelry.
Google, meanwhile, won the two-horse race for .moto against Rightside. This one’s interesting because it’s basically a case of Rightside forcing Google to pay up to own one of its own brands.
Google owns a trademark on “Moto” due to its acquisition of Motorola Mobility a few years ago, but Rightside applied for it in its generic sense as an abbreviation of “motorcycle” or “motorbike”.
Google had filed a legal rights objection against its rival for .moto, but lost. Now it’s been forced to cough up at auction instead.
Prices, as usual, have not been disclosed.