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Apple using apple.news as (yawn) redirect service

Kevin Murphy, September 22, 2015, Domain Registries

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.

.cam given the nod as Rightside wins confusion appeal

Kevin Murphy, September 4, 2015, Domain Registries

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.

In a just-published August 26 decision (pdf) a three-person International Centre for Dispute Resolution panel overruled the original SCO panelist’s decision.

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.

No, CentralNic isn’t the biggest new gTLD back-end

Kevin Murphy, August 17, 2015, Domain Registries

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.

Wildly popular Facebook scam attack hits .ninja

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.

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 slashes new gTLD prices to $0.99

Kevin Murphy, April 13, 2015, Domain Registries

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.