While .africa finally went on sale last week after years of legal fights, it seems Africans may find themselves in the minority of registrants.
A combination of awareness, pricing and anticipated interest from Chinese domain investors, means that Africans could account for as few as 1 in 10 .africa registrations, according to Lucky Masilela, CEO of .africa registry ZA Central Registry.
The domain went into its sunrise period last week, and has a multi-phased launch planned out that will last until July 1, 2018.
After the trademark owners have had their crack at the domain — Masilela tells us that South Africa brands such as Nando’s are among the first to grab theirs — there will be five phases in which domains will be open to all but priced at a premium.
Starting June 5 there will be five landrush periods of five day, each a kind of hybrid between the traditional landrush period and the kind of Early Access Period offered by Donuts and others.
Each landrush will see all names priced at a certain amount, with the amount going down at the start of each period — $5,000 to $2,000 to $1,000 to $500 (all USD).
In the event that any name is claimed by more than one registrant, there will be an auction for that name at the end of the period.
Then on July 4 comes the first period of “general availability”, from which point all domains will be first-come, first-served.
But for the first 28 days of GA, domains will be priced at $150, other than domains categorized by the registry as premium.
Domains then come down to a more affordable $18 wholesale.
But that’s not the end. ZACR has baked in a price reduction to $12.50 wholesale, due to kick in July 1 2018. From then on out, it’s business as usual.
Unlike similar TLDs such as .eu, there are to be no geographic restrictions on who can register .africa names, and Masilela said he expects registrants from Africa to be in a minority.
“I think were are looking at about 10% from the continent, growing gradually over the years,” Masilela said. “The next wave is going to be international registrars.”
“We have a big suspicion that we will probably see a huge uptake coming from the east, which is the China market,” he said. “They’ll probably come in and grab a large number of domain names.”
He said that Chinese investment in Africa offline is likely to be mirrored online.
Pricing is also likely to be a factor. While .africa will bottom out, ignoring periodic discounts, at $12.50, that’s still quite a lot more than you’d expect to pay for African ccTLDs. ZACR’s own .za costs about $4 per year.
The relatively high price of becoming ICANN accredited has also meant that while Africa has 50-something countries, there are currently only about half a dozen gTLD registrars based there.
ZACR proposes to counter this by offering a gateway service rather like the one it already offers in .joburg and .capetown, that would help bring its own .za registrars on board.
The European Broadcasting Union plans to operate the forthcoming .radio gTLD in such a way as to discourage domain investors.
It yesterday set out its launch timetable, registration restrictions, and expects registrars to charge companies between €200 and €250 per domain per year ($213 to $266).
Interestingly, it’s also proposing to charge different, lower prices for individuals, though that pricing tier has not been disclosed.
I’m not sure I can think of another company that wants to charge different prices depending on the class of registrant and it seems like would be tough to enforce.
If I’m the domain manager at a radio company, can’t I just register the domain in my own name, rather than my employer’s, in order to secure the lower price?
Other registries, notably .sucks, have come under fire in the past for charging trademark owners higher fees. Isn’t basing pricing tiers on the legal status of the registrant pretty much the same thing?
That perception could be reinforced by the angle the EBU is taking in its marketing.
“We are proposing that the radio community may like to consider securing the integrity of their web presence by requesting appropriate .radio domains for defensive reasons initially,” .radio TLD Manager Alain Artero said in a blog post.
“The TLD will be focused on content and matters specific to radio and we want to prevent speculators and cybersquatting in this TLD,” he added.
The EBU is not planning to take the TLD to general availability until November, which is a long launch runway by any measure.
Before then, for two months starting May 3, there’ll be a qualified launch program in which radio stations (as opposed to “internet” radio stations) will be able to claim priority registration for their brand.
Sunrise will begin in August.
The EBU secured rights to .radio as a “Community” gTLD, meaning it has to enforce registration restrictions, after a 2014 Community Priority Evaluation ruling allowed it to win its contention set without an auction.
The eligibility criteria are somewhat broad, including: “Radio broadcasting stations. Unions of Broadcasters. Internet radios. Radio Amateurs. Radio professionals (journalists, radio hosts, DJs…) [and] Radio-related companies selling radio goods and services”.
The .pharmacy new gTLD has been dragged into the ongoing trademark dispute between two pharmaceuticals giants called Merck.
Germany-based Merck KGaA has accused the .pharmacy registry of operating an unfair and “secretive” process to resolve competing sunrise period applications.
The domain merck.pharmacy was awarded to US rival Merck & Co, which was spun off from the German original a hundred years ago, after both Mercks applied for the domain during .pharmacy’s January-March 2015 sunrise.
Now Merck KGaA has become what I believe might be the first company to reveal an attempt to invoke ICANN’s Public Interest Commitments Dispute Resolution Procedure to get the decision reversed.
The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, a US entity, operates .pharmacy as a tightly controlled gTLD with pre-registration credential validation.
When it launched for trademark owners in last year, it was vague about how contentions between owners of matching trademarks would be handled, according to Merck KGaA.
Merck KGaA claims that NABP awarded merck.pharmacy to Merck & Co and initially refused to disclose how it had arrived at its decision other than to say the German firm “met fewer criteria” than its rival.
After some back-and-forth between their lawyers, Merck KGaA was still not happy with NABP’s response to the dispute, so it decided to start filing compliance reports ICANN.
A year on, it tried to invoke the PICDRP.
Public Interest Commitments are addenda to ICANN Registry Agreements that bind the registries to certain behaviors, such as fighting malware and working with industry-specific regulatory bodies.
The PICDRP, heard by ICANN or an independent standing panel, is a way for third parties to challenge registries’ compliance with their contracts when they believe PICs have been violated.
No PICDRP disputes have actually made it before a panel to date, to my knowledge. Indeed, this is the first time I’ve heard of anyone even attempting to file one, though ICANN Compliance reports indicate about 20 were filed last year.
Merck KGaA claims that by not disclosing how it decided Merck & Co should win merck.pharmacy, NABP is in breach of the PIC that states:
Registry Operator will operate the TLD in a transparent manner consistent with general principles of openness and non-discrimination by establishing, publishing and adhering to clear registration policies.
It suspects that NABP was biased towards Merck & Co because the US firm is a $100,000+ contributor to its coffers.
NABP has denied any wrongdoing, saying it applied “objective criteria” to decide which Merck most deserved the name.
This June, over a year after the domain was awarded, Merck KGaA filed its PICDRP complaint with ICANN. Two weeks ago, ICANN responded saying the complaint had been rejected, saying:
The detailed review criteria used to resolve the contention for the registration of the domain name
was part of an operational procedure that the registry operator applied to both applicants’ websites and was consistent with .pharmacy’s community restrictions in Specification 12 of the RA. As the internal operational procedure does not conflict with ICANN’s agreements and policies, it is deemed outside of ICANN’s scope of enforcement.
The decision seems to have been made by ICANN staff. No independent panel was appointed. The PICDRP grants ICANN “sole discretion” as to whether a panel is needed.
The only reason the dispute has come to light is that Merck KGaA has decided to challenge ICANN’s decision with a Request for Reconsideration. The RfR and 600-odd pages of exhibits are published here.
It’s the second concurrent RfR Merck has on the go with ICANN. The Mercks are also simultaneously fighting for the right to run .merck as a dot-brand gTLD.
Both applications for .merck went through the Community Priority Evaluation process, but both failed.
The next stage in resolving the contention said would have been an auction, but Merck KGaA has filed for Reconsideration on its CPE panel’s determination.
WordPress developer Automattic has received over 600 applications for .blog sunrise registrations halfway through its sunrise period.
The company’s registry subsidiary, Knock Knock Whois There, said Friday that it has passed the 600 mark with about another 30 days remaining on the clock.
While it’s a poor performance by pre-2012 standards, if all the applications to date convert into registrations it’s still enough to put .blog into the top 10 most-popular sunrises of the current round.
According to DI’s data, the top three sunrise performers from the 2012 application round are .porn (2,091), .sucks (2,079) and .adult (2,049).
The most recent successful sunrise, by these standards, was GMO Registry’s .shop, which finished with 1,182 applications.
.blog’s sunrise ends October 17. It seems to be expecting to benefit from a late flood of applications, as is sometimes the case with sunrise periods.
General availability begins November 21.
Want to register a .beauty or .makeup domain name? L’Oreal will get to decide unilaterally whether “you’re worth it”.
The cosmetics maker has released the registration policies for its first former “closed generic” gTLD, .makeup, and they’re among the most restrictive in the industry.
Free speech appears to be the first victim of the policy — “gripe sites” are explicitly banned in the same breath as cybersquatting, 419 scams and the sale of counterfeit goods.
Domain investors and those who would hide their identity behind Whois privacy services appear to be unwelcome, too.
But perhaps most significantly, L’Oreal has also given itself the right to decide, in its sole discretion, whether a would-be registrant is eligible to own a .makeup domain.
Its launch policy reads:
Registrant Eligibility Requirements
To support the mission and purpose of the TLD, in order to register or renew a domain name in the TLD, Applicants must (as determined by the Registry in its sole and exclusive right):
- Own, be connected to, employed by, associated with, or affiliated with a company that provides makeup and/or cosmetics related products, services, news, and/or content; or (ii) be an individual, association, or entity that has a meaningful nexus (as determined by the Registry in its sole discretion) with the cosmetics industry; and
- Possess a bona fide intention to use the domain name in supporting the mission and purpose of the TLD.
Would-be registrants have to submit an “application” for the domain they want, and L’Oreal gets to decide whether to approve it or not.
Whether L’Oreal chooses to apply liberal or conservative standards here remains to be seen.
Like most new gTLD registries, the company plans to reserve many domains for the use of itself, partners, or future release.
The policies also give L’Oreal broad discretion to suspend or terminate names it decides violate the terms of the registration policy, which it says it can amend and retroactively apply at any time.
Using the domain counter to the mission statement of the gTLD is a violation. The mission statement reads:
The mission and purpose of the TLD is first and foremost to promote the beauty, makeup and cosmetics segments, through meaningful engagement with manufacturers, beauty enthusiasts, consumers, and retailers, using a domain space intended for use by individuals and/or companies within or associated with the various industries that provide, utilize, or bear a recognizable connection to makeup and cosmetic products and/or services.
L’Oreal has defined gripe sites — sites established primarily to criticize — as a security and stability concern that “may put the security of any Registrant or user at risk”, banning
other abusive behaviors that appear to threaten the stability, integrity or security of the TLD or any of its registrar partners and/or that may put the security of any Registrant or user at risk, including but not limited to: cybersquatting, sale and advertising of illegal or counterfeit goods, front-running, gripe sites, deceptive and⁄or offensive domain names, fake renewal notices, cross gTLD registration scams, traffic diversion, false affiliation, domain kiting⁄tasting, fast-flux, 419 scams.
If you want to set up a .makeup web site to criticize, say, L’Oreal for “body shaming” or for its animal testing policy, lots of luck to you.
The gTLD is owned by L’Oreal but seems to be being managed primarily by its application consultant, Fairwinds Partners.
It was originally designated as a single-registrant space, a so-called “closed generic” or “exclusive access” gTLD, in which only L’Oreal could register names.
But the company was forced to change its plans, under pain of losing its application, after the Governmental Advisory Committee persuaded ICANN to perform a U-turn on the permissibility of closed generics.
.makeup is due to start accepting pre-launch requests for Founders Program domains next Monday. General availability will start October 19.
Sunrise will kick off September 8, though L’Oreal warns that it has withheld generic terms such as “shop” from this period.
The company also owns .beauty, and I expect its terms there to be similar.