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ICM will NOT offer free .porn names to .xxx buyers

Kevin Murphy, November 10, 2014, Domain Registries

ICM Registry has reneged on its promise to “grandfather” trademark owners and other .xxx registrants in its forthcoming .sex, .porn and .adult new gTLDs.

While the changes are sure to infuriate trademark owners and .xxx registrants, the company insists that ICANN is to blame for blocking its original plans.

Originally, ICM had promised to reserve every .sex, .porn and .adult domain that matched an existing .xxx domain — if you owned or had blocked example.xxx then example.porn and so on would be reserved.

There was not to be a charge for any of these reservations.

The current versions of ICM’s new gTLD applications are unequivocal — nobody who owns a .xxx name or bought a block will be charged for the equivalent .sex, .porn or .adult names or blocks.

On names “blocked” by trademark owners during the .xxx Sunrise B period, the applications state:

All existing blocked names under the .XXX Sunrise B program… will not need to take any action to have those same names blocked in the new gTLD. All of these matching names will be automatically reserved from registration in the new TLD, free of charge.

On names registered in general availability, the applications state:

all existing .XXX names will be reserved from registration in the new gTLD and only registrants of that .XXX name will be given the opportunity to initially register that corresponding .XXX name in the new gTLD. If the .XXX registrant elects to register the name in the new gTLD, this can be done for a low annual fee. If the .XXX registrant does not elect to register the name in the new gTLD, then the new, matching, gTLD name will be reserved on [ICM’s] registry-reserved list at NO cost.

While neither application has been amended yet, neither of these statements are any longer true, ICM has confirmed.

Instead, the company’s new Domain Matching Program anticipates an extra launch phase between Sunrise and general availability. Under ICANN rules, it’s a Limited Registration Period.

During this month-long phase, anyone who owns a .xxx domain or block will be able to purchase the matching new gTLD names, unless it has already been registered in the Sunrise period.

What does this all mean…

For regular .xxx registrants?

If you own a .xxx domain, you no longer get a free permanent reservation on the matching .porn, .sex and .adult names while you make up your mind whether to buy them.

Instead, you’ll have to buy it during the 30-day DMP window.

ICM’s fee for DMP and Sunrise will be the same as for general availability, ICM CEO Stuart Lawley told DI.

Also, if there’s a trademark in the Trademark Clearinghouse that matches your second-level string, that trademark’s owner will be able to register the matching names before you get a chance.

Remember, not all TMCH users are legitimate brands. Some are domain investors gaming the system.

For premium .xxx buyers?

The changes may also concern registrants of “premium” .xxx names, many of which may have assumed they’d get the matching .porn, .sex and .adult reservations free of charge.

Porn site operators Really Useful and Barron Innovations, which have spent millions apiece on premium .xxx names such as teen.xxx and sex.xxx, have both said in ICM press releases that the grandfathering program formed an important part of their decision-making.

“We look forward to enjoying the benefits of ICM’s unique Domain Matching Program, which gives .XXX holders an opportunity to secure matching .XXX domain names in .PORN, .ADULT and .SEX,” Barron spokesperson Shay Efron said when the $3 million sale of sex.xxx was announced.

“We will be speaking individually to each premium name holder who purchased premium names after we had announced the original grandfathering plan,” Lawley told us.

It seems that the premium string will be registry-reserved, however, so there’s no chance of them being snapped up during Sunrise.

For brands?

If you’re a brand who bought a .xxx block during the Sunrise B period back in 2011, you no longer get grandfathered into a free permanent reservation in .sex, .adult and .porn.

Instead, you’ll have to buy your names as usual either during Sunrise, DMP or — if you feel like taking a risk — general availability.

The problem is: you only qualify for Sunrise if you’re registered in the TMCH, and most Sunrise B buyers are not.

Something like 70,000 names were registered during the .xxx Sunrise B period three years ago, but there are only 33,000 marks registered in the TMCH today.

The owners of more than half of the Sunrise B blocks, who may have thought their blocks would carry over to ICM’s three new gTLDs free of charge, currently do not even have the right to buy their names in Sunrise.

If you have a .xxx Sunrise B block AND are in the TMCH, you may find yourself competing with other trademark owners with matching marks during the .porn, .adult and .sex Sunrise periods.

Any Sunrise B match not registered during the Sunrise and DMP phases will be up for grabs during GA, just the same as any other domain.

Lawley reminds us that the .xxx Sunrise B predated ICM’s new gTLD applications by many months — nobody bought a block in 2011 thinking it would be enforced in all four gTLDs.

He added that ICM has “recently secured a unique offer through the TMCH that will enable trademark owners to register with the TMCH for one year, at a reduced fee.”

Why did ICM make the changes?

The changes put the registry on a collision course with the Intellectual Property Constituency of ICANN, which looks out for the interests of trademark owners and is not a fan of porn-themed TLDs.

“The IPC is going to collectively shit a brick,” one IPC member told us.

But the IPC, which has been unshakable when it comes to the strict enforcement of ICANN’s mandatory new gTLD rights protection mechanisms, may have shot itself in the foot to an extent.

According to ICM, it’s ICANN’s fault, and indirectly the IPC’s, that it’s had to abandon free grandfathering.

In a statement sent to DI, the company said:

Throughout the ICANN approval process, ICM pursued multiple pathways to try and ensure its original “grandfathering plan”. However, due to technological concerns and strong trademark protection policies that ICANN’s intellectual property community requires in all new gTLDs, ICANN flatly rejected ICM’s grandfathering plan.

The mandatory new gTLD rights protection mechanisms enforced by ICANN means that no domain names may be set aside before trademark owners have had a crack at the Sunrise period, ICM said:

Those rights protections require that TMCH-validated Sunrise Holders get the first priority for names in any new gTLD and also contain certain prohibitions on all registries from earmarking domain names for third parties.

However, ICM has still managed to set aside an unknown number of names as part of its Premium Domains Program — those names will be immune from registration during both Sunrise and the DMP.

It’s also going to reserve, free of charge, a bunch of “culturally sensitive” names — these are strings that members of the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee asked to be reserved in .xxx.

Names related to child abuse material will also be registry-reserved at no cost to the child protection agencies that requested the blocks when .xxx launched.

Plenty of stuff is getting reserved, just not Sunrise B blocks.

ICANN’s rules against “earmarking” domains may have prevented ICM offering matching domains to regular .xxx registrants, but it’s hard to see how that would prevent a .xxx block carrying over to .porn. Blocks are not assigned to a specific registrant; they belong to the registry.

The .adult and .porn gTLDs are set to start their 30-day Sunrise periods March 1, 2015. The 30-day DMP for both will begin April 15.

The .sex gTLD was contested, so it’s running a little behind. ICM expects to launch it later in 2015.

.ooo sales targets are batshit crazy

Kevin Murphy, September 23, 2014, Domain Registries

New gTLD registry and e-commerce network Infibeam, which is taking its .ooo TLD to sunrise today, has been bandying around some truly wacky registration predictions in the Indian press today.

The company’s founder told one local paper, the The Hindu’s BusinessLine, that .ooo will have volumes that dwarf .xyz and a literally impossible number of sunrise registrations.

I’m not going to link to the article itself because the BusinessLine website, probably via an embedded ad, tried to download malware onto my machine. The headline is “Infibeam to offer ‘.ooo’ for ‘.com-savvy’ netizens” if you want to Google it.

Here’s an extract, however, which quotes Infibeam founder Vishal Mehta:

The company is targeting 35,000-40,000 trademark registered companies along with several SMEs.

“The new GTLD is the first of a kind initiative by any e-commerce company. Over the next 6-12 months we expect to get about 1-2 million domain registrations under .ooo,” Mehta told BusinessLine.

This is nuts for at least two reasons.

First, Infibeam seems to be expecting 35,000 to 40,000 sunrise registrations.

That’s impossible.

The .ooo sunrise period starts today, when there’s just shy of 33,000 trademarks listed in the Trademark Clearinghouse.

A TMCH listing is of course required to buy a name at sunrise, so even if every mark in the TMCH converted to a .ooo name — which they won’t — the TLD still couldn’t hit the bottom end of its projection.

In reality, .ooo will be lucky to hit 500 sunrise registrations, just like every other gTLD this year.

Second, the only way Infibeam is going to get one to two million registered domains in six to 12 months is if the company not only gives them away for free, but actually forces them upon registrants without their consent.

The registry with the most number of registrations to date is .xyz, which has about 517,000 domains in its zone file today. It’s managed that feat in three and a half months largely by giving the names away for free to its registrars’ customers whether they want them or not.

Conceivably, Infibeam could do the same with .ooo, but that wouldn’t be especially helpful to its application commitment to make the gTLD “synonymous with trust and consumer choice”.

Indeed, its application talks exclusively about offering .ooo names to existing Infibeam customers.

Could the company leverage its BuildaBazaar e-commerce network to create quickly a substantial base of registrations?

It web site talks of a “billion dreams” and a “billion stores” and its .ooo gTLD application states: “Our goal is nothing less than providing a billion stores for a billion people.”

According to the application, Infibeam will try to persuade its BuildaBazaar customers to upgrade to a premium package that includes a .ooo domain name for their stores.

All Infibeam would need to do would be to convert 0.1% of its billion-strong BuildaBazaar customer base to .ooo domain names and it could hit one million registrations almost overnight.

That would assume that BuildaBazaar has a billion stores, of course. It doesn’t. It has 20,000 stores.

So where are the “1-2 million domain registrations” over the “next 6-12 months” going to come from?

Beats me.

I hope for Mehta’s sake that he was misquoted because otherwise I suspect he’s going to be very disappointed very quickly.

.london launch day biggest yet for new gTLDs, but did it miss targets?

Kevin Murphy, September 10, 2014, Domain Registries

Dot London Domains’ .london had just shy of 35,000 domains in its zone file this morning, after its first partial day of general availability.

That’s an addition of 12,421 domains over yesterday’s number, making .london the 11th most-registered new gTLD.

This makes .london — which in my opinion has had one of the best launch marketing campaigns we’ve seen this year — the most-successful gTLD, in volume terms, after its first GA day.

It has beaten the 33,012 names that .在线 (“.online” in Chinese) and the 31,645 names that .berlin had in their zone files at the end of their respective GA days.

.london domains are not particularly cheap, either. Minds + Machines sells at £30 ($48) a year and Go Daddy (which lists .london at the top of its UK home page today) sells at $59.99.

UK-based Domainmonster, part of Host Europe Group, performed well with a £34.99 ($56) annual fee.

There were 22,547 .london names claimed during the “London Priority Period”, a combined sunrise/landrush phase that gave first dibs on names to trademark owners followed by London residents.

The registry has not broken down the mix between sunrise and landrush, but I believe based on the paltry sunrise performance of every other new gTLD to date that the vast majority were landrush names.

The full priority period queue has not yet been processed — domains with more than one applicant are currently in auction.

Back-end provider Minds + Machines, recently told the markets that it expects about a quarter of landrush/sunrise names to go to auction, so we could be looking at something like 7,500 applications (as opposed to domains) currently in the auction queue.

What this may mean is that .london had roughly 30,000 applications during its priority period, about 20,000 less than it had predicted back in July.

Dot London Domains is closely affiliated with London & Partners, the PR machine for the Mayor of London, so it had resources and access to throw at an effective marketing campaign.

.moscow beats .москва 22-to-1 in sunrise

The concurrent sunrise periods of .moscow and .москва have unsurprisingly seen the Latin-script new gTLD trounce the Cyrillic version.

There were 154 registrations in .moscow, according to FAITID, the registry for both gTLDs, compared to just seven in .москва.

They’re both pretty low numbers, but they’re quite typical for new gTLDs. The .moscow number is actually a little above average.

And two of the IDN registrations appear to be for generic terms — мы.москва (“we.moscow”) and скачать.москва (“download.moscow”) — masquerading as trademarks, which happens a lot in new gTLDs.

There are many reasons why the Latin script beat the Cyrillic.

Sergey Gorbunov, head of international relations at FAITID, said that Russian holders of Cyrillic-script trademarks may not be very familiar with the Trademark Clearinghouse.

There are only 127 Cyrillic strings protected in the TMCH right now, he said. Non-Russian brands are also less likely to have their names protected in Cyrillic, he said.

Apple registered 11 Latin-script domains in the sunrise, according to Gorbunov, making it the biggest single registrant.

In what is possibly the longest launch phase of any new gTLD to date, there now follow two “Limited Registration Periods” for Russia and Moscow-based organizations, which end August 25.

A landrush period will kick off September 24 and FAITID expects to go to general availability on December 1.

ICANN smacks new gTLDs for pre-sunrise auctions

Running a premium domain name auction before you’ve finished your new gTLD sunrise period is Officially Not Cool, according to ICANN’s compliance department.

People who won premium new gTLD domains in auctions that took place before sunrise periods now face the possibility of losing their names to trademark owners.

.CLUB Domains, and probably XYZ.com, operators of .club and .xyz, two of the highest-volume new gTLDs to launch so far, appear to be affected by the ICANN decision.

ICANN told .CLUB that its “winter auction“, which took place in late February, may have violated the rules about allocating or “earmarking” domains to registrants before sunrise takes place.

Meanwhile, NameJet has cancelled the auction for deals.xyz, which “sold” for $8,100 late last year, suggesting that .xyz’s pre-sunrise auction is also considered ultra vires.

ICANN told .CLUB that its auction sales “constitute earmarking” in violation of the rule stating that registries “must not allow a domain name to be allocated or registered prior to the Sunrise period”.

.CLUB had told its auction winners that a sunrise period registration would prevent them from getting the domain they wanted and that they would be refunded if a sunrise registrant emerged.

But ICANN evidently told the registry:

Irrespective of whether “[a]llocation was expressly conditioned upon any Sunrise claim,” or whether any Sunrise claim was made, the pre-selection, pre-registration or pre-designation to third parties, in this case via .Club Domains’ “winter auction,” constitutes improper allocation.

I kinda thought this would happen.

Back in November, when XYZ.com ran its first .xyz auction — about six months before its sunrise even started — CEO Daniel Negari told us he believed it was “comfortably within the rules“.

We said the auction “seems to be operating at the edge of what is permissible under the new gTLD program’s rights protection mechanisms, which state that no domains may be allocated prior to Sunrise.”

I’ve not yet been able to definitively confirm that .xyz is affected by this ICANN decision, but .club definitely is.

.CLUB Domains told its auction winners today that the names they won are now subject to a 60-day period during which they could be obtained by trademark owners.

If no trademark owner claims the name, .CLUB said it will give the auction winner a 10% rebate on their purchase price.

The email states:

We are placing the domain on hold for 60 days, during which time a Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) holder will have the opportunity to purchase the domain at Sunrise rates. Although, the domain is not currently in the TMCH, if a trademark holder should file in the TMCH over the next 60 days, the domain will be offered to that registrant. However, if the name is not claimed by filing in the TMCH over the next 60 days, your transaction will move forward as planned.

Although we disagree with ICANN compliance’s position on this matter, the actions we are taking are necessary to ensure that we are not offside with ICANN compliance in any way. We understand that you have been caught in the middle of this issue due to no fault of your own. Given these circumstances, we are offering you two options:

1) Should you decide to complete this transaction, we will issue you a payment of 10% of the purchase price after the transaction closes in 60 days, assuming the name is not registered by a TMCH mark holder because of the delay.

2) At any time during the 60 day period you have the option to rescind the auction bid and not purchasing the domain.