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Was .xxx’s launch disappointing?

Kevin Murphy, December 8, 2011, Domain Registries

The weekend box office numbers are in, and .xxx didn’t put as many bums on seats as might have been expected.

ICM Registry sold 55,367 new .xxx domain names in its first 24 hours of general availability, giving it a total of almost 159,351 registrations, according to the company.

That’s pretty good going for a TLD which, despite the spin in ICM’s recent TV commercials, is intended for a limited customer base, and which is selling for $80 to $100 a year.

Given its $60 registry fee, ICM will have taken over $3.3 million in revenue yesterday, over $550,000 of which will be given to its sponsoring organization, IFFOR.

However, the 159,351 total includes non-resolving domains, ICM has confirmed.

Due to the unique trademark protection mechanisms put in place for non-porn companies, it’s possible to pay for a .xxx domain that will only ever resolve to a standard registry placeholder.

ICM has previously said that it took almost 80,000 sunrise applications, and that the landrush phase put its total “comfortably over 100,000”.

It did not, however, break out the mix of Sunrise A (resolving) and Sunrise B (non-resolving) domains.

That’s an important distinction, both for ICM’s ongoing revenue and for gauging demand for .xxx among registrants.

Each Sunrise B domain gave ICM a $161 windfall but, unlike every other TLD launched to date, has the sale had no recurring revenue component.

I think it’s possible that 50,000 to 60,000 sunrise domains were non-resolvers, which would give .xxx a total of roughly 100,000 active domains under management after one day of GA.

(My assumptions are that all 80,000 sunrise applications were unique and approved, and that roughly two thirds were for Sunrise B non-resolving domains).

Assuming all the active domains are renewed, it’s a $6 million a year business (or $5 million, if you exclude the mandatory IFFOR donation) for ICM already.

The .xxx zone is already bigger than .travel, .pro, .jobs, .aero, .coop, .museum and .cat. It will likely be bigger than .name, .tel and .asia by the end of the month.

So why suggest that it’s a disappointing result?

Pre-reservations

First, for a few years ICM was accepting no-cost .xxx “pre-reservations” through its web site, while its gTLD application was in ICANN limbo.

It racked up over 900,000 such reservations for roughly 650,000 unique .xxx domain names before shutting the offer down in July this year.

One might expect that most people interested enough in .xxx to pre-register a domain months or years in advance might also be interested in grabbing that domain during landrush, sunrise or at the moment of GA. That apparently didn’t happen.

.CO

Let’s also compare .xxx to the launch of .co by .CO Internet last year.

While .CO did not have anything like the long-term media exposure as .xxx, it did of course have the advantage of offering a completely generic string priced at a third of .xxx.

Within its first 24 hours of general availability, .CO said that it had 233,000 domains under management, about 39,000 of which were landrush or sunrise registrations.

Even at the cheaper registry fee (about $20 a year) .CO still made more money in day one than ICM (although ICM wins hands-down in terms of premium domain sales).

.CO, incidentally, also only had 10 accredited registrars at launch (not counting resellers) compared to ICM’s over 70.

Go Daddy

Go Daddy is responsible for roughly half of all new .com registrations, with similar numbers in other TLDs including .co, but it does not appear to be promoting .xxx very heavily.

For the last few days, its homepage has contained only one small below-the-fold reference to .xxx domains. Its TLD drop-down menu has .xxx in tenth place, between .biz and .ca.

Conversely, ICM has been promoting Go Daddy (and DomainMonster) more heavily in its own marketing – notably on gavin.xxx, the site “owned” by its TV commercial character.

Expectations

So is .xxx on track to meet expectations at this early stage?

ICM CEO Stuart Lawley has previously predicted 300,000 to 500,000 registrations in the first few months, and that’s still an achievable goal given its day-one performance.

.CO Internet, for example, more than doubled its 233,000 first-day take within two months of going into general availability.

The new Russian ccTLD .рф registered 200,000 domains in its first six hours when it launched in November 2010, and hit 800,000 by April this year.

While .xxx clearly hasn’t yet smashed estimates in the same way as its sunrise did, I think early indications are that it’s looking pretty healthy.

One in five .рф domains have web sites

Kevin Murphy, November 14, 2011, Domain Registries

The .рф registry celebrated its first launch anniversary last week, with almost one million .рф names registered and apparently almost one in five domains with an active web site.

According to RU-Center, which says it is the registrar of record for 40% of .рф (.rf) names, about 18% of the Cyrillic domains registered in the last year resolve to full web sites.

The registrar said in a press release:

18% of names have website, 16% do redirect, 4% are on parking, 15% are just delegated but not available, and 15% have a plug webpage. 29% of .RF names are unused.

That compares to the 18.7% use penetration of .info, which has been around for over a decade, assuming RU-Center and Afilias compiled their numbers using a similar methodology.

RU-Center also said that 94% of .рф sunrise registrations have been renewed. The rate of landrush registration renewals, which give an indication of what speculators think of the space, will not be clear until December, it said.

It is apparently now also possible for non-Russians to obtain .рф domains.

.xxx faces big test as landrush kicks off

Kevin Murphy, November 8, 2011, Domain Registries

The landrush phase for ICM Registry’s .xxx domain is scheduled to begin today, following the oversubscribed sunrise period that closed last week.

Given the inherently defensive nature of sunrise periods – most of the almost 80,000 applications were for non-resolving domains – landrush is the first big test of public demand for working .xxx names.

I expect healthy interest from domainers, despite the relatively high price of landrush registrations.

High-profile investors including Frank Schilling and Mike Berkens have already invested seven figures in .xxx via its Founders Program, which may set the tone for the rest of the community.

The landrush period runs until November 25. Contested domains will go to auction in December. General availability is currently scheduled to begin December 7.

Domain Name Wire has compiled a handy guide to the best-priced landrush registrars.

.xxx sunrise auctions delayed after 80k applications

Kevin Murphy, November 2, 2011, Domain Registries

ICM Registry has apparently delayed the results of its just-closed .xxx sunrise period until December to give it a chance to clear its backlog of unverified applications.

Corporation Services Company, a major brand-protection registrar, is reporting tonight that ICM and its validation firm, IProta, does not expect to finish validating trademark claims until November 28.

That’s a week later than ICM had planned to kick off the auction phase of the sunrise period, during which contested domains will be awarded to the highest bidder.

“The results of the applications that were submitted during the Sunrise phase will therefore not be available until the first week of December,” CSC said on its blog.

ICM announced yesterday that it has received almost 80,000 sunrise applications from trademark owners and porn companies seeking .xxx domains to match their .coms.

Almost half of those applications were filed during the last week of sunrise. Each trademark claim needs to be individually validated against government databases by IProta.

The plan, according to ICM’s web site, was to start auctioning contested sunrise domains November 21 and to take .xxx into general availability December 6.

Landrush kicks off next Tuesday, running for 17 days. Landrush auctions are scheduled to commence December 12, according to ICM’s web site.

ICM extends .xxx sunrise

Kevin Murphy, October 28, 2011, Domain Registries

ICM Registry, which has evidently seen a last-minute rush of defensive registration applications this week, has extended its sunrise period until Monday.

It had been due to end at 4pm UTC today.

The company just issued this statement:

Due to unprecedented demand in the last week and following several requests from major registrars for more processing time for their backlogs, ICM Registry has extended the Sunrise A and Sunrise B registration periods for an additional three days to conclude Monday, October 31, 2011 at 16:00 UTC (Noon ET). This extension provides prospective registrants valuable time to secure their domains and protect their brands.

Sunrise A is for people in the porn business, B is the “block” for companies outside the “biz” that want to make sure their brands do not become associated with porn.

Guess which has been most popular. (It’s B.)

ICM originally said it expected 10,000 sunrise registrations, but it blew through that estimate weeks ago. The last published count was 42,000, on Monday, with “thousands” coming in daily,

If it hits 70,000 by Monday I will not be surprised.

.xxx sunrise on track for 50,000 domains

Kevin Murphy, October 25, 2011, Domain Registries

ICM Registry has seen over 42,000 sunrise applications since September 7, with “thousands more pouring in each day”, according to the company.

With a last-minute rush possible by porn-scared brand owners before the process closes this Friday, .xxx may well hit 50,000 sunrise applications.

The 42,000 number seems to cover all three sunrise phases – the ‘B’ process for non-porn companies and the AT and AD processes for pornographers.

Sunrise B applications cost $162 at the registry level and over $200 from registrars. ICM’s breakeven point was 10,000 applications, so it will be profitable to the tune of several million dollars.

Because Sunrise B applications incur a one-time fee, ICM has essentially made a windfall now at the expense of recurring revenues from renewals.

How much money will ICM make from .xxx blocks?

Kevin Murphy, September 13, 2011, Domain Registries

There’s a pretty ludicrous report in the Australian media today, claiming that Aussie businesses are being forced to pay AUD $400 million to ICM Registry to protect their brands in .xxx.

The laughable number ($411 million) appears to have been fabricated from whole cloth. The report in the Murdoch-owned Herald Sun does not even bother trying to source or justify it.

But it’s becoming increasingly clear that ICM is going to make some money out of its .xxx sunrise, including from Sunrise B – the one-time defensive “blocks” that do not result in a domain registration.

The company priced Sunrise B at $162 per domain based on an assumption that it would see 10,000 of them. Any fewer and it would lose money, any more and it would profit.

According to official registry reports, no TLD launched in the last five years – .asia, .co, .jobs, .mobi – saw more than about 10,000 domains defensively registered during its sunrise period.

But my hunch is that .xxx will blow those out of the water. I would not be at all surprised if the final number tops 20,000 names.

It’s just a hunch at this point, based on a comparison to the .co launch – which had a reported 11,000 sunrise applications last year – and four main assumptions:

First, that 10,000 was a conservative estimate. I don’t think ICM would have risked making a big loss.

Second, based on a very small number of conversations, I think that some companies are not taking any chances. They’re applying for blocks in more second-tier brands that maybe they strictly need to.

Third, ICM has a much larger registrar channel than .co enjoyed, and much more aggressively FUDdy registrar marketing tactics.

ICM has approved about 70 registrars, compared to the 10 that .CO Internet had at launch, and a lot of registrar promotion has focused on the “Protect Your Brand!” angle, which was discouraged by .co.

Fourth, the vast amount of mainstream media attention the .xxx sunrise has been receiving, most which has doggedly followed the same line as the registrar FUD.

While the value of defending against typosquatting during the .co sunrise last year was probably more important to trademark holders from a security and traffic loss perspective, the brand protection angle did not receive nearly the same amount of press as .xxx has.

ICM president Stuart Lawley has done dozens of media interviews since the sunrise kicked off last week. I even heard him on a UK radio news show aimed at teenagers.

And this press has been going on for over six years, remember. ICANN first approved .xxx in 2005, and the story has been in and out of the media ever since.

It’s worth noting that a Sunrise B block, with its one-time fee, basically denies ICM Registry a bunch of recurring revenue events forever.

Nike is going to be paying $20 to .CO Internet for its defensively registered nike.co domain name every year until the end of time, in addition to the up-front sunrise fee.

If it blocks nike.xxx, it will pay $162 to ICM now but it will also deny the registry its $60 fee for every year it could have been a renewing domain. In three years, ICM’s losing revenue.

But Sunrise B is very probably going to be profitable for ICM. At 20,000 applications, its top line would be $3.24 million, with profit probably pushing seven figures.

Nowhere near $411 million, obviously, but not a bad payday for selling domain names that will never resolve.

The first .xxx porn site has gone live

Kevin Murphy, August 2, 2011, Domain Registries

Casting.xxx tonight has become officially the first live porn site to use a .xxx domain name.

It’s very not safe for work, of course, but if you head over there right now you can watch a handful of streaming videos, according to sources.

Casting.xxx is the first site to use a domain granted under ICM Registry’s Founders Program, which let the registry sell off or basically give away premium names to publishers.

ICM says it’s allocating about 1,500 domains to about 35 Founders, which is quite a lot more domains than I was expecting.

The .xxx top-level domain has been active in the domain name system for a few months now, but to date the only resolving domains have been those belonging to registry manager ICM.

Casting.xxx is registered to a Really Useful Ltd, which appears to have been set up purely to build sites on .xxx domains, of which casting.xxx is the first of several.

The .xxx sunrise period begins next month, with landrush in November and general availability slated for December.

ICM reveals .xxx launch dates, extends sunrise

Citing demand, ICM Registry has lengthened the .xxx sunrise period, which begins September 8, by three weeks. It will now end October 28, running for 50 days.

The new deadlines apply to all three sunrises, which will run concurrently.

Sunrise A-T – for porn publishers with trademarks.

Sunrise A-D – for porn publishers with matching domains in other TLDs.

Sunrise B – for anyone outside the porn business who wants to “turn off” their trademark in .xxx to prevent cybersquatting.

Successful Sunrise B applicants will see their chosen domains resolve to a standard information page explaining that the domain is not available for registration.

Post-launch, anyone can register a non-resolving domain that returns an NXDOMAIN response, but they’ll have to pay for it annually. Sunrise B applicants pay a one-time fee.

If applicants from Sunrise A and Sunrise B both apply for the same domains, the porn applicant will be given precedence, although they will be warned about possible trademark infringement.

If more than one Sunrise A applicant applies for the same domain, the fight will be taken to an auction, managed by Pool.com. Auction rules will be published at a later date.

The sunsrise is outlined in a policy document (pdf) ICM published on its web site today that sets out the rules for its pre-launch period.

The company has not yet announced details of its Charter Eligibility Dispute Resolution Procedure, nor its Rapid Evaluation Service, though it has said it expects them to cost between $750 and $1,500, depending on what deals it can come to with dispute resolution providers.

The Rapid Evaluation Service, previously referred to as “rapid takedown” will be an interesting one.

It’s expected to be a little like the Uniform Rapid Suspension process ICANN’s new gTLDs will have to implement, except it will only take about 48 hours to take down an obviously cybersquatted domain.

ICM says it expects to publish these policies before the sunrise begins.

Landrush is now expected to run November 8 until November 25. General availability will begin December 6.

Short .uk domain landrush opens

Kevin Murphy, May 23, 2011, Domain Services

Nominet opened the landrush phase of its one and two-character .uk domain names within the last hour.

The landrush will see the remaining 2,640 super-short domains that have not already been claimed by trademark holders start to become available.

It costs £10 ($16) to apply, plus the cost of the registration. All contested domains will head to auction, the proceeds of which will be donated to the Nominet Trust.

The available domains are all in the .co.uk, .me.uk, .net.uk and .org.uk spaces. Restrictions may apply – for example .me.uk domains are reserved for individuals.

The landrush will run until June 15. Uncontested domains will be allocated June 23, at which point all unclaimed domains will be released into the available pool. The auctions will kick off July 20.