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.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.

How much are new gTLDs really costing trademark owners? We have some numbers.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the last six months of new gTLDs, it’s that predictions about massive levels of defensive registrations were way off the mark.

New gTLDs are not seeing anywhere near the same numbers of sales during sunrise periods as their predecessors.

I have managed to collate some data that I think gives a pretty accurate picture of how many sunrise registrations are being made and therefore how much new gTLDs are costing trademark owners.

About 128 gTLDs have finished their sunrise periods to date, and I have the sunrise sales figures for 101 of them. All of these numbers were provided by the respective registry operator.

The biggest sunrise, per these numbers, was for .clothing, which had 675 registrations. That’s 5.97% of the 11,301 overall names in the .clothing zone file today, over three months after launch.

At the other end of the scale is شبكة. (“.shabaka” or “.web” in Arabic), which sold just five names during its sunrise, the first of the program, which was restricted to Arabic trademarks.

The total number of sunrise sales across across all 101 gTLDs is 14,567, making for an average of 144.2 domains per new gTLD sunrise.

Sunrise currently accounts for 1.87% of all names in these 101 gTLDs, but that’s an artificially high number because some of the gTLDs I have sunrise numbers for are not yet in general availability.

But compare the real numbers to .co, which sold over 11,000 names at sunrise when it launched in summer 2010, or .xxx, which took 80,000 sunrise applications in late 2011.

Trademark owners are not defensively registering with anywhere near the same fervor as they once did.

If that 144.2 average names holds true for all 128 gTLDs that have completed sunrise, we can approximate that 18,461 names have been sold during sunrise periods to date.

I should point out that I’m assuming in these calculations that all sunrise registrations are “defensive” and that brand owners are not defensively registering during general availability.

Neither of those assumptions will be fully true.

Not all sunrise sales are made to genuine brand owners, of course. Some number of generic dictionary domains have been registered by people who obtained trademarks just in order to get the matching domain.

And only a psychic could know whether a GA registration is “defensive” or not at this stage.

But let’s assume that every sunrise reg went to a genuine brand owner. How much have they had to pay for these names?

It’s difficult to calculate a precise dollar value because each registry has a different pricing scheme and sometimes the price of a name can vary even within a specific given TLD.

I looked to the prices listed at 101domain, which has pretty exhaustive coverage of new gTLDs, for a guide.

The average first-year cost for a sunrise registration in the 75 or so new gTLDs currently being sold to trademark owners at 101domain is a little shy of $165.

Assuming that’s a good guide for pricing in sunrise periods that have already closed, we can calculate that 18,461 names at $165 a pop equals $3,046,089 out of the pockets of trademark owners in the first year.

But the sunrise fees are not the only costs, of course. In order to participate in a sunrise you must first register your mark in the Trademark Clearinghouse.

There are 30,251 marks registered in the TMCH, according to the TMCH itself. At $150 a pop — the minimum you can pay for a TMCH registration — that’s $4,537,650 spent on defensive measures.

Add in the cost of the sunrise registrations and a generous $100,000 to cover the cost of the 50 Uniform Rapid Suspension cases that have been filed to date and the total cost to brand owners so far over the first 128 new gTLDs comes to $7,683,739.

Whether this is “a lot” or not probably depends on your perspective.

It’s certainly not the billions of dollars that were being predicted by some as recently as last year.

In September the Better Business Bureau and the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse speculated that 600 “open” new gTLDs could lead to $10 billion being spent on defensive registrations.

That statement was made in a press release calling for stronger cybersquatting legislation in the US.

But if 101 open gTLDs leads to $3,046,089 being spent, 600 such gTLDs should lead to a total cost of about $18 million, not including the fixed TMCH costs (which probably won’t grow very fast in future).

That’s not the same ballpark, not the same league, not even the same sport.

.rich promises new marketing after pitiful launch

Kevin Murphy, April 17, 2014, Domain Registries

I-Registry’s .rich may have taken the ignominious title of Worst New gTLD Launch Yet, but the company says it’s not in any rush and is planning to start its marketing campaign in about a month.

According to zone files, .rich has 22 registered names, despite the fact that it’s been in general availability for a week. All 22, according to the registry, were registered during its sunrise period.

The price has certainly got a lot to do with that — the registry fee is $1,750 and you can find registrars selling for as much as $2,599 — but the non-existent marketing may have also played a part.

Visiting the I-Registry web site today won’t give you any idea where you can buy the names or any indication that they’re even available.

As I and others have pointed out, the .rich string is a hard sell. Andrew Allemann of Domain Name Wire, with his tongue only a little in his cheek, doesn’t reckon it passes “The Douche Test“.

But I-Registry’s Michael Hauck told DI that the company is planning to launch a revamped nic.rich site, possibly as early as next week, with an all-new “marketing site” to follow about a month later.

“It will communicate the right message around .RICH,” Hauck said of the nic.rich site. “Clients will understand much better what we intend .RICH to be. And of course you will find a list of supporting registrars there, which today amounts to over 40 registrars.”

The marketing site will offer to sell .rich names directly via an ICANN registrar, he said. Email, hosting, privacy and other stuff will be included in the price, he said. He added:

“We will be also offering an affiliate program with a very attractive PPS program for people who are not registrars or resellers to market this domain product and give them all the margin that usually a registrar has,” he said.

“So a guy who is running for example a millionaire’s dating website or is writing about exclusive products and services in his blog is able to work with us and to promote .RICH,” he said.

Given that the registry doesn’t seem to have sold a single domain during its first week of GA, I think it’s going to need as much marketing support as it can get.

How one guy games new gTLD sunrise periods

Kevin Murphy, April 17, 2014, Domain Registries

Wanna buy a SOCIAL brand pen for a dollar? No? How about social.web or cloud.guru or direct.flowers?

pensOne intellectual property lawyer closely associated with a number of new gTLD registries has been using a flimsy online pen-selling business in order to obtain potentially valuable domains during sunrise periods.

Thomas Brackey of Beverley Hills law firm Freund & Brackey has acquired dozens of premium domain names during sunrise periods. He was good enough to share some of the details with DI.

Brackey owns three trademarks on the terms “DIRECT”, “SOCIAL” and “CLOUD”. All three were registered in Switzerland in late 2012, having been applied for in July that year.

All three cover the category “stylos”, or pens.

If you want to buy a CLOUD brand pen, you can do so at pentm.ch, a web site Brackey seems to have thrown up rather quickly using Shopify.

All three marks appear to have been registered via Marcaria.com, which charges $960 for a Swiss trademark registration.

Brackey obtained Trademark Clearinghouse registrations for his three trademarks, which would have cost him at least $150 per mark.

He seems to have used the pentm.ch web site to fulfill the TMCH’s “proof of use” requirement.

With TMCH registrations, he’s able to participate in new gTLD sunrise periods, giving him the first opportunity to register social.tld, cloud.tld and direct.tld for the usual inflated sunrise prices.

The pens themselves, Brackey assures us, are real.

But he makes no attempt to pretend that the pen-selling business was in thriving need of brand protection under the new gTLD program’s brand protection mechanisms.

Brackey told DI:

In the course of preparing new gTLD applications, I came to be pretty familiar with the various policy developments surrounding the creation and implementation of the TMCH.

For the first time mark holders of all stripes, and from every country would be given a pre-emptive right to acquire domain names that had nothing to do with the substance of their brands.

Musing on that, I identified what I believed to be a legitimate opportunity to acquire some domain names in the newTLD landscape. More curious than anything, I decided to put my theory to the test and resolved to try buying some domain names.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the domains I’ve purchased. I’ve never been a domain investor before, and not confident I qualify as one now. It’s all a bit of an experiment at this point and is certainly fascinating territory from an IP perspective.

There will no doubt be a number of important international legal developments that arise from the gTLD process — new rules, new policies and new opportunities.

At least two of Brackey’s new gTLD clients — What Box? and Plan Bee, which use Brackey’s law firm as their mailing address — have also registered large numbers of sunrise names using this same method.

He’s even selling Plan Bee’s “CONSTRUCTION” and “BUILD” pens on his web site.

Brackey acknowledged that some people take a “pretty dim view” of what he’s doing.

I’d have to say I’m one of them.

In my view, while Brackey may not be strictly breaking the rules of the new gTLD program, he’s certainly not acting within their spirit.

Members of Intellectual Property Constituency and others fought hard for rights protection mechanisms that would help them protect their or their clients’ pre-existing brands from cybersquatters.

The RPMs were not designed to provide a way for investors to avoid landrush auctions or a mad scramble for nice names on the first days of general availability.

The “proof of use” requirement was added to the rules in order prevent the kind of debacle we saw with the European Union’s .eu launch, where bogus trademarks were used to game EurID’s sunrise period.

But the barrier is tissue-thin, requiring merely a screenshot of a web site to overcome.

Gaming new gTLD sunrise periods may not be cheap — it may not even be profitable — but I have to wonder what kind of reputational impact it will have on new gTLD registries that choose to participate.

If you’re a brand owner, would you be more likely or less likely to trust a new gTLD registry that chooses to participate in sunrise gaming?

dotBest cancels landrush

Kevin Murphy, April 17, 2014, Domain Registries

PeopleBrowsr has decided to cancel the landrush phase for its forthcoming .best new gTLD, citing “very little engagement” from registrants.

The TLD is due to go to sunrise today. Two days after it ends on May 19, it will go directly to general availability.

VP of operations Michael Deparini said in an email:

Many of our registrars have given us feedback that there has been very little engagement with the TLD Landrush Phase. We have decided to cancel Landrush.

We are excited to announce that we will open General Availability (GA) ahead of schedule to commence on May 21 at 16:00:00 GMT (12pm EST).

PeopleBrowsr is also the company behind .ceo, which launched two weeks ago with just 250 names in its first couple of days on the market — about 40% of which belonged to one cybersquatter.

.ceo currently has 798 domains in its zone, making it the fourth-smallest of the 74 new gTLDs that currently appear to be selling names.

Pricey .luxury made $500k already

Kevin Murphy, April 15, 2014, Domain Registries

The new gTLD .luxury seems to have sold more than $500,000 worth of domain names already.

(UPDATE: That’s probably not accurate. I seem to have misread some registrar pricing pages. The sunrise price was actually much lower than $1,000. See comments below.)

Saturday’s zone file for the Luxury Partners-owned TLD popped from 1 domain to 470 domains. Most of the new names appear to have been registered during the sunrise period, which ended early last week.

Given the current retail price of over $1,000, it seems .luxury is already a $500,000 business, at least for 2014. Renewal pricing is around the $700 mark, equating to $329,000 a year just on sunrise registrations.

That’s including the registrar markup, of course. The registry will be making a bit less.

“Luxury” brands such as Cartier and Formula 1 bought multiple domains during sunrise. Some tech firms, such as Facebook and Google, continued their blanket approach to defensives.

With such a high price, one wonders what some of these rights holders are thinking: do they really believe cybersquatters are prepared to drop $700 a year infringing their brands?

Sadly there are already a couple of examples of newbie squatters spending absurd sums on clearly infringing new gTLD domains.

It will be interesting to see whether any of these registrants actually use their domains, or whether they’re mainly defensive registrations. I suspect the latter will be more often the case.

Currently in landrush, .luxury is due to go to general availability in about a month.

No sunrise periods for dot-brands

Kevin Murphy, March 31, 2014, Domain Policy

ICANN has finally signed off on a set of exemptions that would allow dot-brand gTLDs to skip sunrise periods and, probably, work only with hand-picked registrars.

Its board’s New gTLD Program Committee passed a resolution at ICANN 49 last week that would add a new Specification 13 (pdf) to Registry Agreements signed by dot-brands.

The new spec removes the obligation operate a sunrise period, which is unnecessary for a gTLD that will only have a single registrant. It also lets dot-brands opt out of treating all registrars equally.

Dot-brands would still have to integrate with the Trademark Clearinghouse and would still have to operate Trademark Claims periods — if a dot-brand registers a competitor’s name in its own gTLD during the first 90 days post-launch, the competitor will find out about it.

ICANN is also proposing to add another clause to Spec 13 related to registrar exclusivity, but has decided to delay the addition for 45 days while it gets advice from the GNSO on whether it’s consistent with policy.

That clause states that the dot-brand registry may choose to “designate no more than three ICANN accredited registrars at any point in time to serve as the exclusive registrar(s) for the TLD.”

This is to avoid the silly situation where a dot-brand is obliged to integrate with registrars from which it has no intention of buying any domain names.

Spec 13 also provides for a two-year cooling off period after a dot-brand ceases operations, during which ICANN will not delegate the same string to another registry unless there’s a public interest need to do so.

The specification contains lots of language designed to prevent a registry gaming the system to pass off a generic string as a brand.

There doesn’t seem to be a way to pass off a trademark alone, without a business to back it up, as a brand. Neither is there a way to pass off a descriptive generic term as a brand.

The rules seem to allow Apple to have .apple as a dot-brand, because Apple doesn’t sell apples, but would not allow a trousers company to have .trousers as a dot-brand.