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Weirdest new gTLD launch yet? .wed launches with a single registrar

Kevin Murphy, March 18, 2014, Domain Registries

The new gTLD .wed went into sunrise yesterday with the strangest pricing model yet and a stringent Registry-Registrar Agreement that seems to have scared off all but one registrar.

Atgron is positioning .wed as a space for marrying couples to celebrate their weddings, but only temporarily.

It seemingly has little interest in domain investors or ongoing customer relationships beyond one or two years.

If you register a second-level .wed domain, you can have it for $150 a year for the first two years, according to the Atgron web site. After that, the price rockets to $30,000 a year.

Registrars, resellers and wedding-oriented businesses are allowed to opt out of the third-year spike on their own .wed names if they join Atgron’s reseller program and sell at least 10 a year.

Unlike Vox Populi, which is actively marketing .sucks domains at $25,000 as a reasonable value proposition, Atgron jacks the price up as a deterrent to registrants holding on to names too long. It says:

.WED domain names are sold to couples for one or two years to celebrate their wedding. The domain names then become available to another couple… Mary and John can have MaryandJohn.WED and then YES the next Mary and John can have MaryandJohn.WED a year or two later and so on and so on.

That alone would be enough to put off most registrars, which value the recurring revenue from ongoing annual renewals, but I gather that the .wed RRA contains even more Draconian requirements.

Incredulous registrars tell me that Atgron wants them to create an entirely new web site to market .wed domains — they’re not allowed to sell the names via their existing storefronts.

The only registrar to bite so far is EnCirca, known historically for promoting obscure gTLDs such as .pro and .travel, which is selling .wed via a new standalone site at encirca.wed.

I also gather that Atgron won’t let registrars opt out of selling its third-level .wed domains, which are expected to go for about $50 a year with no third-year spike.

That didn’t work well for .name — registrars hated its three-level structure, forcing the registry to ultimately go two-level — and I don’t think it’s going to work for .wed either.

Registrars also tell me that Atgron wants to ban them from charging a fee for Whois privacy on .wed domains. They can offer privacy, but only if it’s free to the registrant.

With privacy a relatively high-margin value-add for registrars, it’s hardly surprising that they would balk at having this up-sell taken away from them.

As weird as this all sounds, it is of course an example of the kind of innovative business models that the new gTLD program was designed to create. Mission accomplished on that count.

Another thing the program was designed to create is competition, something Atgron will soon encounter when Minds + Machines arrives with .wedding and eats .wed’s lunch. In my view.

The .wed launch period is also quite unusual.

Atgron is running a landrush period concurrently with its 30-day sunrise period.

Even if you don’t own a trademark, you can apply for a .wed domain today. You’ll get a refund if your name is registered by a trademark owner during sunrise, and names won’t go live until April 20.

The registry has extended the 90-day Trademark Claims period to cover the sunrise period too, so it appears to be in compliance with ICANN rights protection rules on that count.

It’s a 30-day sunrise, so it’s first-come, first served if you’re a trademark owner.

As for sunrise pricing, the third-year spike appears to apply too.

Atgron documentation does say there’s going to be an option to purchase a 10-year trademark block for a one-time fee, but I couldn’t find any way to do this on the EnCirca.wed web site today.

Will .exposed see a big sunrise?

Kevin Murphy, March 11, 2014, Domain Registries

Donuts’ new gTLD .exposed goes into sunrise today, but will it put the fear into trademark owners?

It’s arguably the first “ransom” TLD to go live in the current round and the first since .xxx, which scared mark holders into blocking over 80,000 domains back in late 2011.

Most new gTLD sunrise periods to date — most of which have been focused on vertical niches — have had sunrise registrations measured in tens or hundreds rather than thousands.

But .exposed, I would say, is in the same free speech zone as yet-to-launch .sucks and .gripe, which lend themselves well to having a company, product or personal name at the second level.

Brand protection registrars are encouraging their clients to pay special attention to this type of gTLD.

Will this cause a spike in sunrise sales for Donuts over the next 60 days?

It might be difficult to tell, given that Donuts also offers brand owners a blocking mechanism via the Domain Protected Marks List service, so the domains don’t show up in the zone files.

But DPML blocks can be overturned by others with matching trademarks, so some trademark owners may decide to register the name instead for an overabundance of caution.

TMCH sends out 17,500 Trademark Claims notices in a month

Kevin Murphy, March 3, 2014, Domain Services

Wow.

Just four weeks after the first new gTLDs went into general availability, the Trademark Clearinghouse has already sent out over 17,500 Trademark Claims notices to trademark owners.

A Claims notice is a warning that is generated whenever somebody registers a domain name that exactly matches a trademark listed in the TMCH’s database.

The 17,500 number refers to post-registration notices sent to trademark owners, not pre-registration warnings delivered to would-be registrants.

Considering that there are somewhere in the region of 180,000 domain names in new gTLDs today, 17,500 represents a surprisingly high percentage of the market (high single figures).

Of course, not all of these will be due to cybersquatting attempts.

There are plenty of marks in the TMCH that are acronyms or dictionary words, either because they match a genuine brand or because somebody obtained trademarks on generic terms in order to game sunrise periods.

I’d count those as false positives, personally, but it’s impossible to know without access to TMCH data how many of the 17,500 alerts delivered to date can be accounted for in that way.

There are 26,802 marks in the TMCH, according to the company.

.photography beating .camera

Kevin Murphy, February 10, 2014, Domain Registries

Who said shorter domains are more popular?

Donuts’ new .photography and .camera gTLDs, which both come out of their Early Access Period premium pricing phases this week, have seen .photography get more than twice as many registrations so far.

During their EAP and sunrise periods, where retail prices can range from $150 to $13,000, .camera has racked up 146 names to .photography’s 383.

There’s a difference of meaning here of course, which is reflected in the types of domains being registered; .camera names tend to be hardware-related, while .photography is heavy with personal names.

Donuts’ strategy of picking strings that already feature heavily at the end of the second level of .com seems to be reflecting the reality of registration patterns in new gTLDs too.

The photography-related gTLD space is going to an interesting one to watch.

We’re also waiting for the launch of .photo and .photos (.photos in two weeks, .photo in April), which will crowd the space further. These two are also likely to be the first plural/singular competitors.

First Donuts new gTLD sunrise periods looking tiny

Kevin Murphy, January 31, 2014, Domain Registries

It’s possible that fewer than 1,200 domain names were registered in Donuts’ first seven new gTLD sunrise periods, judging by the latest zone file data.

According to Donuts zone files dated January 31, just 1,164 proper domain names currently exist in .clothing, .bike, .guru, .ventures, .holdings, .singles and .plumbing.

By TLD, the names break down like this:

.clothing — 560
.holdings — 166
.bike — 146
.ventures — 125
.guru — 117
.singles — 50
.plumbing — 44.

As far as I can tell, based on sample Whois lookups, all the names were registered during the gTLDs’ respective sunrise periods, not during the currently ongoing Early Access Program.

On the face of it, these look like very small sunrise periods indeed (consider .co, which had 11,000 registrations during its sunrise in 2011) but there are number of important caveats here.

First, this data might be wrong. There have been hiccups and glitches in registry zone file provision for weeks, and this might be one of those cases. I don’t think it is, but you never know.

Second, the data might be still incomplete. Names were to be allocated after the conclusion of Donuts end-date sunrise, which was January 24. Not all of these domains might have been allocated yet.

Third, these numbers don’t reflect “dark” domains. These are domain names that are not configured with name servers and therefore won’t show up in DNS zone files.

Fourth, and most importantly, domain names that have been blocked by trademark holders under Donuts’ parallel Domain Protected Marks List service do not show up in zone files.

DPML is the Donuts offering to trademark owners that drastically reduces the cost of blocking a mark — potentially to just a few dollars per domain per year — across all of the company’s gTLDs.

We already know from a bit of Whois detective work by World Trademark Review that the likes of Microsoft, Apple, Wal-Mart and Samsung blocked their brands across all seven of these TLDs.

DPML is a bit of a bargain if you’re dead-set on blocking your brand in as many TLDs as possible, and it’s possible — maybe even likely — that the number of DPML subscriptions outstripped actual sunrise registrations.

It’s a given that most valuable brands are more interested in preventing misuse than they are in participating in the new gTLD expansions — Microsoft has no use for microsoft.plumbing.

Judging by the zone files, domains registered during sunrise are largely appropriate to the gTLD — .clothing and .bike are full of clothing and biking brands, with very little crossover between the two, for example.

But there are plenty of exceptions to that rule.

Some other stuff I noticed

I had a dig through the files and did a few Whois look-ups whenever I saw a name that piqued my interest.

There are no hugely obvious examples of widespread gaming to be seen but some arguably generic names did go to some domain industry folk who have inside knowledge of the new gTLD program.

Notably, several people associated with new gTLD applications managed by Beverly Hills IP lawyer Thomas Brackey of Freund & Brackey seem to have picked up nice-looking generic domains during sunrise.

Luxury Partners of .luxury managed to get its hands on domains including luxury.clothing, for example, while What Box?, which applied for six gTLDs, grabbed realestate.guru and wedding.guru.

That’s right, apparently there are trademarks on “real estate” and “wedding” somewhere out there, and domain registry What Box? was able to provide the required proof that it’s using them in commerce.

Brackey himself is listed as the registrant of cloud.guru and direct.[tld] across the seven gTLDs, among others.

George Minardos of .build applicant Minardos Group acquired build.guru during sunrise too.

I wonder if any sunrise names will be challenged under Donuts’ Sunrise Dispute Resolution Policy.

While .guru has only attracted 117 registered names so far, it does appear to be the one place notoriously domain-shy Apple decided to actually play, presumably due to the support “gurus” it employs in its stores — ipad.guru, mac.guru and iphone.guru all went to the company.

There’s a “religious” flavor to some of the registrations there too — scientology.guru and darshan.guru were both registered by their respective organizations.

Amazon appears to be the most sunrise-happy of all registrants, grabbing dozens of (probably) useless names including kindle.plumbing, prime.ventures and aws.bike.

Some porn publishers seem to have gone a bit crazy too, with names such as m4m.plumbing and cam4.clothing making an appearance.

I found a few domains on my trawl that appear to have empty Whois records — christ.holdings and ghost.bike to name two amusingly appropriate examples — which doesn’t seem to be in the spirit of sunrise.

So there are definitely some oddities out there, but so far it does not appear to me based on my first look that massive numbers of trademark owners have been held to ransom, nor does there appear to have been any wholesale gaming of the system.

You snooze, you lose new gTLD sunrise coming soon

Kevin Murphy, January 10, 2014, Domain Registries

Trademark attorneys and brand management executives take note: January 21 will see the launch of the first first-come, first-served sunrise period we’ve seen in a new TLD in a long time.

FCFS means that domain names will be allocated to participants immediately, rather than at the end of the sunrise period.

For those responsible for acquiring domain names for mark owners — many of whom are accustomed to waiting to the last minute before submitting sunrise applications — this is a change of pace.

You snooze, you lose.

To date only Regiodot’s German geographic gTLD, .ruhr, has officially confirmed (pdf) that it intends to use a FCFS policy during its mandatory sunrise period.

That’s due to kick off on January 21.

The precise time that the sunrise will begin — important when you’re looking at a FCFS policy — does not appear to have been published yet.

UPDATE: the time has been published (see comments below this post) and it’s 1000 UTC.

Under ICANN rules, to use FCFS registries need a “Start Date” sunrise, which runs for 30 days but requires a 30-day notice period before it begins. Regiodot told ICANN about its sunrise dates December 18.

The alternative “End Date” sunrises run for 60 days, have no notice period, and domains are only allocated to mark owners — usually using auctions to settle contention — after the 60 days are over.

Other than .ruhr, only PeopleBrowsr’s .ceo has said it wants to run a Start Date sunrise. However, PeopleBrowsr will not run its sunrise on a FCFS basis, preferring the end-date allocation/auction method instead.

CentralNic to manage .co.com’s back-end

Kevin Murphy, January 9, 2014, Domain Registries

CentralNic is going to run .co.com after all, kinda.

The two companies have signed a deal whereby CentralNic will manage the back-end registry for the forthcoming subdomain service, which domain owner Paul Goldstone launched a few months ago.

CentralNic, before it became the named back-end for 60 new gTLD applications, was known only for offering subdomains under us.com, uk.com and many other second-level names.

Announcing the deal today, .co.com also said that it plans to hold a sunrise period in February, to be followed by a first-come first-served landrush.

It’s already offering “premium” keyword domains privately to interested parties.

New gTLD launches: registrar coverage at less than 40% of the market

Kevin Murphy, January 7, 2014, Domain Registrars

Registrars representing less than 40% of the gTLD market are ready to offer new gTLDs during their launch phases, according to the latest stats from ICANN.

ICANN released yesterday a list (pdf) of the just 21 registrars that have signed the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement and have been certified by IBM to use the Trademark Clearinghouse database.

Signing the 2013 RAA is a requirement for registrars that want to sell new gTLDs. Almost 150 registrars are currently on the new contract.

But being certified for the TMCH is also a requirement to sell names during the first 90 days of each new gTLD’s general availability, when the Trademark Claims service is running.

Together, the 21 registrars that have done both accounted for 59 million registered gTLD domain names (using August’s official numbers), which translated to 39.5% of the gTLD market.

It’s a high percentage due to the presence of Go Daddy, with its 48.2 million gTLD names. The only other top-10 registrar on the list is 1&1.

Twelve of the 21 registrars on the list had fewer than 40,000 names under management. A couple have fewer than 100.

Only one new gTLD, dotShabaka Registry’s شبكة., is currently in its Trademark Claims period.

The second batch, comprising Donuts’ first seven launches, isn’t due to hit until January 27, giving just a few weeks for the certified list to swell.

There’ll be 33 new gTLD in Claims by the end of February.

The rate at which new registrars are being certified by IBM is not especially encouraging either. Only four have been added in the last month.

Some registrars may of course choose to work via other registrars, as a reseller, rather than getting certified and doing the TMCH integration work themselves.

Donuts picks young British firm for Sunrise disputes

Kevin Murphy, January 6, 2014, Domain Services

A newish UK company managed by some old internet policy hands has been appointed by Donuts to handle disputes arising from its Sunrise and Domain Protected Marks List policies.

Oxford-based Synetergy, which says it worked with Interconnect Comunications on new gTLD evaluations, is managed by Emily Taylor (formerly of Nominet) and Tony Holmes (formerly of BT).

The company will handle Donuts’ Sunrise and DPML Dispute Resolution Policy, which ICANN published (pdf) today.

The policy comes into play whenever somebody suspects that a Sunrise registration or DPML block in a Donuts gTLD was made based on a bogus trademark submission.

The price of filing a complaint under the process is £250 for up to five names registered to the same registrant.

Taylor said that IP experts from Sipara will handle the substantive evaluations, with Synetergy administering the process.

United TLD, the Demand Media/Rightside new gTLD applicant subsidiary, is also using Synetergy for its dispute resolution services, Taylor said.

Google registers its first new gTLD domain

Kevin Murphy, January 4, 2014, Domain Registries

Google took part in dotShabaka Registry’s Sunrise period, according to today’s zone files.

The company registered جوجل.شبكة, in the .شبكة (Arabic “.web”) TLD, via MarkMonitor at some point prior to December 30.

“جوجل” seems to be the Arabic transliteration of “Google”.

The domain is not resolving, but Whois says it belongs to Google and it’s configured to use Google name servers.

It’s only the fifth confirmed Sunrise registration in the .شبكة space — the only new gTLD to so far conclude a Sunrise period.

Rolex registered its trademark and Richemont International registered three of its luxury goods brands. So far, Rolex is the only confirmed new gTLD registrant that is not also an applicant.

None of the registrants to date are from the Arabic-speaking regions.

These may all be defensive registrations, of course, and may never resolve to anything useful.