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CSC (not that one) scraps its dot-brand

Kevin Murphy, November 1, 2021, Domain Registries

A company formerly known as CSC has terminated its dot-brand gTLD contract four years after discontinuing the company name.

Computer Sciences Corporation, now known as DXC Technology, has told ICANN it no longer wishes to operate .csc, saying:

This gTLD was secured right before the merger of Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) and Hewlett Packard Enterprise Services merged to form DXC Technology. Consequently, the gTLD has never been used and shutting it down will have no effect on internal or external stakeholders.

The CSC-HP merger and name changed happened in 2017.

At one point, nic.csc bore a notice saying it was the “registry for the .dxc top-level domain”, which was a cool trick given .dxc doesn’t exist and has never existed.

This CSC is different from the corporate registrar of the same abbreviation, where the CSC stands for Corporation Service Company. There’s a reasonable chance that this CSC will be able to apply for .csc in the next application round.

Donuts shuts down 14 registrars, but it’s “not related to DropZone”

Kevin Murphy, October 20, 2021, Domain Registrars

Donut has let 14 of its shell registrar accreditations expire, but told DI it’s not related to its recently approve drop-catching service, DropZone.

ICANN records show that the companies, with names such as Name118 Inc and Name104 Inc, all basically mini-clones of Name.com, recently had their registrar contracts terminated.

This kind of thing happens fairly regularly with companies resizing the networks they use for catching dropping domains. Donuts still has at least half a dozen active accreditations, records show.

But the move comes just weeks after ICANN approved a controversial new Donuts service called DropZone, which would see dropping domains across Donuts’ portfolio of 250+ gTLDs being handled by a dedicated parallel registry.

DropZone would reduce the need for owning vast numbers of shell accreditations in order to effectively drop-catch, but has faced criticism from rival DropCatch because a) Donuts may charge registrars for access and b) claims that Donuts-owned registrars would have an advantage.

But Donuts says the two things are unrelated. Name.com senior product marketing manager Ethan Conley said in an email:

We did recently let 14 ICANN registrar accreditations expire. These accreditations had become an administrative headache and a point of confusion for customers. This decision was not related to DropZone, and the domain drop business has not been a core focus of Name.com for quite some time.

It’s worth noting that cancelling registrar accreditations would also have an affect on the ability to catch names in other, unaffiliated gTLDs, including .com.

Dead dot-brands top 100. Here’s the list and breakdown

Kevin Murphy, September 22, 2021, Domain Registries

The list of dot-brand gTLDs that have had their ICANN registry contracts torn up has now topped 100.

SC Johnson, the big American cleaning products company, has informed the Org it no longer wishes to run .afamilycompany, .duck, .glade, .off, .raid, and .scjohnson.

Regular readers will know that I’ve been keeping a running tally of dot-brand terminations for the last several years, and according to that tally that number is now 101.

But it’s a bit more complex than that, so I thought I’d use the occasion of this milestone to provide a more substantial breakdown.

ICANN has records for 104 dot-brands either being terminated by ICANN or asking to be terminated of their own accord.

The number of registry-initiated termination requests is 90. These are typically gTLDs that were never used, or were experimented with and then abandoned. A smaller number relate to brands that were discontinued following mergers or product end-of-life, rendering the dot-brand pointless.

ICANN initiated the other 14 terminations, mostly because the registry operator got cold feet during the pre-delegation testing phase, before going live, but also in one instance for non-payment of fees and in two cases whatever the hell this is.

Six of the registry-initiated transfer requests were withdrawn before being fully processed. Of those, three (.boots, .mobily, and its Arabic translation) went on to be terminated anyway.

Two registries filed for self-termination then changed their minds and committed auto-genericide by selling their contracts — for .bond and .sbs — to discounting portfolio registry ShortDot instead.

One dot-brand, .case, withdrew its December 2020 termination request and appears to still be active.

Thirteen termination requests are currently in the system but have not yet been fully processed.

Five dot-brand gTLD contracts — .observer, .quest, .monster, .select, .compare — were sold to other registries to be repurposed as open generics. You could add .cyou to that list, depending on how you define a dot-brand.

One gTLD that was originally a generic — .moto — made the move in the other direction to become a dot-brand.

Here’s the list of dot-brands that have either requested a termination, or been terminated.

[table “67” not found /]

Volkswagen drives IDN dot-brand off a cliff

Kevin Murphy, September 13, 2021, Domain Registries

Volkwagen has decided it no longer wishes to run its Chinese-script dot-brand gTLD.

The car-maker’s Chinese arm has asked ICANN to terminate its contract for .大众汽车 (.xn--3oq18vl8pn36a), which has been in the root for five years.

It’s the standard terminating dot-brand story — the gTLD was never used and VW evidently decided it wasn’t needed.

The company also runs .volkswagen, and that’s not used either, but ICANN has yet to publish termination papers for that particular string.

Fellow German car-maker Audi is one of the most prolific users of dot-brands. Its .audi gTLD has over 1,800 registered domains, most of which appear to be used by its licensed dealerships.

.volkwagen is the 95th terminated dot-brand and the seventh terminated internationalized domain name gTLD.

MMX drops two registrars

Kevin Murphy, August 4, 2021, Domain Registrars

MMX has dumped two registrar contracts with ICANN, as the company’s asset-sale to GoDaddy nears completion.

ICANN records show that Minds and Machines LLC and Minds and Machines Registrar UK Limited both entered “terminated” status over the last few days, meaning they’re no longer accredited to sell gTLD domains.

But they weren’t doing any selling of domains anyway. The UK company had 108 domains under management and the US on had none at the last count.

The US accreditation was the one used primarily by the company under its original business model of a “triple-play” registry/registrar/back-end, when it was still going by Minds + Machines, which was abandoned five years ago.

The registrar peaked at about 50,000 names, which were then transferred over to Uniregistry. The back-end business was also abandoned, with Nominet taking over technical management of most of its gTLDs.

MMX is currently in the process of getting out of its sole remaining third business, that of gTLD registry.

GoDaddy has already taken over most of its 27 gTLDs under a $120 million deal announced earlier this year. Four TLDs remain, and will be transferred subject to approval from government partners.

Dead dot-brands #92 and #93

Kevin Murphy, August 4, 2021, Domain Registries

Two more companies have withdrawn from the new gTLD space, asking ICANN to rip up their dot-brand contracts.

The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, an Australian university, has terminated its contract for .rmit, and SwiftCover, an American insurance company, has withdrawn .swiftcover.

SwiftCover next used its gTLD, according to zone file records. Not once.

RMIT had registered a small handful of domains under .rmit, and had been using at least one of them — which wasn’t even a redirect to the uni’s main .au site — as recently as February this year.

But by May the experiment was over, with RMIT filing its ICANN papers.

These are the 92nd and 93rd dot-brand termination notices to be published by ICANN.

This company had every reason to want a dot-brand, but just killed it off

The latest dot-brand to terminate its new gTLD registry contract with ICANN could have been a case study in why dot-brands are a good idea.

Dabur India is 137 years old and makes over a billion dollars a year selling consumer goods — mainly cosmetics and personal care products, but also shady-looking Ayurvedic alternative medicines and supplements — in its home country and beyond, and it had experimented with using its .dabur gTLD over the last six years.

But it’s no longer interested, telling ICANN recently that it wants its Registry Agreement torn up, which ICANN has agreed to.

That’s despite the fact that Dabur appears to be suffering from exactly the kind of problem that dot-brands were supposed to help mitigate.

If you visit its web site at dabur.com today, you’ll be immediately presented with a very prominent pop-up warning you about scammers exploiting the Dabur trademark to grift money out of people who think they’re signing up to be official distributors.

The notice is lengthy but in part reads:

DABUR is only dealing with trade through www.dabur.com and any person claiming themselves to be taking order for the supply of DABUR products via phone/online may be cheating with you. DABUR shall not be responsible for any order placed other than on our official website www.dabur.com

One of the biggest selling points for the dot-brand concept is that customers can be taught to distrust any solicitation purporting to be legit if it does not originate from a domain in the relevant dot-brand.

If the notice on dabur.com is any guide, turns out you can do the same thing with a .com domain.

Dabur had briefly experimented with its gTLD not long after it was delegated. Current zone files show half a dozen .dabur names, but only two seem to resolve or show up in search engines. One redirects to the .com site.

Ironically, the other is doctor.dabur, in which Dabur solicits doctors to sign up to push its Ayurvedic products. Ayurveda is a form of medical quackery popular in South Asia.

Added to the recent self-termination of QVC’s .qvc, the total number of dot-brands to lose their registry contracts is now 91.

Domainers at risk as EnCirca takes over deadbeat registrar’s customer base

Customers of defunct registrar Pheenix risk losing their domains because the company was not properly escrowing its registrant data, according to the registrar taking over their domains.

EnCirca, which is taking over up to 6,000 domains previously registered with Pheenix, says the registrar’s shoddy escrow practices mean some of these domains may not be reunited with their rightful owners.

Pheenix “failed to properly escrow domain ownership information for many of the domains utilizing WHOIS proxy services”, EnCirca recently wrote, adding:

We anticipate that many domains will remain unclaimed due to bounced emails or inoperable proxy services. Locating rightful owners will be problematic since the data escrow is often devoid of any identifying ownership information.

To try to mitigate the problem, EnCirca is offering affected registrants the chance to prove ownership by filling out a form and uploading other evidence, such as Pheenix receipts or bank statements.

EnCirca added that because Pheenix disappeared still owing money to registries, the registries may be forcing renewal or restore fees that will then be passed on registrants.

If your domains were at or near expiration, restoring them could be complex and pricey or impossible.

If you’re affected, you can find information here.

Most or all Pheenix customers are likely to be domain investors. It was a drop-catcher, which once had over 500 dummy registrars in its expansive dropnet, most of which it subsequently de-accredited.

But it went AWOL last May, not responding to ICANN or paying its dues, apparently disappearing from the face of the Earth.

ICANN terminated its accreditation in May this year, and initiated a bulk transfer to EnCirca a couple weeks ago (which it only disclosed this week).

EnCirca has experience handling this kind of problem, which is presumably why ICANN gifted it the bulk transfer. In 2018 it took on the domains 49 of Pheenix’s shell registrars, which it says were suffering from the same escrow problems.

Net4 domains now parked after “fraud” ruling

The primary operating domain names of disgraced registrar Net 4 India are now parked, after the company lost its ICANN accrediation and was hit by a finding of fraud in an insolvency case.

The names net4.com and net4.in, which once hosted its customer-facing retail site, now return parking pages.

It emerged in recent court documents that Net4 paid $14,068 for net4.com in March 2011 via Sedo.

Net4 saw its ICANN termination terminated in May. All of its gTLD domains under management were transferred to PublicDomainRegistry, which also made side deals with registries to accept .tv, .me and .cc domains.

.in registrant were being dealt with by NIXI, the local ccTLD registry.

Net4 had been in insolvency proceedings for a few years before its customers started noticing serious problems renewing and transferring their names, or even contacting customer support.

Now it emerged that the insolvency court in late May found that Net4 had acted “fraudulently” in order to “defraud” its creditors.

The company had defaulted on millions of dollars in loans from the State Bank of India, debts that were subsequently sold to a debt recovery company called Edelweiss, which filed for Net4’s insolvency.

In a lengthy and complex May ruling (pdf), the Delhi insolvency court found that Net4 had transferred its primary operating assets including its domains, trademarks and registrar business to a former subsidiary, Net4 Network, in order to keep them out of the hands of Edelweiss.

Net4 had “fraudulently transferred” the assets in “undervalued and fraudulent transactions” designed to put the assets “beyond the reach of the Creditors so as to defraud the Creditors”, the court ruled.

The court ruled that the resolution professional handling the case is now free to pursue Net4 Network and its director for the money that would have otherwise have been held by Net4 proper.

ICANN to auction off first failed new gTLD

ICANN is planning to auction off .wed, the first new gTLD from the 2012 application round to fail.

The TLD has been running on Nominet’s Emergency Back-End Registry Operator platform since late 2017, when former registry Atgron suffered a critical failure — apparently planned — of its registry services.

After some lawyering, Atgron finally lost its registry contract last October.

Now, ICANN has confirmed that .wed will be the subject of an open Request For Proposals, to find a successor registry operator.

It’s the first time it’s had to roll out its Registry Transition Process mechanism. All previous gTLD terminations were single-registrant dot-brands that were simply quietly removed from the DNS root.

The RFP will basically amount to an auction. Registries will have to pass the usual technical and financial background checks, but ultimately the winner will be selected based on how much they’re willing to pay.

In ICANNese: “The RFP process will identify the highest economic proposal and utilize it as the deciding factor to proceed to evaluation.”

But the money will not stuff ICANN’s overflowing coffers. After it’s covered the costs of running the RFP, any remaining cash will go to Atgron. There’s a non-zero chance the company could make more money by failing than it ever did selling domain names.

It currently has 39 domains under management, the same 39 it’s had since Nominet took over as EBERO, and the successor registry will be expected to grandfather these names. Only 32 of the names appear to be genuine end-user registrations.

Atgron’s business model, which was almost antithetical to the entire business model for domain names, is to blame for its failure.

The company tried to sell domains to marrying couples for $50 a year, on the understanding that the renewal fee after the first two years would be $30,000.

Atgron wanted to actively discourage renewals, in order to free up space for other couples with the same names.

Unsurprisingly, registrars didn’t dig that business model, and only one signed up.

Fortunately, whichever registry takes over from Atgron will be under no obligation to also take over its business model.

ICANN said it expects to publish its RFP “in the coming months” and pick a winner before the end of the year.