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Famous Four following .sucks playbook with premium pricing for brands?

New gTLD registry Famous Four Media has slapped general availability prices of $500 and up on domain names matching famous brands.

The company plans to shortly introduce eight “premium” pricing tiers, ranging from $200 a year to $10,000 a year.

The first to launch, on July 8, will be its “brand protection tier”, which will carry a $498 registry fee.

Famous Four told its registrars that the tier “will provide an additional deterrent to cyber-squatters for well-known brands ensuring that domain names in this tier will not be eligible for price promotions”.

The gTLDs .date, .faith and .review will be first to use the tiered pricing structure.

It’s not entirely clear what brands will be a part of the $498 tier, or how the registry has compiled its list, but registrars have been given the ability to ask for their clients’ trademarks to be included.

I asked Famous Four for clarification a few days ago but have not yet had a response.

While other registries, such as Donuts, used tiered pricing for GA domains, I’m only aware of one other that puts premium prices on brands: .sucks.

Vox Populi has a trademark-heavy list of .sucks domains it calls Market Premium — formerly Sunrise Premium — that carry a $1,999-a-year registry fee.

Unlike Vox Pop, Famous Four does not appear to be planning a subsidy that would make brand-match domains available at much cheaper prices to third parties.

Famous Four’s gTLDs have seen huge growth in the last month or two, largely because it’s been selling domains at a loss.

.science, for example, has over 300,000 registrations — making it the third-largest new gTLD — because Famous Four’s registry fee has been discounted to just $0.25 from May to July.

The same discount applies to .party (over 195,000 names in its zone) and .webcam (over 60,000).

Those three gTLDs account for exactly half of the over 22,000 spam attacks that used new gTLD domains in March and April, according to Architelos’ latest abuse report.

With names available at such cheap prices, it would not be surprising if cybersquatters are abusing these gTLDs as much as the spammers.

Will intellectual property owners believe a $498+ reg fee is a useful deterrent to cybersquatting?

Or will they look upon this move as “predatory”, as they did with .sucks?

Donuts explains its premium pricing strategy

Kevin Murphy, December 17, 2013, Domain Registries

Add Donuts to the list of registries planning to use .tv-style variable pricing after their new gTLDs start to go to general availability next year.

COO Richard Tindal told DI last night that each of its upcoming registries could have “two, three, four, five, six — it varies — levels of buy-it-now pricing”.

He was referring to pricing during general availability, not any of Donuts’ special launch phases.

The actual number of registry-reserved names held for auction or future promotional purposes is likely to be quite small — often under 20 names per TLD — Tindal said.

Instead, Donuts wants to get the names it has identified as “premium” to market as quickly as possible, but with a higher annual price than the base registry fee. He said:

Let’s take .clothing, that’s coming out at the moment.

There’ll be a small — very small — number of reserved names for which we may do an auction later

The vast, vast majority of the names are first-come-first-served buy-it-now — but within Donuts TLDs, at more than one price within a TLD.

So in .clothing the standard names will be one price, then there’ll be another group of names that are premium for a higher price, and another group of names that are higher still that are premiums as well, and potentially even another group.

Tindal didn’t want to give specifics, but indicated that most premiums could carry an annual fee of under $1,000.

“Your ball-park standard name is a $10, $20, $30 name, ish, retail,” he said. “And your premium name is in the hundreds of dollars a year, typically. It varies.”

“Generally, ball-park-speaking, the vast majority of our names will be well, well under $1,000 a year,” he said.

He added that the tiers should be obvious when pre-registering names at one of Donuts’ accredited registrars.

I experimented a bit on 101domain, where the base retail price for a .clothing domain is currently $34.99 a year.

I found that used.clothing and winter.clothing, for example, both carry a $400 price tag, hot.clothing and large.clothing are $49.50 each, while vintage.clothing and designer.clothing appear to be reserved.

Those are the retail prices, of course, which include the registrar’s mark-up. While they’re for pre-registered names, I’m not expecting the GA prices to be much different.

“These are very attractively priced names, in our view, even the premium ones we think are attractive to people,” Tindal said. “We want registrars to make some margin, we want registrants to have room for the value of the name to increase as well.”

He didn’t say how many names will be in the higher pricing tiers — it will vary by gTLD.

“We believe premiums will be a small percentage of names under management,” he said.

The tiers will be the same across all of Donuts TLDs, he said, but each given TLD may only use a subset. So if there are six possible tiers, .example may only use three of them.

Donuts does not currently plan to operate a “founders program” for its gTLDs, Tindal said.

“We just want to get these names out and in the hands of users,” he said. Donuts’ market is primarily small and medium sized enterprises.

Donuts is not the first to reveal tiered pricing for new gTLD names.

Top Level Domain Holdings recently laid out a similar pricing strategy. Its Minds + Machines registrar is already taking pre-registrations on names with renewal fees ranging into many thousands of dollars per yer for premium names.

What Box and Plan Bee have also started selling pre-registrations via their registrars that indicate tiered pricing.

Prior to new gTLDs, the only notable TLD with variable pricing was Verisign’s repurposed ccTLD, .tv.