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M+M raises $4.4m losing latest gTLD auctions

Kevin Murphy, December 3, 2014, Domain Registries

Minds + Machines made $4.4 million losing three recent new gTLD auctions, according to a company press release.

It’s withdrawn bids for .latino, .school and a third string it said it could not disclose due to the rules of the private auction.

M+M now says it has $45 million cash on hand.

So far, the company has withdrawn 31 new gTLD applications, almost half of its original 70. Not all of those were lost at auction.

It has 17 contested applications left and expects those contention sets to be resolved one way or the other by the end of June 2015.

Final .eco applicant completes evaluation

Planet Dot Eco has finally passed its ICANN evaluation, meaning the four-way contention set for one of the oldest public new gTLD ideas, .eco, can move forward a little.

In its Initial Evaluation last August, the company scored a miserable 1 point on its financial evaluation, failing to hit the target of 8 points, and scored a 0 on one of its technical criteria.

But with the Extended Evaluation results published today (pdf), Planet Dot Eco managed to scrape passing scores on both parts of the evaluation.

This means that the .eco contention set, which also includes Donuts, Minds + Machines and Big Room, is no longer being held up by evaluations.

However, Big Room’s is a Community application and the company has indicated that it will go for a Community Priority Evaluation.

Unless Big Room wins the CPE (which strikes me as unlikely), that will also delay any possibility of contention resolution.

Afilias wins .green auction

Afilias won the auction for the .green new gTLD, it emerged today.

Rightside withdrew its application for the string in the last few days, according to the ICANN web site, leaving Afilias the only remaining applicant in the four-way contention set.

Top Level Domain Holdings said last week that it had lost a private auction with Afilias and Rightside. The fourth applicant, Dot Green, withdrew last year citing the likely cost of an auction.

It’s not known how much Afilias paid in the auction, but it’s likely to have been in the millions.

.wedding and .green gTLD auctions raise millions

Kevin Murphy, February 25, 2014, Domain Registries

Two more new gTLDs — .wedding and .green — have been auctioned off, with proceeds amounting to millions of dollars.

Top Level Domain Holdings said in a press release that it won .wedding and lost .green, which cost it a net $2.23 million.

That’s the amount it paid for .wedding, minus its share of the .green winning bid and its ICANN refund for withdrawing its .green application.

I don’t think we can infer the exact sale price of .wedding from that, other than to say that it was definitely over $2.2 million.

TLDH did not say who won the .green auction. The only other remaining applicants, after Dot Green’s withdrawal last year, were Rightside and Afilias. Neither has withdrawn their applications yet.

In the .wedding auction, conducted by Applicant Auction, it beat rival portfolio applicants Donuts and What Box?

M+M sees 200,000 .london names in its future

Kevin Murphy, February 14, 2014, Domain Registries

Minds + Machines CEO Antony Van Couvering reckons the company’s forthcoming .london new gTLD could see as many as 200,000 domains under management, just from small businesses.

He told DI the target is realistic following the results of a YouGov survey of 1,001 London-based small businesses, which found that 26% were “likely” to buy a .london name.

From this, YouGov extrapolated that there are at least 218,140 companies ready to register a .london.

Van Couvering would not put a deadline on hitting the ambitious goal, but said that registry Dot London Domains and M+M as technical provider are “going to do our best to make the launch well-publicized and successful.”

Judging by the gTLD’s official web site, which carries quotes from the likes of Selfridges, the London Eye and Carnaby Street, there’s been a fair bit of outreach to recognizable London brands already.

Dot London backer London & Partners is the Mayor’s office’s official PR agency, so you can imagine there’s going to be some decent marketing resources thrown at marketing.

The .london gTLD is due to launch April 29 this year, according to the registry.

It’s been contracted with ICANN since November 14, so is running well over the average time to delegation of 70 days.

TLDH raises $33.6m to fight new gTLD auctions

Kevin Murphy, January 31, 2014, Domain Registries

Top Level Domain Holdings has raised £21 million with an institutional investor share placement to help it win some new gTLD contention set auctions.

Its total war chest following the $33.6 million-ish placement will be about $63 million, albeit with $15 million of that earmarked for a single, as-yet-unspecified auction.

The company is currently in 43 contention sets, most of which it apparently wants to resolve via private auction. TLDH said in a statement:

The Company believes private auctions provide a significant opportunity for the Company both to increase the number of high-value gTLDs within its portfolio and to generate cash from those gTLDs which it chooses to relinquish. Under the private auction process, the winning bid is divided equally and paid to the losing applicants net of the auctioneer’s fees.

As part of TLDH’s transition from a revenue-free penny stock to a trading company, it’s going to change its name to Minds + Machines Limited, via a reverse takeover of its subsidiary of the same name.

The company said the move will help with “stakeholder communications and branding”.

Finally, TLDH said that founding director Guy Elliott is to leave its board of directors and be replaced by new non-executive director Elliot Noss. Noss is of course CEO of rival registry/registrar Tucows.

TLDH opens up list of 70,000 premium names for all new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, January 14, 2014, Domain Services

Top Level Domain Holdings has ramped up its new gTLD pre-registration effort with a new database service that enables registries to automatically collate and price their premium names.

The new OpenDB.co service builds on the Online Priority Enhanced Names system we reported on during the ICANN meeting in Buenos Aires a couple months ago.

TLDH chairman Fred Krueger told DI today that new gTLD registry operators will be able to automatically generate a list of up to 70,000 premium names — with associated prices — for their TLD(s).

It works using a proprietary taxonomy of strings in 500 categories, put together by about 30 people working for TLDH, and baseline .com pricing estimates calculated by various online tools such as Estibot.

If you’re the registry for .web, for example, you might decide that all premium .web domains are worth 50% of the .com price, and you could create your premium names list accordingly with just a few clicks.

But if you’re the registry for a narrower, niche gTLD, you might want to assign values by category, subcategory or individual name.

If you’re .poker, you might decide that names in the OpenDB “gambling” category are worth 300% of .com, due to the affinity between the TLD and the second level, and that “sports” names are worth 50%, but everything else is worth just 1% of the corresponding .com name.

A possible drawback of the system might be that the algorithmic .com price estimates underlying it are just that — estimates, based on factors such as Google search volume and Adwords cost-per-click.

Online tools that do this kind of price estimation are quite often criticized or mocked for under- or over-pricing names in existing TLDs.

Another drawback might be that while 70,000 is certainly a lot of strings, it might not dive deeply enough into the potential premium pool for very niche gTLDs.

If the service catches on, I expect it will wind up competing with consultancies that offer expertise-based pricing, such as Right Of The Dot, and brokerage platforms such as Sedo.

So far only PeopleBrowsr (.ceo, .best) has openly committed to use the system.

TLDH says that it will start offering any names in OpenDB via its affiliated Minds + Machines registrar, with a 20% markup.

There’s also an OpenDB API that registrars can use to add these premium names to their own storefronts, Krueger said.

Seven registrars sign up to M+M pre-reg platform

Kevin Murphy, December 18, 2013, Domain Registries

Top Level Domain Holdings has signed up 12 registrars to sell its forthcoming gTLDs, seven of which are to also use its recently announced OPEN pre-registration platform.

While TLDH is operating vertically integrated registrar/registrar business, Minds + Machines it’s also built a pre-registration service that it wants other, higher-profile registrars to access.

OPEN, for Online Priority Enhanced Names, allows pre-registrations to be purchased on a more-or-less buy-it-now basis. Names blocked or claimed in Sunrise will be refunded.

The company also said in a market update today that 12 registrars have signed Registry-Registrar Agreements, and that it expects it first new gTLDs to launch in the first quarter 2014.

TLDH ditches .roma bid after GAC trouble

Kevin Murphy, December 6, 2013, Domain Registries

Top Level Domain Holdings has withdrawn its bid for the .roma gTLD, after apparently running afoul of the Italian government.

The gTLD was to represent the city of Rome, but Italy issued the company with an Early Warning (pdf) a year ago saying the company had “No involvement or support from the local authorities” and should withdraw.

TLDH disputed this, saying in November 2012:

In fact the Company had engaged extensively with the relevant local authority and will provide supporting documentation to the Italian GAC member. Once this evidence has been submitted, the Directors believe that the objection will be withdrawn.

The warning did not escalate to full-blown Governmental Advisory Committee advice, but .roma nevertheless failed Initial Evaluation (pdf) due to the lack of documented government support with its application.

The bid was eligible for Extended Evaluation, but it seems that TLDH was unable to get the required level of support or non-objection from Italy to allow the bid to pass.

It’s the second of TLDH’s applications to get killed off by a GAC member. It withdrew its non-geo application for .spa as soon as Belgium started making noises about its own city of Spa.

The company also ditched plans to apply for .mumbai in 2011 due to confusion about whether the city’s government actually supported it or not.

TLDH and others sign first gTLD registry contracts

Kevin Murphy, November 23, 2013, Domain Registries

Top Level Domain Holdings and a few other new gTLD registries signed their first Registry Agreements with ICANN this week.

Its six new RAs were among 15 registry contracts ICANN signed this week. TLDH and its subsidiaries signed for: .horse, .cooking, .nrw (as Minds + Machine GmbH), .casa, .fishing and .budapest.

I’d heard some concerns at ICANN 48 this week about TLDH’s lack of signed contracts to date, but the concerns seem to have been misplaced.

Monolith Registry, partly owned by Afilias, has also signed RAs for .voto and .vote, the latter of which was won at auction.

Small Chinese portfolio applicant Zodiac Holdings got its second and third gTLD contracts: .商城 (“.mall”) and .八卦 (“.gossip”).

German registry I-Registry got .rich and Russian registry The Foundation for Network Initiatives got .дети (“.kids/children”).

Previously contracted parties Donuts and Uniregistry added .tools and .expert (Donuts) and .christmas (Uniregistry) to their portfolios on Friday.

The total number of new gTLDs with RAs is now about 130.