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TLDH reveals new gTLD launch strategy

Kevin Murphy, November 18, 2013, Domain Registries

Top Level Domain Holdings will announce its go-to-market strategy — including .tv-style premium names pricing and its launch as a registrar — at an event at ICANN 48 in Buenos Aires this evening.

The company, which is involved in 60 new gTLD applications as applicant and 75 as a back-end provider, is also revealing a novel pre-registration clearinghouse that will be open to almost all applicants.

First off, it’s launching Minds + Machines Registrar, an affiliated registrar through which it will sell domain names in its own and third-party TLDs.

Instead of a regular name suggestion tool, it’s got a browsable directory of available names, something that I don’t recall seeing at a registrar before.

Searching “murphy.casa”, I was offered lots of other available domains in the “English Surnames” category, for example.

Until TLDH actually has some live gTLDs, the site will be used to take paid-for pre-registrations, or “Priority Reservations” using a new service that TLDH is calling the Online Priority Enhanced Names database, which painfully forces the acronym “OPEN”.

Pre-registrations in .casa, .horse and .cooking will cost €29.95 ($40), the same as the expected regular annual reg fee. It’s first-come first-served — no auctions — and the fee covers the first year of registration.

If the name they pay for is claimed by a trademark holder during the mandatory Sunrise period, or is on the gTLD’s collisions block-list, registrants get a full refund, TLDH CEO Antony Van Couvering said.

He added that any applicant for a new gTLD that is uncontested and has an open registration policy will be able to plug their gTLDs into the OPEN system.

PeopleBrowsr is already on the system with its uncontested .ceo and .best gTLDs, priced at $99.95.

No other registrars are signed up yet but Van Couvering reckons it might be attractive to registrars that have already taken large amounts of no-fee expressions of interest.

TLDH plans to charge registries and registrars a €1 processing fee (each, so TLDH gets €2) for each pre-registration that is sold through the system.

For “premium” names, the company has decided to adopt the old .tv model of charging high annual fees instead of a high initial fee followed by the standard renewal rate.

Van Couvering said a domain that might have been priced at $100,000 to buy outright might instead be sold for $10,000 a year.

“Because we want to encourage usage, we don’t want to charge a huge upfront fee,” he said. “We’d really like to make premium names available to people who will actually use them.”

Looking at the aforementioned English Surnames category on the new M+M site, I see that jackson.casa will cost somebody €5,179.95 a year, whereas nicholson.casa will cost the basic €29.95.

Two other new gTLDs, .menu and .build, have already revealed variable pricing strategies, albeit slightly different.

TLDH raises $5 million from gTLD auctions

Kevin Murphy, October 25, 2013, Domain Registries

Top Level Domain Holdings made almost $5 million by losing auctions for the .lawyer and .website gTLDs this week, according to the company.

The London-listed company told the markets today that it has added £2.97 million ($4.81 million) to its coffers as a result of the auctions, in which Radix won .website and Donuts won .lawyer.

The number is net of the 4% cut taken by Innovative, which conducted the auctions, and the two $65,000 refunds TLDH will receive from ICANN when it withdraws the applications.

Some portion of the $4.8 million TLDH will have received from Donuts, where .lawyer was a two-horse race.

Radix’s winning bid for .website will have been split evenly between TLDH and Donuts.

At least one of these TLDs seems to have sold for significantly more than the average private auction selling price, which was $1.33 million after the first 14 Innovative auctions.

Innovative has managed auctions for 18 strings, but we don’t know the total price of the latest four.

The .website and .lawyer deals means TLDH now has £10.1 million ($16.3 million) in cash reserves, according to a company press release.

It still has 43 contested applications, however. On a $16 million budget — quite a lot less than some of its portfolio rivals — the company is going to have to make some smart tactical moves to maximize its gTLD portfolio.

“Our strategy remains to best monetise those applications where we see least value so that we can maximise our ability to acquire those names in which we see greatest value,” chairman Fred Krueger said in the press release.

It still has stakes in 25 uncontested gTLDs.

NOTE: An earlier version of this story contained inaccurate statements — failing to take into account that .website was a three-way contest — about the average selling price of new gTLDs at auction.

Donuts wins three new gTLD auctions

Kevin Murphy, October 24, 2013, Domain Registries

Donuts has added .lawyer, .fish and .discount to its portfolio of new gTLDs, having won private auctions against its competitors for the strings this week.

It beat Top Level Domain Holdings for .lawyer and WhatBox for .fish and .discount, according to a blog post from Innovative Auctions, which managed the auction.

The winning bids were, as usual, not disclosed. The losing bidders receive most of the cash the winning bidder was willing to pay.

The three auctions were part of a surprisingly small batch that included .website, where Radix beat TLDH yesterday. Innovative says it has settled 18 contention sets to date.

The gTLD strings .discount and .lawyer are still subject to Governmental Advisory Committee “Category 1” advice, meaning the GAC wants them to be regulated for consumer protection reasons.

Directi’s Radix wins .website gTLD auction

Kevin Murphy, October 23, 2013, Domain Registries

Directi-affiliated TLD registry Radix, has won the private auction for the .website gTLD, according to Radix.

The company beat rival portfolio applicants Donuts and Top Level Domain Holdings to the string, in an auction that was managed by Innovative Auctions, likely one of several going on this week.

There’s no outstanding Governmental Advisory Committee advice or objections to the Radix application, so its path to contracting and eventual delegation should be relatively uncontroversial now.

The price was undisclosed, Innovative’s standard terms.

Directi is in the process of being acquired by Endurance International, owner of Domain.com, which promised Radix up to $62 million to help with its gTLD auctions.

Uniregistry wins .gift and AOL yanks .patch bid

Kevin Murphy, August 16, 2013, Domain Registries

Three more new gTLD applications were withdrawn today, only one of which was related to this week’s previously reported batch of private auctions.

First, Famous Four Media has pulled out of the .gift race with Uniregistry, presumably after some kind of deal. They were the only two applicants, meaning Uniregistry wins the contention set.

Potentially complicating matters, there are also two applicants for .gifts — if the plural/singular debate is reopened, which seems possible after today’s events, it might not be over yet.

Second, AOL withdrew its application for .patch, which was to be a single-registrant space for its Patch-branded network of local web sites.

This seems to be connected to cost-cutting at AOL.

Last week, the company fired Patch’s creative director in front of 1,000 colleagues and announced it was cutting the number of sites in the network.

Today, it started laying off almost half of Patch’s 1,100 employees, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Third, Top Level Domain Holdings withdrew from the .guide contention set, leaving Donuts the winner — a formality following this week’s Innovative Auctions auction, which it lost.