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.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 Neither has withdrawn their applications yet.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?

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.