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Donuts may make .travel names easier to buy after acquiring its first legacy gTLD

Kevin Murphy, February 14, 2018, Domain Registries

Donuts has added .travel to its swelling portfolio of gTLDs, under a deal with original registry Tralliance announced today.

It’s the company’s first acquisition of a legacy, pre-2012 gTLD, and the first “community” gTLD to join its stable of strings, which now stands at 239.

.travel went live in 2005, a part of ICANN’s 2003 round of “sponsored” TLD applications.

As a sponsored TLD, .travel has eligibility and authentication requirements, but executive vice president Jon Nevett told DI that Donuts will look at “tinkering with” the current process to make domains easier to buy.

The current system requires what amounts to basically a self-declaration that you belong to the travel community, he said, but you have to visit the registry’s web site to obtain an authentication code before a registrar will let you buy a .travel domain.

Given that the community captured by .travel is extremely broad — you could be somebody blogging about their vacations and qualify — it seems to be a barrier of limited usefulness.

Nevett said Donuts has no immediate plans to migrate the TLD away from the Neustar back-end upon which it currently sits.

The rest of its portfolio runs on its own in-house registry platform, and one imagines that .travel will wind up there one day.

While .travel is one of Donuts most-expensive domains — priced at $99 retail at its own Name.com registrar — Nevett said there are no plans to cut pricing as yet.

There may be discounts, he said, and possibly promotions involving bundling with other travel-related gTLDs in its portfolio.

Donuts already runs .city, .holiday, .flights, .cruises, .vacations and several other thematically synergistic name spaces.

.travel had about 18,000 domains registered at the last count, with EnCirca, Name.com, 101domain, Key-Systems and CSC Corporate as its top five registrars.

It peaked 10 years ago at just under 215,000 registrations, largely due to to speculative bulk registrations made by parties connected to the registry that were dumped a couple of years later.

It’s been at under 20,000 names for the last five years, shrinking by small amounts every year.

The price of the acquisition was not disclosed.

URS coming to .travel under big contract changes

The .travel gTLD, which was approved 10 years ago, will have to support the Uniform Rapid Suspension service, one of several significant changes proposed for its ICANN contract.

I believe it’s the first legacy gTLD to agree to use URS, which gives trademark owners a way to remove domain names that infringe their marks that is quicker and cheaper than UDRP.

Tralliance, the registry, saw its .travel Registry Agreement expire earlier this month. It’s been extended and the proposed new version, based on the New gTLD Registry Agreement, is now open for public comment.

While the adoption of URS may not have much of a direct impact — .travel is a restricted TLD with fewer than 20,000 names under management — it sets an interesting precedent.

IP interests have a keen interest in having URS cover more than just 2012-round gTLDs. They want it to cover .com, .org, .net and the rest too.

Domain investors, meanwhile, are usually cautious about any changes that tilt the balance of power in favor of big brands.

When .biz, .org and .info came up for renewal in 2013, the Intellectual Property Constituency filed comments asking for URS to be implemented in the new contracts, but the request was not heard.

I’m aware of two ccTLDs — .pw and .us — that voluntarily adopted URS in their zones.

Other changes include a requirement for all .travel registrars, with the exception of those already selling .travel domains, to be signatories of the stricter 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement.

That’s something Afilias and Neustar only agreed to put in their .info and .biz contracts if Verisign agrees to the same provisions for .com and .net.

The fees Tralliance pays ICANN have also changed.

It currently pays $10,000 in fixed fees every year and $2 per billable transaction. I estimate this works out at something like $40,000 to $50,000 a year.

The proposed new contract has the same fees as 2012-round new gTLDs — a $25,000 fixed fee and $0.25 per transaction. The transaction fee only kicks in after 50,000 names, however, and that’s volume .travel hasn’t seen in over five years.

Tralliance will probably save itself thousands under the new deal.

The contract public comment forum can be found here.

Marriott: we probably won’t use .hotel

Kevin Murphy, November 3, 2011, Domain Registries

Could .hotel be the next .travel?

That’s one view that emerged from a conference organized by the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse discussing ICANN’s new generic top-level domains program earlier this week.

“We think .hotel will launch,” Elizabeth Escobar, a senior IP lawyer with the hotel chain Marriott, said during one session at What’s At Stake on Tuesday. “We will probably blanket .hotel with a slew of defensive registrations most of which, like .travel, we will never use.”

Does she have a point?

The most prominent .hotel applicant, Luxembourg-based DotHotel, is backed by the International Hotel & Restaurant Association, suggesting that the concept does enjoy some support.

.travelBut restricted gTLD have performed poorly in the past. The .travel space, which launched in 2006, is generally regarded as having failed to live up to expectations.

It’s currently a 26,000-domain gTLD, and has only ever topped 50,000 domains under management due to a desperate, experimental foray into pay-per-click speculation.

It’s barely making enough money to fulfill its financial commitments to former owner TheGlobe.com, which acquired the original registry, Tralliance, during the later stages of its own death rattle, before .travel ever had a chance to execute.

But its lackluster performance is also no doubt also a result of its restrictive registration policies, which may well be mimicked by a .hotel gTLD approved next year, and its lack of channel adoption.

Could a .hotel succeed, where .travel has (so far) failed, if leading hotel chains see it purely as a defensive play?

Uber-short .travel domains up for grabs

Kevin Murphy, November 1, 2010, Domain Registries

Tralliance, the .travel registry, is to allocate one and two-character domains for the first time, via a request for proposals process.

For the month of December, interested parties will be able to apply to register almost any single or double-character domain without having to pay a tonne at auction. Tralliance said:

This will be your best chance to register a high value domain name in one of the most active industries on the Internet, without paying a premium price, simply by giving us your best ideas for how you will promote your names and .Travel.

This appears to be similar to co-marketing offers made in other TLD registries, such as .biz and .mobi, over the last couple of years.

All the letters of the alphabet and all the numerals will be available. Of the two-letter combinations, only strings matching existing country-code TLDs, such as US and UK, are prohibited.

Tralliance said it will release the names in phases, and that a “very limited” number will be available following the December round.

It’s particularly keen on ideas that somehow tie one super-short .travel domain to a bunch of other normally registered .travels, for maximum visibility.

Tralliance received authorization from ICANN to release these short names in August.

.travel domains to be opened to all

Kevin Murphy, August 31, 2010, Domain Registries

Attention domainers. The .travel registry wants your business.

Tralliance has become the latest of the sponsored top-level domain registries to decide it needs to loosen the shackles of sponsorship and target a more general user base.

Its sponsor, The Travel Partnership Corporation, has quietly changed the policies governing .travel in order to substantially liberalize the namespace.

I say quietly, because the policy changes were published August 20 and there does not appear to have been any coverage yet beyond TTPC’s own site and this press release from a registrar today.

The new policy document contains only two small changes, but they have big implications.

The first is to add a new category of approved registrant to the existing list, which includes hotels, airlines and so on. The new category is:

Creators and providers of travel and tourism products, services and content.

This seems to be general enough to exclude nobody, especially when one puts it in the context of the second big change that TTPC is proposing, which seems to allow domain parking.

Currently, the registry policies state that all .travel domains need to resolve to active travel-related web sites or email addresses. That restriction is to be dumped entirely.

In fact, the word “restriction” has been replaced with “incentive”. This is from the redlined policy doc:

The Registry has the discretion to develop restrictions incentives for on use of any domain name, such restrictions incentives to apply to any name registration that occurs after such restrictions come into effect. Restrictions may include, but are not limited to, a requirement to develop a website that uses the registered name, to ensure that each registered name resolves to a working website

No such incentives are included, but I’d guess that they may end up looking a little like the recent moves by .jobs and .co to engage in joint marketing deals with companies willing to promote the TLD.

The upshot of all this is that it appears that .travel domains will soon be close to unrestricted. Registrants will still have to undergo a one-time authentication process, but that’s looking increasingly like a formality.

The policy changes take effect September 20. It doesn’t look like they would disenfranchise anybody, except perhaps those who considered .travel an exclusive club, so I doubt there’ll be the same kind of outcry that .jobs recently saw.

The .travel domain launched in October 2005. As of April 2010, it had 47,338 active registrations.