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Uniregistry not happy about Donuts-Tucows deal

Kevin Murphy, August 5, 2013, Domain Registries

Uniregistry would never have withdrawn its applications for .media and .marketing if it had known that Tucows would later take money from Donuts to also withdraw, according to CEO Frank Schilling.

Schilling told DI tonight that Uniregistry had pulled out of both new gTLD contention sets after having made a deal with Tucows, the details of which he was unable to explain due to a non-disclosure agreement.

But he said that the deal would never have happened if he’d known the eventual outcome.

“Tucows left us under the impression that they were going to win this and had I known that they would fold in a subsequent private auction I would not have done this,” he said.

Tucows withdrew its bids for .media and .marketing weeks after Uniregistry, after making its own deal with Donuts, which is now the sole remaining applicant for the two strings.

As reported earlier today, Tucows and Donuts settled the two contention sets with a “cut and choose” arrangement, where Tucows named the price at which it was willing to withdraw and Donuts could choose to buy its withdrawals or sell its own withdrawals for the same price.

Donuts characterized the deal as a kind of private auction.

Uniregistry is on record as saying it doesn’t like the idea of private auctions, which it believes may fall foul of US antitrust law.

Donuts says Tucows deal “just another type of private auction”

Kevin Murphy, August 5, 2013, Domain Registries

Donuts has confirmed that it paid Tucows for the rights to the .media and .marketing new gTLDs, but says it was actually “just another type of private auction”.

The existence of a deal for the two strings emerged in a tongue-in-cheek Tucows video on Friday.

I blogged over the weekend that it was the first example I was aware of of Donuts settling a contention set outside of the private auction process it helped kick-start with Innovative Auctions.

But in a statement sent to DI today, Donuts characterized the Tucows deal as auction-like, saying:

Contention was resolved privately between the two applicants by a “cut and choose” method, whereby Tucows named a price at which it would withdraw its applications, and Donuts would decide either to “buy” or “sell” the position as sole remaining applicant.

Donuts elected to pay Tucows its stated price, and Donuts will continue as the sole applicant and exclusive operator for both TLDs, with no joint venture or revenue sharing agreement with any party.

Donuts remains strongly committed to private auctions as the preferred method of resolving contention for its applications and this was just another type of private auction.

Spoof video reveals Donuts paid Tucows for two gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, August 3, 2013, Domain Registries

This has to be the strangest way to announce a new gTLD partnership to date.

Judging by a spoof video uploaded to YouTube yesterday, Tucows withdrew its applications for the .media and .marketing new gTLDs after receiving a pay-off from rival applicant Donuts.

Presented as “the hotly contested .media and .marketing gTLD bout” between Tucows CEO Elliot Noss and Donuts co-founder Jon Nevett, the video humorously documents the negotiation process.

If you don’t have four minutes to spare, or if awkward office-based spoof videos make you want to beat yourself to death with a bright red stapler, here’s the money shot:

Noss v Nevett

While I’ve not yet received confirmation that the video is based on true events (it’s Saturday), the facts all fit.

Tucows withdrew both its .media and .marketing applications around July 26, according to the DI PRO new gTLD timeline, giving Donuts a clear run at delegation.

Uniregistry was the only other applicant in both contention sets, but withdrew its applications for .media and .marketing July 19 and June 21 respectively.

There’s nothing in the video to suggest that Uniregistry made a similar deal, but it seems likely.

It’s the first example I’m aware of of Donuts settling a contention set outside of the private auction process.

Tucows and TLDH buddy up on three gTLD auctions

Kevin Murphy, August 2, 2013, Domain Registries

Top Level Domain Holdings and Tucows have made a complex deal on new gTLD applications for .store, .tech and .group.

The partnership will see TLDH take a majority stake in .group, which it hasn’t also applied for, while Tucows will take minority interests in .tech and .store, which it in turn has not also applied for.

All three strings are heading to auction, with four applicants for .group, five for .tech, and six for .store.

How much each company owns of each registry will depend on how much they contribute to a winning auction bid.

TLDH CEO Antony Van Couvering said in a press release:

By combining our financial resources on these three domains not only are our chances of success improved in the auction round, but TLDH has the opportunity to acquire an interest in an additional top-level domain, .GROUP.

Tucows already plans to use TLDH subsidiary Minds + Machines as the registry back-end for the five new gTLDs it has applied for.

DomainsBot to be “at the heart” of new gTLD sales

DomainsBot, which powers the name suggestion feature on most major registrar storefronts, has unveiled a significant update designed to make selling new gTLD domains easier.

The company reckons its new technology will soon be promoted from a follow-up sales tool, rolled out if a customer’s first choice of domain is not available, to “replacing the availability check” entirely.

“The idea is to be at the heart of the process of promoting new gTLDs,” CEO Emiliano Pasqualetti told DI.

The idea is pretty straightforward: a customer types a word into a search box, the service suggests available domain names with conceptually similar TLDs.

There’s a demo online already. If you type “chocolate”, it suggests domains such as chocolate.food, chocolate.menu and chocolate.health. Domain Name Wire did a quick test run today too.

While it may not be perfect today, it was pretty good at finding appropriate TLDs for the keywords I tested.

And Pasqualetti said that under the hood is a machine learning engine that will make its suggestions increasingly more relevant as new gTLD domains start to go on sale.

“It tries to predict which TLD we need to show to each individual using a combination of their query, their IP address and as much history as we can legally collect in partnership with registrars,” Pasqualetti said.

If, for example, customers based in London show a tendency to buy lots of .london domains but hardly ever .rome, Londoners will start to see .london feature prominently on their registrar’s home page.

“We learn from each registrar what people search for and what people end up buying,” he said.

Some registrars may start using the software in their pre-registration portals, increasing relevance before anything actually goes on sale, he said.

My feeling is that this technology could play a big role in which new gTLDs live or die, depending on how it is implemented and by which registrars.

Today, DomainsBot powers the suggestion engine for the likes of Go Daddy, eNom, Tucows and Moniker. Pasqualetti reckons about 10% of all the domains being sold are sold via its suggestions.

Judging by today’s press release, registrars are already starting to implement the new API. Melbourne IT, Tucows and eNom are all quoted, but Pasqualetti declined to specify precisely how they will use the service.

It’s been widely speculated that Go Daddy plans to deploy an automated “pay for placement” system — think AdSense for domains — to determine which TLDs get prominence on its storefront.

Pasqualetti said that’s the complete opposite of what DomainsBot is offering.

“We’re relevance for placement,” he said. “We want to give every TLD a chance to thrive, as long as they’re relevant for the end user.”

According to Pasqualetti (and most other people I’ve been talking to recently) there are a lot of new gTLD applicants still struggling to figure out how to market their TLDs via registrars.

There are about 550 “commercially interesting” applied-for gTLD strings in the DomainsBot system right now, he said. New gTLD applicants may want to make sure they’re one of them.

Next week, the company will reveal more details about how it plans to work with new gTLD registries specifically.