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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.

Second .online gTLD bid and third ‘guardian’ dot-brand withdrawn

Directi appears to be the last man standing in the three-way tie-up for .online, following the latest new gTLD withdrawals.

Namecheap has dropped its .online application, closely following Tucows, which dropped its bid a couple of weeks ago.

The three companies announced a deal in March to see them cooperate to win the contested TLD, but at the time it wasn’t clear which applicants would pull out.

Directi’s bid (filed by DotOnline Inc under the Radix brand) remains. It has already passed Initial Evaluation, which may be part of the reason its application was chosen as the “winner”.

The gTLD is still contested, however. Directi is competing with Donuts, I-Registry and Dot Online LLC.

Separately today, a curious two-way dot-brand battle seems to have had its final twist, with Guardian Life Insurance’s withdrawal of its application for .guardianlife.

The insurance company and newspaper publisher Guardian News and Media had both applied for gTLDs containing the string “guardian”. There were originally five, but only two remain.

It now looks like Guardian News will get .theguardian, having previously conceded .guardian to its brand rival and dropping its bid for .guardianmedia.

It appears that there’s been more than a bit of strategic applying, and maybe some deal-making, here.

Neither remaining application is contested, and neither have objections. It’s likely that .guardian is captured by the Governmental Advisory Committee’s advice against “closed generics”, however.

Tucows, Directi and Namecheap to combine .online gTLD bids

Kevin Murphy, March 27, 2013, Domain Registries

Three applicants for the .online gTLD appear to have settled their differences in what I believe is the first public example of new gTLD contention set consolidation.

Tucows, Directi and Namecheap said today that that they plan to “work together to manage the .online registry.” From the press release:

applicants for the same TLDs have begun to compete, negotiate, and, in some cases, join forces to ultimately produce one winning bid.

The first such alliance was revealed today, when domain industry veterans Directi, Tucows and Namecheap announced that they would work together to manage the .online registry.

The companies are of course three of the most successful domain name registrars out there.

The press release does not specify how the combination will be carried out. Under ICANN rules, two of the applicants would have to drop their applications. It’s not possible to resubmit as a joint venture.

It also does not acknowledge that there are three other applicants for .online — Donuts and smaller portfolio applicants Dot Online LLC and I-REGISTRY Ltd — which are not party to the agreement.