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Uniregistry: sales prices down for “first time ever”

Kevin Murphy, September 19, 2017, Domain Sales

Uniregistry today said that it sold $29 million of domain names through its Uniregistry Market platform so far this year.

But the company said that average sales prices dipped for the “first time ever” over the period.

The 3,617 names it sold in the first eight months of the year went for on average $8,017 per domain, compared to $9,110 in the same 2016 period.

Average prices had been steadily rising since 2011, Uniregistry said in a press release. It blamed the reversal on “expansion into exploratory, nontraditional markets” — the mix leaning more towards new gTLDs and ccTLDs, in other words.

On the bright side, the total dollar value of sales were up to $29 million from the $25 million in the comparable period. Transactions were up 24%, the company said.

Eight months is an unusual period to report results for, making me wonder whether today’s statement is in response to some recent bad press, but as a private company I guess Uniregistry can report figures for whatever period it wishes.

The numbers, to reiterate, refer to its Uniregistry Market secondary sales platform, not its own cache of registry-reserved new gTLD domains.

GoDaddy’s reason for dumping Uniregistry doesn’t make a lot of sense

Kevin Murphy, August 24, 2017, Domain Registrars

GoDaddy, as you may have read, has again decided to dump Uniregistry’s portfolio of TLDs, following wholesale price increases.

But its explanation for the move — trying to provide its customers with a “great product experience” — doesn’t seem to tally with the way it has gone about implementing the change.

The company confirmed this week that it will no longer offer new registrations in Uniregistry’s stable of new gTLDs, but will continue to support existing customers.

The registrar’s EVP of domains, Mike McLaughlin, reportedly explained the move like this:

GoDaddy strives to provide its customers with great product experiences wherever possible. After careful consideration, we decided to stop offering new Uniregistry domain names for sale because their pricing changes caused frustration and uncertainty with our customers.

But the way GoDaddy has gone about this looks like it is set to provide anything other than a great product experience.

For starters, existing registrants of Uniregistry names will find their registrations migrated over to the wholesale registrar Hexonet, for which GoDaddy will act as reseller.

They’ll still be able to manage their names via their GoDaddy control panels, but technically GoDaddy will no longer be the registrar.

This could well add friction to the customer support process, as well as meaning Hexonet will now show up in Whois as the sponsoring registrar.

Accompanying this move is the unexplained removal of Whois privacy services for all affected domains. Registrants will get a refund for their privacy service and will have the opportunity to switch registrars to one that will support privacy.

For those that remain, suddenly their personally identifiable information will become publicly available. This could lead to an increase in complaints and support calls as registrants realize what has happened.

In terms of price, existing registrants will presumably still be affected by Uniregistry’s increases to the same extent as they were previously. Again, their customer experience has not changed.

Overall, the explanation doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense to me. I put the above points to GoDaddy and VP of domains Rich Merdinger responded, via a company spokesperson:

After we made the decision to stop supporting Uniregistry domain names, we worked to provide the best possible experience we could to our customers. We wanted them to have a transparent experience. They will log in to the same GoDaddy account and service the domain names the same way they always have. Because of the transfer of the name to a different registrar, privacy had to be removed. While this impacts a small subset of these customers, we have done everything to make this transition as smooth as possible.

It’s true that GoDaddy isn’t a big seller of Uniregistry names. It’s one of Uniregistry’s smaller channel partners and the number of Uniregistry names it’s sold — measured in the thousands — is a drop in the ocean of the over 55 million gTLD names it currently has under management.

The two companies are also competitors, it probably should be noted.

But while Uniregistry’s registrar seems to be have been well-received by customers, and its domain volume has grown rapidly in the last three years, it still only had about 1.5 million domains under management at the last count; hardly an existential threat to the Scottsdale behemoth.

It should also be noted that GoDaddy is not the only registrar to distance itself from Uniregistry.

NameCheap also recently discontinued support for the TLDs that are experiencing the biggest price increases. Tucows announced a similar move in May.

GoDaddy had already said it would drop Uniregistry once before, but changed its mind, before changing it back again.

Uniregistry sale leads to BBC telling millions that domainers exist

Kevin Murphy, June 28, 2017, Domain Sales

The BBC dedicated five minutes of prime-time air to telling the British public that domainers exist, after a Uniregistry domain name sale led to interest from producers.

The One Show appears on BBC One at 7pm five days a week. It’s the BBC’s flagship magazine program and appears to currently have about 3.5 million viewers per day.

It’s notorious for its hosts’ often jarring segues between sycophantic interviews with visiting celebrities and prerecorded human interest stories covering everything from people who collect doylies to people who are dying from AIDS.

In Friday’s episode — guest-hosted by Jerry Springer, no less — the first VT of the show is about domainers.

Regular host Alex Jones points out that while Springer and guest Rita Ora own their matching .com domains, fellow guest Tracey Ullman’s .com name is on the market for $795 (it’s registered to HugeDomains, but that isn’t mentioned).

Ullman laughs, and the UDRP-fodder is never mentioned again.

Cut to VT.

The roving reporter, whose name is not given, tells us that there are 335 million domains on the internet today, anyone can come up with one, and that “there are other people out there known as ‘domain dealers’ who buy these domains and sell them on for hundreds, thousands, or even millions of pounds”.

Brit domainer Graham Haynes is then introduced as “one of the first people to buy and sell domains”. He says he sold a portfolio of domains for £1.5 million ($1.91 million at today’s exchange rate) and spent $600,000 on furniture.co.uk.

Haynes says domains are always going up in value so he always tries to hold on as long as he can before he sells.

Then we get a few seconds over Skype with Aron Meystedt, who bought first-ever .com Symbolics.com eight years ago and says the name as been a “good cornerstone” of his portfolio. He uses the word “domainer” for the first time.

Then our reporter says she wants to find out whether she has what it takes to be a domainer.

We’re introduced to 25-year-old domainer Simon Whipps, who says he buys domains for £10 to £20 and sells them to end users for about £1,000.

The reporter hands him a list of domains she’s come up with and gives him half an hour to tell her whether they’re worth anything or not.

Then we’re off to the Cayman Islands, where a Londoner identified only as “Mo” lives. It’s presented as if he’s living the high life on a beach having made a killing from domains.

I believe he’s Mohammed Khan, a broker from Uniregistry. He says he helped broker personalloans.com ($1 million) and kiwi.com ($800,000).

Then it’s into the Uniregistry office, where a VP identified (mistakenly, it turns out) as “Alan Schwartz” mentions that he helped broker the $13 million sale of sex.com.

Back to Whipps, who tells the reporter than the only two domains on her list worth a damn are christmas.net and adventure.net. Given she owns neither, it’s not clear how she came up with these picks.

All in all, it’s a strange, thin, directionless fluff piece with nothing to say about domaining other than the fact that it exists. It could have been produced at basically any time in the last 15 years with barely any changes.

According to Uniregistry CEO Frank Schilling, the item came about as a result of interest from producers after Uniregistry made an aftermarket sale to somebody involved in the show.

It’s not clear who the buyer was or what the domain was, but apparently the kernel of the idea of the piece came about “organically” as a result of the deal.

After price hike, now Tucows drops support for Uniregistry TLDs

Tucows is to drop OpenSRS support for nine Uniregistry gTLDs after the registry announced severe price increases.

The registrar told OpenSRS resellers that it will no longer support .audio, .juegos, .diet, .hiphop, .flowers, .guitars, .hosting, .property and .blackfriday from September 8, the date the increases kick in.

It’s the second major registrar, after GoDaddy, to drop support for Uniregistry TLDs in the wake of the pricing news.

“The decision to discontinue support for these select TLDs was made to protect you and your customers from unknowingly overpaying in a price range well beyond $100 per year,” OpenSRS told its resellers.

It will continue to support seven other Uniregistry gTLDs, including .click and .link, which are seeing more modest price increases and will remain at $50 and under.

While Tucows is a top 10 registrar in most affected TLDs, its domains under management across the nine appears to be under 3,000.

These domains will expire at their scheduled expiry date and OpenSRS will not allow their renewal after the September 8 cut-off. Customers will be able to renew at current prices for one to 10 years, however.

Tucows encouraged its roughly 40,000 resellers to offer to migrate their customers to other TLDs.

Uniregistry revealed its price increases in March, saying moving to a premium-pricing model was necessary to make the gTLDs profitable given the lack of volume.

Pricing for .juegos and .hosting is to go up from under $20 retail to $300. The other seven affected gTLDs will increase from the $10 to $25 range to $100 per year.

After GoDaddy pulled support for Uniregistry TLDs, the registry modified its plan to enable all existing registrations to renew at current prices.

That clearly was not enough for Tucows, which has sent a pretty clear message that it’s not prepared to be the public face of such significant price hikes.

Uniregistry and Neustar have TLDs approved in China

Kevin Murphy, April 13, 2017, Domain Registries

China’s April batch of approved TLDs has been released, featuring three domains from Neustar and Uniregistry.

Neustar had its longstanding, 2000-round .biz pass regulatory scrutiny, while Uniregistry’s .link and .auto have also been approved.

While .auto is managed by Cars Registry, a joint venture with XYZ.com, its stablemates .car and .cars do not appear to have yet been approved.

The rubberstamping was made by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which administers the country’s stringent regulatory framework.

Clearance means that customers of Chinese registrars will actually be able to deploy and use the names they buy.

The registries have also agreed to strict takedown policies for Chinese registrants.

While MIIT appears to be announcing newly approved TLDs on a monthly basis, it’s a slow drip-feed. I believe there are still fewer than 20 Latin-script gTLDs currently cleared for use in China.