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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.

Uniregistry to grandfather existing domains before big price increases

Uniregistry has backtracked on its plan to hike renewal fees on thousands of domain name registrations.

CEO Frank Schilling described the U-turn, which followed a ferocious backlash from domain investors, as “the right thing to do”.

The company had announced price increases across 16 of its 27 gTLDs that in one case exceeded 3,000% but in many more cases represented increases in the hundreds of percent.

The increases were to apply to new and renewing registrations, and Schilling had said that they were necessary to keep the affected TLDs afloat.

But domainers were furious, taking to blogs and message boards to announce and decry the death of all new gTLDs.

Leading registrar Go Daddy soon said that it would no longer sell Uniregistry TLDs, at least temporarily.

But yesterday Uniregistry announced a change of heart, providing an unusually detailed account of the thought process leading to the price increases that’s worth quoting at length.

“The registration providers we consulted reported that differentiating prices based on the time of the registration was technically difficult and confusing for customers,” said Bret Fausett, head of the Registry Services Team. “Based on that feedback, and considering the small number of registrants affected, we made the difficult decision to raise prices for all registrants.”

“After the announcement, however, we, and our registration partners, have heard clearly from our end users that the ability to register ten-years at the existing price does not ameliorate the pain of subsequent price increases for registrants facing substantial price increases,” said Mr. Fausett. “So, for the names in our highest-priced tiers, the price changes will affect only new registrations. We are asking our registration partners to do whatever is necessary to enable this approach.”

“Creating a legacy tier of prices for inaugural registrants in our niche, premium top-level domains is technically more difficult,” said Frank Schilling, Managing Director of Uniregistry, “but it’s the right thing to do for those pioneering individuals and companies who have staked their claims in the new Internet real estate.”

In other words, if you register a name in the affected gTLDs before September 8, your renewal fee will be at the current lower level.

Whether this will be enough to mitigate Uniregistry’s reputational damage in the domainer community remains to be seen.

But the company also said it plans to overhaul its premium names pricing by the end of the second quarter, scrapping the multi-tier pricing approach in favor of a one-size-fits-all menu.

Schilling said that price reductions will affect “millions” of reserved names and mean “hundreds of millions” of dollars of hypothetical value have been wiped from the portfolio.

Schilling expects GoDaddy to return after dumping Uniregistry gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, March 14, 2017, Domain Registries

Uniregistry CEO Frank Schilling has expressed his “surprise” that GoDaddy has decided to stop selling his company’s gTLDs, but said he expects the registrar to return in future.

GoDaddy’s decision to stop new registrations and inbound transfers for Uniregistry’s portfolio of gTLDs came after the registry revealed price increases for 16 strings that ranged from nominal to over 3,000%.

The registrar told Domain Name Wire yesterday that Uniregistry’s move presented “an extremely poor customer experience” and “does not reflect well on the domain name industry”.

Registrars are of course the customer-facing end of the domain name industry, and the burden of explaining renewal price increases of 5x falls on their shoulders.

But Schilling seems to expect the ban to be temporary.

“We are extremely surprised by GoDaddy’s reaction but are pleased that our extensions are available at many other registrars who support our approach. We remain ready to support GoDaddy when they decide on a path which works for their customers,” he told DI today.

“We expect them to return,” he added.

It’s a plausible prediction. GoDaddy’s statement to DNW said Uniregistry had been cut off “until we can assess the impact on our current and potential customers”, which suggests it’s not necessarily permanent.

GoDaddy is Uniregistry’s first or second-largest registrar in most of the affected gTLDs.

But because the gTLDs in question have so few domains in them, the number of GoDaddy-sponsored domains is typically under 1,000 per gTLD.

Even in the much larger zones of .click and .link (which are receiving small price increases and will still wholesale for under $10), GoDaddy’s exposure is just a few thousand domains and it’s nowhere near the market leader.

I wonder how much of GoDaddy’s decision to drop Uniregistry has to do with the reaction from domain investors.

Ever since DI broke the news of the price increases a week ago, there’s been a stream of angry domainer blog and forum posts, condemning Schilling and Uniregistry for the decision and using the move as a stick to batter the whole new gTLD program.

For registrars, it doesn’t necessarily strike me a terrible deal.

While they will have to deal with customer fallout, over the longer term higher wholesale prices means bigger margins.

Registrars are already adding about a hundred bucks to the $300 cost of a .game domain, and the price increase from $10 to $300 of the Spanish equivalent, .juegos, likely means similar margins there too.