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VeriSign antitrust claims will be heard in court

VeriSign has suffered another legal setback in its antitrust court battle with the Coalition For ICANN Transparency, after an appeals court ruled that CFIT has a case to be heard.

CFIT reckons VeriSign’s deal with ICANN to run the .com registry, which has a presumptive right of renewal and allows annual price increases, breaks US competition law.

Its complaint had been thrown out of court, but was restored on appeal last year. Today, VeriSign’s request for a rehearing was rejected, meaning the case is cleared for trial.

CFIT counsel Bret Fausett tweeted this evening that it will head either back to the District Court, or to the Supreme Court.

The news couldn’t come at a worse time for VeriSign.

The company has spent the last couple of years getting out of most of its non-domain markets, epitomized by the recent sale of its SSL unit to Symantec, so it is ultra-exposed to risk and uncertainty in its highly lucrative .com business.

For that reason, I doubt this case will ever see trial. We’re looking at a settlement, most likely. VeriSign’s probably going to have to break out the check-book.

CFIT is basically a front operation for Momentous.ca, owner of aftermarket player Pool.com.

More details on the Tuvalu-VeriSign deal

VeriSign offered Tuvalu an extra $1 million a year in exchange for the continuing right to run .tv, but the tiny island nation declined, according to a new interview.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has a short audio piece over here on the strained relationship between VeriSign and Tuvalu, including an interview with finance minister Lotoala Metia.

Tuvalu gets about $2.2 million a year from VeriSign, according to the piece, but the government thinks it’s being short-changed.

VeriSign offered the country another $1 million a year, on the condition that the deal would be extended for five more years. It currently expires in 2016. Tuvalu declined.

The company declined to comment to ABC, but AusRegistry chief Adrian Kinderis stepped up to defend the deal, pointing out that VeriSign took all the risk.

Kinderis also accepted the interviewer’s suggestion that the new TLD round could leave .tv “obsolete”.

Here’s a link to the stream.

Tuvalu not happy with VeriSign deal

The government of the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu feels it’s getting a raw deal under its current contract with .tv registry manager VeriSign.

According to Radio New Zealand International, Tuvalu finance minister Lotoala Metia said VeriSign pays “peanuts” for the right to run the .tv namespace:

We are negotiating but we are tied because of the agreement that was signed before us. We cannot negotiate for an increase until 2016. Counter offers have been made but they are not acceptable to the government of the day. So we have to stick to our guns now. They’re giving us peanuts.

VeriSign, and its predecessor registry, run .tv under lease as a generic TLD. It is of course Tuvalu’s country-code. By GDP, Tuvalu is one of the poorest nations in the world.

The RNZI article reports that Tuvalu receives $2 million per year from VeriSign. That’s possibly sourced from the CIA World Factbook, which estimated that amount for 2006.

Yet the CIA also says that Tuvalu receives $1 million per quarter, based on a 12-year, $50 million deal that started in 2000.

For all these facts to be true, the deal must have been renegotiated at some point since it was originally signed.

WSJ reporting bogus Indian domain name market info?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that India “passed an Internet milestone of sorts” in the first quarter, when the number of .com domains registered in the country broke through 1 million.

Did it?

This is what the WSJ says:

[India] now has more than one million registered web sites using the suffixes .com or .net, according to data released today by VeriSign Inc., the U.S. company that tracks this sort of thing.

In its Domain Name Industry Brief, it reported that India now has a registered total of 1.037 million .com and .net domain names, up from about 800,000 in the same period the year before.

The number 1.037 million is terribly specific, considering that VeriSign’s Domain Name Industry Brief doesn’t say anything of the sort.

There’s nothing in the DNIB to suggest that anybody in India has ever registered a single .com domain.

The DNIB has never broken down .com registrations by location, and the Q1 report, released on Monday, doesn’t use the word “India” once.

If the WSJ numbers are accurate – the paper does appear to have interviewed a VeriSign India executive – I’m wondering how they were calculated.

It can’t be a case of tallying the number of .com domains managed by Indian registrars. Mumbai-based Directi alone has had more than a million .com names under its belt for a long time.

Could VeriSign be mining Whois records for location data?

It runs a thin registry, so it would have to reference Whois data acquired from its registrars in order to compute the numbers.

Or did the WSJ hit on unreliable sources? It seems possible.

Domain name industry growth slowed by China crackdown

The massive slump in Chinese domain name registrations appears to have hit the overall domain name market significantly in the first quarter 2010, slowing its growth.

According to the latest VeriSign Domain Name Industry Brief, only one million net new domains were registered across all TLDs in the period, a paltry 0.6% increase.

There were about 193 million domains active at the end of March, up from 192 million at the start of the year.

A million might seem like a lot, until you consider that the market grew by 11 million domains in the fourth quarter and by three million in the first quarter of 2009.

The slump is certainly due to the rapid decline in .cn domains.

China’s ccTLD had about 13.4 million names at the end of last year, and only 8.8 million at the end of March. April’s numbers show the decline continued, with 8.5 million names registered.

The China drag has been caused by a combination of pricing and the Draconian new identification requirements the communist government placed on the registry, CNNIC.

Chinese registrants now have to present photo ID before they can register a domain.

VeriSign’s own .com/.net business did a decent trade in the quarter, up 7% compared to the same quarter last and 2.7% on December to 99.3 million names in total.

With registrations growing by 2.7 million per month, this means VeriSign already has more than 100 million names in its com/net database.