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Web.com acquires another of the original five registrars

Consolidation in the domain industry continues apace, with Web.com bringing one of the remaining original five competitive registrars into its stable for AUD 12.2 million ($8.3 million) in cash.

It’s acquiring an Australian company called Webcentral Group, which until last month was known as ARQ Group and before that as Melbourne IT.

Webcentral also runs the retail registrars Netregistry and, in New Zealand, Domainz. It has about 330,000 customers, though not all are registrants.

Web.com says the deal gives it a deeper footprint in the Aussie, Kiwi and Southeast Asian markets.

My records show that Webcentral had about 130,000 domains under management at the end of March on its Melbourne IT tag, down by about 6,000 year over year. That’s not counting regs in ccTLDs such as .au.

Netregistry had another 113,000 gTLD domains, down from 129,000 a year earlier.

After the deal closes, Web.com will own the three oldest active registrars as measured by IANA ID — Network Solutions, Register.com and now Melbourne IT. The latter two were among the first five to go live after ICANN introduced competition at the registrar level in 1999.

For Webcentral, the deal marks the conclusion of a three-stage sell-off that started over a year ago when it sold its TPP Wholesale business to UK consolidator CentralNic.

Then, this February, it announced the sale of its enterprise unit to private equity for AUD 36 million ($25 million). It had been publicly looking for a buyer for its remaining SMB registrar business for many months.

The root cause of the sell-offs appears to be the company’s crippling debt.

Webcentral had expected to be hit unfavorably by the coronavirus pandemic, but that was largely due to its exposure to the digital marketing market, via its WME brand, rather than dwindling domain sales.

GoDaddy blamed the same problem for its recently announced layoffs.

Webcentral is currently listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. Web.com itself fell into private equity hands in a $2 billion deal in 2018.

Web.com is kicking out a racist web site. How long before it winds up at Epik?

An American news site for white nationalists says it’s been given its goose-stepping orders by Web.com unit Network Solutions, and it’s looking for a new registrar.

VDare, named after Virginia Dare, a semi-mythological American folk hero, has been publishing anti-immigration material on vdare.com under NetSol’s wing for 20 years, but the site claims the registrar has given it 10 days, until June 25, to GTFO.

According to the site, NetSol told VDare that it was in violation of its acceptable use policy and “we consider your continued use of our services a serious issue and risk to our business and corporate reputation”.

That seems plausible, given how corporate America is currently bending over backwards to prove that they support the Black Lives Matter movement.

The move seems to have come due to pressure from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a campaigning group that persuaded NetSol to dump racist forum Stormfront as a customer a few years ago (it found its new home at Tucows).

The Committee has reportedly written to NetSol twice recently, urging the company to cut Vdare loose.

Vdare says it’s looking for a new registrar, but has also obtained a .onion domain in case it needs to retreat to the “Dark Web”. The .onion space is only accessible to users of the Tor browser.

Anyone care to place a bet on how long it will be before vdare.com winds up at Epik?

Web.com got pwned

Kevin Murphy, November 4, 2019, Domain Registrars

Web.com, which owns top 20 registrars Network Solutions and Register.com, got itself and millions of its customers hacked a few months ago.

The company disclosed last week that malicious hackers broke into its network in late August, making off with customer account information.

The attack was not discovered until October 16.

The compromised data included “name, address, phone numbers, email address and information about the services that we offer to a given account holder”, Web.com said.

“We encrypt credit card numbers and no credit card data was compromised as a result of this incident,” it added.

Customers are being told to change their password next time they log in to their services.

It’s not clear how many registrants were affected. The NetSol accreditation has over seven million domains in the gTLDs alone, while Register.com has almost 1.8 million.

Web.com said it brought on a private security firm to investigate the attack, and informed US law enforcement.

Operation September Thrust leads to another million-domain Radix gTLD

Kevin Murphy, February 4, 2019, Domain Registries

Radix has become the first new gTLD portfolio registry to hit over one million domains in more than one TLD.

It said today that .site has crossed the seven-digit threshold, joining .online, which hit a million names in 2018.

It’s huge recent growth for .site, which had around 561,000 domains under management at the end of September.

Radix CEO Sandeep Ramchandani told DI today that the rapid uptick comes as a result of a marketing program internally code-named “September Thrust”.

This involved promotional pricing — Ramchandani said the cheapest a .site could have been obtained would be about $0.99 — and joint-marketing efforts with multiple registrars.

This mostly involved plugs on registrar home pages, email shots, and promotion in the “check availability” part of registrar storefronts, he said.

The latest transaction reports filed with ICANN show .site grew by about 120,000 DUM in October, with West.cn, NameCheap and Network Solutions (Web.com) the biggest beneficiaries.

NetSol’s .site DUM actually grew by about 10x in the month.

The $1 retail pricing was apparently available at some registrars prior to September, and continues to exist on storefronts today.

Wix.com obtains ICANN accreditation — bad news for Web.com?

Web site building tools provider Wix.com has got itself an ICANN accreditation, potentially bad news for current partner Web.com.

The Nasdaq-listed, Israel-based company popped up on the official registrar list in the last day or so with the IANA ID 3817.

That means it could before long start selling gTLD domains directly from the registries rather than going through its current business partner.

According to its domain services agreement and other online sources, Wix currently acts as a reseller for Network Solutions, a Web.com company.

Its retail prices are therefore, as you might expect, rather above the market average, pretty much in line with NetSol’s.

If it does choose to go solo, it could potentially pass on savings to its customers, or just pocket higher margins on domain sales.

While Wix says it has 110 million users, obviously it has sold nowhere near that number of domains.

Its relationship with NetSol is not lucrative enough for Web.com to count the relationship as a risk factor in its Securities and Exchange Commission filings, though Wix is listed as one of just a small handful of competitors.

If Web.com should lose Wix as a reseller, we won’t get to find out what impact that had on revenue; Web.com’s going private in a $2 billion deal.

Disclosure: I’ve had to listen to or skip through repetitive Wix ads on YouTube a dozen times a day for what seems like years, so I’m not naturally predisposed to like this company. Same goes for Grammarly. Grrrr!

Web.com to be acquired for $2 billion

Web.com is to go private in a deal valued at roughly $2 billion.

The company, which owns pioneering registrars Network Solutions and Register.com as well as SnapNames and half of NameJet, will be bought by an affiliate of Siris Capital Group, a private equity firm.

The cash, $25-a-share deal has been approved by the Web.com board but is still open to higher bids from third parties until August 5.

The offer is a 30% premium over Web.com’s 90-day average price prior to the deal’s announcement.

While Nasdaq-listed Web.com has briefly topped $26 over the last year, you’d have to go back five years to find it consistently over the $25 mark.

ICANN expects to lose 750 registrars in the next year

ICANN is predicting that about 750 accredited registrars will close over the next 12 months due to the over-saturation of the drop-catching market.

ICANN VP Cyrus Namazi made the estimate while explaining ICANN’s fiscal 2018 budget, which is where the projection originated, at the organization’s public meeting in South Africa last week.

He said that ICANN ended its fiscal 2017 last week with 2,989 accredited registrars, but that ICANN expects to lose about 250 per quarter starting from October until this time next year.

These almost 3,000 registrars belong to about 400 registrar families, he said.

By my estimate, roughly two thirds of the registrars are shell accreditations under the ownership of just three companies — Web.com (Namejet and SnapNames), Pheenix, and TurnCommerce (DropCatch.com).

These companies lay out millions of dollars on accreditation fees in order to game ICANN rules and get more connections to registries — mainly Verisign’s .com.

More connections gives them a greater chance of quickly registering potentially valuable domains milliseconds after they are deleted. Drop-catching, in other words.

But Namazi indicated that ICANN’s cautious “best estimate” is that there’s not enough good stuff dropping to justify the number of accreditations these three companies own.

“With the model we have, I believe at the moment the total available market for these sought-after domains that these multifamily registrars are after is not able to withstand the thousands of accreditations that are there,” he said. “Each accreditation costs quite a bit of money.”

Having a registrar accreditation costs $4,000 a year, not including ICANN’s variable and transaction fees.

“We think the market has probably gone beyond what the available market is,” he said.

He cautioned that the situation was “fluid” and that ICANN was keeping an eye on it because these accreditations fees have become material to its budget in the last few years.

If the three drop-catchers do start dumping registrars, it would reveal an extremely short shelf life for their accreditations.

Pheenix upped its registrar count by 300 and DropCatch added 500 to its already huge stable as recently as December 2016.

Web.com in takeover talks – report

Web.com is in talks to be acquired by private equity firms, according to a report.

Reuters reported last night that the registrar said the talks were “early stage” and that there was no guarantee of a deal.

Web.com is of course home to Network Solutions, Register.com and is involved in secondary market plays SnapNames and NameJet.

The company had 2016 revenue of $710 million and a market capitalization prior to the report of $1.1 billion. Its shares surged on the news.

Nigger.com returned to NAACP after expiration prompts $10,000 auction

Kevin Murphy, February 14, 2017, Gossip

US civil rights group the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has reclaimed the domain name nigger.com after it expired and went to auction.

The names nigger.org and nigger.net were also affected, but according to Whois records the NAACP restored all three yesterday.

The names had been in pending renewal/delete status for three weeks, during which time the registrant was listed as Perfect Privacy, Web.com’s proxy/privacy provider.

While expired, the .com had been placed (presumably automatically) in a NameJet auction, as first reported by Raymond Hackney at The Domains.

At time of writing, the auction had attracted 72 bids and a high offer of $10,000.

It was a “Wish List Auction”, indicating that the domain’s prior registrant had not yet exhausted all options to have the name restored.

As Hackney noted, if these domains fell into the wrong hands it could have a negative impact on race relations in the US.

But the NAACP, which first got hold of the domains almost 20 years ago, seems to have had a remarkably lackadaisical attitude to them over the last few years.

Not only did it accidentally allow the names to expire, but DomainTools and Archive.org captures show that the associated web sites had been compromised repeatedly since late 2014.

Every capture since late 2014 shows taunting, racist messages from the hackers, at least one of which associated himself with troll group the “Gay Nigger Association of America”.

Web.com policy exec moves to ICANN

Kevin Murphy, July 14, 2016, Domain Policy

Domain industry veteran Jennifer Gore is to become ICANN’s new director of registrar relations.

She takes over the role from Mike Zupke, who I gather is leaving ICANN, from next Monday. She will report to Cyrus Namazi in ICANN’s Global Domains Division.

Gore was most recently senior director of policy at Web.com, a role she held for over five years. Much of her earlier career was spent at Network Solutions and Verisign.

Her move from industry to ICANN means she has had to resign her position on the GNSO Council, where she represented the Registrars Stakeholder Group.

The RrSG will now have to hold an election to find her replacement.