The Chinese government has granted licenses to operate in the country to its first tranche of new gTLDs — .vip, .club and .xyz.
The agreements mean that Chinese registrars will be able to give their Chinese customers the ability to actually use their domains for web sites.
It also means the companies will be obliged to censor domains the government does not like, but only those domains registered via Chinese registrars.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced the licenses, given to the Chinese subsidiaries of Minds + Machines, .CLUB Domains and XYZ.com respectively, today.
M+M CEO Toby Hall told DI that it’s “a great moment of support for Chinese registrars”, giving them a “very clear signal about which TLDs they can focus on”.
XYZ.com said in a blog post that some of its Chinese registrars (its biggest channel) are planning on offering discounts to celebrate the approval.
It’s always been possible for Chinese people to register new gTLD domains via Chinese registrars — it’s estimated that 42% of the 27 million new gTLD domains in existence today are Chinese-owned.
However, Chinese citizens need a government license if they want to launch a web site, and the government only issues licenses for domains in approved TLDs.
In addition to .cn and China-based gTLDs, which were the first to be given the nod, Verisign was approved earlier this year for .com.
Hall said that while .vip has been popular with Chinese domainers, the MIIT license means it can start to tap the small business market there too.
Obtaining the license means that the three registries, which are all based in the US or Europe, will have to comply with Chinese regulations when it comes to Chinese customers.
That basically means the Chinese government gets to censor pretty much anything it doesn’t like, up to and including sites that “spread rumors”.
Hall said that there’s no chance of this censorship bleeding out to affect non-Chinese customers.
M+M, along with XYZ and .CLUB, are using Chinese registry gateway ZDNS to act as a proxy between their own back-ends (Nominet for .vip, Neustar for .club and CentralNic for .xyz) and Chinese registrars.
“All of our Chinese web sites go through ZDNS, so only web sites going through ZDNS would be affected,” Hall said, referring to the censorship rules.
Hall added that he was “not aware” of there being a blocklist of politically sensitive strings that Chinese customers are not allowed to register.
NameCheap may have sold over a million .xyz domains, but apparently it will sell no more than that.
The registrar confirmed to DI this evening that it is no longer taking .xyz registrations. It declined to explain why.
It has also stopped selling .college and .rent domains — two other gTLDs owned by XYZ.com. Other new gTLDs are not affected.
It’s reportedly not accepting inbound transfers either, though existing domains can be renewed.
The switch-off happened at the end of last month, a NameCheap representative said.
That’s just one month after the registrar celebrated its one millionth .xyz registration, which XYZ.com commemorated with a blog post bigging up NameCheap’s user-customers.
The move is peculiar indeed. NameCheap is the third highest-volume .xyz registrar, behind West.cn and Uniregistry, responsible for about 15% of .xyz’s domains under management.
It’s also NameCheap’s biggest direct-selling gTLD by a considerable margin.
NameCheap is well-known as primarily an eNom reseller — it accounts for 28% of eNom’s domains under management and 18% of its revenue, largely from .com sales.
But with new gTLDs it has started selling domains on its own IANA ticker, meaning a direct connection to the registry and more gross profit for itself.
According to June’s registry reports, the million .xyz names accounted for roughly two thirds of NameCheap’s total DUM (not counting names sold via eNom).
The closet rival in its portfolio is .online, which provided the registrar with about 81,000 DUM.
The registrar added about 350,000 .xyz domains in June, a month in which it briefly offered them at $0.02 each.
At that time, the company reported technical issues that led to a 12-24 hour backlog of registrations to process, though its blog post announcing the problem appears to have since been deleted.
NameCheap has declined to comment on the reason for the surprise move, and XYZ did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The fact that all of XYZ.com’s TLDs have been cut off suggests some kind of dispute between the two companies, but the fact that renewals can still be processed would suggest that NameCheap has not lost its .xyz accreditation.
More info if I get it…
XYZ.com has hired its first Beijing-based employee, as part of its ongoing plan to formally enter the Chinese market.
The company said yesterday that it has appointed Mason Zhang, until recently chief marketing office at .top gTLD registry Jiangsu Bangning Science & Technology Co, as its new director of business development for China.
It’s part of XYZ’s seemingly interminable entry to the Chinese market, which is over a year old.
While the majority of .xyz’s registrations have been into China, the registry (along with pretty much every other Western registry) still does not have the necessary government permissions so that its customers can start using their names.
The company said in a blog post that it expects to get its Chinese accreditation “very soon”.
Zhang’s former employer, .top, is second only to .xyz in terms of new gTLD registration volume, also due to Chinese sales. It has about 3.7 million names in its zone file, compared to .xyz’s 6.1 million.
New gTLDs were responsible for the large majority of domain name industry volume growth in the second quarter, but you’d never know it reading Verisign’s latest Domain Name Industry Brief.
The domain universe increased to 334.6 million names at the end of June, according to the latest DNIB, which was published (pdf) last week.
That’s a 8.2 million increase on the 326.4 million it reported in its Q1 DNIB report (pdf).
Verisign reports the increase as 7.9 million, possibly due to new data that emerged after the Q1 report was published.
Whether it was 7.9 million or 8.2 million, most of the growth was due to new gTLDs.
In the DNIB, data on new gTLDs is always presented on page three of the three-page report in such a way to make apples-to-apples comparisons with .com and ccTLDs not straightforward.
While the reports highlight the growth of ccTLDs and Verisign’s own .com and .net registries in absolute and percentage terms, they do not do so for new gTLDs.
(They’ve also been calling ccTLDs “geographic gTLDs” for years and nobody seems to have noticed.)
But comparing Q1 and Q2 DNIB reports shows that new gTLDs contributed 5.9 million of the 8.2/7.9 million quarterly increase, in other words just shy of 72% of the industry’s total volume growth.
That’s the biggest contribution new gTLDs have made to growth in any quarter to date.
The growth can be attributed to .xyz’s penny deals in June, which saw domainers acquire millions of names for essentially nothing.
Meanwhile, .com and .net combined contributed just 700,000 domains to growth and .net actually shrunk by 100,000 names, its first dip since Q1 2015.
The ccTLD market data presented in the DNIBs is probably not entirely reliable. Verisign is still using the December 2014 number for free ccTLD .tk, which I think is about six million names lower than its current level.
XYZ.com became the first new gTLD operator to top five million domains in a single TLD last night, when .xyz added almost 1.5 million names.
According to our parse of today’s zone file, .xyz has 5,096,589 names, up 1,451,763 on yesterday’s 3,644,826.
On Monday, the number was just under 2.8 million.
The massive spike came after what was supposed to be the final day of a three-day discounting blitz, as registrars sold the names for $0.02, $0.01 or even nothing.
Uniregistry, which sold for a penny, seems to have claimed the lion’s share of the regs.
The company supplied DI with data showing it had processed over 1.16 million registrations on June 2, about 90% of which CEO Frank Schilling said were .xyz sales.
At its peak, Uniregistry created 95,793 new domains in an hour, this data shows.
Judging by the numbers published on its home page, the registrar has pretty much doubled its domains under management overnight.
The rapid growth of .xyz is very probably not over.
Some registrars said they will carry on with the penny giveaways for an extra day.
At least one popular registrar, NameCheap, told irritated customers that the popularity of its $0.02 offer meant it had a backlog of registration requests that would take 12 to 24 hours to process. Those may not have showed up in the zone file yet.
In addition, .xyz prices are expected to be dirt cheap — just $0.18 at Uniregistry, for example — for the rest of the month, at least at the 50-odd registrars XYZ says are participating in its promotion.