Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

Industry lays into Verisign over .com deal renewal

Kevin Murphy, August 15, 2016, Domain Registries

Some of Verisign’s chickens have evidently come home to roost.

A number of companies that the registry giant has pissed off over the last couple of years have slammed the proposed renewal of its .com contract with ICANN.

Rivals including XYZ.com (sued over its .xyz advertising) and Donuts (out-maneuvered on .web) are among those to have filed comments opposing the proposed new Registry Agreement.

They’re joined by business and intellectual property interests, concerned that Verisign is being allowed to carry on without implementing any of the IP-related obligations of other gTLDs, and a dozens of domainers, spurred into action by a newsletter.

Even a child protection advocacy group has weighed in, accusing Verisign of not doing enough to prevent child abuse material being distributed.

ICANN announced last month that it plans to renew the .com contract, which is not due to expire for another two years, until 2024, to bring its term in line with Verisign’s contracts related to root zone management.

There are barely any changes in the proposed new RA — no new rights protection mechanisms, no changes to how pricing is governed, and no new anti-abuse provisions.

The ensuing public comment period, which closed on Friday, has attracted slightly more comments than your typical ICANN comment period.

That’s largely due to outrage from readers of the Domaining.com newsletter, who were urged to send comments in an article headlined “BREAKING: Verisign doubles .COM price overnight!”

That headline, for avoidance of doubt, is not accurate. I think the author was trying to confer the idea that the headline could, in his opinion, be accurate in future.

Still, it prompted a few dozen domainers to submit brief comments demanding “No .com price increases!!!”

The existing RA, which would be renewed, says this about price:

The Maximum Price for Registry Services subject to this Section 7.3 shall be as follows:

(i) from the Effective Date through 30 November 2018, US $7.85;

(ii) Registry Operator shall be entitled to increase the Maximum Price during the term of the Agreement due to the imposition of any new Consensus Policy or documented extraordinary expense resulting from an attack or threat of attack on the Security or Stability of the DNS, not to exceed the smaller of the preceding year’s Maximum Price or the highest price charged during the preceding year, multiplied by 1.07.

The proposed amendment (pdf) that would extend the contract through 2024 does not directly address price.

It does, however, contain this paragraph:

Future Amendments. The parties shall cooperate and negotiate in good faith to amend the terms of the Agreement (a) by the second anniversary of the Effective Date, to preserve and enhance the security and stability of the Internet or the TLD, and (b) as may be necessary for consistency with changes to, or the termination or expiration of, the Cooperative Agreement between Registry Operator and the Department of Commerce.

The Cooperative Agreement is the second contract in the three-way relationship between Verisign, ICANN and the US Department of Commerce that allows Verisign to run not only .com but also the DNS root zone.

It’s important because Commerce exercised its powers under the agreement in 2012 to freeze .com prices at $7.85 a year until November 2018, unless Verisign can show it no longer has “market power”, a legal term that plays into monopoly laws.

So what the proposed .com amendments mean is that, if the Cooperative Agreement changes in 2018, ICANN and Verisign are obligated to discuss amending the .com contract at that time to take account of the new terms.

If, for example, Commerce extends the price freeze, Verisign and ICANN are pretty much duty bound to write that extension into the RA too.

There’s no credible danger of prices going up before 2018, in other words, and whether they go up after that will be primarily a matter for the US administration.

The US could decide that Verisign no longer has market power then and drop the price freeze, but would be an indication of a policy change rather than a reflection of reality.

The Internet Commerce Association, which represents high-volume domainers, does not appear particularly concerned about prices going up any time soon.

It said in its comments to ICANN that it believes the new RA “will have no effect whatsoever upon the current .Com wholesale price freeze of $7.85 imposed on Verisign”.

XYZ.com, in its comments, attacked not potential future price increases, but the current price of $7.85, which it characterized as extortionate.

If .com were put out to competitive tender, XYZ would be prepared to reduce the price to $1 per name per year, CEO Daniel Negari wrote, saving .com owners over $850 million a year — more than the GDP of Rwanda.

ICANN should not passively go along with Verisign’s selfish goal of extending its unfair monopoly over the internet’s most popular top-level domain name.

Others in the industry chose to express that the proposed contract does not even attempt to normalize the rules governing .com with the rules almost all other gTLDs must abide by.

Donuts, in its comment, said that the more laissez-faire .com regime actually harms competition, writing:

It is well known that new gTLDs and now many other legacy gTLDs are heavily vested with abuse protections that .COM is not. Thus, smaller, less resource-rich competitors must manage gTLDs laden (appropriately) with additional responsibilities, while Verisign is able to operate its domains unburdened from these safeguards. This incongruence is a precise demonstration of disparate treatment, and one that actually hinders effective competition and ultimately harms consumers.

It points to numerous statistics showing that .com is by far the most-abused TLD in terms of spam, phishing, malware and cybersquatting.

The Business Constituency and Intellectual Property Constituency had similar views about standardizing rules on abuse and such. The IPC comment says:

The continued prevalence of abusive registrations in the world’s largest TLD registry is an ongoing challenge. The terms of the .com registry agreement should reflect that reality, by incorporating the most up-to-date features that will aid in the detection, prevention and remediation of abuses.

The European NGO Alliance for Child Safety Online submitted a comment with a more narrow focus — child abuse material and pornography in general.

Enasco said that 41% of sites containing child abuse material use .com domains and that Verisign should at least have the same regulatory regime as 2012-round gTLDs. It added:

Verisign’s egregious disinterest in or indolence towards tackling these problems hitherto hardly warrants them being rewarded by being allowed to continue the same lamentable
regime.

I couldn’t find any comments that were in unqualified support of the .com contract renewal, but the lack of any comments from large sections of the ICANN community may indicate widespread indifference.

The full collection of comments can be found here.

.xyz tops 5 million domains as penny deals continue

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.

.xyz adds 788,000 domains in a day

Blimey.

XYZ.com managed to “sell” at least 788,167 .xyz domain names yesterday, as registrars gave them away for peanuts.

According to this morning’s zone file count, the gTLD has 3,644,826 domains, compared to 2,856,659 yesterday.

And its sale is not even over until midnight tonight.

The company has pumped millions into marketing .xyz for the second anniversary of its general availability launch, and many registrars dropped their prices accordingly.

Registrars are currently selling the names for $0.02, $0.01 or, apparently in the case of at least one Chinese registrar, nothing.

It goes without saying that this is the biggest one-day spike for a 2012 new gTLD, blowing the previous record of 238,616 out of the water.

While XYZ.com no doubt gets bragging rights, one has to wonder how much value has actually been created here.

The vast majority of these names will have been acquired by investors and will sit idle before eventually dropping. It’s possible that some have also been registered for nefarious purposes.

Some number will no doubt renew, otherwise the promotion will have been a wasted enterprise.

If you look at XYZ’s first big giveaway — the controversial free push into Network Solutions customer accounts — you’ll see very low retention.

NetSol had 360,683 .xyz names under management after the promotion finished in July 2014, but that was down to 18,919 by October 2015, when most had deleted.

That’s a drop of 95%.

The difference here is of course that registrants this week have had to pick their domains and hand over nominal payment.

Investors have been known to form emotional attachments to their portfolios, which could increase renewals this time around.

XYZ.com will have to pay around $200,000 in ICANN fees for yesterday’s added domains.

These might be the top 10 biggest new gTLD daily growth spikes

With news seeping out this evening that XYZ.com’s latest marketing blitz has very possibly added half a million domains to its .xyz gTLD today, I thought I’d knock out some data on the previous largest one-day growth spikes in new gTLDs.

With some caveats, which I’ll get to, I think these might be the top 10 growth days for new gTLDs.

TLDDateGrowth (domains)
top2016-02-16238,616
wang2016-03-02175,900
bid2016-02-18145,330
wang2016-03-03137,313
xyz2016-02-07131,375
site2016-02-24120,275
xyz2015-11-01111,160
xn--ses554g (.网址)2015-01-07109,763
wang2016-03-01107,599
xn--ses554g (.网址)2015-01-06104,548

They’re the only 10 spikes of over 100,000 domains I could confirm in the DI PRO database, at least in 2012-round gTLDs.

With .xyz reportedly adding at least 400,000 domains today, due to several registrars basically giving them away, it’s certainly going to be at the top of this table tomorrow.

XYZ is celebrating its second anniversary of general availability tomorrow, and has invested several million bucks in promotions on registrars which are in turn selling .xyz names for as little as a penny apiece.

As mentioned, there are some caveats to the data in the table above.

It’s based on the zone files published daily by ICANN’s Centralized Zone Data Service, which can be patchy.

CZDS is set up in such a way that each user has missing days here and there, and it has in the not too distant past had a tendency to balk when it receives an unexpectedly large zone file.

In other words, there’s a pretty good chance I’ve missed some spikes, but I’m confident there’s nothing else approaching 400,000 in a day.

UPDATE: .vip should be on the table, with a one-day spike of 115,245 on May 18 2016.

Registrars selling .xyz names for pennies

XYZ.com’s campaign to keep its volumes high as .xyz approaches its second anniversary seem to have resulted in basically free registrations.

Uniregistry said yesterday that it has started selling .xyz domains for just $0.01, and NameCheap is offering them for $0.02.

The prices, which apply to first-year registrations, kicked in yesterday and expire at midnight June 3.

Over in China, Xin Net and West.cn are both pricing the domains at a relatively huge CNY 2 ($0.30).

I expect there are similar offers at other registrars too.

West.cn. the largest .xyz registrar, said last week that it is also subsidizing renewals for the month of June, bringing the cost down to $2.73.

The aforementioned registrars have big splashes announcing the offers on their home pages.

XYZ said Friday that it has put aside “several million dollars” to advertise its birthday on registrar storefronts and elsewhere.

Uniregistry said that from June 3 to June 30 the price will be just $0.18.

Uniregistry’s current .xyz volume is measured in the tens of thousands. It’s ranked just behind Go Daddy, which does not appear to be participating in this promotion, by .xyz domains under management.

.xyz went into general availability June 2, 2014.

Since August 2015, not long after its anniversary deletes have been substantially outstripping renewals, but adds have been going nuts.

It has about 2.8 million domains in its zone file right now, two million of which have been added in the last 12 months.

Despite the anniversary hoopla this time around, there was not a big spike in .xyz registrations around its first birthday last year, when it added a fairly normal 50,000 or so domains.