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One in six .au domains is a 2LD

Kevin Murphy, February 8, 2023, Domain Registries

The .au ccTLD had over 700,000 direct second-level registrations at the end of 2022, according to registry auDA.

In its annual report (pdf) published this week, auDA said it had over 716,000 2LD regs. The second level space was opened up in March last year with a six-month grandfathering period.

It had 4,160,209 domains overall at the end of December, so roughly one in six .au regs was a 2LD.

In the comparable .uk liberalization, which had a five-year grandfathering period, at its peak in 2019 roughly one in four names was a 2LD. Today, it’s more like one in 10.

Whether .au will follow the same trend remains to be seen.

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How ICANN could help out after Türkiye earthquake

Kevin Murphy, February 8, 2023, Domain Policy

A new ICANN program could see funds directed to Türkiye and Syria after Monday’s devastating earthquakes.

Interim CEO Sally Costerton last month said that the Org has created an Emergency Assistance Program, which emerged out of the $1 million it pledged towards the crisis in Ukraine almost a year ago.

The initial donation saw money go to the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), a network of humanitarian organizations, UN agencies, charities and private companies that provides connectivity to disaster zones.

ETC said this week that a coordinator is on the ground in Türkiye to assess the need for its services. It has been in Syria for many years due to the ongoing bloody civil war.

While ICANN’s donation to ETC was a one-off, it intends to open an expressions of interest process soon for global organizations that provide communications during disasters. Contributions up to $1 million will be considered.

Much like the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there were calls this week for Elon Musk to make his Starlink satellites available over Türkiye to help coordinate emergency relief, but his subsequent offer was reportedly declined by the government.

There have also been reports today that the Turkish government has blocked access to Twitter in the country, after receiving criticism over its handling of rescue efforts.

While ICANN’s funds will of course not be available during the current phase of the crisis, they could if connectivity issues persist. The Turkish government has declared a three-month state of emergency.

The earthquake hit close to home for ICANN, which has several staff at its satellite office in Istanbul, more than a thousand kilometers from the quake’s epicenter.

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GoDaddy could lose out as NIXI brings .in in-house

Kevin Murphy, February 6, 2023, Domain Registries

Indian ccTLD registry NIXI wants to become a back-end registry services provider for its own .in and other TLDs, and seems set to push GoDaddy out of its current role as it looks for a company to build its new infrastructure.

The company is looking to expand its current role as .in overseer and take over day-to-day operational management of the EPP registry, DNS, Whois, etc, from its current back-end. That’s been Neustar, now GoDaddy Registry, since 2019.

By the time the transition takes place, it could be the largest TLD migration in history.

NIXI currently says it has over three million domains under management. The previous biggest move was .au from Neustar to Afilias in 2018, at 3.1 million names. The .org migration from Verisign to PIR in 2003 was for 2.7 million names.

NIXI basically wants a company to come in to design and build a registry system, run it for a year, and then hand over operations, and maybe staff, to NIXI before retreating into a maintenance role for seven years.

The selected provider must be established in India and preference will be given to “companies whose parent / holding company is registered in India having subsidiaries in other developing countries.”

If NIXI already has a preferred provider in mind, it certainly isn’t GoDaddy, judging by this criterion.

“This is as part of future expansion plan / business plan of NIXI,” the tender (pdf), which says several times that NIXI wants to become the back-end for ccTLDs in other developing countries, notes.

After a number of extensions, NIXI’s tender is due to expire next Monday.

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Unstoppable offering free .nft names to Twitter users

Kevin Murphy, January 31, 2023, Domain Services

Unstoppable Domains is enabling Twitter users to claim free “domains” in its alt-root blockchain-based TLD .nft.

The site offers users a domain that matches their Twitter handle. You only need to authorize its app to log in using Twitter credentials, much like other Twitter-connected apps.

Actually using the name seems to require you to have a cryptocurrency wallet. And of course you won’t be able to use the name to address a web site unless all your visitors use a specialist plug-in or certain browsers.

Unstoppable usually sells .nft names for $29, with no renewal fees. It says it currently has 3.1 million names across its portfolio of crypto-themed alt-root TLDs.

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Fun name-spinner uses AI to suggest domains

Kevin Murphy, January 30, 2023, Domain Services

The founder of a recently launched name-spinner web site says the AI-based tool has already been used a million times in a month, and I can see why.

The site, SmartyNames.com, is reportedly based on the same GPT-3 natural language processing software as the incredibly popular ChatGPT chatbot.

Users simply type in a description of their project or business and the tool spits out a list of available domains that might fit the bill.

It’s a bit hit-and-miss, but fun to play with.

“It’s a service that employs ex-convicts to detach the heads from rubber ducks” resulted in suggestions such as duckdetach.com, antiduck.com and, hilarious proving that it’s not just working with keywords, quackless.com.

Right now, the site seems to be monetized with affiliate links to some of the major registrars, but founder Kirill Zubovsky said in a blog post that a premium subscription version with extra services for domain buyers is in the works.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the future of name-spinning.

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New gTLDs: the next round just got real

Kevin Murphy, January 30, 2023, Domain Policy

It seems ICANN can multi-task, after all.

Its board of directors has yet to formally approve the next application round, but staff have started looking for a company to build the application system, regardless.

Org has published an RFI (pdf) for potential developers of a “gTLD Application Lifecycle System” that ICANN, applicants and third-party contractors will be able to use to manage bids from application to delegation.

The document details the 18 system services outlined in the Operational Design Assessment ICANN completed in December.

The deadline for submitting responses is February 24 and there’ll be a follow-up, invitation-only RFP in April. Companies have to respond to the RFI to have a chance at joining the RFP.

By ICANN’s recent standards, this is a pretty ambitious timetable, and will no doubt raise the spirits of those in the GNSO who have been calling for the Org to get a move on after the lengthy and disappointing ODA.

It may also please those worried about ICANN’s apparent inability to operate in anything other that a serial manner — it’s setting the ball rolling now, before the board has approved the program.

It may also give a hint at which way the board is leaning. It met eight days ago to discuss the next round and the ODA but did not formally pass any resolutions or provide any color on the nature of the talks.

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Ferrari survives carmaker’s dot-brand bloodbath

Kevin Murphy, January 30, 2023, Domain Registries

Fiat Chrysler is to kill off five of its six dot-brand gTLDs, which it has never used.

The company has told ICANN it no longer wishes to operate .abarth, .alfaromeo, .fiat, .maserati, and .lancia, four of its car brands.

Weirdly, .ferrari, which has also never been used, is not subject to a termination notice. Perhaps the company has plans for it.

The gTLDs were all managed by CSC on the Identity Digital (Afilias) back-end.

The news comes about a year after Volkswagen killed off some of its gTLDs. Audi and Seat are some of the most enthusiastic users of dot-brands.

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CentralNic reports strong 2022

Kevin Murphy, January 30, 2023, Domain Registries

CentralNic grew faster than analysts’ expectations last year, the company said today.

The company expects to report EBITDA of “at least” $177 million, up 33%, on revenue up 77% at about $728 million, for 2022.

Factoring out acquisitions and currency fluctuations, organic growth is expected to be around 60%.

The growth has been driven by its domain monetization business, which CentralNic has been building through acquisitions over the last few years.

The company will report its results proper on February 27.

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Google partners with UN on aids.day, womens.day and more

Kevin Murphy, January 25, 2023, Domain Registries

Google Registry has landed itself possibly the highest-profile anchor tenant of the new gTLD program to date — the United Nations.

Various UN organizations have picked up about 20 premium .day domains and launched redirects to promote the corresponding UN-recognized issue-awareness days that occur throughout the year.

For example UNAIDS has registered aids.day to raise awareness of the disease on December 1, World AIDS Day, UN WOMEN has registered womens.day for International Women’s Day on March 8, and UNICEF has registered childrens.day for November 20, World Children’s Day.

(If you’re wondering: International Men’s Day is not a UN-recognized event. The domain mens.day, which doesn’t resolve for me, was registered last month, apparently to somebody in Germany where, ironically, it is not observed.)

The UN domains all seem to redirect to pages on existing UN sites on other TLDs, rather than having bespoke web sites.

Google launched .day in late 2021 and has sold about 14,000 domains so far. It maintains a calendar of the various days and corresponding .day names at new.day, which also serves as a lead generator.

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Guy wants to be ICANN CEO and turn off 1.5 million Iranian domains

Kevin Murphy, January 25, 2023, Domain Policy

With the role of ICANN CEO opening up for applicants following the resignation of Göran Marby in December, the CEO of VPN.com appears to have thrown his hat in the ring.

In an unusual and ambiguous press release, “VPN.com CEO Reviews ICANN CEO Opening”, Michael Gargiulo strongly suggests he’s thinking about applying for the gig, currently filled on an interim basis by Sally Costerton.

“Stepping away from VPN.com to lead a global organization like ICANN that aligns with our mission of freedom and a secure Internet for all is something I have considered before, but the timing was not right,” he writes.

“ICANN does not need an empty suit filling this position; it needs someone with vision, ability to address lingering problems that ICANN has faced for extended periods of time, and the guts to stand up to countries like Russia,” he writes.

VPN.com is an strange hybrid of VPN review site and domain brokerage, formed after Gargiulo bought the domain for $1 million in 2017.

The press release is odd in that Gargiulo not only gets a couple of basic facts about ICANN wrong, but also draws attention to an occasion in 2019 when he called for Marby and President Trump to delete Iran’s .ir ccTLD from the DNS root in protest at the country’s human rights violations

The release refers to ICANN’s chair as Maarten Botterman, which hasn’t been true since September, and its headcount of “140 employees”, which is about 260 short of the actual number.

But it’s the opinion that Iran’s human rights violations, surely more acutely felt today than in 2019, should lead to the suspension of .ir’s 1.5 million domain names is surely a disqualifying position for a would-be ICANN CEO.

When Russia invaded Ukraine last year, ICANN faced calls to punish Putin by turning off .ru, which it resisted to broad community support.

Gargiulo did not respond to a request for clarification.

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