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New gTLD in trouble as largest registrar gets suspended

The .gdn gTLD registry, Navigation-information systems, is facing more trouble from ICANN Compliance, but this time it’s because its largest registrar has got itself suspended for non-payment of fees.

ICANN has suspended the accreditation of Dubai-based registrar Intracom for failing to cure an April breach notice demanding money, not implementing an RDAP service, not escrowing its data, and generally giving Compliance staff the runaround for the last eight months.

Intracom is NIS’ biggest partner, responsible for over 10,000 of its 11,000 registered domain names. It doesn’t appear to have many domains in other gTLDs.

The company will not be allowed to sell gTLD domains or accept inbound transfers from July 6 to October 4.

NIS has been hit with its own breach notices twice in the last year, most recently the day after Intracom’s own notice, for failing to keep its Whois service up, but it cured the breaches before ICANN escalated.

Dynadot takes down its own web site after apparent breach

Dynadot took the drastic move of turning off its own web site last week after noticing an apparent security breach.

The registrar also reset all of its customers’ passwords, acknowledging the pair of moves were “extremely inconvenient”.

It’s not clear from the company’s statement whether there really had been an attack or whether it overreacted

It said “our system noticed irregular activity” but later brought its site back up after staff “investigated and determined there was not a threat”.

The company said it has engaged “cyber security experts” to help it out in future.

As GoDaddy shutters URL shortener, could x.co come back on the market?

GoDaddy has turned off its URL shortener service, freeing up the likely six-plus-figure domain x.co for another use or possible resale.

The company told users of the service last week that their redirects would no longer work as of June 4. Instead, they’re being asked to set up a redirect using any of the domains in their GoDaddy accounts.

It has not been possible to create new links for a few years, the company said.

GoDaddy acquired x.co from then .co registry .CO Internet in 2010 as part of the Colombian ccTLD’s global relaunch.

The price was never disclosed, but I suspect it was part of a broad partnership package that saw GoDaddy market .co hard, rather than a domain-only sale.

Around the same time, Twitter bought t.co for its own URL shortener and Overstock.com bought o.co for $350,000 as the cornerstone of an ultimately disastrous rebranding campaign.

It’s difficult to imagine x.co being worth less than that, particularly when the matching .com is owned by the richest person in the world.

In the time since x.co launched, .CO Internet was acquired by Neustar, which was then in turn acquired by GoDaddy.

Following a renegotiation of its relationship with the Colombian government in 2020, GoDaddy is now merely the back-end provider, rather than the ccTLD’s official sponsor.

Porkbun offering free .gay domains for Pride month

Porkbun and Top Level Design are giving .gay domains away to celebration Pride month, the companies have said.

There appears to be a limit of one per customer, and names flagged as premium are not covered.

Porkbun’s renewal price is $27 per year.

The companies, which are affiliated, are using pride22.gay for the offer, which redirects to a porkbun.com page.

Pride month is celebrated in June to commemorate the Stonewall riots in New York in June 1969, widely seen as a significant turning point in the gay rights movement in the US.

NameSilo profitable in Q1

Canadian registrar NameSilo today reported that it took a profit in the first quarter, reversing the loss of a year ago.

The company reported a net income of CAD 330,613, compared to a loss of CAD 3.8 million in Q1 2021, on revenue that was up 34.7% at CAD 10.8 million.

The registrar said its names under management had increased to 4.63 million by the end of March.

NameSilo now believes it is the 11th largest registrar.

Porkbun hits a million domains

Oregon-based registrar Porkbun said it recently hit a million domains under management.

The seven-year-old company added that it now has over 200,000 customers.

Porkbun carries over 500 TLDs, which are wonderfully illustrated on the form of cartoon pigs on this page.

The company is giving away T-shirts along similar lines on Twitter to celebrate its milestone.

Porkbun is affiliated with new gTLD registry Top Level Design, which runs .ink, .wiki and .gay.

Tucows to reanimate Tucows brand as sales flatten

Tucows has become the latest domain name company to confirm it’s experiencing the post-pandemic blues, and said that it plans to revitalize the Tucows brand.

Reporting basically flat-to-down domain numbers on Thursday night, the company said that it plans to “more closely connect the Tucows parent and the registrar brands” in the coming months.

“For more than two decades, Tucows has been synonymous with domain registration. In the coming months, you will see a stronger connection of the Tucows brand with our registrar properties, with each anchored by the rich heritage of the Tucows name,” Dave Woroch, CEO of Tucows Domains, said in prepared remarks.

It’s not clear what this will entail in practice. The company’s main brands are Hover in retail and OpenSRS and Enom in wholesale, and you’d be hard pressed to find a mention of Tucows on any of their storefronts.

First-quarter domain revenue was “essentially unchanged” from the same period a year ago, at $61.5 million compared to $61.2 million.

Retail domains revenue was down to $9.1 million from $9.2 million. While wholesale revenue was $52.5 million versus $52 million, the increase was driven by value-added services rather than domain revenue, which was basically flat.

The renewal rate was a healthy 81%.

Woroch said that domain transactions “are now settling back in at pre-pandemic levels” after the lockdown bumps experienced over the last two years. He pointed to Verisign’s recent comments to suggest these are industry trends.

Including Tucows non-domains businesses, revenue was up 14% to $81.1 million and there was an overall net loss of $3.0 million compared to a profit of $2.1 million.

Secondary market fluffs GoDaddy amid slowdown concerns

Secondary market domain sales continued to drive growth in the first quarter, GoDaddy reported this week, amid fears of slowing growth in new primary market sales.

It’s difficult to gauge exactly how well domains are selling, because the company has stopped breaking out domains as a separate revenue segment in its quarterly earnings releases.

Instead, it’s bundled domains, hosting and basic security together into a new “core platform” segment, frustrating those of us who like to see domain performance to track broader industry trends.

This “core platform” grew by 9% year-over-year in Q1, to $699.6 million, and CFO Mark McCaffrey told analysts that 40% of this growth was driven by secondary market domain sales.

“Core Platform bookings grew 5% year-over-year,” McCaffrey added. Bookings give a better indication of new sales.

A week earlier, .com registry Verisign had said that its registrars were seeing primary sales volumes growth slowing due to the easing of coronavirus restrictions that had pumped growth and general post-pandemic economic malaise.

If that is happening, GoDaddy’s secondary market sales, where it has blurred the lines between retail storefront and aftermarket sales platform in recent years, provides some insulation.

Overall, in Q1 the company saw revenue of up 11.3% at $1 billion and net income up from $10.8 million to $68.6 million.

ICANN picks 28 registries for abuse audit

Kevin Murphy, April 13, 2022, Domain Registrars

ICANN has kicked off its annual compliance audit, and this time it’s focused on registries rather than registrars.

It’s picked 28 gTLDs based on whether they’ve not been fully audited before, whether they have more than 100 domains, and whether they show up a lot in abuse blocklists (excluding spam blocklists).

Only one gTLD per registry has been picked, which might be why the number is lower than previous audit rounds.

The audit will entail sending a questionnaire to each registry to ask how they are complying with each of their commitments under the Registry Agreement.

Registries have already been told if they’ve been picked. ICANN hopes to have it all wrapped up in the third quarter.

Bye-bye Alice’s Registry

Kevin Murphy, April 13, 2022, Domain Registrars

One of ICANN’s oldest accredited registrars has had its contract terminated for non-payment of fees and other alleged breaches.

Alice’s Registry, which has been around since 1999, has been told it’s no longer allowed to sell gTLD domains and that whatever remains of its managed domains will be transferred to another registrar.

The termination comes at the end of more than two years of ICANN’s Compliance department pursuing AR for not paying its accreditation fees, not operating a working Whois service, not implementing RDAP, and not showing its company is in good standing.

The registrar’s web site hasn’t been working in many months, and until its accreditation was suspended last October it had not responded to ICANN’s calls and emails.

Its responses to Compliance since then did not help its case, so ICANN made the decision to terminate.