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Domainers grumble as GoDaddy cranks up commission fees

Kevin Murphy, January 5, 2023, Domain Registrars

GoDaddy has “simplified” its commission structure across three secondary-market acquisitions, leading in many cases to domainers making less money in future from their sales.

The company said there will now be a standard 25% commission across its Afternic, Uniregistry and Dan aftermarkets, which will be reduced to 15% if domainers use GoDaddy’s name servers (and therefore landing pages).

The move prompted online grumbles from customers of Dan, which GoDaddy acquired last year. They’d been paying 9% commission on their sales, so they’re losing out no matter what name servers they use.

The low commissions had proven a draw for domainers prior to the acquisition, and the increase was widely expected following the acquisition last June.

It’s better news for Afternic customers, who were paying 20%. GoDaddy cherry-picked some data to suggest domainers could come out slightly ahead, depending on their mix of sales marketplaces.

The changes are effective February 1.

Drop-catcher adds 100 more registrars after rapid growth

Kevin Murphy, December 9, 2022, Domain Registrars

Drop-catcher Gname has added 100 new ICANN shell registrar accreditations, according to ICANN records.

The Singapore-based company has created companies with the names Gname 051 through Gname 150 for the new accreditations, which are used to increase its number of concurrent EPP connections to the .com registry and therefore its chance of catching a valuable deleting domain.

Each accreditation costs a minimum of $4,000 in ICANN fees per year.

The latest ICANN registry reports show that the parent Gname accreditation had 1,864,283 .com domains under management at the end of August, when it had only 50 active accreditations.

That was a huge increase on the 354,644 domains it had a year earlier, when it had just 10 active registrars. It seems the company is testing how far this up-scaling strategy can go.

The move means ICANN now has 2,655 accredited registrars on its books, far ahead of the 2,447 predicted for the end of June 2023 by ICANN’s current fiscal-year budget.

Melbourne IT to relaunch, return to roots, after $3.4 million acquisition

Kevin Murphy, December 1, 2022, Domain Registrars

Australian registrar Webcentral.au is to revive its Melbourne IT brand with a renewed focus on the corporate domains market, following the AUD 5 million ($3.4 million) acquisition of a smaller rival.

The company said today it’s buying registrar New Domain Services and bringing its CEO, Jonathan Horne, on board as the new boss of Melbourne IT, which divested its corporate domains arm to CSCGlobal in 2013.

Webcentral now says it plans to “relaunch the Melbourne IT brand and business and pursue growth opportunities in the corporate domains services sector”, returning the company to its roots.

New Domain has revenue of AUD 2 million and EBITDA of AUD 1.2 million, with 25,000 customers, the company said.

Melbourne IT was among the first handful of registrars to be accredited by ICANN when it broke up Network Solutions’ monopoly in the late 1990s.

Registrars CAN charge for Whois, ICANN grudgingly admits

Kevin Murphy, December 1, 2022, Domain Registrars

ICANN is powerless to prevent registrars from charging for access to non-public Whois data, the Org has reluctantly admitted.

In a recent advisory, ICANN said it is “concerned” that registrars including Tucows have been charging fees to process requests for data that would otherwise be redacted in the free public Whois.

But it said there’s nothing in the Registrar Accreditation Agreement, specifically the Temporary Specification governing Whois in the post-GDPR world, that bans such services:

While the RAA explicitly requires access to public registration data directory services to be provided free of charge, the Temporary Specification does not specifically address the issue of whether or not a registrar may charge a fee for considering requests for access to redacted registration data.

So basic Whois results, with all the juicy info redacted, has to be free, but registrars can bill organizations who ask for the veil to be lifted. ICANN wrote:

ICANN org is concerned that registrars’ imposition of fees for consideration of requests for access to nonpublic gTLD registration data may pose an access barrier. Access to registration data serves the public interest and contributes to the security and stability of the Internet

The advisory calls out Tucows’ Tiered Access Compliance and Operations system, TACO, as the primary example of a registrar charging for data, but notes that others are too.

Not long after the advisory was published, Tucows posted an article in which it explained that the fees are necessary to cover the cost of the “thousands” of automated requests it has received in the last four years.

Charging fees for compliance with other forms of legal process is not uncommon in the industry, and the vast majority of requests for registration data (approximately 90%) continue to come from commercial litigation interests and relate to suspected intellectual property infringement.

Facebook, now Meta, was at first, and may still well be, a frequent bulk filer.

Tucows said that it “frequently” waives its fees upon request for “single-use requestors and private parties”.

CentralNic gobbles up another registrar

Kevin Murphy, October 27, 2022, Domain Registrars

CentralNic said it is to acquire California-based corporate domain registrar Intellectual Property Management Company for $7.6 million.

The company said the all-cash deal represents about 2.8x IPMC’s 2021 revenue and about seven times EBITDA.

CentralNic already plays in the corporate domain management space — it picked up BrandShelter when it merged with Key-Systems a few years ago.

But it’s the first acquisition in the domain space in a while. CentralNic is highly acquisitive, but recent buys have been mainly in the advertising and domain monetization space, which is driving huge growth.

MarkMonitor to join Newfold in $300 million deal

Kevin Murphy, September 12, 2022, Domain Registrars

Corporate domain registrar MarkMonitor is to be sold to Newfold Digital for $302.5 million cash, the companies announced today.

The company’s current owner, Clarivate, bought NarkMonitor for an undisclosed sum in 2017 and sold off its brand protection unit two years later.

So Newfold’s getting the registrar business and domain management services to add to its stable, which already includes Network Solutions, Register.com, Web.com, and Domain.com.

MarkMonitor has about a million gTLD domains under management and an unknown number of ccTLD domains.

The company has about 2,000 clients around the world, the companies said in a press release.

MarkMonitor expects about $80 million of revenue and $35 million of EBITDA this year.

Kiwi Farms domain lands at Epik

Kevin Murphy, September 6, 2022, Domain Registrars

The primary domain for the controversial web forum Kiwi Farms, kicked out by Cloudfare at the weekend, has been transferred to Epik.

Whois records show the domain kiwifarms.net landed at Epik in the last hour or so. It’s still using Cloudflare’s name servers at the time of writing, so it’s still resolving to a “blocked” message from its old registrar.

Cloudflare blocked the name, reluctantly, on Saturday, citing “an imminent and emergency threat to human life”, believed to refer to a transgender activist and Twitch streamer targeted for death threats by Kiwi Farms users.

The site, whose users reportedly bully, doxx and swat trans people, has been linked to three suicides since it was launched in 2013.

The question for Epik and its new CEO now is whether they let the domain stay under its roof, or whether the same concerns cited by Cloudflare make it too toxic to touch.

UPDATE 1724 UTC: Not long after this post was published, the domain started using Epik’s name servers.

Cloudflare blocks anti-trans site for “emergency threat to human life”

Kevin Murphy, September 5, 2022, Domain Registrars

Internet infrastructure provider Cloudflare has “blocked” a site it provides domain services to after identifying “an imminent and emergency threat to human life”.

The company said on Saturday that it has reluctantly stopped providing services to Kiwi Farms, a web forum whose users reportedly bully and carry out doxxing and swatting attacks on transgender people and activists.

Visitors to kiwifarms.net are now presented with a message from Cloudflare stating: “Due to an imminent and emergency threat to human life, the content of this site is blocked from being accessed through Cloudflare’s infrastructure.”

A linked blog post explaining the decision said:

This is an extraordinary decision for us to make and, given Cloudflare’s role as an Internet infrastructure provider, a dangerous one that we are not comfortable with. However, the rhetoric on the Kiwifarms site and specific, targeted threats have escalated over the last 48 hours to the point that we believe there is an unprecedented emergency and immediate threat to human life unlike we have previously seen from Kiwifarms or any other customer before.

The move is likely linked to a campaign by a trans Twitch streamer, who reportedly has been campaigning for Cloudflare to drop the site after multiple threats to her life, including a recent swatting (where armed police are tricked into showing up at your door).

Last week, the company had tried to explain its continued support for the domain by stating that one two previous occasions it has blocked sites, authoritarian governments have used that precedent to try to get human rights sites pulled.

At this stage, it appears that Cloudflare is using its status as the site’s DNS provider to implement the block. It’s still the domain’s registrar, and so far the Whois record does not reflect an attempt to move it elsewhere.

The domain was registered with DreamHost until last year, but was asked to leave following the suicide of a software developer, one of three suicides reportedly linked to Kiwi Farms users’ behavior.

Could Epik be its next destination? The company is a strong proponent of free speech, but even it has a line when it comes to violence. This could be Epik’s new CEO‘s first big test.

Epik replaces Monster with younger clone

Kevin Murphy, September 2, 2022, Domain Registrars

Epik has replaced CEO Rob Monster with a younger model whose Twitter feed suggests could be every bit as controversial.

The company announced today that Brian Royce, who seems to have joined the company as an executive VP last month, is taking the corner office. Monster will stay on as non-executive chairman.

Royce appears to be a newcomer to the domain name industry, but ideologically very much in tune with Monster.

A glance at his Twitter feed for the last three months reveals he dislikes liberals, gun control, murder victim George Floyd, abortion rights, Joe Biden, wokeness, US attorney general Merrick Garland, Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, universal healthcare, Beto O’Rourke, mask-wearing and providing support to Ukraine.

It shows that he likes Christians, free speech, conservative politicians and, at least in May before Donald Trump started being publicly investigated, the police.

“Epik will continue to stand for free speech. It is extremely important to me to see core values of freedom, truth and liberty reflected in all we do at Epik,” Monster said in a press release.

“I am concerned about free speech as I look at what is happening across America. People are actively trying to silence people like Joe Rogan, Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock just for talking and telling jokes,” Royce said.

“More conversations, more speech, more debate—that is what makes people more informed and more compassionate,” he said.

Epik’s line on free speech has seen it become the registrar of choice for many controversial figures and organizations, often those asked to leave their original registrars due to their far-right or violent views.

Cancelled misogynist Andrew Tate moves domain to (drumroll)… Epik!

Kevin Murphy, August 26, 2022, Domain Registrars

Andrew Tate has become the latest high-profile controversy magnet to move his domain to Epik, at the end of a week that saw him thoroughly “cancelled” over reportedly violently misogynistic speech.

Tate, a former kick-boxer and reality TV contestant who made his money through a large social media following and an online course called Hustler’s University, reportedly told Fox News host Tucker Carlson yesterday:

When they go to cancel you, ladies and gentlemen, it comes hard and fast. You lose your Facebook, then your Instagram, then your Gmail, your Discord, then your website hosting, your domain name, like then your payment processor, and your bank.

Tate reportedly had his accounts on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Tiktok deleted this week. He was getting banned so much it briefly became a meme.

The domain name in question appears to be cobratate.com, based on his apparent nickname “Cobra”, and it appears to still be in his possession, although he has changed registrars.

Up until an hour or two ago the name was managed by Tucows, via United-Internet-owned reseller Fasthosts, but the Whois record now shows it’s with Epik.

It’s not clear right now whether he jumped or, as he implied to Fox, was pushed. Tucows tells me it had not received any complaints about the site, had not investigated, and had not asked Tate to leave. I’ve asked United for comment.

Epik has over the last few years become the safe-haven registrar of choice for people and groups who become internet persona non grata, typically those with far-right or violent views, such as Infowars, 8chan, Gab and The Daily Stormer.