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Donuts goes with bland, forgettable, for new company name [rant]

What is it with domain name companies and their terrible brands?

Donuts is now Identity Digital Inc, the company said today, with the Donuts and Afilias brands being retired.

The new name was chosen “to reflect better the commitment to helping customers find, grow and protect their authentic digital identities” the company said in a press release. I also get the vibe that the company may be expanding further outside of domains in future. Blockchain stuff, maybe?

It appears that the company has adopted a practice-what-you-preach approach to branding — it’s advocating that businesses register domains with strong keywords to the left and right of the dot, so that’s what Identity Digital will also do.

That’s fair enough, I guess.

It’s using identity.digital as its new domain, which is just as well, because the company seems to have just made itself search-proof.

If you couldn’t tell already, I don’t like the name. It strikes me as the kind of name a company might pick if it wanted to keep a low profile.

It sounds like a two-man SEO startup operating in a room above a vape shop in a northern English market town.

The name “Donuts” had been picked when the company formed in 2010 to reflect the fact that the founders were nuts about domains. Afilias was named as such because it was a joint venture of over a dozen registrars.

These were great, memorable brands!

GoDaddy, Tucows, Porkbun… all examples of strong, colorful, novel brands in the domain space. When I read about these companies, I know immediately who I’m reading about, and they don’t have any keywords in their names.

Even after 12 years writing this blog, I still have to remind myself which registrar is Name.com and which is Domain.com. Now, I’m going to be constantly reminding myself which company used to be Endurance and which used to be Donuts. Meh.

Perhaps I’m just irritated that I’m going to have to spend the next year writing “Identity Digital, formerly Donuts”.

Still, at least it’s better than “TrueName”.

Controversial Chinese firm among two newly revealed UNR gTLD buyers

Two more former UNR top-level domains have formally changed hands following the company’s fire sale over a year ago.

The ICANN contracts governing .llp and .help have been reassigned, the former to Intercap Registry and the latter to a new-to-the-industry Seychelles-based company called Innovation service Ltd, ICANN records show.

Intercap is a relatively known quantity, already running the .inc, .dealer and .box gTLDs.

Innovation is an entirely different kettle of fish.

The company appears to be led by a Hong Kong entrepreneur named Heng Lu, best known for making millions obtaining IPv4 addresses from Afrinic, the African Regional Internet Registry, and leasing them to clients in China for a huge profit.

Heng Lu is also the founder of Cloud Innovation Ltd, another Seychelles shell. It is currently embroiled in a string of lawsuits with Afrinic, which last year tried to revoke Cloud’s membership and therefore its IPv4 space.

The case(s) of Cloud versus Afrinic are pretty convoluted and a bit off-beat for this blog, but at one point last year it led to Afrinic’s bank accounts being frozen by the Mauritius Supreme Court, putting IP address management across the whole continent at risk.

ICANN would certainly have been aware of this already when it approved the transfer of the .help gTLD to what appears to be a related company. After the Mauritius injunction, Afrinic pleaded with ICANN for financial help, which ICANN provided.

The two transfers mean we now know the identities of the buyers of 17 of the 23 gTLD contracts UNR put up for sale in April 2021. ICANN took a long time to approve the reassignments due to worries about IP rights.

Belarusian domains to change hands

The two ccTLDs representing the sanctioned nation of Belarus are to change hands ahead of next week’s public ICANN meeting in The Hague.

According to the agenda of the ICANN board’s June 12 pre-meeting session, both .by and the Cyrillic equivalent .бел will be transferred to a Minsk company called Belarusian Cloud Technologies.

Currently, the IANA records show a company called Reliable Software has been the registry manager since 2012, but according to the registry’s web site, Belarusian Cloud Technologies has been running the two TLDs since the start of 2022.

It seems asking ICANN’s permission may have been an afterthought, or the redelegation process is taking longer than expected.

Belarus is of course quite heavily sanctioned by much of the world right now, including ICANN’s native US, due to its support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

But ICANN deals with sanctioned nations’ ccTLDs all the time. Where it requires special permission from the US government, it reliably obtains it.

Nominet opens directorship nominations

.uk registry Nominet has opened the nomination period for one of its elected non-executive directors.

The are four elected NEDs on the company’s board, and Anne Taylor’s three-year term is up this year.

Only members may nominate, but you don’t need to be a member to be nominated.

Nominations are open until June 17, elections take place in September, and the winner takes his or her seat in October.

The pay is £37,000 per year, for up to 30 days’ work.

More details can be found here.

GoDaddy acquires two education-themed gTLDs

GoDaddy seems to have added another two new gTLDs to its portfolio under a deal with Open Universities Australia.

ICANN records published today show that the contracts for .study and .courses were both reassigned in March and GoDaddy Registry is already running both registries’ web sites.

Neither TLD is a big seller. They have a few thousand names under management each and currently retail for $30 to $50 a year.

GoDaddy was already the back-end provider for both, so the amount of disruption is likely to be minimal.

Domain sales down even as revenue booms at CentralNic

CentralNic has posted stunning growth for the first quarter, even as it sold fewer domain names.

The company said this morning that revenue increased by 86% to $156.6 million in the three months to March 31, helped along by a few acquisitions in the monetization segment. Organic growth for the 12 months was roughly 53%.

Profit was $4 million versus a $1.4 million loss. Adjusted EBITDA was up 83% to $18.5 million, the company said.

CentralNic said it processed 3.1 million domain registrations in the quarter, down from 3.4 million a year earlier, but said this was because it moved away from selling domains cheaply in bulk.

This meant average annual revenue per domain was up 11% to $9.50, it said.

The online presence segment, which includes domains, was up 2% to $39.7 million.

But the online marketing segment, which includes domain monetization, was up 158% to $116.9 million, again helped by acquisitions.

CentralNic also disclosed that the price it agreed to pay for the .ruhr gTLD, a German geographic, back in January was €300,000, split into two payments of €150,000.

.link gTLD buyer revealed

Another of UNR’s portfolio auction winners has emerged.

This time it’s .link, UNR’s low-cost volume play, and the buyer appears to be a veteran domain investor named Yonatan Belousov.

ICANN records for .link were updated today to name a Maltese company called Nova Registry, an individual named Emanuel Debono, and an email address at nova.link as contacts.

It’s not a great sign when you google a company or person and all the top hits are from the Panama Papers leaks, but of course not every use of offshore companies is shady and ICANN will have done its due diligence.

Digging deeper into the rabbit hole, corporate records show Nova is owned by another Maltese company called Vanderlay Investments, which in turn has Belousov, known in the domaining industry as Yoni and a regular guest on Domain Sherpa, as the sole owner.

The domain nova.link doesn’t resolve to a web site, but it is registered to another Maltese company called Indefinite, which has a nice collection of one-word .com domains for sale.

The new information means we now know the identities of the buyers of 15 of the 23 gTLD contracts UNR put up for sale in April 2021. XYZ, GoDaddy, Top Level Design and Dot Hip Hop all walked away with shiny pre-loved TLDs.

China yanks Daily Stormer domain after Buffalo mass shooting

The far-right propaganda site The Daily Stormer has lost yet another domain name, after the Chinese ccTLD registry deleted dailystormer.cn.

The Daily Stormer was among the sites the suspect in this weekend’s mass shooting in Buffalo reportedly cited as sources of his radicalization to a violent white-supremacist ideology.

Whois records show that dailystormer.cn was registered barely a month ago. The web site had previously been using a .name domain registered via a Chinese registrar, having TLD-hopped between various ccTLDs and gTLDs for years.

Today, English-language Chinese government-owned newspaper Global Times reported that the .cn domain has been taken down after registry CNNIC was alerted to the connection.

It’s no longer resolving from where I’m sitting, but Whois records indicate it was owned by Daily Stormer owner Andrew Anglin.

The web site, which cached copies show is filled with racist, sexist, homophobic and downright inaccurate posts, first ran afoul of domain registrars in 2017, when GoDaddy, Tucows and Google all kicked it out on the same day. Namecheap has also previously deleted one of its names.

It’s also been banned from ccTLDs from Albania, Austria, Iceland and Russia, along with gTLDs including .lol, .name, .red and .top.

Fewer domain companies closing down than expected

Registries and registrars are not shutting up shop as fast as ICANN expected, according to CEO Göran Marby.

According to his latest report (pdf) to his board, the number of accredited registrars and contracted registries is substantially ahead of what had been predicted in the current budget, meaning over a million bucks more than expected in ICANN’s coffers.

There were 1,172 gTLD registries at the end of February, according to the report. That’s 25 more than ICANN had expected.

Typically, the only registries that willingly give up their contracts are dot-brands that have never used their TLD and decide to bow out, but we haven’t seen one of those since last September, the longest break in terminations in years.

Marby also reported that there were 2,510 accredited registrars on February 28, a whopping 168 more than the budget planned for.

This was no doubt helped by drop-catchers such as Singaporean registrar Gname, which has created dozens of new shell accreditations in recent months.

Marby reported that this all mean $1.3 million extra revenue, accounting for fixed fees in both segments and registrar application fees.

Overall, ICANN was $16.5 million ahead of budget at the end of February, due to the extra income from fixed fees, a bigger contribution from .com, and lower-than-expected expenses of $12.3 million.

Another single-TLD brand protection service planned

BestTLD is planning to introduce a trademark-blocking service covering its single new gTLD, .best.

The company has asked ICANN for permission to launch what it calls the Best Protection service, which would provide domain blocks in lieu of defensive registrations in .best.

The service is similar to Donuts’ Domain Protected Marks List and other industry offerings, but is perhaps most comparable to the Trademark Sentry offering .CLUB Domains came up with a few years ago.

While DPML lets brands block their marks as domains across Donuts’ entire stable of almost 300 TLDs, BestTLD’s offering, like .CLUB’s, focuses instead on blocking marks as a substring in a single TLD.

In other words, Facebook could subscribe to the service for the string “facebook” and it would block domains such as “facebook-login.best”.

A good thing about such services from a registry’s perspective is that, unlike domains, the same string can be sold multiple times to different owners of the same trademarked string.

The registry has filed a Registry Services Evaluation Process request with ICANN and said it is ready to launch with back-end provider CentralNic whenever it gets approval.

Pricing was not disclosed, but if .CLUB’s $2,000 tag is any guide one might expect a super-premium fee.

Regular .best domains sell for about $20 a year and over 30,000 have been registered to date.