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Wood company scraps its dot-brand

Kevin Murphy, October 11, 2023, Domain Registries

A Swedish wood-products company has become the latest company to ask ICANN to terminate its dot-brand gTLD registry agreement.

Svenska Cellulosa AB, which Wikipedia tells me makes almost $2 billion a year selling paper and wood pulp, is dumping .sca, which it has never used.

While ICANN will not transition the gTLD to another operator, there are plenty of other organizations in the world using the same abbreviation, so the string itself could show up in the root again in future.

The TLD was managed by Valideus on a Verisign back-end. Verisign is getting out of the dot-brand back-end business.

Assuming SCA’s request is not withdrawn, it will become the 120th dot-brand to self-terminate.

Nominet takes over Bounty mutineers’ ccTLD

Kevin Murphy, September 26, 2023, Domain Registries

Nominet has taken over management of the Pitcairn Islands’ ccTLD, .pn, judging by its web site and IANA records updated this week.

The site at nic.pn says UK registry Nominet is going to modernize the registry to use the EPP standard — this should make .pn accessible to thousands of registrars — and implement DNSSEC.

It’s estimated that there are fewer than 1,000 .pn domains today. It’s sometimes used for URL shortening services and the makers of the Hunger Games movies used it to represent their fictional nation of Panem.

Domains cost $100 a year in .pn at the second level and $50 a year in .co.pn, .org.pn and .net.pn.

Pitcairn, a British overseas territory, is a tiny island even by tiny island standards. The most recent population estimate is 47 people, mostly the descendants of nine mutineers of the famous “mutiny on the Bounty” of 1789.

The ccTLD’s sponsor is based in New Zealand, but Nominet has taken over administrative and technical management, according to IANA.

ICANN is starting to auto-renew new gTLD contracts

Kevin Murphy, September 21, 2023, Domain Registries

Almost 10 years have passed since ICANN delegated its first 2012-round new gTLDs and the Org has started to auto-renew their contracts.

As far as I can tell, the first delegated gTLD, شبكة. (Arabic “.web”, .xn--ngbc5azd) got its Registry Agreement renewed on July 13. The registry, dotShabaka, was informed all the way back in April.

That gTLD eventually made it to the DNS root in late October.

ICANN has this week informed Identity Digital’s subsidiaries that dozens of their RAs — the first Latin-script gTLDs from the round to go live — will auto-renew starting this month.

Under the base RA, registries get to run their TLDs for a decade and, unless they seriously screw up, there’s a presumptive right of renewal.

Nominet adds handcuffs clause to proposed new Articles

Kevin Murphy, September 18, 2023, Domain Registries

Nominet wants to add a new clause to its foundational Articles of Association that would prevent it adventuring into non-domain businesses without telling its members.

The proposal follows the scandal surrounding its CyGlass security business, which the company invested about $23.5 million in before eventually selling for a dollar.

“The Board will inform the Membership in advance of any proposed significant change in scope, together with an explanation as to how this relates to the Company’s objects for the public benefit,” the new Article 2 reads.

While there’s nothing requiring member approval of diversification, notice would at least give members time to organize resistance if it looked like history repeating itself.

Nominet chair told members the proposed article “creates an important constitutional safeguard to ensure Nominet remains aligned with its Members in future.”

Members will vote on the proposed new Articles at the company’s AGM next month, but Nominet has set a massive 90% majority threshold for the changes to be approved.

Green said that the current board plans to live by the spirit of the proposed Article 2 even if the vote fails, but noted that there can be no guarantee future boards would also do so.

Volkswagen ditches its dot-brand

Kevin Murphy, September 12, 2023, Domain Registries

Another major car-maker has thrown in the towel on its key dot-brand gTLD. This time it’s Volkswagen.

Referring to .volkswagen, the company has told ICANN: “This top level domain has never been utilized by Volkswagen of America and we do not intend to utilize it.”

The company had already ditched its secondary dot-brand, .大众汽车 (.xn--3oq18vl8pn36a), which is the Chinese version of its name.

Fiat Chrysler and Bugatti have both also previously terminated dot-brand contracts, while Seat and Audi each have thousands of names in their main dot-brand gTLDs.

Radix looking for a back-end

Kevin Murphy, September 12, 2023, Domain Registries

Radix is looking for a back-end registry services provider, possibly ending its 10-year relationship with CentralNic (now Team Internet).

The company announced an invitation-only RFP covering all of its stable of TLDs: .online, .store, .tech, .website, .space, .press, .site, .host, .fun, .uno, and .pw.

.online alone has 2.6 million names in its zone right now; should it switch to a different back-end it would be the largest migration since 3.1 million .au domains changed hands in 2018.

Radix says its portfolio contains seven million domains altogether.

The company has put a September 16 deadline on interested parties returning their RFP forms. It expects to make its decision by the end of November.

Verisign: 1.7 million domain industry growth in Q2

Kevin Murphy, September 8, 2023, Domain Registries

The DNS grew by 1.7 million domains in the second quarter, according to Verisign’s latest Domain Name Industry Brief.

The quarter ended with 356.6 million domains across “all” TLDs, the company said. That’s up 1.7 million on the quarter and 4.3 million on the year.

I put “all” in quotes because it turns out Verisign hasn’t been including over a dozen TLDs in its calculations in previous reports.

Inexplicably, it hasn’t been counting 10 pre-2012 gTLDs — .aero, .asia, .cat, .coop, .gov, .museum, .pro, .tel, .travel and .xxx — for which zone files have been readily available for years. It’s also added six small ccTLDs to its calculations.

The upshot of this is that while a comparison with the Q1 DNIB would suggest growth of 2.6 million domains, it’s not, it’s just 1.7 million.

The report shows that both .com and .net shrunk in the quarter — 161.3 million versus 161.6 million and 13.1 million versus 13.2 million.

New gTLDs and ccTLDs were left to pick up the slack. Total ccTLD names was up 1.1 million to 137 million and total new gTLD domains was up 0.8 million to 28.1 million.

Blockchain startup gets $5 million to apply for gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, September 5, 2023, Domain Registries

A company backed by some familiar industry names has raised $5 million in seed funding to apply to ICANN for new gTLDs and, it says, bridge the gap between the traditional DNS and blockchain alternate roots.

Las Vegas-based D3 Global is being led by Fred Hsu, one of the founders of aftermarket pioneer Oversee.net. Among its listed founders are Paul Stahura, one of the triumvirate that launched Donuts, now Identity Digital, to apply for hundreds of gTLDs in 2012.

Also listed as founders are Shayan Rostam, who’s currently building Internet Naming Co into a prominent new gTLD portfolio player, former Network Solutions engineer Shay Chinn and investment banker Michael Ho.

These are people with domain industry experience going back in some cases to the 1990s and track records of building successful disrupters, so it’s worth paying attention no matter what you think of blockchain stuff.

D3 says it plans to apply to ICANN for traditional TLDs but will also introduce interoperability with blockchain-based “Web3” naming systems.

Hsu said in a press release: “We are committed to driving forward the convergence of the traditional DNS system and Web3 to make domain names more versatile, secure, and universally accessible.”

It also talks of introducing a marketplace that combines traditional DNS names with blockchain to “significantly reduce the friction traditionally seen in domain name transactions, such as low transparency, high broker fees, transfer delays, and escrow services.”

The funding round was led by Shima Capital with participation from Lightshift, Dispersion Capital, VentureSouq, Infinite Capital, MZ Web3 Fund, Kestrel0x1, Nonagon, C² Ventures, Arthur Hayes’ Maelstrom, Stahura himself.

CentralNic rebrands as Team Internet

Kevin Murphy, September 4, 2023, Domain Registries

Another well-known domain industry firm has rebranded itself around a forgettable, search-resistant company name.

CentralNic is now Team Internet, though it will continue to use “CentralNic” in its domains business.

The company has changed its primary domain from centralnic.com to teaminternet.com (a redirect is already in place) and its AIM ticker symbol from CNIC to TIG.

The brand comes from Team Internet the parking company, which CentralNic acquired for $48 million in 2019.

The change makes sense — CentralNic doesn’t even make a quarter of its revenue from domains any more. Today, most of its money comes from social media marketing arbitrage and domain monetization.

Even if it were still laser-focused on domains, the registrar side of the business is bigger and “Nic” doesn’t make much sense there.

The company started off selling third-level domains in pseudo-gTLDs such as uk.com and gb.com, before enthusiastically embracing new gTLDs as a back-end provider and subsequently getting into the registrar game.

As its 10-year IPO anniversary approaches this month CEO Michael Riedl observed in a press release that the company has grown from a $4 million annual business in 2013 to a $728 million business last year.

Also of note, Gavin Brown, who was with the company since pretty much the start and held various C-level positions on the technical side of the house over the years, left the company last week to join ICANN.

.ai sells 100,000 domains in a year

Kevin Murphy, August 31, 2023, Domain Registries

The registry managing the .ai ccTLD grew its business by over 100,000 domains in the last 12 months, according to its web site.

The company that manages the domain for the Government of Anguilla, DataHaven.net, typically does not disclose its reg numbers — its plain text web site is extremely bare bones and it lets its registrars do the marketing — but that changed when it recently updated its FAQ with the lines:

What is the total number of domains?
As of July 20, 2022 the total was 143,737 domains.
As of June 14, 2023 the total is 248,609 domains.

According to a Bloomberg interview this week, the number is now 287,432. It seems the rise of ChatGPT, which launched at the end of last year, and large language model AIs has spurred interest in the domain.

Bloomberg reckons .ai may account for 10% of Anguila’s GDP. The Caribbean British territory has a population of just 16,000 and makes most of its money from tourism and offshore banking.