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.ad domains to go global soon

Andorra’s ccTLD is to become the latest potential domain hack for the Anglophone world, when the local registry massively liberalizes its registration policies later this year.

.ad domains are due to become available to any registrant globally starting in October, via an as-yet-unpublished list of approved registrars. General availability wholesale prices appear to be €15 ($16) a year.

Currently, the domains are only available to Andorrans manually going through the government trademark office, but it seems the registry, Andorra Telecom, has moved to a standardized EPP back-end with all the usual business logic that entails.

Before GA, starting May 22, there will be a gradual ramp-up period that seems to combine elements of typical sunrise and landrush periods. Foreign trademark owners will be able to apply during this period.

Interestingly, it seems that you may also be able to register a .ad that matches your domain in another TLD, without a matching trademark, during this period.

.ad is of course an abbreviation of “advertisement” in English, which may make it attractive to registrants outside Andorra.

The attractiveness is perhaps enhanced by the fact the the plural, .ads, is one of many gTLDs that Google owns but has so far refused to launch.

Andorra is a tiny nation, with a population about the same as Grimsby, nestled in the mountains between France and Spain. The national language is Catalan, as is the new registry web site.

Two seats up for grabs on Nominet board

Kevin Murphy, April 29, 2024, Domain Registries

The .uk registry, Nominet, has opened up its call for nominations for its 2024 non-executive director elections.

There are two seats up for grabs this year, currently occupied by Simon Blackler of Krystal Hosting and Ashley La Bolle of Tucows, both of whom were originally elected in 2021 and are eligible for reelection if they choose to stand again.

Blackler, you may recall, was the instigator of the PublicBenefit.uk campaign, which resulted in a boardroom bloodbath three years ago.

The seats represent half of the member-elected NEDs on Nominet’s board.

Non-members are eligible for nomination but only members may nominate and vote. Votes are weighted so the members with the most domains under management get the most votes, albeit with a cap to avoid capture by the largest players.

The deadline for nominations is July 7, and the vote takes place in September. Elections have historically reliably highlighted divisions in the .uk community.

War takes steep toll on .ua domains

Kevin Murphy, April 29, 2024, Domain Registries

Ukraine’s ccTLD saw a sharp decline in domains under management in the first quarter as the country entered its third year of Russia’s invasion, according to the local registry.

The number of registered .ua domains was down 8% at 471,716 at the end of March, Hostmaster said.

The decline is mostly due to 123,000 domains that had been prevented from expiring at the outset of the war in 2022 being gradually deleted from November last year, the registry said.

.ua is still taking 255 new registrations per day, regardless, the company said.

.de worst TLD for CSAM — report

Kevin Murphy, April 29, 2024, Domain Registries

Germany’s ccTLD, .de, was the worst in the world for hosting child sexual abuse material last year, according to the latest data from the Internet Watch Foundation, which many registries rely on for helping take down such material.

IWF said it found 802 unique .de domains hosting CSAM in 2023, a 1,995% increase compared to 2022. The second and third worst were .com and .ru, with 744 and 691 domains respectively. IWF noted that CSAM domains in .com were down 10% in the year.

Other TLDs in the top 10 were .cc, the non-DNS .onion, .top, .xyz, .pw, .ws and .net. The fastest-grower was Samoa’s .ws, managed by Global Domains International, which saw an increase to 2,966% to 184 unique domains.

.de was also the worst for commercial CSAM operations, IWF said. It found 783 such sites in 2023, all of which “openly displayed images and videos of child sexual abuse on the homepage”. That number in 2022 was zero, the report says.

.com still shrinking because of China

Kevin Murphy, April 29, 2024, Domain Registries

Verisign’s .com gTLD shrunk by over a quarter million domains in the first quarter due to softness in China and US registrars’ pesky habit of putting up prices and the pain is likely to continue for the rest of the year, according to Verisign.

There were about 159.4 million .com domains and 13.1 million .net domains at the end of March, down a combined 270,000 from the end of 2023, Verisign said during its first-quarter earnings call on Thursday. Most of the decline appears to be in .com.

Registrations from Chinese registrars, which are about 5% of the total, were down about 360,000 in the period. Not ideal, but a lot less sharp of a drop than the 2.2 million it lost in Q4.

There were 9.5 million new registrations across both zones in the quarter, compared to 10.3 million in the year-ago period.

But CEO Jim Bidzos told analysts that competition from low-priced new gTLDs, some of which sell year one for under a dollar, is likely harming .com’s growth among cost-conscious Chinese registrants.

But he said the company is also seeing “softness” from US registrars, which he said are increasingly focused on increasing average revenue per user and putting up retail prices. This leads to fewer new registrations and renewals.

Bidzos said Verisign expects to introduce new marketing programs in the second half of the year — around the same time as the company’s base .com wholesale fee goes up from $9.59 to $10.26 — to help offset these declines.

The renewal rate for Q1 is expected to be about 74% compared to 75.5% a year ago. Bidzos said the total domain base shrinkage could be worse in Q2 due to the larger number of names coming up for renewal.

The company lowered its guidance for the year to between 0.25% growth and negative 1.75%. In February, it had guided flat, with a 1% swing in either direction.

Verisign’s top and bottom lines continue to grow during the quarter, with revenue up 5.5% at $384 million and net income up from $179 million to $194 million.

The Swiss can register .swiss domains from next week

Kevin Murphy, April 15, 2024, Domain Registries

The Swiss government is relaxing the registration rules for its .swiss gTLD so that regular people will be able to register names there from next week.

Previously available only to registered legal entities in Switzerland, from April 24 any Swiss person at home or abroad will also be able to buy .swiss domains.

The TLD will still be heavily regulated, however. You’ll only be able to register domains that match your own name or the name that you are commonly known by. You won’t be able to register common family names without an accompanying given name.

Swiss people living elsewhere will be able to register, but will be forbidden from using their names for commercial purposes.

.swiss lives alongside the country’s official ccTLD, .ch, which is derived from the Latin name for the multilingual nation.

While .swiss is perhaps more internationally recognizable, to date it has attracted only about 26,000 registrations, compared to the 2.5 million in decades-old .ch.

.ai up to 425,000 domains

Kevin Murphy, April 15, 2024, Domain Registries

The .ai registry has provided its latest, sporadic update to its registration numbers, showing that Anguilla’s ccTLD continues to be wildly popular compared to the country’s size.

It’s grown from 353,928 domains on December 20 to 425,060 domains on April 12, according to the registry’s web site.

That’s an increase of 71,132 since the last update, or about 620 a day. The zone is on track to have doubled in size over 12 months by the middle of the year.

.ai has a relatively high price point — about $70 a year but with a two-year minimum initial registration — suggesting that registrants either intend to use their domains or are fairly confident they can turn a profit by selling them to somebody who will.

A million “free” .music domains up for grabs

Kevin Murphy, April 15, 2024, Domain Registries

The new .music gTLD registry says it will give away up to one million first-year domains over the next five weeks as part of its launch program, but there are of course plenty of catches.

DotMusic says the domains are available to what it calls “Music Community Member Organizations” — think record labels and the like — until May 24 or it reaches a million names, whichever comes first.

With not much more than a month to get on board and a fairly complex, multi-layered registration and verification process, it seems more likely that the promo will time out before it hits seven figures.

.music is a “community” gTLD only available to entities with a nexus to the music industry. The names are only available as exact matches of music performers or professionals or the organizations they belong to.

They’re also only resolvable after the registrants verify their identities via DotMusic’s sister company, ID.music, which costs $1.99 per domain during the promotion.

It’s not exactly “free”, but compared to the usual price of defensively registering during sunrise periods, it’s an absolute bargain. DotMusic’s regular, ICANN-mandated sunrise period ended a few months ago, with dozens of domains registered by the usual suspects — the likes of Apple and Amazon.

More details on the promotion can be found here. General availability begins June 25.

D3 to get $5 million in crypto to apply for .ape gTLD

New gTLD consultancy D3 Global has inked a deal to apply for the .ape gTLD on behalf of the ApeCoin community.

The company said in a blog post that it will receive three million $APE — cryptocurrency coins currently worth about $5 million, according to Coinbase — in order to apply to ICANN for, operate and market .ape domains.

As it has with other clients, it will first launch *ape names that can only be used on the relevant blockchain to address crypto wallets and such. D3 uses an asterisk to differentiate blockchain names from real domains.

The deal came about after D3 submitted a proposal to the ApeCoin DAO. That’s a Decentralized Autonomous Organization that allows any ApeCoin holder to have a vote in the development of the ApeCoin ecosystem. They voted overwhelmingly in favor of D3’s proposal.

The DAO will receive 50% of gross revenue from *ape and .ape sales under the deal, but D3 says it will retain exclusive rights to .ape. Presumably this is because there’s no way in hell ICANN’s lawyers are going to allow it sign a registry contract with a DAO.

The business plan proposal is quite detailed for a public document, containing stuff like revenue projections that ICANN will redact from published gTLD applications. D3 reckons it could be turning over about $8 million with 90,000 registered .ape names by its fourth year.

“It’s simple, Ape Names are built by Apes, for Apes,” D3 said. As well as quite the most ludicrous quote I’ve used in a considerable while, it also happens to be Technically The Truth when said of any TLD, when you think about it.

But it’s actually a reference to the fact that a few of the D3 C-suite are owners of Bored Ape Yacht Club and Mutant Ape Yacht Club NFTs — those expensive little crypto chimp avatars that people sometimes use in their social media bios.

D3 CEO Fred Hsu apparently owns this ape picture, which is “worth” almost $37,000. Fellow co-founder Paul Stahura has a whole collection.

In other news, there’s still no cure for cancer.

Cable company unplugs its dot-brand after acquisition

A Canadian telecommunications company is turning off its dot-brand gTLD after it was acquired and its brand was deprecated.

Shaw Cablesystems has told ICANN it no longer wants .shaw, so could the registry contract kindly be terminated.

The move follows the company’s $26 billion acquisition by rival Rogers Communications, which closed a year ago. Rogers has been winding down the Shaw branding for the last nine months.

But .shaw had never actually been used by Shaw, apart from the mandatory placeholder at nic.shaw, so it was likely circling the self-termination drain anyway even without the acquisition.

Rogers also has two dot-brands — .rogers and .fido — but while it has registered a few .rogers domains over the last six months none of them have any meaningful content or redirects as yet.

The .shaw gTLD was using Identity Digital as its back-end registry services provider, having originally signed up with Afilias.