Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

ZADNA under fire over “heavy-handed” new rules

Kevin Murphy, September 2, 2022, Domain Registries

There’s an increasing outcry in South Africa over new regulations on the .za domain that many believe are burdensome and likely to harm the namespace.

The country’s Internet Service Provider Association today became the latest group to express dismay about the proposed new rules, which among other things would require all registrants to verify their identity before registering a name.

“ZADNA’s draft regulations and procedures as they stand threaten to undo 34 years of local and international goodwill towards domains ending in .ZA. The regulations are heavy-handed and cumbersome and as such will disincentivise adoption of .ZA registrations,” William Stucke, chair of ISPA’s domain name working group, said in a press release.

The organization, which counts many .za registrars among its members, believes the new rules will make local brand owners choose easier options like .com rather than jump through ZADNA’s hoops and pay inflated registrar prices.

Registrars have also criticized the proposed new registrar licensing regime, which would allow ZADNA to terminate registrars at very short notice.

ZADNA also announced today that it has picked ZA Registry Consortium as its back-end operator. ZARC is made up of incumbent back-end ZACR, a non-profit, and its commercial arm Domain Name Services. The new contract will run until October 2027.

Identity Digital to release 5,000 reserved names

Kevin Murphy, September 1, 2022, Domain Registries

Identity Digital, the portfolio registry formerly known as Donuts, plans to release around 5,000 names from its reserved inventory later this month.

They’ll carry premium first-year prices, but will be priced to sell via the regular registrar channel.

Among the newly available names are some pretty sweet combos, including: rock.band, miami.dentist, aerospace.engineer, farm.forsale, esports.games, tech.guide, trading.live, dallas.mortgage. clothing.sale, security.software, wedding.video and box.wine.

The names will become available at 1700 UTC on September 13.

Millions of .cn domains disappear

Kevin Murphy, September 1, 2022, Domain Registries

China is reported another huge dip in domain registrations in the first half of the year, with millions of .cn names dropping.

CNNIC, the local registry, said yesterday that there were 17.86 million .cn names registered at the end of June, down from the 20.4 million it reported at the end of 2021 but above the 15.09 million it reported ago.

Such extreme fluctuations in Chinese registrations can often be explained by the country’s highly restrictive policies, which require registry and registrar licenses and registrant identification.

It remains to be seen how the numbers will effect the overall market trends Verisign reports with its quarterly Domain Name Industry Brief, where the .cn figures often do not tally with CNNIC’s published statistics.

CentralNic revenue almost doubles

Kevin Murphy, August 30, 2022, Domain Registries

CentralNic has reported its first-half financial results, showing revenue up 93% to $334.6 million when compared to the same period last year.

Given the company’s acquisitive nature, some of the growth of course came from companies it has recently bought, but CentralNic said trailing 12-month organic revenue growth was a health 62%.

Adjusted EBITDA for the period was $38.6 million, up 97% on the first half of 2021.

Domain names, what the company calls its Online Presence segment, now account for a minority of CentralNic’s revenue, $76.8 million in the half, down a bit on last year due to currency exchange rates.

The company said it has been shaking up its strategy by reducing the amount of discounted domains it sells. Average revenue-per-domain went up from $8.90 to $9.60, but volumes were down from 6.5 million to 6 million as a result.

The Online Marketing segment grew 167% to $257.8 million. Organic revenue growth was 98%, “predominantly driven by CentralNic’s TONIC media buying business”.

Visitor sessions was up from 1.1 billion to 2 billion and RPM was up 87% from $106.

Did a sexy Russian spy nerf the o.com auction?

Kevin Murphy, August 29, 2022, Domain Registries

It’s been over three years since Verisign won the right to auction off the domain name o.com for charity, and so far there’s no sign of a sale. Could a pro-Trump conspiracy theorist’s affair with a Russian spy be the reason?

The .com registry operator received permission from ICANN for a one-off auction — a unique exception to the decades-old convention that single-character .com domains are reserved — in March 2019, and that was the last we heard of it.

There’s been no announcement of an auction date, and neither ICANN nor Verisign have mentioned it since.

I asked Verisign a couple of weeks ago what the company’s plans were and at the weekend received the reply: “Thanks for reaching out and your interest is noted. Once there is an update, we will reach back out to you.”

I don’t think I’m getting into conspiracy theory territory to suggest that the reason for the lack of movement is that the domain’s most likely buyer, the man most likely behind Verisign asking ICANN’s permission in the first place, lost his job a few months after the auction was approved.

When in 2017 Verisign filed its request with ICANN it was widely believed to be primarily the result of a pressure campaign by Patrick Byrne, then-CEO of online retailer Overstock.com, that had gone on for over a decade.

Byrne had been nagging Verisign and ICANN to let him register the domain since at least 2004, as this published correspondence (pdf) illustrates.

Former senior ICANN staffer Kurt Pritz later recounted how Byrne “slid a check for $1,000,000 payable to ICANN across my desk” to persuade a then-broke ICANN to release the name, around the same time. The offer was rebuffed.

Byrne’s obsession with o.com continued, but in 2010 he seemed to throw in the towel briefly when Overstock paid relaunching Colombian ccTLD operator .CO Internet a whopping $350,000 for the domain o.co, which Overstock promptly rebranded around.

Overstock even purchased the naming rights to the Oakland Coliseum baseball stadium, which was known as the O.co Coliseum from 2011 to 2016.

But rebranding is always a risk, not least when it’s to an unfamiliar TLD, and Byrne admitted in 2012 that the move had been a huge mistake.

“O.co was my bad call,” Byrne said at the time, adding that “about eight out of 13 people who were trying to visit us through O.co, eight were typing O.com”.

So when Verisign got the nod to sell o.com, you might have expected Byrne to be champing at the bit.

But in August 2019, Byrne quit Overstock after it emerged he had been in a sexual relationship — according to him encouraged by shadowy FBI agents — with a Russian woman half his age convicted in the US of being a spy in 2018.

Byrne admitted the reportedly three-year relationship with Maria Butina, who after her release from US prison became a member of Russia’s parliament with Putin’s United Russia party, in August 2019. It’s a pretty wild story.

He quit his job at Overstock, the company he had founded, at the same time and a month later sold all his stock in the company.

Byrne has since gone on to be a full-time conspiracy theorist, including reportedly being one of several people who, in December 2020, had a bizarre White House meeting in which they attempted to explain to then-President Trump how the 2020 election had been stolen — the birth of the “Big Lie”.

That was reportedly the first time he had met Trump. There’s no evidence I’m aware of that he had the president’s ear while Verisign was asking his administration to lift the price freeze on .com domains, which it did in 2018.

Conspiracies aside, it’s undoubtedly true that Byrne’s resignation means Verisign has lost its most motivated bidder for o.com, so an auction would likely prove disappointing, unless Oprah Winfrey is feeling particularly frivolous.

Google reveals launch dates for two new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, August 24, 2022, Domain Registries

Google is slowly working through its backlog of unlaunched new gTLDs, this week announcing go-live dates for two dormant strings.

.boo and .rsvp will both follow the same launch schedule, with month-long Sunrise periods for trademark owners beginning October 4 and general availability starting November 15.

There will also be Early Access Periods, where names can be secured early for daily-decreasing premium fees, running from November 8 to November 15.

Google Registry described .boo as for those “building a website for love, laughs, or a surprise”, while .rsvp is for customers “celebrating a wedding, throwing a fundraiser, or accepting bookings for their business”.

They appear to be among the lightest-touch Google TLDs in terms of restrictions.

Google has been sitting on both gTLDs for over eight years.

Adoption light with four weeks to .au’s 2LD deadline

Kevin Murphy, August 24, 2022, Domain Registries

Australians have just four weeks left to take advantage of auDA’s second-level domain grandfathering program, but so far uptake has been light.

Owners of third-level .au domains have until September 20 to claim their matching 2LDs before they are released into the general availability pool, the end of a six-month process.

But to date there have only been about 200,000 2LD registrations, auDA said in a press release this week, a small percentage of the almost 3.7 million overall .au registrations.

“We received more than 35,000 registrations in the first 24 hours, nearly 80,000 registrations in the first week and over 200,000 registrations to date,” CEO Rosemary Sinclair said, describing uptake as “strong”.

Second-level liberalizations in other ccTLDs have not exactly set the world on fire. Nominet’s .uk 2LDs under management currently run at less than 15% of the 3LD level.

Radix premium revenue hits $3.8 million in first half

Kevin Murphy, August 18, 2022, Domain Registries

New gTLD portfolio registry Radix this week gave its twice-yearly premium domain sales report, declaring first-half revenue of $3.8 million.

That figure includes $2.5 million in renewal revenue from premium-priced names, because Radix charges premium renewal fees.

For Radix, premiums sold through the registrar channel are arranged into eight tiers from $100 to $10,000 a year. While there were eight sales at the top end, most sales were concentrated in the $500-and-below tiers.

The average first-year revenue was $558 per domain.

There were 1,767 premiums sold across the stable of 10 gTLDs, compared to 1,378 in the second half of 2021 and 1,436 in H1 2021.

.tech is the highest-performing, with $643,825 of recurring retail renewal revenue reported.

GoDaddy shutters Twitter accounts after MMX deal

Kevin Murphy, August 18, 2022, Domain Registries

GoDaddy is closing down a bunch of Twitter accounts it acquired when it bought MMX last year.

The company this morning notified followers of 13 TLD-specific feeds that it will no longer post updates and that they should subscribe to @GoDaddyRegistry instead.

Accounts such as @GetDotFishing, @JoinDotYoga and @DotWorkDomains were affected. They hadn’t posted much in a couple of years.

GoDaddy last year acquired MMX’s portfolio of .law, .abogado (“lawyer” in Spanish), .beer, .casa (“home” in Spanish), .cooking, .dds (“dentists” in American), .fashion, .fishing, .fit, .garden, .horse, .luxe, .rodeo, .surf, .vip, .vodka, .wedding, .work, .yoga, .xxx, .porn, .adult and .sex gTLDs.

Not ever gTLD had its own Twitter account.

The deal was worth about $120 million and led to MMX winding down earlier this year.

German motoring club dot-brand crashes out

Kevin Murphy, August 16, 2022, Domain Registries

Europe’s largest motoring club has become the latest organization to ask ICANN to tear up its dot-brand Registry Agreement.

The Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club, which has about 21 million members, has told ICANN it no longer wishes to run .adac. As usual, no explanation was provided.

The gTLD was in use — ADAC currently has a few live non-redirecting sites, including blog.adac and presse.adac. Its primary domain is adac.de.