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.xyz launch crashed CentralNic

The launch of .xyz took back-end provider CentralNic’s registry down for 15 minutes on Monday.
That’s according to an email sent by the company to registrars, copies of which were forwarded to DI today.
The email says that CentralNic’s EPP systems were down between 1603 and 1618 UTC on Monday, just a few minutes after .xyz went into general availability. It goes on to say:

The large volume of EPP commands exceeded our database system’s capacity to handle them, causing a bottleneck which then propagated back to the EPP application servers.
As you know, we have launched a number of SLDs and TLDs in the past; this is the first launch that we have experienced any issue with, despite some of our previous launches being of comparable size.

.xyz took almost 15,000 registrations in its first 10 hours, many of which will have been concentrated in those first few minutes.
CentralNic said it intends to put in place some measures to prevent a similar crash when it handles .ink’s launch day for Top Level Design on June 23.
Registrars will have their number of simultaneous connections to the registry limited, the email says. CentralNic will also turn off some functions of the database for the short duration of the initial surge.
The company added that the time of registration recorded by registrars may be out of whack with the time recorded by the registry as a result of the outage.

Was I wrong? .xyz claims 31,000 regs on day one

.xyz’s first full day of general availability saw it total 31,119 registrations, suggesting that it’s not doing as badly as I suggested in a post earlier today.
Today’s .xyz zone file shows 14,924 names, up 14,829 on the day, but Gavin Brown, CTO of .xyz back-end CentralNic, just commented that the 24-hour number is actually 31,119.
The zone files for each new gTLD are made available by ICANN — assuming the Centralized Zone Data Service is working — at 0100 UTC every day. Brown said that .xyz’s file today was generated an hour later.
That means the 14,924 total represented the first 10 hours of GA, as indicated in my original piece today.
For a new gTLD to sell more domains in the second half of its first GA day than during the first is unusual, because gTLD launches to date have tended to rely quite heavily on pre-orders.
Pre-orders, a decent measure of demand, generally hit the registry within the first few minutes of general availability, as registrars try to secure the names their customers want.
That has the effect of stacking first-day registrations heavily towards the first few hours of GA.
Take .club, for example. It sold 25,776 names in its first 10 hours. But 24 hours later that number had crept up to just 30,680, an increase of just 4,904.
Similarly, TLD Registry’s .在线 moved just shy of 20,000 names in its first 12 hours of general availability, but had sold only 1,000 more names a full 24 hours later.
I didn’t think it unreasonable to assume that .xyz would follow the same pattern, but this front-loading doesn’t seem to have happened in .xyz’s case.
Did I make a faulty assumption?
If registrations are indeed coming in at a more measured pace than preceding launches, then .xyz may not be falling behind CEO Daniel Negari’s aggressive growth targets at all.
Was I wrong to say that .xyz hasn’t lived up to the hype? Maybe. We’ll need some more days of data to be sure.

.xyz fails to live up to the hype

.xyz sold just shy of 15,000 domain names during its first hours of general availability.
That’s according to zone files released today.
The registry added 14,829 names yesterday, ending the period with 14,924 in its zone, making it the 15th-largest new gTLD by volume, behind the likes of .center, .directory and .solutions.
(UPDATE: see the bottom of this post for important updates on these numbers.)
While it’s a respectable first-day performance — logging more sales that I expected it to — it’s doesn’t look like the registry is going to hit CEO Daniel Negari’s target of a million names in year one.
Earlier this week, Negari enthusiastically blogged, in a post tagged simply “believe”:

There is no doubt in my mind that the growth rate of .xyz will surpass the growth rate of .com. It won’t take us 20 years to reach one million registrations. It will only take 1 year. The growing number of internet users online today, the increasing demand for domain name registrations, and the way we have positioned .xyz all validate this projection. Soon we will see that there is only one competitor to .com, and that is .xyz.

Averaged out over a year, a million registrations is over 2,700 per day, a rate that no other new gTLD registry has managed to sustain to date.
If .xyz follows the path taken by its predecessors, it will probably rack up a thousand or so more names per day for the next few days, likely making it a top-ten new gTLD within a week, before settling down to a comfortable rate of 200 to 300 per day.
So far, .guru (four months old) and .club (one month old) are the only gTLDs with significant volumes that have managed to double their launch-day figures.
.xyz is going to be in desperate need of some more marketing if its wants to get to one million by June 2, 2015.
As I’ve always said, I think .xyz is a tough sell.
As Negari says, the string has “little-to-no meaning”, and the game has always been to brand .xyz as being even more generic than .com.
The registry has attempted to shoehorn it into meanings such as “It is the ending of the alphabet, and it is the ending of domain names” and “Generations X, Y and Z”.
But it seems to be one of those sales pitches you either get or you don’t. I’ve heard it many times, and I still don’t.
So 15,000 names in half a day, by my expectations, is not bad.
However, despite the 15,000 names, we’re talking about a TLD with a sub-.com registry fee, being retailed by some registrars for under $10.
With a million names, that’s a nice little business. Sub-100,000, not so much.
There are plenty of people out there who will immediately say the “success” of new gTLDs in general is a combination of many factors, of which volume is only one, and I agree.
It’s only day one for .xyz, but for a cheap-as-chips gTLD that has explicitly made itself a volume play, I think registration count is a fair way to measure its success going forward.
UPDATE: According to Gavin Brown, CTO of .xyz back-end CentralNic, the number of names in the zone file almost 24 hours after GA began is actually 31,119, over double what the registry sold in the first 10 hours.

Are these the 10 most-popular new gTLD domains?

Kevin Murphy, February 19, 2014, Domain Registries

I’m a firm believer that the success of new gTLDs will be measured not just in registration volumes but also in usage, and usage is a lot trickier to measure than domains under management.
One way of measuring usage that’s very familiar to many domainers is Alexa, the Amazon-owned web metrics service that uses toolbars and other data sources to rank web sites by popularity.
This kind of popularity data has been incorporated into TLD Health Check for some time, as one of many means to compare TLDs.
Alexa data isn’t perfect, but it is data, so I thought it might be interesting to see which of the 147 new gTLDs currently in the root are showing up in its daily list of the top one million domains.
There are 10 names, half of which are .guru domains, on yesterday’s list. There are not many functioning web sites yet, but for whatever reason these domains all, according to Alexa, have traffic.
These are the domains, with their popularity rank in parentheses:
www.link (356,406)
The highest-ranking new gTLD domain on our list is actually banned by ICANN due to the purported risk of name collisions.
It’s reserved by Uniregistry and will not resolve or be made available for registration for the foreseeable future.
I think what we’re looking at here is a case of somebody (or more likely lots of people) using www.link in web pages when they really should be using example.com.
beatport.singles (538,603)
Possible cybersquatting? Beatport (I’m old and unhip enough that I had to Google it) is an online electronic music store and the domain is registered via Go Daddy’s Domains By Proxy service.
The domain presumably refers to music “singles” rather than marital status, but it doesn’t seem to resolve from where I’m sitting. Quite why it’s getting traffic is beyond me. A typo in a URL somewhere? IP lawyers?
gtu.guru (589,205)
The first resolving name on our list leads to a work-in-progress Blogger blog. It’s registered to a chap in Gujarat, India, leading me to infer that GTU is Gujarat Technological University. Another squat?
seo.guru (671,647)
The first domainer on the list, I believe. The guy who registered seo.guru paid roughly $2,500 for it during Donuts’ first Early Access Program. It’s currently parked at Go Daddy.
I’d hazard a guess that it’s on the list because it’s a dream URL for an SEO professional (or charlatan, take your pick) and SEOs checking its availability are much more likely to have the Alexa toolbar installed.
deals.guru (790,778)
This one resolves to an under construction page.
I’d speculate that the pre-release $8,100 sale of deals.xyz caused a lot of domainers to check out whether the same second-level was available in other new gTLDs, spiking its traffic and causing an Alexa appearance.
nic.club (796,727)
The only registry-owned domain on our list — nic.club is the official registry web site of .CLUB Domains, which has its .club gTLD in sunrise until the end of March.
Is its appearance on the list indicative of strong pre-launch marketing or something else?
beekeeping.guru (857,778)
I’m not making this stuff up. This domain belongs to a British pest control company but resolves to a default Apache page. I can’t begin to guess why it’s getting traffic.
cp.wien (864,800)
An unregistered name in a sunrise gTLD. Possible name collision?
shop.camera (873,146)
Hot dang, we have a web site!
The domain shop.camera was only registered 10 days ago, but it already leads to what appears to be a fully-functioning Amazon affiliate site, complete with “Shop.Camera” branding.
freebitcoin.guru (994,404)
An email-gathering affiliate marketing site that I personally wouldn’t touch with yours. Still, it looks quite slick compared to the others on the list and it appears that the owner has made some effort to promote it.

Our unpredictions for 2014

Kevin Murphy, January 2, 2014, Domain Services

Over the close to four years we’ve been publishing, DI has so far resisted running annual prediction lists.
As a reader, they always strike me as being largely holiday-period filler guff. As a writer, they kind of obligate you to revisit and score yourself a year later. Hugely embarrassing pain in the bum.
But this year we’ve had a change of heart.
It’s really, really quiet out there today.
So here’s our list of events we think will definitely, definitely, definitely happen in 2014.

  • Bob Parsons will give ten bucks to a homeless guy outside a Scottsdale Starbucks, according to a Go Daddy press release.
  • NomCom, hands tied by its gender quotas policy, will be forced to appoint a minor Kardashian to the ICANN board of directors.
  • Pat Kane will quit Verisign in order to head up kp.com, the newly launched sub-domain service for North Koreans who couldn’t get the .kp name they really wanted.
  • A pseudonymous domainer will send TLDH’s share price into a death spiral by predicting that “all new gltds will fail lol” in a comment on an industry blog.
  • Tucows CEO Elliot Noss will accidentally blind four people during a particularly enthusiastic bout of gesticulation.
  • An ICANN director will answer Paul Foody’s question during the Public Forum in Singapore. Foody will leave the room moments later, never to be seen again.
  • Somebody will write a blog post about 27-year-old .xyz applicant Daniel Negari without mentioning his age.
  • ICANN will blame a “glitch” after accidentally delegating .islam to a New York synagogue.
  • Mike Berkens will use apostrophes correctly for a week straight.
  • After the GNSO dies for the fifth time, the entire Council will regenerate as Peter Capaldi, forcing an immediate structural review.
  • 1&1 will start selling pre-registrations in new gTLDs that it expects will probably be applied for at some point between 2018 and 2024.
  • Fox will green-light the production of “Jeff Neuman vs Predator”.
  • DotConnectAfrica will finally withdraw its application for .africa, but only after failed attempts to withdraw applications for .africas, .africka, and .dotdotafrica.
  • Christine Jones will suffer a humiliating wardrobe malfunction during a campaign rally.
  • A smartphone-friendly version of DI will be launched.
  • During an unannounced visit to ICANN’s LA office, Fadi Chehade will stumble across John Jeffrey fucking an apple pie in the staff kitchen.
  • Jennifer Wolfe will speak during a GNSO Council meeting.
  • The Intellectual Property Constituency will complain that ICANN’s latest rights protection mechanisms “go too far to protect trademark owners” and demand an immediate rollback.
  • Rick Schwartz will invest $200 million in Donuts.
  • The sentence “Esther Dyson declined to comment.” will appear in a mainstream media article about new gTLDs.

Happy new year everyone!

Donuts’ portfolio swells as ICANN signs 31 new gTLD contracts

Kevin Murphy, December 6, 2013, Domain Registries

ICANN signed 31 new gTLD Registry Agreements yesterday, 24 of which were with Donuts subsidiaries.
Back-end registry provider Neustar was among a handful of companies signing RAs for their dot-brands too.
Donuts signed contracts for: .haus, .properties, .maison, .productions, .parts, .cruises, .foundation, .industries, .vacations, .consulting, .report, .villas, .condos, .cards, .vision, .dating, .catering, .cleaning, .community, .rentals, .partners, .events, .flights and .exposed.
Top Level Design signed for .ink, which is expected to compete with Uniregistry’s already-delegated .tattoo.
XYZ.com signed for its uber-generic budget offering .xyz.
BusinessRalliart is now contracted for its Japanese geo .okinawa.
IRI Domain Management, affiliated with the Mormon church, got its .mormon RA, for what is expected to be a “highly restricted” religious namespace.
KRG Department of Information Technology got .krd, which it wants to use to serve the Kurdish people and Kurdistan region of Iraq.
Finally, Italian management consultancy Praxi got its dot-brand .praxi.

XYZ says auctions “comfortably within the rules”

Kevin Murphy, November 10, 2013, Domain Registries

New gTLD registry XYZ.com has responded to criticisms of its plan to auction .xyz and .college names with NameJet before they even have signed contracts with ICANN.
CEO Daniel Negari told DI that the plan to auction 40 names between now and the end of February, is “comfortably within the rules”.
The company seems to be operating at the edge of what is permissible under the new gTLD program’s rights protection mechanisms, which state that no domains may be allocated prior to Sunrise.
But Negari said in an email interview that nothing will be “allocated” before its Sunrise periods are done:

the buyers at auction are not buying the domain names as in a normal auction. They are buying an option to force us to allocate them the domain after the Sunrise Period for the auction price assuming various contingencies are met — such as us being able to allocate the name in the future, the name being available after sunrise, the name not being blocked-out because of name collisions and so on.

He went on to say that the 40 names being put to auction are being drawn from the 100 names the recently redrafted Registry Agreement says registries are allowed to allocate to themselves “necessary for the operation or the promotion of the TLD”.
There’s also the potential problem that neither TLD has yet received its list of name collisions, which are likely to contain thousands of strings that the registry must block at launch.
As we’ve seen with the gTLDs that already have their lists, many desirable second-level strings are likely to be blocked, which could clash with names XYZ is planning to auction.
But XYZ seems to have access to the Day In The Life Of The Internet data from which these lists are compiled, and Negari said that the names it is auctioning off do not appear.
“We think these auctions are a great way to both promote our TLD as anticipated by ICANN in the RA and to bring increased innovation to the space in line with ICANN’s stated goals for the new gTLD program,” Negari said.

NameJet to auction new gTLD domains before they launch

Kevin Murphy, November 8, 2013, Domain Sales

Many registrars are already offering new gTLD pre-registrations, now NameJet has taken the idea one step further: it’s going to auction premium names months before the gTLDs even go live.
It’s just announced a deal with XYZ.com, which is on track to run the .xyz and .college registries, to sell 40 “premium” domain names this month. In fact, according to its press relase, the first auction started on Wednesday.
These two new gTLDs are uncontested but do not yet have Registry Agreements with ICANN, and have not passed pre-delegation testing or any of the other pre-launch prerequisites.
The companies said they due to go live next year.
Some of the domains to be auctioned include: loans.college, scholarships.college, vacations.xyz, insurancequotes.xyz, students.college, jobs.college, auctions.xyz and health.xyz.
NameJet said it expects the auctions to be wrapped up by the end of February.

CentralNic reports profitable first half

Kevin Murphy, September 25, 2013, Domain Registries

CentralNic today issued its first financial statements since floating on London’s Alternative Investment Market earlier this month.
The company is profitable, reporting profit before tax for the first half of 2013 that almost doubled to $636,000 on revenue that was up 16% at £1,735 million ($2.7 million).
Revenue was down substantially and profit more or less flat sequentially, however. In the second half of 2012, the company took profits of £593,000 on revenue of £2.9 million ($4.6 million).
Seasonality? One-time fees from its new gTLD applicant clients? CentralNic didn’t say.
The H12013 results do not include any revenue from its deal with Go Daddy, which started selling .la domains in July, but it did include revenue from partnerships with two Chinese registrars.
Chairman John Swingewood said in a statement to the market:

The Company is undergoing sustained growth resulting from increased demand for our domain names, establishing new retail channels and securing new inventory. What is more impressive is that these results are yet to include revenues from sales of our pipeline of new Top-Level Domains, which include .college, .bar, .wiki and .xyz, for which the first launch activities are due to start at the end of the year.

The company, which is signed up to provide back-end registry services for 14 uncontested and 39 contested new gTLDs, raised £5 million in its IPO on September 3.