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Internet Naming Co acquires five more gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, November 17, 2023, Domain Registries

Internet Naming Co has acquired five unused dot-brand gTLDs and will relaunch them as unrestricted generics in the coming months.

The company, the Caymans-based successor to UNR, has acquired .diy, .food, .lifestyle, .living, and .vana from Lifestyle Domain Holdings, CEO Shayan Rostam told me today.

They were all dot-brands that were not used, but ICANN has already removed the dot-brand restrictions in their contracts, allowing them to be sold to a general audience.

The gTLDs moved to Tucows from Verisign’s winding-down back-end registry services platform this week, and INC is now waiting for ICANN to formally approve the registry agreement assignments, Rostam said.

“I’m launching these TLDs [as] unrestricted generics this winter, as our registrar partners are already aware,” he said in an email. “Startup launch plans will be finalized shortly after assignment.”

The acquisitions increase the size of INC’s portfolio from 11 to 16. The company launched with nine UNR TLDs — .click, .country, .help, .forum, .hiv, .love, .property, .sexy, and .trust — last year. It also runs .realty and .rest, according to its web site.

The five new acquisitions were originally owned by Lifestyle Domain Holdings, a subsidiary of a cable TV company that is now part of Warner Bros Discovery, which appears to be unloading its entire portfolio.

LDH earlier this year asked ICANN to terminate its contracts for .foodnetwork, .travelchannel, .hgtv and .cookingnetwork, and later for .cityeats and .frontdoor.

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Domain universe grows despite .com drag

Kevin Murphy, November 16, 2023, Domain Registries

The number of registered domain names in the world grew by 2.7 million in the third quarter, despite market-leading .com shrinking, according to Verisign’s latest Domain Name Industry Brief.

There were 359.3 million domains across all TLDs at the end of September, according to the DNIB. up from 356.6 million at the end of June.

Over the same period, .com shrunk by half a million names as Verisign faces challenges from exposure to erratic demand from China.

New gTLD volumes were up by 2.1 million names to end the quarter at 30.2 million. Judging by zone files, at least half of these new names seem to be cheap, low-quality regs in the likes of .top and .cfd.

Total ccTLD names were 138.1 million at the end of the quarter, up by a million. All of the top 10 ccTLDs grew or were flat, except .uk, which lost about a hundred thousand names.

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Did somebody spend a million bucks on a Google domain hack?

Kevin Murphy, November 14, 2023, Domain Sales

There’s evidence that Google Registry may have sold a .ing domain name for seven figures during its pre-launch period.

Google is well into its Early Access Period for the new gTLD, which runs for five weeks with premium prices decreasing every week or day until December 5, when they go to general availability pricing.

The EAP was notable for just how premium the first-week prices were — if you really wanted a quality domain hack for your business, it would cost you well north of $1 million.

But as far as I can tell from zone files, just one domain was added during that first week —, which has a Whois creation date of November 6, well within the cut-off for the seven-figure price tag.

The domain does not resolve and Whois currently shows Google itself as the registrant and Google’s go-to registrar, Markmonitor, as the registrar.

So it may be a self-reg, but waiting until EAP to grab a name in-house when Google has had literally years to do so does seem unusual.

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ICANN cans Freenom

Kevin Murphy, November 13, 2023, Domain Registrars

Controversial free-domains company Freenom has lost its ICANN accreditation, signalling the end of its life as a gTLD registrar.

Org said that as of November 25, Freenom (aka OpenTLD) will no longer be able to sell or renew any domains.

The termination follows the company’s failure to resolve or respond to three separate breach notices, covering dozens of infractions, that Compliance sent between September and October.

Real damage to registrants was caused — many could not rescue their expired domains or transfer names to another registrar.

The company has 16,521 gTLD domains under management at the end of July, according to the most-recent registry transaction reports. They will now be moved to a more-reliable registrar under ICANN’s De-Accredited Registrar Transition Procedure.

Freenom may have been a small fish in the gTLD space, but it gave away tens of millions of free domains in five ccTLDs it controlled, mostly to spammers and other ne’er-do-wells.

It was recently reported that it has lost or is losing its deals with these ccTLDs, notably .tk, after their governments became aghast at how badly they were being abused.

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Call for ICANN to dump anti-Semitic partner

Kevin Murphy, November 3, 2023, Domain Policy

A senior Jewish member of the ICANN community is calling on the Org to end its partnership with a company run by a Palestine-born Jordanian businessman who recently broadcast some outrageously anti-Semitic remarks.

Jeff Neuman of JJN Solutions and Dot Hip Hop, who has spent the last quarter-century involved in countless ICANN community roles, made the plea in an open letter he posted on his blog today following remarks by Talal Abu-Ghazaleh on Jordanian TV on October 12.

The letter follows an exchange at the ICANN Annual General Meeting in Hamburg last week in which Neuman raised concerns about some on-site graffiti that he considered anti-Semitic.

Abu-Ghazaleh’s comments, rather than being just some coded anti-Semitic dog-whistles, appear to directly attempt to justify the Holocaust, according to a translation by Middle-East media monitoring organization MEMRI.

Along with some less-extreme anti-Semitic tropes, he said, during an interview discussing the war in Gaza:

The Jews do not have any ideology. All they care about is money and interests. I had a friend who was a German cabinet member. I once asked him: ‘When Hitler, may God forgive him, carried out the Holocaust, why didn’t he finish the job and kill all the Jews?’ He said to me: ‘It’s the other way around, but don’t tell anyone I said this. He left a group of them on purpose, so that people would know why we carried out the Holocaust. When you would be tormented by them, you would know the reason.’

It turns out the Talal Abu-Ghazzaleh Organization (TAG-Org) that he runs hosts an instance of ICANN’s L-root server in Jordan — one of scores of redundant nodes at data centers around the world — and Neuman wants this relationship terminated.

Revealing that family members were killed in the Holocaust, he says in his letter to ICANN leadership:

I believe ICANN must take immediate action to remove this instance from TAG-Org and find a new home for this instance. In addition, ICANN should make an unequivocal statement ASAP that it does not condone such hate speech and that it will not have any partnerships whose founders or leaders espouse such views.

TAG-Org’s relationship with ICANN does not stop at the L-root instance, however. Abu-Ghazaleh is a noted champion of intellectual property rights in the Middle-East region and his companies are naturally involved in the domain industry and ICANN community.

TAG-Domains, part of Abu-Ghazaleh Intellectual Property (AGIP), is an ICANN-accredited registrar specializing in brand protection services. It has only about 1,200 gTLD domains under management.

And the group seems to be intimately involved with the Arab Center for Dispute Resolution, the only ICANN-approved UDRP service provider in the region. It was approved in 2013 with an application managed by Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Legal and there appears to be an ongoing relationship.

Neuman, who makes it clear he is not currently holding ICANN at fault for its partnerships, does not appear to be calling for ICANN to end these other relationships with the Abu-Ghazaleh group and I don’t think the Registrar Accreditation Agreement has a morality clause anyway.

Since Abu-Ghazaleh’s comments have come to light, two IP news publications — Managing IP and IAM — have publicly distanced themselves from him.

Managing IP said it was reviewing all awards it had given to AGIP and removing the company’s profile from its site, while IAM said it was removing Abu-Ghazaleh from its IP Hall of Fame.

While to my knowledge Neuman is the only person to date to ask ICANN for a similar censure, his voice does carry weight. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone else in the community who’s put in as many hours and knows as much about ICANN policy-making.

I think it’s quite likely ICANN will say something condemning racism in response; I’m less certain that it will pull the plug on the Amman L-root or do anything concrete to distance itself from the Abu-Ghazaleh companies.

ICANN chair Tripti Sinha has already expressed dismay at graffiti that Neuman considered anti-Semitic that appeared for 24 hours on a mural at ICANN 78 in Hamburg last week.

Saying on Twitter that the graffiti implied endorsement of the murder of Jews and that he felt unsafe at an ICANN meeting for the first time, Neuman used the Public Forum last Thursday to ask ICANN’s board of directors to condemn such behavior.

“This is not the place to make statements like that,” Sinha said, referring to the graffiti. “This is meant to be a safe place for discourse and interchange of ideas. so please do not engage in any kind of political dialogue and hurtful dialogue.”

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GoDaddy domains revenue crosses half a billion

Kevin Murphy, November 3, 2023, Domain Registrars

GoDaddy sold more than half a billion dollars of domain names in the third quarter even as volumes slightly decreased, according to its latest earnings release.

The company had domains revenue of $508.2 million in Q3, compared to $494 million a year ago and $492.7 in the second quarter, according to regulatory filings. The aftermarket revenue component was down 2% at $107 million.

It had 84 million domains under management at the end of the quarter, compared to 84.2 million at the end of June. About three quarters of GoDaddy’s DUM are in gTLDs and about 60% are in .com, according to registry reports.

Overall, GoDaddy’s revenue was up 3.5% compared to a year ago at $1.07 billion. Net income was $131 million compared to $100 million a year ago.

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Bosnian government to sue US domain firm that cut it off

Kevin Murphy, November 3, 2023, Domain Registries

One of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s two governments has said it will sue a US domain name company — probably Verisign — for turning off the domain it was using for official government business.

“The Government of the Republic of Srpska will hire legal experts to prepare a lawsuit against the company that disabled the use of the website of the Government of the Republic Srpska without prior notice,” the government said in a statement on its new web site.

It did not name the company in question, but we can narrow it down to a few.

Its old domain,, was registered via Dotster, a reseller for, part of Newfold Digital. The .net registry is of course Verisign. These are all American companies subject to US legal jurisdiction.

The domain still exists in Whois, but has been removed from the .net zone file and does not resolve.

The Republika Srpska, or Serb Republic, is part of Bosnia and Herzegovina that doesn’t particularly want to be a part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. As such, its new domain is in .rs, the ccTLD for neighboring Serbia, rather than Bosnia’s .ba.

The old .net domain was reportedly deleted due to US sanctions against the Republic, which were expanded October 20 to include members of President Milorad Dodik’s family and several corporate entities.

The US accuses the Dodik family of widespread “graft, bribery, and other forms of corruption” and engaging in “divisive ethno-nationalistic rhetoric” to divert attention from their activities. It additionally accuses them of violating the Dayton Peace Agreement, which ended the war in the region in the 1990s.

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Freenom is “essentially finished as a company”

Kevin Murphy, November 3, 2023, Domain Registries

Freenom is “essentially finished as a company”.

That’s the conclusion of a truly excellent piece of reporting at the MIT Technology Review today, which takes a deep dive into the company’s ccTLD antics over the last couple of decades, particularly regarding Tokelau’s .tk domain.

The article reveals not only that all four of Freenom’s African ccTLDs have severed ties with it (we already knew about two) but that Tokelau has asked .nz operator InternetNZ to help it wrest away control of .tk, the company’s flagship.

Officials in Tokelau, a tiny Pacific island territory with extremely poor and expensive internet infrastructure, say they get very little money from Freenom and are appalled that Tokelau’s reputation has been dragged through the mud by decades of abusive .tk registrations.

Freenom’s business model is to give away domains for free and then monetize them when they expire or, more usually, are suspended for abuse. It’s seen .tk become one of the largest TLDs by volume, with at one point over 40 million names.

The company hasn’t been selling any domains in the five ccTLDs it operated since January and it seems quite likely ICANN will suspend or terminate its gTLD registrar accreditation in the coming days or weeks.

It’s also fighting a cybersquatting lawsuit filed by Facebook owner Meta earlier this year that seeks damages sufficiently large to bankrupt it.

The MIT article is long but meticulously researched and sourced and well worth your time. It’s certainly one of the best pieces of mainstream journalism about the domain industry I’ve read.

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Gap drops some dot-brands

Kevin Murphy, November 3, 2023, Domain Registries

American clothing retailer Gap has dumped two of its unused dot-brand gTLDs.

The company has told ICANN to terminate its registry contracts for .oldnavy and .bananarepublic, the names of two of its store chains, saying it isn’t using them.

Gap still owns .gap, and hasn’t yet asked for it to be cancelled, but it isn’t using that either.

The company’s TLDs all run on GoDaddy’s back-end and are managed by Fairwinds Partners.

The terminations bring the total number of dead dot-brands this year to 23, spread across 12 companies.

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Group to seek .io TLD takeover after OECD human rights ruling

Kevin Murphy, November 1, 2023, Domain Policy

A group composed of displaced Chagossians will ask ICANN to redelegate the increasingly popular .io top-level domain, according to the group’s lawyer.

The move, still in its very early stages, follows a recent ruling under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct, which mildly chastised the current registry, Identity Digital.

“The next move is domain reassignment,” lawyer Jonathan Levy, who brought the OECD complaint on behalf of the Chagos Refugees Group UK, told us. The proposed beneficiary would be “a group composed of Chagossians” he said.

.io is the ccTLD for the archipelago currently known as the British Indian Ocean Territory. It’s one of those Postel-era “Just Some Guy” developing-world delegations that pre-date ICANN.

But BIOT is a controversial territory. Originally the Chagos Archipelago, the few thousand original inhabitants were forced out by the UK government in the 1970s so the US military could build a base on Diego Garcia, the largest island.

Most of the surviving Chagossians and their descendants live in Mauritius, but have been fighting for their right to return for decades. In 2019, the UN ruled the UK’s current administration of BIOT is unlawful.

In recent years, since .io became popular, the ccTLD has become part of the fight.

The original and technically still-current registry for .io is a UK company called Internet Computer Bureau. ICB was acquired by Afilias in 2017 for $70 million. Afilias was subsequently acquired by Donuts, which is now called Identity Digital.

Corporate accounts filed by ICB name its ultimate owner as Beignet DTLD Holdings of Delaware, which appears to be a part of $2.21 billion private equity firm Ethos Capital, Identity Digital’s owner, which is co-managed by former ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé.

None of these companies have a connection to BIOT beyond paying a local company called Sure (Diego Garcia) Limited for a mail-forwarding service. The only people believed to reside in the territory at all are US and UK military and contractors.

Levy, on behalf of the Chagossian refugees and a group of victims of cryptocurrency scams operated from .io domains, filed a complaint with the Ireland National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct — basically a mediation service operated by the Irish government — seeking a share of the money from .io sales and/or redelegation.

According to its most-recent public accounts, ICB had turnover of £16.4 million ($19.8 million) in 2021, up from £12.8 million ($15.5 million) in 2020, but also had absolutely horrible gross margins for a registry with only one employee.

The company had cost of sales of £15.8 million and a gross margin of 3.58%. It pays no ICANN fees and the UK government receives no cut beyond the regular corporate tax ICB pays (about £26,000 in 2021).

The OECD’s Guidelines are voluntary guidelines that countries sign up to that are meant to guide how multinational companies behave with regards human rights and so on. Enforcement seems to be relatively toothless, with national NCPs only having the power to “recommend” actions.

In fact, Afilias declined to participate in mediation and appears to have received only a mild finger-wagging in the Irish NCP’s decision (pdf), which was published in September. One of its recommendations reads:

The NCP recommends that in cases in which a product, including a digital asset, is associated with long-running disputes regarding human rights, multinational enterprises should be able to demonstrate that they have carried out human rights due diligence

Levy thinks the NCP’s decision is a big deal, saying it means the OECD has validated the Chagossians’ concerns. Coupled with the UN sanction on the UK related to BIOT, he reckons it could play in their favor in a future redelegation request.

.io domain owners shouldn’t be too worried right now, however. Redelegation takes a very long time even when the losing party agrees, and it doesn’t tend to happen without the consent of the incumbent.

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