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Cloudflare goes all-in with at-cost domains

Kevin Murphy, September 28, 2021, Domain Registrars

Content delivery specialist Cloudflare has come out as a fully-fledged domain name registrar, promising to sell names in hundreds of TLDs with no markup on the registry wholesale price.

Since the company launched Cloudflare Registrar three years ago, it’s only been possible for customers to transfer in their domains from other registrars; no new regs were possible.

That’s now changed, with the company today announcing customers can buy their domains direct without having to faff about with transfers.

“It’s important to note that our registrar pricing is ‘at-cost.’ That means we charge our customers exactly what we pay the registry, plus any applicable ICANN transaction fees,” the company blogged.

A new .com costs $8.57, for example.

It appears that you need to be a Cloudflare CDN customer to use the registrar service, but it offers a free plan among its suite of offerings.

It’s not the only registrar to offer names at cost, but it’s certainly the one with the best brand recognition.

Cloudflare currently offers over 250 TLDs, and plans to launch 40 more next month. It just added .uk, and plans to add more ccTLDs, as well as premium-priced domains, in future.

The company had about 325,000 domains under management at the last count in May, having transferred a net of 118,000 names during the previous 12 months.

Make no mistake, Cloudflare will be losing money on this venture, despite what it said in September 2018, when it made out running a registrar was cost-free.

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Hold on to your stats! ShortDot gets two gTLDs approved in China

Kevin Murphy, September 28, 2021, Domain Registries

ShortDot, which makes a business repurposing unwanted gTLDs for the budget end of the market, said today it has had two more horses in its stable approved for use in China.

The company said that .bond and .cyou have been given the necessary nods by Chinese authorities.

What this could mean, if history is any guide, is a sharp increase in sales for the two extensions, possibly to the extent that they materially affect overall domain industry volume stats for the next few years.

ShortDot seems to think so, saying in a press release: “Given the massive success of .icu in China, it is quite clear that .bond and .cyou will follow suit to become largely successful.”

.icu currently has about 600,000 names under management, more than half of which are registered via Chinese registrars. Its numbers are on their way down.

At its peak 18 months ago it had more than 10 times as many, about 6.6 million, due to its low pricing and popularity among Chinese speculators.

The sudden rise and wholly predictable precipitous fall of .icu has been messing with overall new gTLD industry stats for the last couple of years. No volume analysis is complete without a .icu-related asterisk.

It’s by no means assured that the same will be true of .cyou and .bond of course.

.cyou, which was originally a dot-brand matching the ticker symbol of a Chinese company, had 118,000 names under management at the end of May and 136,000 in its zone file yesterday.

Names in .cyou can be had for $2 at Namecheap and NameSilo, its top two registrars, which together hold over 70% of the market.

.bond, originally an Australian university’s dot-brand, has fewer than 5,000 names at the last count and retails for about $55 retail at the low end.

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CentralNic spends $6.5 million on traffic network

Kevin Murphy, September 28, 2021, Domain Registries

CentralNic this morning said it has paid $6.5 million to acquire “a publishing network of revenue generating websites”.

The company, which is seeing an increasingly large chunk of its revenue coming from domain monetization, said the network generates $2 million in annual revenue and $1.5 million in earnings.

The seller is White & Case, a 120-year-old international law firm, not exactly the kind of company you’d expect to own a bunch of random monetized domains.

Neither the size of the network nor the means of monetization were disclosed.

CentralNic said the network was already a customer for roughly half of its sites, so the acquisition will add about $1 million to revenue and $1.5 million to earnings, reducing annual cost of revenue by about $500,000.

While the company is best know for selling domain names, following recent acquisitions revenue from its fast-growing “online marketing” segment outpaced its traditional revenue sources, bringing in $96.4 million in the first half compared to $78.3 million in it two domain-related segments.

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Nothing but losses ahead for MMX

Kevin Murphy, September 27, 2021, Domain Registries

Former new gTLD registry MMX has delivered its latest set of financial results and warned that, without any operating business, it will be loss-making for the foreseeable future.

The company today reported a first-half loss of $783,000, compared to a loss of $1.25 million in the year-ago period.

That’s calculated from its ongoing operations, which since the $120 million sale of its registry business to GoDaddy comprises no revenue-generating activities but substantial costs keeping the company running and maintaining its listing on the AIM stock market.

Profit from discontinued operations was $3.38 million, compared to $2.68 million.

It still has small “RSP” business, providing non-technical back-office management services to a few former gTLD partners, but this will be wound down or sold off.

CEO Tony Farrow said in a statement:

We are now in the process of delivering the transition services agreed with GoDaddy Registry and disposing of, or otherwise winding down, our RSP Business. Whilst the transition services are being provided on a cost recovery basis, the Company’s ongoing administrative and other public company costs will result in operating losses for the Group going forward.

When the winding down of existing businesses is done, MMX will look for acquisition opportunities or act as a vessel for a reverse takeover.

It’s currently returning $80 million of its GoDaddy cash to investors with a buyback, but this is not enough to clear all of its shares.

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Afilias appeals .web ruling, Verisign responds with “rigging” claims

Kevin Murphy, September 27, 2021, Domain Registries

Afilias has filed an unusual and unprecedented appeal against the May ruling that found ICANN broke its bylaws by awarding the .web gTLD to a Verisign affiliate.

The company is arguing that the Independent Review Process panel that decided the .web case shirked its duties, by not actually resolving the major disputes placed before it.

Verisign, in response, has accused Afilias of asking for a “do-over”, which it said is against the rules, and published information it said showed the company had tried to “rig” the .web auction.

The IRP followed the 2015 ICANN last-resort auction, which saw Verisign secretly fund a shell applicant called Nu Dot Co to win with a $135 million bid, on the basis .web would later be transferred to its custody.

Afilias was the runner-up, and argued that ICANN should have voided the NDC bid because Verisign’s involvement was not disclosed.

But the IRP panel merely found that ICANN had breached its bylaws by failing to have the courage to actually rule on the legitimacy of Verisign’s tactics, and threw it back to ICANN to make a decision.

ICANN has yet to make that decision. Instead, Afilias has filed an appeal (pdf) with the in the form of an “application for an additional decision and interpretation”.

IRP cases are handled by the International Center for Dispute Resolution, and Afilias is invoking the ICDR Arbitration Rules that allow a claimant to request an “interpretation” or “additional award” from the original decision:

By failing to resolve all of the claims and issues Afilias presented to the Panel for decision, the Panel has not only failed to satisfy its mandate; it has also undermined the very Purposes of the IRP (as set out in Section 4.3(a) of the Bylaws)—especially, but not exclusively, by its decision to refer Afilias# claim arising from Nu Dot Co’s (“NDC”) violation of the New gTLD Program Rules back to the ICANN Board and Staff to “pronounce” upon “in the first instance.”

The lengthy request is, I believe, an unprecedented attempt at an appeal of an IRP ruling. It’s also heavy on the legal arguments and does not really shed much light on the facts of the case.

The gist of it is that Afilias wants the panel to rule that ICANN breached its bylaws, new gTLD program rules and international law by failing to disqualify NDC and awarding .web to Afilias instead.

Verisign, in response, said in a blog post that Afilas’ application is “not permitted by the arbitration rules – which expressly prohibit such requests for ‘do overs.'”

It also published a letter (pdf) from NDC to ICANN in which it argues that Afilias tried to engage in a “collusive scheme” to “rig” the .web auction.

The letter contains many pages of private correspondence — emails and phone text messages — in which rival .web applicants, before Verisign’s involvement had been confirmed, fruitlessly attempted to persuade NDC to join them in a private auction in which the winning bid would have been shared among the losers rather than all going to ICANN.

While this kind of private settlement was envisaged, and indeed encouraged, by new gTLD program rules, Verisign reckons its smoking gun is messages sent by Afilias during the so-called “blackout period” before the last-resort auction, during which communications between applicants were forbidden.

As far as I can tell, all or almost all of the documents provided by NDC to ICANN had already been submitted to the public record during the IRP.

Note — the “Afilias” referred to throughout this post is the portion of the company, now known as Altanovo Domains, left behind after most of its operating businesses were acquired by Donuts late last year.

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ICANN won’t vote on new gTLDs for another year

Kevin Murphy, September 24, 2021, Domain Policy

Those of you champing at the bit for an opportunity to apply for some more new gTLDs have a longer wait ahead of you than you might have hoped, following a vote of the ICANN board of directors last week.

The board has asked ICANN staff to kick off the latest — but not last — stage of the long-running runway to the next application window, but it will take around 10 months and cost millions.

On September 12, the board gave CEO Göran Marby $9 million from the 2012 round’s war chest and told him to kick off the so-called Operational Design Phase of the New Generic Top-Level Domain Subsequent Procedures Policy Development Process (SubPro).

What this means is that ICANN will take the community-created policy recommendations approved by the GNSO Council in January and try to figure how they specifically could be implemented, before the board decides whether they should be implemented.

The ODP will “assess the potential risks, anticipated costs, resource requirements, timelines, and other matters related to implementation” the board resolution states.

For example, while the SubPro final report calls for an outreach campaign prior to opening the application window, the ODP scoping document (pdf) asks what materials would be needed to be produced and how much they would cost.

The scoping paper comprises dozens and dozens of questions like this, over 15 pages. I started counting them but got bored.

ICANN chair Maarten Botterman said the ODP will provide the board “with relevant materials to facilitate the Board’s determination whether the recommendations are in the best interest of the ICANN community or ICANN”.

While the resolution says the ODP should be completed “within 10 months”, that clock starts ticking when the Marby “initiates” the process, and that does not appear to have happened.

Given that, and ICANN’s habitual tardiness, I’d guess we’re looking at closer to a year before the Org has a document ready to put before the board for consideration.

With all the other stuff that needs to happen following the board’s approval, we’re probably talking about a 2024 application window. That would be 12 years after the last round and 11 years later than the next round was originally promised.

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ICANN now has half a billion bucks in the bank after huge pandemic profits

Kevin Murphy, September 23, 2021, Domain Policy

ICANN, the non-profit organization with the limited technical mandate, now has over half a billion dollars in the bank, after the affects of the coronavirus pandemic boosted funding and slashed costs.

The Org ended June 2021 with cash and investments of $521 million, up $40 million over the preceding 12 months.

While some of this gain can be attributed to investment gains, the majority chunk comes from ICANN largely misjudging the length and impact of pandemic-related restrictions.

Expenses were $10 million lower than budget, because all three ICANN meetings during the year were held online, where they cost about half a million bucks a pop, about $3 million lower than in-person gatherings.

ICANN had budgeted for its 2021 meetings to take place face-to-face in venues around the world, but governmental travel restrictions made this impossible.

The Org saved well over half a million dollars in director expenses alone.

On the top half of the financial statement, the numbers also show a failure to predict how much the pandemic would be generally a boon, rather than a burden, to the domain name industry.

ICANN received $142 million in funding during the year, which was $12 million ahead of budget and $1 million more than it received in fiscal 2020.

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Dead dot-brands top 100. Here’s the list and breakdown

Kevin Murphy, September 22, 2021, Domain Registries

The list of dot-brand gTLDs that have had their ICANN registry contracts torn up has now topped 100.

SC Johnson, the big American cleaning products company, has informed the Org it no longer wishes to run .afamilycompany, .duck, .glade, .off, .raid, and .scjohnson.

Regular readers will know that I’ve been keeping a running tally of dot-brand terminations for the last several years, and according to that tally that number is now 101.

But it’s a bit more complex than that, so I thought I’d use the occasion of this milestone to provide a more substantial breakdown.

ICANN has records for 104 dot-brands either being terminated by ICANN or asking to be terminated of their own accord.

The number of registry-initiated termination requests is 90. These are typically gTLDs that were never used, or were experimented with and then abandoned. A smaller number relate to brands that were discontinued following mergers or product end-of-life, rendering the dot-brand pointless.

ICANN initiated the other 14 terminations, mostly because the registry operator got cold feet during the pre-delegation testing phase, before going live, but also in one instance for non-payment of fees and in two cases whatever the hell this is.

Six of the registry-initiated transfer requests were withdrawn before being fully processed. Of those, three (.boots, .mobily, and its Arabic translation) went on to be terminated anyway.

Two registries filed for self-termination then changed their minds and committed auto-genericide by selling their contracts — for .bond and .sbs — to discounting portfolio registry ShortDot instead.

One dot-brand, .case, withdrew its December 2020 termination request and appears to still be active.

Thirteen termination requests are currently in the system but have not yet been fully processed.

Five dot-brand gTLD contracts — .observer, .quest, .monster, .select, .compare — were sold to other registries to be repurposed as open generics. You could add .cyou to that list, depending on how you define a dot-brand.

One gTLD that was originally a generic — .moto — made the move in the other direction to become a dot-brand.

Here’s the list of dot-brands that have either requested a termination, or been terminated.

[table “67” not found /]

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I had a stroke

Kevin Murphy, September 21, 2021, Gossip

Of the four men in the room, Tony has it worst. A very elderly gent, he spends six hours a day catatonic, and the rest of his time sleeping, stirring every few minutes to wail loudly as if in horrific pain or equally horrific sexual ecstasy.

He’s fully stroked-up.

When the nurses come to wash him and clean up his shitted bed, which is every three or four hours, he hurls barely comprehensible insults and threats and tries to strike them with flailing palms he cannot form into fists.

They work away uncomplainingly, soothingly, like he’s their favorite granddad. Observing them work at 4am on my second unsleeping night makes me cry for the first of two times during my hospital stay. These guys are the closest thing reality has to angels, and I hope Boris chokes to death on his 3% while waiting for an ambulance.

There’s an octogenarian in the next bed, Trevor.

He’s white, but the full top half of his face is shining ebony from where a piece of furniture intercepted it when he briefly blacked out and fell during some kind of cardiac event. He looks demonic, but he’s the sweetest guy you could ever hope to meet.

They’ve put him in an elaborate medical collar and told him he can’t take it off for the next two months, not even to shower. One wrong move and his spine might snap like a twig and he’ll spend the rest of his life worse off than Tony.

At least he won’t have to dress up for Halloween, he grimly muses.

Then there’s the youngster, Tim, who reels off a laundry list of his ailments, many of which he thinks will soon kill him, not least of which is the fact the he just accidentally proposed to his short-term girlfriend, who said yes.

He has an upcoming try-out for a local sports team, but his deepest wish is to have both his legs amputated.

In this room of four, I feel like the lucky one.

And I’ve just had a stroke at 44.

*

It happened at some point during the evening of the 13th into the following morning.

There was no pain — no physical sensation at all, not even a headache — I simply woke up disabled and oblivious to that fact.

My first inkling that something was amiss came when I found I couldn’t double-click my mouse with my right index finger. I had a general weakness in my right arm, but I chalked this down to having slept on it funny.

I felt a bit off for most of the day, but it wasn’t until the evening, when I tried to insult my cat, that I realized something was terribly wrong. Even after three attempts, the words got garbled on the way out of my brain and slipped and slurred out of my mouth. I could see the cat didn’t look offended in the least.

I knew that I’d had or was having a stroke, and I was in a taxi to the hospital 20 minutes later.

All the NHS TV spots about strokes focus on teaching the viewer how to spot the symptoms of stroke in others, presumably because the victims themselves are usually too addled and confused to recognize them in themselves.

This gave me comfort. I was totally lucid, in thought if not in speech.

Three doctors, one consultant and a CT scan subsequently — after many terrifying hours of uncertainty — confirmed I’d had a “mild” or “small” stroke, buggering up my dominant right arm and leg as well as my speaking voice.

My face was mercifully spared. Still a straight-up 10, ladies.

This all happened due to a combination of recent stresses and two prior decades of hedonistic, borderline arrogant devil-may-care intemperance. Too much booze, too many fags, not enough self-control.

I’ve known I have hypertension for the best part of a decade, and done precisely fuck-all about it. Getting stroked was not so much predictable as inevitable. I have nobody to blame but myself, and this list of people (pdf).

*

My right leg is probably the injured member I’m least concerned about.

I can walk in a straight line easily enough, albeit with a noticeable limp, but my brain currently finds some usually straightforward perambulatory maneuvers surprisingly tricky.

I haven’t fallen over or tripped, not once, since the stroke. But, like Zoolander, I can’t turn left.

My hand is altogether more worrying. My stroke was on the left side of my brain, meaning the right side of my body was affected. I’m right-handed.

I can use the hand to open a door, pick things up, flush a toilet — I even assembled a piece of flat-pack furniture yesterday — but anything requiring more than basic coordination is challenging.

I can’t write using a pen without significant effort. I tried writing out my first name in caps on Thursday morning. The four attempts in this image took about five minutes to produce. And it was painful.

There’s no cognitive problem here, it’s purely a case of not being able to physically control my hand the way I could a week ago. It feels heavy, and I have trouble controlling the vertical axis with any degree of finesse.

I can slice bread but I can’t easily butter it. The second time I cried was on Friday when I managed to get my buttering time down to under a minute per slice. Bittersweet rather than self-pitying.

There are a few things I’d like to do with my dick that are no longer possible.

But, more pertinent to this blog, I can’t double-click a mouse and can’t tap a touchscreen. The fingers are just not fast enough to get the correct timing right now.

Typing on a keyboard is challenging, with my hands trying to cooperate across two different time zones. If you spot any typos here, they will likely be letters on the right side of the keyboard. My backspace key is getting the workout of its life.

And then there’s my speaking.

Right now, I’d say I’m comprehensible 95% of the time at peak, with my performance slipping as the conversation progresses and the fatigue kicks in.

My voice is more gravelly, sometimes a little slurry. I sometimes stammer or trip over my tongue.

People who have heard my pillow talk the morning after a boozy night out would recognize this voice. Everyone else now gets to hear it without experiencing the horrors of the night before.

But let’s look for some silver linings, shall we?

*

Silver lining number one: my opinions are no longer worthless on social media.

A week ago I was just a straight white able-bodied cis male, and therefore of no value whatsoever. Today, I am Disabled, and my point of view matters. I now have a card to play in the identity politics game.

Ricky Gervais better watch his fucking back, and if the next ICANN meeting is anything less than 100% accessible, I may hire a lawyer.

I know, I know, I’m not saying I’m as good as Gay or Black or Trans, but I reckon I’m at least as good as half-Jewish (on my father’s side, maybe?).

Silver lining number two: no more guilt using the disabled toilets.

Silver lining number three: I probably qualify for a Blue Badge, which in the UK gives you priority access to convenient parking.

These things are so coveted that I’m even tempted to buy a car.

Silver lining number four: the stroke seems to have severed the part of my brain that makes me want to drink alcohol. I sincerely hope it lasts, but right now I have no desire to touch a drop of the stuff any more.

I’d go so far as to now say I think I’ve “completed” Alcohol, in much the same way as one completes a video game.

I’ve done all of the side quests, gathered all the collectibles, visited all the secret locations, done all the stranger missions, partaken of all the optional activities, maxed out all my stats, been awarded all the achievements…

I’ve partied. I’ve met interesting people in unusual places. I’ve had one-night stands with 9s and 2s. I’ve danced like nobody was looking, and sang karaoke like nobody was listening. I’ve sent all the embarrassing texts. I’ve hooked up with ambiguously gendered bar girls in Bangkok, been robbed by a hooker in Vegas, begged for coins with a homeless guy in Shoreditch. I even found the secret naked French pool party at the mansion in Vietnam.

I’m now at 99% completion, and taking on the final story mission, but the last big boss battle turns out to be a race with my five-year-old niece to see who can tie their shoelaces the fastest.

I believe there’s some DLC that extends the story, but it’s called “Cirrhosis”, and I don’t like the sound of that.

The fact that I’m now a sober man condemned to live in a body that looks and sounds perpetually drunk is a cosmic irony so on-the-nose that it would make a Greek god blush.

This must be what it’s like to be Scottish.

*

Silver lining number five: I’m told that, with patience and practice, this is fixable. That’s my focus right now.

I honestly don’t know how this is going to affect DI in the coming weeks.

I do know it’s currently less than seven days since a doctor first used the word “stroke” in my presence, and that almost everything I do, even the simple things like typing, is tiring. I had to take a break for a nap three times during the writing of this piece.

I intend to continue to work, just don’t expect to see many long-form analytical or editorial pieces in the near future. If a story is causing me stress, I’ll spike it sooner than risk another health crisis.

I doubt I’ll be booking any speaking engagements any time soon.

I have some other ideas too, but I’ll get to those later.

Thanks for reading.

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Volkswagen drives IDN dot-brand off a cliff

Kevin Murphy, September 13, 2021, Domain Registries

Volkwagen has decided it no longer wishes to run its Chinese-script dot-brand gTLD.

The car-maker’s Chinese arm has asked ICANN to terminate its contract for .大众汽车 (.xn--3oq18vl8pn36a), which has been in the root for five years.

It’s the standard terminating dot-brand story — the gTLD was never used and VW evidently decided it wasn’t needed.

The company also runs .volkswagen, and that’s not used either, but ICANN has yet to publish termination papers for that particular string.

Fellow German car-maker Audi is one of the most prolific users of dot-brands. Its .audi gTLD has over 1,800 registered domains, most of which appear to be used by its licensed dealerships.

.volkwagen is the 95th terminated dot-brand and the seventh terminated internationalized domain name gTLD.

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