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DropCatch spends millions to buy FIVE HUNDRED more registrars

Kevin Murphy, December 2, 2016, Domain Registrars

Domain drop-catching service DropCatch.com has added five hundred new registrar accreditations to its stable over the last few days.
The additions give the company a total accreditation count of at least 1,252, according to DI data.
That means about 43% of all ICANN-accredited registrars are now controlled by just one company.
DropCatch is owned by TurnCommerce, which is also parent of registrar NameBright and premium sales site HugeDomains.
Because gTLD registries rate-limit attempts to register names, drop-catchers such as DropCatch find a good way to increase their chances of registering expiring names is to own as many registrars as possible.
DropCatch is in an arms race here with Web.com, owner of SnapNames and half-owner of NameJet, which has about 500 registrars.
The new accreditations would have cost DropCatch $1.75 million in ICANN application fees alone. They will add $2 million a year to its running costs in terms of extra fixed fees.
That’s not counting the cost of creating 500 brand new LLC companies — named in the new batch DropCatch.com [number] LLC where the number ranges from 1046 to 1545 — each of which is there purely for the purpose of owning the accreditation.
In total, the company is now paying ICANN fixed annual fees in excess of $5 million, not counting its variable fees and per-transaction fees.
Because the ICANN variable fee is split evenly between all registrars (with some exceptions I don’t think apply to DropCatch), I believe the addition of 500 new registrars means all the other registrars will be paying less in variable fees.
There’s clearly money to be made in expiring names.

.sucks terminates Com Laude as “gag order” row escalates

Vox Populi, the .sucks gTLD registry, has terminated the accreditation of brand protection registrar Com Laude as part of an ongoing dispute between the two companies.
Com Laude won’t be able to sell defensive .sucks registrations to its clients any more, at least not on its own accreditation, in other words.
The London-based registrar is transferring all of its .sucks domains to EnCirca as a result of the termination and says it is considering its options in how to proceed.
The shock move, which I believe to be unprecedented, is being linked to Com Laude’s long-time criticisms of Vox Populi’s pricing and policies.
The registrar today had some rather stern words for Vox Pop. Managing director Nick Wood said in a statement:

We have always been critical of this registry and particularly its sunrise pricing model which we regard as predatory. We have advised clients where possible to consider not registering such names. We hope that all brand owners will think twice before buying or renewing a .sucks domain. After all, it is not possible to block out every variation of a trademark under .sucks. In our view, fair criticism is preferable to dealing with Vox Populi.

Ouch!
The termination is believed to be linked to controversial changes to the .sucks Registry-Registrar Agreement, which Vox Pop managed to sneak past ICANN over Christmas.
One of the changes, some registrars believed, would prevent brand protection registrars from openly criticizing .sucks pricing and policies. They called it a “gag order”.
Com Laude SVP Jeff Neuman was one of the strongest critics. I believe he was a key influence on a Registrar Stakeholder Group letter (pdf) in January which essentially said registrars would boycott the new RRA.
That letter said:

It’s ironic for a Registry whose slogan is “Foster debate, Share opinions” has now essentially proposed implementing a gag order on the registrars that sell the .sucks TLD by preventing them from doing just that

While the RRA dispute was resolved more or less amicably following ICANN mediation, with Vox Pop backpedaling somewhat on its proposed changes, Com Laude now believes the registry has held a grudge.
Its statement does not say what part of the .sucks RRA it is alleged to have breached.
Vox Pop has not yet returned a request for comment. I’ll provide an update should I receive further information.
Com Laude said in a statement today:

Jeff Neuman, our SVP of our North American business, Com Laude USA, led the effort in the Registrar Stakeholder Group to quash proposed changes to Vox Populi’s registry-registrar agreement, in order to protect the interests of brand owners and the registrars who work with them. Since then, Vox Populi has accused Com Laude of breaching the terms of the registry-registrar agreement, a claim we take seriously and refute in its entirety. We are now considering our further options.

Wood added:

We have informed our clients of the action being taken and all have expressed their support for the manner in which we have handled it. We are pleased to have received messages of support from across the ICANN community including other registry operators. Clearly there is strong distaste at the practices of Vox Populi.

Strong stuff.

NameVault terminated by ICANN

NameVault, a registrar that once had over 75,000 domains under management, has been terminated by ICANN over multiple alleged contract breaches.
ICANN told (pdf) the Canadian company this week that its right to sell gTLD domain names will come to an end June 17.
The breaches primarily relate to its failure to provide records relating to the domain stronglikebull.com and its failure to provide ICANN with a working phone number.
NameVault belonged to domain investor Adam Matuzich, but I hear he may have sold it off to an Indian outfit several months ago (that may have been a surprise to ICANN too).
Back in 2011, it had over 75,000 names on its books. Today, it has fewer than 1,000.
The decline seems to be largely due to the departure of fellow domain investor Mike Berkens, who started taking his portfolio to Hexonet a few years ago.
ICANN will now ask other registrars if they want to take over NameVault’s domains.
It’s the fourth registrar to lose its accreditation this year.

Neustar wants to be a registrar ASAP

Kevin Murphy, March 10, 2011, Domain Registries

Neustar, registry manager for the .biz and .us top-level domains, has put the wheels in motion to acquire an ICANN registrar accreditation as soon as possible.
It’s the first major gTLD operator to formally request permission to “vertically integrate” since ICANN announced last November that it was prepared to lift the ownership caps that have previously kept registries and registrars quite strictly separated.
Neustar’s .biz contract currently forbids it from owning more than 15% of an ICANN registrar.
In a letter to ICANN sent this afternoon, Neustar vice president of law and policy Jeff Neuman said the company wants this provision deleted:

We are asking for this language now to allow Neustar to compete fairly for new gTLDs on the same terms and conditions as registrars entering the new gTLD registry market.

It is critical to resolve this issue immediately to ensure that Neustar is able to compete on a level playing field with the new entrants into the marketplace and to promote the efficiencies and innovation for consumers as advocated by the ICANN Board.

ICANN shocked the industry last year when its board of directors decided to allow registries and registrars to own each other.
The decision meant that niche community and brand TLDs will be able to sell direct to registrants, without having to secure the support of reluctant big-name registrars.
It also meant that existing gTLD operators will be able to own registrars for the first time.
As a caveat, designed to protect consumers from gaming registries, ICANN proposed a Code of Conduct designed to limit the cross-pollination of data that could be abused.
Similarly, the Code calls for registries to treat all approved registrars equally, regardless of ownership stakes, to avoid competition concerns.
Neuman wrote that Neustar is prepared to have language along the lines of the current draft Code of Conduct, but “no more restrictive”, incorporated into the .biz registry contract.
Other incumbent gTLD registry operators, notably VeriSign and Afilias, are bound by similar contractual restrictions and will presumably also pursue their options along the same lines in future.

Surge in new domain registrars

Kevin Murphy, January 19, 2011, Domain Registrars

ICANN is seeing a spike in newly accredited domain name registrars.
Since the start of the year, the organization has approved 16 new companies, compared to only about 40 in the whole of 2010.
About half a dozen of the new registrars appear to belong to domain investor Andrew Reberry of TurnCommerce, which owns domains such as Glossary.com, Bulldozers.com and Fluff.com.
Many of the others were accredited yesterday and have very generic registrar names, such as Host Name Services Inc, International Registration Services Inc and Online Name Services Inc.
There are no web sites associated with this latest batch yet, but I’d be surprised if many turn out to have sought accreditation with customer-facing domain services in mind.
This is pure speculation, but I wonder if any of this may be related to ICANN’s recent decision to loosen the restrictions on cross-ownership between registrars and registries.
If and when ICANN opens up its new top-level domains program to applications, which could happen as soon as August, potential registries will also be allowed to own registrars.
Could the market for flipping accredited companies return? It’s happened before, but it may not be the most efficient or economical way of achieving accreditation nowadays.
The uptick in newly approved registrars may of course just be an anomaly.

WordPress.com becomes a domain name registrar

Kevin Murphy, October 19, 2010, Domain Registrars

Automattic, the company behind the WordPress.com blogging service, appears to have been granted an ICANN registrar accreditation, which would allow it to start selling domain names direct to its users.
The development seems to put a question mark next to the company’s reseller relationship with Go Daddy subsidiaries Wild West Domains and Domains By Proxy.
Currently, WordPress.com allows users to buy domain names and map them to their wordpress.com blog directly through their blog’s interface. The company charges $17 a year, with optional privacy.
It’s my understanding that the company currently acts as a Wild West Domains reseller, with the privacy protection service offered by Domains By Proxy. Both are Go Daddy companies.
Recently, WordPress.com started offering an Offsite Redirect service, enabling users to bounce visitors to example.wordpress.com to example.com after they’ve switched hosts.
Go Daddy used this as an opportunity to encourage WordPress.com users to migrate to its own hosting service in this blog post.
Automattic showed up on ICANN’s list of accredited registrars IDs yesterday, suggesting that it will not be long before it is also on the official list of accredited registrars.

ICANN cans broke registrar

Kevin Murphy, October 1, 2010, Domain Registrars

4Domains.com has lost its registrar accreditation after ICANN decided it had gone insolvent.
ICANN has alleged numerous other violations of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement, but told the registrar that its insolvency allows it terminate the accreditation with immediate effect.
ICANN’s letter to 4Domains (pdf) describes a company unable not only to pay its roughly $6,110 in due ICANN fees, but also to fund its registry accounts, service its customers and pay its staff.
From this, ICANN has concluded that the registrar is insolvent, and has terminated its accreditation.

4Domains is acting in manner that endangers the stability and operational integrity of the Internet, which is a separate grounds to support ICANN’s termination of the 4Domains RAA.

ICANN said 4Domains was also failing to escrow its registrant data, “due to an inability of the 4Domains programmer to resolve the escrow deposit issues”.
But it has this week supplied ICANN with an electronic copy of its customer database, so it appears that most registrants will be protected should their domains be transferred to another registrar.
The company has been told it may now nominate another registrar to take over its accounts in bulk.
4Domains was accredited in 2000, making it one of the first registrars to go live. According to DotAndCo.net, it has about 25,000 active registrations in five gTLDs.

ICANN threatens to shut down registrar flipper

ICANN has said it will terminate one of its registrars for non-payment of fees, the thirteenth such threatening letter the organization has sent out this year.
The unfortunate recipient is #1 Host Brazil, which has just a couple hundred domains under its belt in the generic top-level domains.
I may be wrong, but based on some cursory research I’m inferring that the registrar is basically a shell accreditation, acquired in order to flip to a larger registrar.
There are 10 other “‘#1 Host” registrars, such as #1 Host Australia and #1 Host Canada, listed on ICANN’s list of accredited registrars, almost all of which were awarded in late 2005 to the same Texan.
They all use the same logos and, due to the hash sign, all appear at the top of alphabetical lists of ICANN-accredited registrars.
Apart from the Brazil and Israel variants, most of the other “#1” accreditations have been acquired by Moniker at various times over the last few years, according to Internic and Whois records.
#1 Host Brazil faces de-accreditation (pdf) on August 24 unless it pays almost $9,000 in ICANN fees and provides evidence of $500,000 in commercial liability insurance.

Registrar linked to .xxx loses ICANN accreditation

A Technology Company Inc, a registrar previously linked to the .xxx top-level domain application, has lost its ICANN accreditation for non-payment of fees.
The company, which is also known as NameSystem.com or ATECH, was founded by Jason Hendeles, who is also the founder of ICM Registry, the company behind .xxx.
ICANN has informed ATECH (pdf) that its accreditation will expire and not be renewed on July 12 because it has failed to pay $5,639 in ICANN fees.
ATECH was one of the second wave of competitive registrars to go live, applying for its ICANN accreditation all the way back in 1999. It currently has just a few thousand domains under management.
Hendeles, currently ICM’s vice president of strategic business development, was behind ICM’s original .xxx bid, filed in ICANN’s 2000 round of new TLD applications.
ICM was subsequently taken over by British businessman Stuart Lawley, its current chief executive.
I’m told ATECH was sold to Alok Prakash of Oregon a few years ago.
UPDATE 2010-07-14: ATECH has evidently coughed up, and has regained its accreditation.

AOL loses ICANN accreditation

AOL, one of the first five companies to become an ICANN-accredited registrar, appears to have let its accreditation expire.
The former internet giant is no longer listed on ICANN’s Internic registrar page, and DotAndCo.net’s data shows it lost its .com, .net and .org accreditations on April 27.
It’s hardly surprising. AOL’s profits are falling and it has been reorganizing itself ever since Time Warner returned it to life as an independent company last year.
It’s noteworthy because AOL was one of the first five registrars to challenge Network Solutions’ monopoly, when ICANN introduced competition to the domain name market in 1999.
In April 1999, the company participated in ICANN’s limited registrar “test-bed” experiment, alongside CORE, France Telecom, Melbourne IT and Register.com.
But domain names were never a big deal at the company.
AOL peaked at about 150,000 domains a few years ago and tailed off to a little more than a dozen at the end of 2009. Apparently, the company has decided to let its accreditation simply expire.