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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.

Donuts goes with bland, forgettable, for new company name [rant]

What is it with domain name companies and their terrible brands?

Donuts is now Identity Digital Inc, the company said today, with the Donuts and Afilias brands being retired.

The new name was chosen “to reflect better the commitment to helping customers find, grow and protect their authentic digital identities” the company said in a press release. I also get the vibe that the company may be expanding further outside of domains in future. Blockchain stuff, maybe?

It appears that the company has adopted a practice-what-you-preach approach to branding — it’s advocating that businesses register domains with strong keywords to the left and right of the dot, so that’s what Identity Digital will also do.

That’s fair enough, I guess.

It’s using identity.digital as its new domain, which is just as well, because the company seems to have just made itself search-proof.

If you couldn’t tell already, I don’t like the name. It strikes me as the kind of name a company might pick if it wanted to keep a low profile.

It sounds like a two-man SEO startup operating in a room above a vape shop in a northern English market town.

The name “Donuts” had been picked when the company formed in 2010 to reflect the fact that the founders were nuts about domains. Afilias was named as such because it was a joint venture of over a dozen registrars.

These were great, memorable brands!

GoDaddy, Tucows, Porkbun… all examples of strong, colorful, novel brands in the domain space. When I read about these companies, I know immediately who I’m reading about, and they don’t have any keywords in their names.

Even after 12 years writing this blog, I still have to remind myself which registrar is Name.com and which is Domain.com. Now, I’m going to be constantly reminding myself which company used to be Endurance and which used to be Donuts. Meh.

Perhaps I’m just irritated that I’m going to have to spend the next year writing “Identity Digital, formerly Donuts”.

Still, at least it’s better than “TrueName”.

Three gTLDs to lose Donuts trademark protection

Three gTLDs are set to lose the trademark protection coverage at the end of the month, following their sale from Donuts to Public Interest Registry.

As noted by corporate registrar Com Laude recently, .charity, .gives and .foundation will no longer fall under Donuts’ Domain Protected Marks List service as of June 1.

DPML is a blocking services whereby the registry reserves trademarked strings across its whole portfolio of almost 300 gTLDs in exchange for a fee that is a big discount on defensive registrations.

gTLDs not in the portfolio will naturally enough no longer qualify, but Com Laude reported that existing subscriptions will be honored and PIR will offer DPML users the chance to change to a full registration.

Donuts announced the sale of the three TLDs to PIR last December.

PIR doesn’t have its own DPML equivalent. Its portfolio is small and its biggest deal is .org, where the defensive blocking horse bolted decades ago.

Gee, thanks. auDA cuts price of .au names by five cents

Australian ccTLD registry auDA has cut the wholesale price of .au domains by a measly five cents, according to local reports.

Aussie domainer blog Domainer reports that registry back-end provider Afilias, owned by Donuts, has notified registrars that the price is coming down to AUD 7.83 ($5.56), from AUD 7.88, not including sales tax.

The cut kicks in June 1 and effects all new registrations, renewals and transfers.

With about 3.6 million .au domains under management, that amounts to $180,000 a year out of the registry’s pocket, but the price reduction obviously won’t be noticeable for any but the most prolific domain collector.

What to make of this strange trend in new domain regs?

Kevin Murphy, March 18, 2022, Domain Registries

Are people getting the shortest domain possible when they register in a new gTLD?

Every month uber-registry Donuts publishes data about its portfolio, such as which gTLDs are most popular, in which region, what its most popular premium names are, and what keywords are most commonly registered at the second-level.

For the past few months, I’ve noticed what may be considered an unusual trend — many of the most popular SLD keywords are already gTLDs in their own right, suggesting registrants may not be getting their optimal domain.

The top 10 second-level keywords in February were: today, meta, letter, first, digital, verse, online, club, life, and home.

Put a dot in front of them, and five are also gTLDs — .today, .digital, .online, .club, and .life — some of which Donuts actually manages. One of them, .home, has multiple outstanding applications but has been essentially banned by ICANN due to high levels of name collision.

It’s even more noticeable in January’s numbers, with seven gTLD matches — online, life, digital, free, green, shop, world — in the top 10 SLD keywords.

In December there are six — today, group, online, digital, world and life. In November, four — online, digital, life, group. In October, six — digital, online, life, tech, shop, group.

It shouldn’t be hugely surprising that there’s a crossover between gTLD strings and popular SLD strings — one of the ways Donuts and others picked their gTLDs was by scouring the .com zone file for the most-common SLD endings.

The idea was that if Peter owned, or was thinking of registering, peterspickledpeppersonline.com, he might reasonably want to upgrade to the shorter peterspickledpeppers.online.

Donuts consistently says that the domains it sells are 20% shorter than domains registered in .com over the comparable period.

But its data suggests that this they’re not always getting their optimal domain. People are registering in new gTLDs, but they’re often not using the gTLD that would make their overall domain shorter.

I wonder why this is.

Cost could certainly be a factor. There’s not a massive amount of difference between a .online and a .live, and both are typically more expensive than .com, but it might be an issue for registrants on tight budgets.

It seems more likely that a lack of awareness among registrants may be the main issue — they don’t know the full breadth of options available to them (hell, even I don’t, and this is my job).

Registrars’ name spinners aren’t always helpful raising this awareness.

I typed the string “peterspickledpeppersonline” into the storefronts of seven popular registrars, all of which carry new gTLDs, and found that two of them didn’t offer peterspickledpeppers.online among their suggestions at all.

On some, the domain was way down the list, after far less-relevant suggestions, even though it is shorter and carries a higher price.

GoDaddy wins .tv contract after Verisign blows off 20-year deal

Kevin Murphy, December 14, 2021, Domain Registries

GoDaddy is taking over the contract to run .tv from Verisign, after Verisign didn’t even bother to bid for renewal.

The deal brings to an end a relationship between Verisign and the tiny Pacific island nation of Tuvalu that has lasted 20 years and contributed millions to the country’s economy.

The country’s communications ministry said on its Facebook page that GoDaddy Registry was selected after a “competitive tender process”, but DI understands that Verisign did not participate.

While terms of the new GoDaddy deal have not been disclosed, it seems likely that Tuvalu was looking for a far bigger slice of the pie than the $5 million a year it was getting from Verisign, and for moneybags Verisign, with its .com cash-printing machine, it simply wasn’t worth the hassle.

Tuvalu has around 11,000 inhabitants and gross national income of around $60 million — its .tv money was a big deal for the country, even at the amount Verisign was paying.

With a likely bigger chunk of change coming from GoDaddy, it’s going to have more to invest in what it calls its “digital nation” strategy, which appears to involve investing heavily in blockchain-based technologies to compensate for the fact that it may well disappear beneath the waves over the next few decades.

.tv is a cornerstone of this strategy, the government says.

There’s thought to be at least half a million registered .tv domains, and the bog-standard non-premiums retail for about $50 a year, so it’s been a nice little earner for Verisign over the last two decades.

The company first took on .tv in 2001 when it acquired startup .tv Corp, which had inked the original deal with Tuvalu in 1998, for $45 million. The contract has been renewed a few times since then.

The ccTLD was the first example of a mainstream TLD offering tiered pricing, with premium strings carrying bigger price tags — controversial 20 years ago, almost standard practice today.

There have been reports over the years that the country thought it was getting short-changed by the deal, and the contract was put up for bidding earlier this year.

Despite reports that the tender seemed suspiciously tailored for a Donuts win, it seems GoDaddy has emerged the victor.

One can only assume it’s offered Tuvalu a bigger slice of the pie, which is what it had to do (under its previous incarnation as Neustar) to keep hold of the contract to run Colombia’s .co last year.

Neither Verisign nor GoDaddy has publicly released a statement about the switch. While it’s a lot of money, it’s not strictly material to either company’s already swollen top lines.

.org back-end deal will come up for re-bid, PIR says as it acquires four new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, December 8, 2021, Domain Registries

The industry’s most lucrative back-end registry services contract will be rebid, Public Interest Registry said today.

The deal, which sees PIR pay Afilias $18.3 million a year to run .org, according to tax records, will see a request for proposals issued in the back half of 2023, according to PIR.

Given that’s two years away, it’s strange timing for the announcement, which came at the bottom of a press release and blog post announcing that the company is acquiring four new gTLDs, three of which belong to Afilias’ new owner, Donuts.

PIR said Donuts is to transfer control of .charity, .foundation and .gives, which will be “reintroduced” to the market. .foundation currently has about 20,000 registered domains; the other two have a few thousand each.

It’s also acquiring the unlaunched gTLD .giving from a company called Giving Ltd.

All four are on-message for PIR’s not-for-profit portfolio, which also includes the barely-used .ngo and .ong for non-governmental organizations.

Those two gTLDs are getting decoupled, allowing registrants to register one without having to buy the other, PIR also said today.

The last time the PIR back-end contract came up for renewal, in 2015, Afilias was also the incumbent but increased competition — it was up against 20 rivals — meant that its slice of .org revenue was cut in half.

Donuts shuts down 14 registrars, but it’s “not related to DropZone”

Kevin Murphy, October 20, 2021, Domain Registrars

Donut has let 14 of its shell registrar accreditations expire, but told DI it’s not related to its recently approve drop-catching service, DropZone.

ICANN records show that the companies, with names such as Name118 Inc and Name104 Inc, all basically mini-clones of Name.com, recently had their registrar contracts terminated.

This kind of thing happens fairly regularly with companies resizing the networks they use for catching dropping domains. Donuts still has at least half a dozen active accreditations, records show.

But the move comes just weeks after ICANN approved a controversial new Donuts service called DropZone, which would see dropping domains across Donuts’ portfolio of 250+ gTLDs being handled by a dedicated parallel registry.

DropZone would reduce the need for owning vast numbers of shell accreditations in order to effectively drop-catch, but has faced criticism from rival DropCatch because a) Donuts may charge registrars for access and b) claims that Donuts-owned registrars would have an advantage.

But Donuts says the two things are unrelated. Name.com senior product marketing manager Ethan Conley said in an email:

We did recently let 14 ICANN registrar accreditations expire. These accreditations had become an administrative headache and a point of confusion for customers. This decision was not related to DropZone, and the domain drop business has not been a core focus of Name.com for quite some time.

It’s worth noting that cancelling registrar accreditations would also have an affect on the ability to catch names in other, unaffiliated gTLDs, including .com.

Donuts’ DropZone approved despite competition fears

Kevin Murphy, October 6, 2021, Domain Registries

ICANN has approved Donuts’ proposed drop-catching service, DropZone, despite concerns it could add cost to the dropping domains market.

The Org and Donuts subsidiaries representing over 200 gTLDs signed amendments September 29 that incorporate DropZone into their Registry Agreements, according to ICANN records.

The full new text in the amendments, which does a pretty good job of describing the service, is:

Dropzone Service

Registry Operator may offer the Dropzone service, which is a Registry Service that will manage the release of domain names that have reached the end of their life cycle.

The Dropzone is a separate system, parallel to the main EPP system, that will manage on a daily basis the release of domain names that have been purged for a short period of time, called the Dropzone. Any TLD-accredited registrars may use the Dropzone to register a recently-purged domain name.

On a daily basis, at the end of the Dropzone period, the Registry will execute an awarding process, which will select, per domain name, the first domain creation request submitted (first come, first serve).

What the amendment doesn’t mention are fees. The original Donuts Registry Service Evaluation Request stated in August:

In addition to the standard or premium registration prices of a given domain name, The Dropzone service can support additional application fees to be configured on a per TLD basis. Applications fees where applicable will be charged in addition to the standard registration price of a domain name.

This caused concern at TurnCommerce, the company that runs the DropCatch.com network of registrars, which told ICANN last month that DropZone was anti-competitive and could raise the price of dropping domains.

But ICANN responded that DropZone passed its competition sniff test, and would not be referred to government authorities.

Donuts has not yet publicly announced plans to launch DropZone.

A virtually identical service, that did not mention added fees in its RSEP, was previous approved for Afilias, the registry operator Donuts acquired at the start of the year.

Donuts’ drop-catching service not anti-competitive, ICANN says

Kevin Murphy, September 29, 2021, Domain Registries

Donuts’ proposed DropZone service, which could see the registry start charging drop-catchers additional fees, is not anti-competitive, according to ICANN.

The service “does not raise any competition concerns”, ICANN VP Russ Weinstein said in a letter to registrar TurnCommerce, the company behind DropCatch.com.

He was responding to TurnCommerce’s concern that DropZone would allow Donuts to charge unlimited extra fees to register expiring names, while giving an advantage to its in-house registrars.

But Weinstein wrote (pdf):

The information received in the Dropzone RSEP request was thoroughly evaluated pursuant to our process, which included consideration of the matters raised in your letter. ICANN org determined that the Dropzone service as submitted by Donuts Inc. on behalf of [Donuts subsidiaries] Binky Moon, LLC and Dog Beach, LLC does not raise any competition concerns requiring ICANN org to refer either RSEP to a relevant competition authority.

DropZone would see Donuts handle its dropping names on a parallel registry system that registrars would have to obtain separate access to. Its Registry Service Evaluation Process request raises the prospect of new fees for such access.