Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

Bob Parsons publishes autobiography

GoDaddy founder and former CEO Bob Parsons has published his rags-to-riches autobiography, Fire in the Hole!

Subtitled The Untold Story of My Traumatic Life and Explosive Success, the book is co-written with jobbing celebrity biographer Laura Morton, who’s previously worked with GoDaddy-sponsored racing driver Danica Patrick.

It promises to detail “the exploits of his youth, his hellish days at the mercy of Catholic school nuns, his harrowing tour of combat duty in Vietnam as a US Marine, his pioneering contributions to the software and internet industries, and his latest ventures in power sports, golf, real estate, and marketing.”

“This is a story of how I started with absolutely nothing and made over $3 billion,” Parsons said in a press release.

Published yesterday by Forefront Books, it’s already ranked #1 in Golf Biographies on Amazon.

I’m going to wait for the paperback, so I can’t speak to its contents, but cover quotes reveal that Jada Pinkett-Smith, Rob Lowe and Nick Jonas all enjoyed it.

GoDaddy getting a free pass from porn jail?

ICANN has shirked its compliance duties and is handing GoDaddy a “Get Out of Jail Free” card with proposed changes to their .xxx registry agreement, according to critics.

A recently closed public comment period saw a mixed response from the community on whether GoDaddy should be allowed to throw out inconvenient and costly terms of its 10-year-old registry contract and operate .xxx more of less like any other open gTLD.

While the deal’s chief critic, consultant and former ICANN director Michael Palage, has made a detailed case explaining why he thinks the amendments should not go ahead, other commenters agree with GoDaddy that some of its stricter registration policies are no longer needed.

Tucows said that the current .xxx rules, which require registrants to verify their identities, are “cumbersome or non-transparent”, not only adding unnecessary friction to the registration path but also amounting to the “surveillance of sex workers”.

Palage managed to persuade the At-Large Advisory Committee to submit its own comments, in which ALAC claims that GoDaddy has already “walked away” from three important contractual commitments on registrant verification and abuse reporting “unilaterally and without consequence from ICANN Contractual Compliance”.

According to Palage, when GoDaddy acquired ICM Registry from MMX a few years ago it unilaterally decided to stop verifying the identities of its registrants and did away with the unique community membership IDs that enabled it to deactivate a registrant’s entire portfolio if it was found to be in breach of the rules by, for example, publishing child sexual abuse material.

ICM also stopped donating $10 for every registration to its oversight body, IFFOR, which in turn spent the money it did receive on director salaries rather than making cash grants to child protection causes, Palage says. I’ve previously gone into some depth on this.

“I am concerned that instead of ICANN compliance holding ICM Registry accountable to these representations, they’re essentially giving them a get out of jail card free and potentially removing the ability for third parties to hold ICM Registry accountable to those representations,” Palage said during a March presentation to the ALAC.

His draft comments for the ALAC were subsequently submitted under his own name; ALAC submitted a shorter, somewhat watered down version drafted by chair Jonathan Zuck.

But ALAC and Palage are in agreement that GoDaddy should have gone through the usual Registry Services Evaluation Process if it wanted to change the terms of its contract, and that the proposed amendments set a terrible precedent. ALAC wrote:

ALAC believes that commitments made in order to operate a TLD by a Registry Operator should be enforceable, subsequently implemented by the Registry Operator, and enforced by ICANN Contractual Compliance… The ALAC is concerned that the removal of commitments, through a contract renewal, could set a precarious precedent for non-compliance without repercussion for existing Registry Operators

The Business Constituency echoed ALAC’s concerns in its own comments, as did registry operator CORE Association.

Comments in favor of the .xxx amendments came from two veteran, dissenting voices from the At-Large community, Evan Leibovitch and Carlton Samuels. They said removing the extra requirements from the .xxx contract would reduce confusion and were worthless anyway:

Given the benefit of hindsight, the “Sponsored gTLD” program and designation have not on the whole provided any significant benefit to the Internet-using public. As such, we welcome the removal of this designation — and any associated extra contract requirements — from all applicable Registry Agreements going forward.

Tucows’ support for the amendments are based largely on what a pain in the neck it can be — for registrant and registrar — to register a .xxx domain. Its comments explain:

Currently, to register a .xxx domain, one must become a member of the Sponsored Community, which involves a separate application process to verify eligibility. This extra step is a barrier for those looking to quickly secure a domain. Additionally, the domain cannot resolve—meaning it cannot be used to host a website—without a valid Membership ID, which is only issued after this verification process… This activation involves additional interactions between the registry, the registrant, and the registrar. Additional steps in the registration process can be a significant deterrent as they introduce complexity and time delays.

I’m not really buying the “surveillance of sex workers” claim. Porn producers in many jurisdictions, including the US, already routinely verify the identities of their performers, and keep copies of their identity documents on file, as a legal requirement to ensure their employees are not underage.

ICANN is due to publish its summary of the public comment period by May 20.

How ICANN handles the renewal of and amendments to the .xxx contract will be interesting to watch. Will the Governmental Advisory Committee get a chance to weigh in before the deal is signed? Will the board pass a resolution, or will we see a repeat of the .org renewal debacle?

GoDaddy price increases lead to revenue growth

GoDaddy last night reported domains revenue ahead of forecasts after it raised its prices and sold more higher-priced domains on the aftermarket.

The company’s Core Platform segment, which includes domains and hosting, reported first-quarter revenue up 4% compared to a year ago at $725 million, with domains revenue driving growth, up 7% percent to $532 million.

Domains under management was 84.6 million at the end of March 31.

“Our growth was driven by strong demand for domains in the primary and secondary market, increased pricing in the primary market and a higher average transaction value in the secondary market,” CFO Mark McCaffrey said in prepared remarks.

Aftermarket revenue was up 12% to an unspecified amount.

Including the company’s other revenue streams, GoDaddy reported net income of $401.5 million on revenue up 7% at $1.1 billion.

Verisign, the .com registry, last week reported stagnating .com growth that it blamed in part on US registrars raising their retail prices, leading to lower first-year sales and renewals.

.ai registry advises buyers not to use GoDaddy

Kevin Murphy, March 19, 2024, Domain Registries

The manager of the increasingly popular .ai ccTLD has seemingly escalated his beef with GoDaddy, now advising registrants to not transfer their .ai domains to the market-leading registrar due to technical and operational issues.

The list of approved registrars on the .ai registry web site has contained a warning about problems transferring domains into GoDaddy for many months, but now it explicitly advises against such transfers. The site reads:

We have had several problems with transfers into GoDaddy. First, you have to use auth codes of 32 characters or less. Second they can take weeks and many email and phone calls to actually do the transfer. Anyplace else the transfer is nearly instant once the receiving party does the transfer with the auth code and the domain is unlocked. With GoDaddy the auth code is just the start of a long process. For years GoDaddy could not transer .ai domains at all. We do not advise transfering to go GoDaddy and if you do don’t ask us for help, the problem is all GoDaddy.

GoDaddy has also been removed from .ai’s list of supported registrars, but registry manager Vince Cate tells me he did this at the request of GoDaddy, which he said is a reseller of Team Internet’s 1API. He declined to comment further.

I asked GoDaddy for comment a few weeks ago but did not receive one.

An earlier version of Cate’s warning, from about a year ago as .ai domains started to fly off the shelf, read:

The company Godaddy will say “domains with this extension are not transferable” when someone tries to transfer a “.ai” domain to them when a more correct error message would be “Godaddy does not know how to transfer .ai domains even though it is done using the industry standard EPP transfer command”.

It was later updated to read:

The company Godaddy will say “domains with this extension are not transferable” when someone tries to transfer a “.ai” domain to them when a more correct error message would be “Godaddy does not know how to transfer .ai domains even though it is done using the industry standard EPP transfer command”. They will also say, “Technically .ai domains are not transferable between most registrars, but we have a dedicated team that transfers them manually.” This is so wrong. All other registrars have no trouble doing them automatically. The only technical failure is at Godaddy. Because of they way Godaddy is doing this, I get many people asking me, “Vince, why don’t you let people transfer .ai domains?”, as if I was doing something wrong and not Godaddy. I do let people transfer .ai domains. All of the above registrars can do it automatically without any trouble. Really.

While the .ai domain is managed by the Government of Anguilla, Cate seems to have substantial autonomy over the registry. Much of its bare-bones web site is written in the first person.

GoDaddy’s next .xxx contract may not be a done deal

Kevin Murphy, March 18, 2024, Domain Policy

ICANN has published what could be the next version of GoDaddy’s .xxx registry contract, and is framing it as very much open to challenge.

The proposed Registry Agreement would scrap the “sponsored” designation from .xxx, substantially reduce GoDaddy’s ICANN fees, and implement the strictest child-protection measures of any gTLD, as well as make ICANN Compliance’s job a lot easier by standardizing terms on the new gTLD program’s Base RA.

But, as eager as ICANN usually is to shift legacy, pre-2012 gTLDs to the Base RA, this time it’s published the contract for public comment as if it’s something GoDaddy is unilaterally proposing.

It’s “ICM’s proposal”, according to ICANN’s public comment announcement, referring to GoDaddy subsidiary ICM Registry, and “ICM has requested to use the Base Registry Agreement form, as well as to remove the sponsorship designation of the .XXX TLD”.

This is not the language ICANN usually uses when it publishes RA renewals for public comment. Normally, the proposed contracts are presented as the result of bilateral negotiations. In this case, ICANN and ICM have been in renewal discussions for at least three years, but the contract is being presented as something GoDaddy alone has asked for.

The new RA would remove almost all references to sponsorship and to IFFOR, the pretty much toothless “sponsor” organization ICM created to get its .xxx application over the line under the rules of the Sponsored TLD application round that kicked off back in 2003.

Instead, it loads a bunch of Public Interest Commitments, aimed at replicating some of the safeguards IFFOR oversight was supposed to provide, into the Base RA.

GoDaddy would have to ban and proactively seek out and report child sexual abuse material. It would also prohibit practices that suggest the presence of CSAM, such as the inclusion of certain unspecified keywords in .xxx domains or in the corresponding web site’s content or meta-content.

(ICANN notes that these PICs may become unenforceable, depending on the outcome of current discussions about its ability to enforce content-related terms of its contracts).

GoDaddy and IFFOR have both submitted letters arguing that sponsorship is no longer required. The existence of sister gTLDs .adult, .sex, and .porn as unsponsored gTLDs, also in the GoDaddy Registry stable, proves the extra oversight is not needed, they say. Registrants polled do not object to the changes, they say.

GoDaddy’s cost structure would also change under the new deal. Not only would it save $100,000 a year by cutting off IFFOR, but it would also inherit the Base RA’s 50,000-domain threshold for paying ICANN transaction fees.

This likely means it won’t pay the $0.25 transaction fee for a while — .xxx was at about 47,500 domains under management and shrinking at the last count. It hasn’t reported DUM over 50,000 since January 2023.

While the renewal terms may seem pragmatic and not especially unreasonable, they’ve already received at least one public objection.

Consultant Michael Palage, who was on the ICANN board for the first three years of .xxx’s agonizing eight-year path to approval, took to the mic at the ICANN 79 Public Forum earlier this month to urge the board to reject GoDaddy’s request.

Palage said there have been “material violations of the Registry Agreement” that he planned to inform ICANN Compliance about. He added that approving the new deal would set a bad precedent for all the other “community” registries ICANN has contracts with.

The situation has some things in common with the controversy over the proposed acquisition of Public Internet Registry and .org a few years ago, in that the proposal entails ignoring promises made by a registry two decades ago.

Whether .xxx will attract the same level of outrage is debatable — this deal doesn’t involve nearly as many domains and does not talk to the price registrants pay — but it could attract noise from those who believe ICANN should not throw out its principles for the sake of a quieter life.

One place we might look for comment is the Governmental Advisory Committee, which was the biggest reason .xxx took so long to get approved in the first place.

But the timing of the comment period opening is interesting, coming a week after ICANN 79 closed. It will end April 29, about six weeks before the full GAC next meets en masse, at ICANN 80.

It’s not impossible that the new contract could be approved and signed before the governments get a chance to publicly haul ICANN’s board over the coals.

GlobalBlock blocking 2.5 million domains

Kevin Murphy, March 15, 2024, Domain Services

GoDaddy-led brand protection project GlobalBlock says it is already blocking over 2.5 million domains, just a couple of weeks after its formal launch.

The GlobalBlock web site reports that 2,569,815 domains are currently being blocked across 559 extensions (a mix of ccTLDs, gTLDs, third-level domains and blockchain names), for an average of just under 4,600 per extension.

It’s difficult to extrapolate much useful information about rapid market demand for the service from this one number, for a variety of reasons.

First, the more-expensive GlobalBlock+ service can block well north of 10,000 domains, mostly homographic variants of a trademark, for a single fee, which could mean as few as just a couple hundred customers have signed up so far at the most pessimistic interpretation.

Second, GlobalBlock offered pricing incentives to existing customers of GoDaddy’s AdultBlock and Identity Digital’s Domain Protected Marks List, both of which are over a decade old, in the months-long run-up to launch.

The vanilla, single-brand GlobalBlock service retails for about $6,000 per year, with GlobalBlock+ going for closer to $9,000.

GoDaddy to start selling graphic.design domains

In an unusual diversification into third-level domains, GoDaddy Registry seems to be planning to sell names under .graphic.design.

The company filed a request with the Public Suffix List yesterday, asking for the domain to be included on the list, so it will be recognized around the internet as a space where third-level names are registerable.

“GoDaddy Registry will be opening graphic.design to individual registrations, through a global network of authorised Registrars, similar to a standard open gTLD,” the request states.

“This inclusion in the PSL is to ensure the correct operation of the zone as an open TLD, such that providers including website, email and Certificate Authorities recognise the individual ownership of the registered domains within the graphic.design DNS zone,” it says.

The request goes on to say the company expects “5,000 to 10,000+” domains to be registered there.

The PSL is used widely by software such as browsers to determine ownership of domains for security purposes, allowing them to recognize, for example, that example1.graphic.design and example2.graphic.design are two different sites with potentially two different owners.

Registries launching third-level spaces is unusual but not unheard of. It happens much more often in the ccTLD space, where some countries have a baffling number of third-level options. In the gTLD space, the trend if anything is in the opposite direction, with third-levels being de-emphasized in favor of second-levels.

GoDaddy acquired .design from Top Level Design in 2021, a part of its massive expansion in the registry business. It’s not doing badly as new gTLDs go, with about 119,000 domains under management at the last count.

GoDaddy’s GlobalBlock supports blockchain names

Kevin Murphy, February 29, 2024, Domain Services

GoDaddy’s Brand Safety Alliance has finally released the list of TLDs supported by its new GlobalBlock brand protection service, and it’s notable for including a couple dozen extensions that aren’t real TLDs at all.

Formally announcing its launch today, the company said GlobalBlock will initially allow trademark owners and others to block their marks and variants in about 600 “extensions” and published the list on its web site.

The term “extension”, as opposed to “TLD”, is important, as the headline number seems to count zones where names are registerable at the third level — so .bar.pro and .cpa.pro and .com.cx and .net.cx, for examples, are individually counted.

I count a total of 457 TLDs on the currently published list, of which 27 are distinct ccTLDs.

But I also about 20 strings that aren’t real TLDs. As well as pseudo-gTLD .it.com, a lot of supported extensions appear to on blockchain naming systems such as Unstoppable Domains (proving, once again, that Unstoppable chose entirely the wrong brand for its service).

The blockchain TLDs currently listed are: .altimist, .anime, .binanceus, .bitcoin, .blockchain, .crypto, .dao, .go, .hi, .klever, .kresus, .manga, .nft, .polygon, .pudgy, .unstoppable, .wallet, .x and .zil.

About 270 of the real gTLDs on the list belong to Identity Digital, with GoDaddy Registry accounting for about 35.

Google Registry has 28 gTLDs on the list, seven of which aren’t even publicly available yet, such as .search and .map. This in either incredibly cheeky — selling blocks in TLDs in which cybersquatting is literally impossible — or a sign that Google plans to release more of its dormant gTLD inventory soon.

Other registries with multi-TLD representation on the list include Global Registry Services, GMO Registry, Internet Naming Co, ZACR and Nominet (though, while .wales and .cymru are currently listed, .uk is not).

Notable by their absence are portfolio registries Radix, XYZ and ShortDot.

UPDATE: This story was updated several hours after publication to remove the reference to Handshake. Unstoppable Domains is the only blockchain naming system to so far be in the GlobalBlock ecosystem.

GoDaddy wants to cut the bullshit from .xxx

Kevin Murphy, February 27, 2024, Domain Registries

GoDaddy Registry wants to drop a big chunk of nonsense from the contract governing its .xxx domain, some 20 years after it was applied for as a “Sponsored” gTLD.

It’s asked ICANN if it can kill off its sponsor, the International Foundation For Online Responsibility, and sign up to something closer to the Base New gTLD Registry Agreement, the contract that all new gTLDs from the 2012 application round are on.

GoDaddy’s .porn, .adult and .sex gTLDs have been on a non-sponsored contract for a decade to no complaint, though they haven’t sold nearly as many domains as .xxx.

IFFOR’s board, the IFFOR Ombudsman, and .xxx registrants polled by GoDaddy all agree that the “sponsored” classification is no longer needed, GoDaddy VP Nicolai Bezsonoff told ICANN VP Russ Weinstein (pdf).

The registry wants ICANN to put out a non-sponsored version of the .xxx contract out for public comment.

It looks like a fait accompli. GoDaddy and ICANN have been negotiating the renewal of the .xxx contract, which was due to expire in 2021, for at least three years. It’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which the two parties have not already agreed terms.

Nobody who doesn’t get paid by IFFOR will miss IFFOR. For 20 years it’s been the domain industry’s least-convincing merkin, existing entirely to give original .xxx manager ICM Registry (and then MMX, then GoDaddy, following industry consolidation) the illusion that it had community support for selling porn domains.

ICM created IFFOR when it applied for .xxx in 2003 during ICANN’s well-intentioned but poorly considered and ill-fated “sponsored TLD” round, where applicants had to show they had support from a community related to their chosen string.

Because the porn industry, particularly in the US, hated the idea of a .xxx domain — erroneously believing governments would force all porn sites into it and then shut it down — ICM was forced to pull a community out of its backside. And thence IFFOR was born.

IFFOR was designed to be a mini-ICANN. It was to have a board, policy-making committees, an ombudsman, oversight, transparency, etc. Its foundational documents (pdf), list 14 obligations, most of which were never fulfilled to any meaningful extent.

Judging by its web site, it’s never made a single policy since it was formed in 2011. But we can’t be sure, because the web site has been poorly maintained (a breach of the first of its original 14 commitments), with no board minutes published for the last six years (despite employing a full-time staffer on a $60,000 salary who, tax forms say, works 40 hours a week).

It did come up with something called a “Policy Engine” for new gTLD registries around the time of the 2012 round, but discontinued it a year later when nobody wanted it.

IFFOR, a not-for-profit registered in California, was supposed to receive $10 from ICM for every registered, resolving .xxx domain and use a portion of that to issue grants to worthy causes related to its mission — child protection, free speech, and so on.

While IFFOR did announce two $5,000 awards in 2013, its tax filings have not reported a single penny spent on grants since 2011. Nada.

IFFOR’s charter seems to have been renegotiated behind the scenes at some point, when .xxx turned out to not be quite the internet cash machine its founders had hoped for. From 2011 to 2014 it was rolling in cash — getting over $1 million from ICM in 2013 — but from 2016 it’s been receiving a flat $100,000 a year, most of which is spent on director salaries.

At around the same time, instead of issuing cash grants, IFFOR started producing an “educational program” for UK schools called AtFirstSite. Aimed at 11 to 14-year-olds, it covers topics such as sexting, dick pics and online pornography, with a clear emphasis on keeping young teens safe online.

AtFirstSite carried a price tag of £150, but the revenue lines on tax forms since 2016 suggest none were ever sold. Instead, the program was given for free to schools that asked for it and this was called a “grant”, to satisfy IFFOR’s grant-giving mandate.

The program — which consists of a PDF and a PowerPoint presentation — is now free, and can be downloaded here , if you want to bemuse an 11-year-old with a reference to Rihanna and Chris Brown’s destructive relationship, which ended before they were born.

Closing IFFOR is not going to cause anyone to lose any sleep, but it will nevertheless be interesting to see whether anyone objects to .xxx losing its “sponsored TLD” status when ICANN opens the contract to public comment.

First GlobalBlock prices revealed — they ain’t cheap

Kevin Murphy, February 15, 2024, Domain Services

Trademarks owners, organizations and celebrities could find themselves paying the thick end of ten grand for the “peace of mind” offered by the new GoDaddy-led GlobalBlock trademark protection service.

101domain, which often has some of the least-expensive pricing, has become the first registrar to publish its prices for the domain-blocking service, which entered beta this week.

The base GlobalBlock service, which offers single-string blocking in 560 gTLDs and ccTLDs, is going for $5,999 per year, according to the 101domain storefront. The GlobalBlock+ version, which covers potentially tens of thousands of variants and typos, starts at $8,999 a year.

None of the other 20 approved GlobalBlock resellers I checked are currently publishing prices.

Some simple division shows us that the basic service works out to roughly $10.71 per domain per year — a bit more than Verisign will charge for a wholesale .com when its prices go up later this year — but the average per-domain cost should go down as more registries sign up to GlobalBlock.

With the GlobalBlock+ service offering to block 50,000 domains or more, the per-domain price obviously shrinks to pennies.

GlobalBlock is offered by the Brand Safety Alliance, a GoDaddy initiative, but it has support from the likes of Identity Digital, which has hundreds of gTLDs in its stable. Dozens of gTLD registry operators have recently asked ICANN’s permission to offer GlobalBlock and rival offering NameBlock.

The BSA has previously said it expects to launch with over 650 TLDs on board. A calculator on its web site suggests 511 are currently operational, but it has not yet named the participating TLDs.