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As GoDaddy shutters URL shortener, could x.co come back on the market?

GoDaddy has turned off its URL shortener service, freeing up the likely six-plus-figure domain x.co for another use or possible resale.

The company told users of the service last week that their redirects would no longer work as of June 4. Instead, they’re being asked to set up a redirect using any of the domains in their GoDaddy accounts.

It has not been possible to create new links for a few years, the company said.

GoDaddy acquired x.co from then .co registry .CO Internet in 2010 as part of the Colombian ccTLD’s global relaunch.

The price was never disclosed, but I suspect it was part of a broad partnership package that saw GoDaddy market .co hard, rather than a domain-only sale.

Around the same time, Twitter bought t.co for its own URL shortener and Overstock.com bought o.co for $350,000 as the cornerstone of an ultimately disastrous rebranding campaign.

It’s difficult to imagine x.co being worth less than that, particularly when the matching .com is owned by the richest person in the world.

In the time since x.co launched, .CO Internet was acquired by Neustar, which was then in turn acquired by GoDaddy.

Following a renegotiation of its relationship with the Colombian government in 2020, GoDaddy is now merely the back-end provider, rather than the ccTLD’s official sponsor.

GoDaddy acquires two education-themed gTLDs

GoDaddy seems to have added another two new gTLDs to its portfolio under a deal with Open Universities Australia.

ICANN records published today show that the contracts for .study and .courses were both reassigned in March and GoDaddy Registry is already running both registries’ web sites.

Neither TLD is a big seller. They have a few thousand names under management each and currently retail for $30 to $50 a year.

GoDaddy was already the back-end provider for both, so the amount of disruption is likely to be minimal.

Neustar now linked to scandal in the Catholic church

Neustar is having a bummer of a year for getting involved in major political scandals.

First, its execs were linked to allegations of an attempt to show Donald Trump was involved in “collusion” with Russia, and now it’s found itself in the middle of a corruption slash child sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.

There don’t appear to be any concrete allegations of wrongdoing by Neustar in the latest case, which involves a lot of mud-slinging between two elderly, bickering, controversy-wracked priests.

Rather, a senior church figure previously convicted and jailed and then cleared of child sex abuse is accusing an old rival currently standing trial on corruption charges of failing to explain money transfers that were said to be destined for Neustar.

George Pell is an Australian cardinal, the country’s most senior Catholic authority figure, who was very publicly convicted of child sex abuse offenses in 2018. His convictions were later overturned on appeal by the High Court of Australia.

Angelo Becciu is an Italian cardinal who, according to the religious press, served as the Pope’s de facto “chief of staff” until he was accused by the Vatican of embezzlement and corruption related to real estate investments last year.

Claims by Pell’s supporters have reportedly circulated in the Italian press for years that Becciu had sent church money to Australia in order to negatively influence Pell’s trial. The two men apparently don’t get on.

The reports even triggered a probe, which found nothing, by Australian regulators into a then-unnamed tech company.

But Becciu testified before a Vatican court last week that the AUD 2.3 million ($1.6 million) Pell has raised questions over was in fact used to pay Neustar Australia for operation of the .catholic gTLD in 2017 and 2018.

He said that Pell himself had authorized the payments, in a 2015 letter.

The Vatican had originally hired ARI/AusRegistry to be its registry partner for .catholic — which has never actually been used — but it had been acquired by Neustar by the time of the contested payments. Neustar’s registry is now owned by GoDaddy, which manages .catholic.

Following Becciu’s testimony, Pell issued a statement calling his story “incomplete” and saying:

My interest is focussed on four payments with a value of AUD 2.3 million made by the Secretariat of State in 2017 and 2018 to Neustar Australia, two of which with a value of AUD 1.236 million were authorised by Monsignor Becciu on 17/5/2017 and 6/6/2018. Obviously, these are different payments from those of 11/9/2015 which I allegedly authorised. What was the purpose? Where did the money go after Neustar?

The word “after” in that final sentence is certainly suggestive, but Pell did not elaborate.

Secondary market fluffs GoDaddy amid slowdown concerns

Secondary market domain sales continued to drive growth in the first quarter, GoDaddy reported this week, amid fears of slowing growth in new primary market sales.

It’s difficult to gauge exactly how well domains are selling, because the company has stopped breaking out domains as a separate revenue segment in its quarterly earnings releases.

Instead, it’s bundled domains, hosting and basic security together into a new “core platform” segment, frustrating those of us who like to see domain performance to track broader industry trends.

This “core platform” grew by 9% year-over-year in Q1, to $699.6 million, and CFO Mark McCaffrey told analysts that 40% of this growth was driven by secondary market domain sales.

“Core Platform bookings grew 5% year-over-year,” McCaffrey added. Bookings give a better indication of new sales.

A week earlier, .com registry Verisign had said that its registrars were seeing primary sales volumes growth slowing due to the easing of coronavirus restrictions that had pumped growth and general post-pandemic economic malaise.

If that is happening, GoDaddy’s secondary market sales, where it has blurred the lines between retail storefront and aftermarket sales platform in recent years, provides some insulation.

Overall, in Q1 the company saw revenue of up 11.3% at $1 billion and net income up from $10.8 million to $68.6 million.

GoDaddy and XYZ sign away rights after UNR’s crypto gambit

Kevin Murphy, April 19, 2022, Domain Registries

ICANN has started asking registries to formally sign away ownership rights to their gTLDs when they acquire them from other registries.

GoDaddy and XYZ.com both had to agree that they don’t “own” their newly acquired strings before ICANN would agree to transfer them from portfolio UNR, which auctioned off its 23 gTLD contracts a year ago.

GoDaddy bought .photo and .blackfriday for undisclosed sums in the auction, it emerged last week. XYZ bought 10 others and newcomer Dot Hip Hop bought .hiphop.

All three transfers were signed off March 10 (though GoDaddy’s were inexplicably not published by ICANN until last Thursday, when much of Christendom was winding down for a long weekend) and all three contain this new language:

The Parties hereby acknowledge that, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any marketing or auction materials, documentation or communications issued by Assignor or any other agreements between the Parties or otherwise, nothing in the Registry Agreement(s) or in any other agreements between Assignor and Assignee have established or granted to Assignor any property or ownership rights or interest in or to the TLDs or the letters, words, symbols or other characters making up the TLDs’ strings and that Assignee is not being granted any property or ownership rights or interest in or to the TLDs or the letters, words, symbols or other characters making up the TLDs’ strings.

The Parties represent that they understand the scope of ICANN’s Consent, which: (A) does not grant Assignee any actual or purported property or ownership rights or interest in or two the TLDs or the letters, words, symbols or other characters making up the TLDs’s strings; (B) is solely binding and applicable to the assignment of rights and obligations pursuant to the Registry Agreement(s); (C) solely relates to the operation of the TLDs in the Domain Name System as specified in the applicable Registry Agreement(s); and (D) does not convey any rights to the letters, words or symbols making up the TLD string for use outside the Domain Name System.

The TL;DR of this? Registries don’t “own” their gTLDs, ICANN just allows them to use the strings.

The new language is in there because UNR’s auction had offered, as a bonus, ownership of matching non-fungible token “domains” on the blockchain-based alt-root Ethereum Name Service.

Alt-roots arguably present an existential threat to ICANN and a risk to the interoperability of the internet, so ICANN delayed authorization of its approvals for many months while it tried to figure out the legalities.

Dot Hip Hop, for one, has said it couldn’t care less about the Ethereum NFT, and has had it deleted.

Separately, the .ruhr contract has been transferred from regiodot to fellow German geo-TLD operator DotSaarland, a subsidiary of London-based CentralNic, which announced the acquisition in February.

This assignment agreement was signed March 31 — after GoDaddy’s and XYZ’s — and does not include the new ownership waiver language, suggesting that it’s unique to UNR’s auction winners.

However, the friction between blockchain alt-roots is likely to be an issue when the next new gTLD application round opens.

It’s being said that a great many “TLDs” are being registered on various blockchains specifically in order to interfere with matching ICANN applications, and that blockchain fans are attempting to delay the next round to give their own projects more time to take root.

GoDaddy’s two acquisitions bring the total known outcomes of UNR’s auctions to 13 out of 23 gTLDs. At least four more are being processed by ICANN, according to a now month-old statement.

GoDaddy formally signs .tv registry contract

GoDaddy has formally taken on the contract to run .tv, the ccTLD for the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, according to the company.

GoDaddy Registry said that the deal was signed with the Tuvalu government at the Dubai Expo 2020 trade show on March 30.

The company won a tender process last December in which incumbent Versigin, which has been running .tv for 20 years, did not participate.

Tuvalu is expected to get a much bigger share of the revenue than it did under Verisign, which paid $5 million a year, but terms have not been disclosed.

GoDaddy senior director of business development George Pongas said in a press release that the parties are “convinced that together we can position the .tv ccTLD for significant worldwide growth and a new era of brand awareness and community engagement”.

GoDaddy is substantially more customer-facing than Verisign, and controls the registration path, so it’s not difficult to see how this could boost .tv’s sales.

The deal comes at an opportune time, as user-created video content is experiencing something of a boom.

GoDaddy acquires DNAcademy

Kevin Murphy, March 24, 2022, Domain Registrars

GoDaddy has acquired DNAcademy, which provides online domain-investing learning services, for an undisclosed sum.

The two companies announced yesterday that GoDaddy has not only bought the content of the DNAcadamy web site, but also the services of founder Michael Cyger, who will become GoDaddy’s first director of education.

While the deal brings DNAcademy’s content to a potentially vastly larger audience, it’s not clear that all existing customers will benefit.

Cyger posted that people currently on a $499 annual membership will have their contracts honored, but it’s still not clear what will happen to those who handed over $949 for a “lifetime” membership.

“Lifetime members: Although the DNAcademy customer base was not acquired, GoDaddy values the relationships DNAcademy cultivated with domain name investors and will make best efforts to provide access to the new offering,” he wrote.

DNAcademy is not accepting new memberships while its services are being integrated with GoDaddy Domains, which is expected to take several months.

For GoDaddy, the secondary market is now the big driver of domains revenue, contributing about two thirds of its growth last year.

The company already makes it fairly easy for its customers to list their domains for resale, and presumably it expects DNAcademy to help turn more of its millions of registrants into domainers.

GoDaddy stops selling .ru domains, commits money to support Ukraine

Domain registrar market-share leader GoDaddy will no longer sell .ru domain names, and has reached into its pocket to provide financial support for Ukraine relief efforts.

In a two-pronged response to the Russian invasion, the company outlined several measures aimed at both supporting Ukraine and putting some sanction-style pressure on Russia.

It’s not kicking out existing Russian registrants, but it is, according to a statement:

  • Removing the Russian version of our website
  • No longer supporting new registrations of .ru and .ru.com
  • Removing all .ru domain names from our domain name aftermarket
  • Removing the Russian Ruble

“What’s happened in Ukraine is horrible. We do not condone the unwarranted aggression from the Russian Government,” the statement says.

For Ukrainian customers, GoDaddy is renewing their products and services due to expire in the next 60 days for free.

“Customers can also contact us at any time, and if they need something specific, we’ll help them as best we can,” the company added.

It’s also donating $500,000 to humanitarian relief in Ukraine, donation-matching its employees’ gifts, and offering to help pay its Ukrainian contractors’ salaries for the next 60 days.

Other registrars to share their support for Ukraine so far include Namecheap, Tucows, IONOS and Gandi.

GoDaddy among five companies competing for .za contract

Kevin Murphy, February 21, 2022, Domain Registries

Five companies are bidding for the contract to run the back-end for South Africa’s .za domains, which is expected to be awarded shortly.

Local ccTLD overseer ZADNA has named ZA Registry Consortium (ZARC), Lexreg and Fevertree Consulting Consortium, GoDaddy Registry, The Bean App & GMO Internet Group, and Catalytic Peter capital Consortium as respondents to its 2021 RFP.

Of those, only GoDaddy is a lone bidder, and the only one without an obvious South African partner. The rest are consortia, apparently newly created to bid for the contract.

ZARC is a venture of incumbent back-end ZA Central Registry and its affiliated commercial arm Domain Name Services, according to ZACR.

Lexreg and Fevertree Consulting Consortium appears to be made up of local corporate registrar Lexsynergy and a South African consulting firm.

The Bean App is a South African startup registrar. Its partner GMO is the Japanese registry provider behind .shop and a bunch of geographic and dot-brand gTLDs.

I’m sorry to say I have no idea what “Catalytic Peter” is. It has no internet footprint and ZADNA has not revealed any information beyond the name.

ZADNA said it is “currently at the advanced stage of the final checkpoints of the procurement process.”

.za has over 1.3 million domains and over 600 registrars. While ZACR currently runs four additional African geographic gTLDs, .za is by far its biggest deal in terms of registrations.

GoDaddy Registry to raise some TLD prices, lower others

Kevin Murphy, February 16, 2022, Domain Registries

GoDaddy Registry is to raise the base price of three of its recent acquired gTLDs and lower the price on three others.

The company is telling registrars that the prices of .biz, .club and .design domains are going up later this year, while the prices of .luxe, .abogado and .case are going down.

For .biz, which GoDaddy took over when it acquired Neustar’s registry business in 2020, the price will increase by $0.87 to $13.50.

While .biz hasn’t been price-regulated by ICANN since 2019, the new rise is lower than the annual 10% it was allowed to impose under its previous, price-capped contracts. It’s around 7% this year, roughly in line with .com’s capped increase. It will mean the price of a .biz has gone up by over 70% in the last decade.

For .club, which GoDaddy acquired last year, registrations, renewals and transfers are going up by a dollar to $10.95, the fourth consecutive year in which .club fees have increased.

It’s in the ball-park of what previous owner .CLUB Domains was already doing — .club launched in 2014 with a $8.05 fee, but that went up to $8.95 in 2019, then $9.45 in 2020, then $9.95 last year.

.club has about a million domains under management at the moment. If that level holds, it’s an extra million bucks a year to GoDaddy, which frankly will barely register on the company’s now billion-dollars-a-quarter income statement.

For lower-volume .design, another one of the 2021 acquisitions, the price is going up by $2 to $35.

All of these price changes go into effect September 1 this year, giving registrants over six months to lock-in their pricing for up to 10 years by committing to a multi-year renewal before the changes kick in.

Registrars in most cases pass on registry price increases to their customers, but they don’t have the same six-month notification obligations as registries.

For three other GoDaddy Registry TLDs, prices are coming down in the same timeframe, so registrants may wish to see if the savings are passed on in future by registrars.

.luxe prices are going down from $15 a year to $12, .abogado is going down from $25 to $20 and .casa is going down from $7.50 to $6. The latter two mean “lawyer” and “home” respectively in Spanish.

GoDaddy isn’t currently altering the regular price of the TLDs it acquired from MMX, but it is bumping the restore fee for expired domains by $10 to $40, bringing them into line with .com.