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Airline gTLD crashes and burns

Kevin Murphy, February 2, 2024, Domain Registries

Another would-be dot-brand has added itself to the list of “On second thoughts…” gTLD registries, asking ICANN to tear up its contract.

Century-old Avianca, Colombia’s largest airline, filed its termination papers with ICANN in December and ICANN published them for comment last week.

While the original 2012 application clearly stated that .avianca was intended as a single-registrant dot-brand, Avianca never actually got around to applying for its Spec 13 exemptions so I won’t be technically counting it as a dead dot-brand.

Despite being operational since early 2016, the TLD never had any registrations beyond the mandatory nic.avianca registry placeholder.

The back-end registry services provider and original application consultant was Identity Digital (née Afilias).

Life insurance company kills dot-brand

Kevin Murphy, December 20, 2023, Domain Registries

An American life insurance company’s gTLD has become the 25th dot-brand to be abandoned in 2023.

The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America has asked ICANN to cancel its contract to run .guardian, which it has barely used.

The company had been running a newsletter at connect.guardian but interest in that seems to have dried up around 2020. No other .guardian domains had been registered.

It had been in a bit of a scuffle with UK newspaper publisher Guardian News and Media, which also applied for .guardian, during the application process.

The publisher settled for .theguardian instead, but abandoned that post-delegation in 2016, after selling sister newspaper brand .observer to Identity Digital.

Assuming the termination is not withdrawn, it will leave ICANN with 375 contracted dot-brands, from its initial total of 494.

ICANN cans Freenom

Kevin Murphy, November 13, 2023, Domain Registrars

Controversial free-domains company Freenom has lost its ICANN accreditation, signalling the end of its life as a gTLD registrar.

Org said that as of November 25, Freenom (aka OpenTLD) will no longer be able to sell or renew any domains.

The termination follows the company’s failure to resolve or respond to three separate breach notices, covering dozens of infractions, that Compliance sent between September and October.

Real damage to registrants was caused — many could not rescue their expired domains or transfer names to another registrar.

The company has 16,521 gTLD domains under management at the end of July, according to the most-recent registry transaction reports. They will now be moved to a more-reliable registrar under ICANN’s De-Accredited Registrar Transition Procedure.

Freenom may have been a small fish in the gTLD space, but it gave away tens of millions of free domains in five ccTLDs it controlled, mostly to spammers and other ne’er-do-wells.

It was recently reported that it has lost or is losing its deals with these ccTLDs, notably .tk, after their governments became aghast at how badly they were being abused.

Gap drops some dot-brands

Kevin Murphy, November 3, 2023, Domain Registries

American clothing retailer Gap has dumped two of its unused dot-brand gTLDs.

The company has told ICANN to terminate its registry contracts for .oldnavy and .bananarepublic, the names of two of its store chains, saying it isn’t using them.

Gap still owns .gap, and hasn’t yet asked for it to be cancelled, but it isn’t using that either.

The company’s TLDs all run on GoDaddy’s back-end and are managed by Fairwinds Partners.

The terminations bring the total number of dead dot-brands this year to 23, spread across 12 companies.

Volkswagen ditches its dot-brand

Kevin Murphy, September 12, 2023, Domain Registries

Another major car-maker has thrown in the towel on its key dot-brand gTLD. This time it’s Volkswagen.

Referring to .volkswagen, the company has told ICANN: “This top level domain has never been utilized by Volkswagen of America and we do not intend to utilize it.”

The company had already ditched its secondary dot-brand, .大众汽车 (.xn--3oq18vl8pn36a), which is the Chinese version of its name.

Fiat Chrysler and Bugatti have both also previously terminated dot-brand contracts, while Seat and Audi each have thousands of names in their main dot-brand gTLDs.

Another six dot-brands self-terminate (two are very strange)

Kevin Murphy, August 30, 2023, Domain Registries

Three companies have asked ICANN to turn off a total of six dot-brand gTLDs. Two each.

Lifestyle Domain Holdings no longer wants to run .cityeats and .frontdoor, Paramount-owned CBS Domains wants out of .cbs and .showtime, and chocolate maker Ferrero wants rid of .kinder and .rocher.

It’s perhaps not surprising that Lifestyle Domains is done with .cityeats and .frontdoor, given that they were never used. What is surprising is that the brands themselves have been defunct for many, many years.

The registry was a part of Scripps Networks, an American cable TV company that owned HGTV and the Food Network. It’s now part of Warner Bros Discovery. CityEats.com and FrontDoor.com were part of its online empire.

But both sites were sold off to third parties in 2015 — the same year Lifestyle signed its two registry agreements with ICANN. In the case of .cityeats, the brand seems to have been sold off months before the contract was signed.

The registry appears to have been paying ICANN $50,000 a year for two TLDs is has absolutely no need for — it owned the dot-brands but not the matching brands. Very weird.

The case of CBS is little more typical. The company has three active domains in .cbs — one just a redirect to a privacy policy — and none in .showtime. It’s a case of not knowing what to do with the TLDs.

The Ferrero case is similar — the domains were not used and the company doesn’t want them any more.

I’ll give the chocolatier honesty points for the message on both nic. sites, which basically admits they were defensive registrations: “This domain is registered and protected by BARBERO & Associates Ltd”.

As both of these strings are non-English dictionary words, they could come up for grabs in the next round. “Kinder” is German for “children”, so it’s not impossible someone might want it as kid-focused generic.

Huge telco dumps gTLDs after rebrand

Kevin Murphy, August 8, 2023, Domain Registries

e&, a major telecoms company in the Middle East, has told ICANN to scrap its two dot-brand gTLDs following a partial corporate rebrand last year.

The Abu Dhabi-based company, which operates in 16 countries and has turnover of over $7 billion, said it no longer wishes to operate .etisalat and its Arabic equivalent, اتصالات. (.xn--mgbaakc7dvf). It’s never used the domains.

The company last year said it was rebranding as e&, the ampersand perhaps demonstrating that its marketing folk have little interest in intuitive domain names. “Etisalat by e&” is still used in some territories.

The firm uses eand.com as its primary web site domain.

As dot-brands with no domains and no customers, ICANN will quietly drop them from the root in due course.

A second new gTLD has FAILED and will be sold off

A second commercial, non-branded new gTLD has thrown in the towel after failing to sell many domains and ICANN will seek out a new registry operator to take over.

Desi Networks has told ICANN it wants to unilaterally terminate its contract to run .desi, which as of the end of March had 1,425 domains under management after almost a decade in the root. It peaked at 4,330 domains in December 2018.

ICANN said it will invoke its Registry Transition Process to find a new registry operator. That’s essentially an auction, though if Desi Networks has so far failed to find a buyer privately one wonders how much attention it will attract.

The term “desi” broadly refers to people of South Asian residence or descent, usually Indians and the Indian diaspora. With over 1.5 billion potential registrants, on paper it looks like a winner.

But a Google search for .desi sites reveals just a handful of active domains, all related to porn sites.

The registry seems to have given up on approving zone file requests some time last year, so I have no insight into the kinds of domains currently registered, but ICANN says they are registered to third parties.

None of the registry’s own web sites, save nic.desi, appear to be working, and its Twitter account has been dormant since 2018.

The failure of the business doesn’t appear to be from a lack of channel opportunities. The gTLD is available through most of the major registrars, according to transaction reports, and runs on CentralNic’s back-end.

ICANN said it may transition .desi to an Emergency Back-End Registry Operator while it sorts everything out.

The Registry Transition Process has been invoked just once before, in 2021, after Atrgon’s .wed failed. That gTLD has been using an EBERO, Nominet, for six years.

Most registries that have terminated their gTLD contracts have been dot-brands with no third-party registrants. ICANN just removes those from the root.

Registrar linked to defunct social network terminated

ICANN has terminated a registrar for not paying its fees and other infractions.

ICANN Compliance, in a termination notice effective August 10, said that US-based, Indian-operated Nimzo 98 had failed to provide a Whois service and escrow its registration data.

These secondary breaches seem to be side effects of the fact that the company is no longer operating. It’s been ghosting Compliance since December, according to the notice.

Nimzo, as I blogged in May, seems to have been the in-house registrar of a short-lived social network project name Houm, which offered users a domain name as part of the service bundle.

It peaked at about 21,000 names before it abruptly deleted them all, last October, registry transaction reports show.

At the last count, this March, it had just 270 names under management. ICANN will trigger its De-Accredited Registrar Transition Procedure to move whatever remains today into safer hands.

Travel gTLD registry dumps three strings — NOT dot-brands

Kevin Murphy, April 20, 2023, Domain Registries

Future new gTLD application rounds will likely have three extra travel-related strings up for grabs, after the barely-precedented decision by a registry operator to dump three generic, non-branded strings.

Travel Reservations Srl, the registry owned by Despegar, one of South America’s largest online travel booking services, has told ICANN to tear up its contracts for .hoteles, .vuelos and .passagens.

These are the Spanish translations of “hotels” and “flights” and the Portuguese for “tickets” respectively. Despegar had also applied for the Portuguese .hoteis, but withdrew its bid before delegation.

None of the gTLDs ever launched and none had any registered domains. As such ICANN is not looking for a successor registry to protect registrants. The strings will be available to other applicants in future rounds.

Despegar never made any secret about the fact that it didn’t quite know what it wanted to do with its gTLDs when it applied in 2012, its applications noting that it would take a wait-and-see approach before making the domains available.

It waited, it saw, and a decade later it’s apparently decided it doesn’t want to operate these TLDs after all.

The fact that its termination notices were sent in January this year but dated November 6, 2020, may be indicative.