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Freenom is “essentially finished as a company”

Kevin Murphy, November 3, 2023, Domain Registries

Freenom is “essentially finished as a company”.

That’s the conclusion of a truly excellent piece of reporting at the MIT Technology Review today, which takes a deep dive into the company’s ccTLD antics over the last couple of decades, particularly regarding Tokelau’s .tk domain.

The article reveals not only that all four of Freenom’s African ccTLDs have severed ties with it (we already knew about two) but that Tokelau has asked .nz operator InternetNZ to help it wrest away control of .tk, the company’s flagship.

Officials in Tokelau, a tiny Pacific island territory with extremely poor and expensive internet infrastructure, say they get very little money from Freenom and are appalled that Tokelau’s reputation has been dragged through the mud by decades of abusive .tk registrations.

Freenom’s business model is to give away domains for free and then monetize them when they expire or, more usually, are suspended for abuse. It’s seen .tk become one of the largest TLDs by volume, with at one point over 40 million names.

The company hasn’t been selling any domains in the five ccTLDs it operated since January and it seems quite likely ICANN will suspend or terminate its gTLD registrar accreditation in the coming days or weeks.

It’s also fighting a cybersquatting lawsuit filed by Facebook owner Meta earlier this year that seeks damages sufficiently large to bankrupt it.

The MIT article is long but meticulously researched and sourced and well worth your time. It’s certainly one of the best pieces of mainstream journalism about the domain industry I’ve read.