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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.

Single-letter .com case back in court

Kevin Murphy, May 1, 2024, Domain Policy

The domainer trying to get his hands on all the remaining single-character .com and .net domain names has re-filed his lawsuit against ICANN.

Bryan Tallman of VerandaGlobal.com (dba First Place Internet) has filed an amended complaint in a California court, after the judge threw out his initial complaint in March. He alleges deceptive trade practices and breach of contract, among other things.

His claim is that he has sole rights to all unregistered single-character .com and .net domains, such as 1.com and a.net, because he’s registered the matching domains in Verisign’s internationalized domain name transliterations, such as the Hebrew קום. or the Korean/Hangul .닷컴.

He paid Verisign, via registrar CSC Global, $25,285 for 1.닷넷 back in 2017 and reckons he was also buying the exclusive rights to 1.com and 1.net. The same arguments applies to the dozens of other ASCII.IDN domains he registered, according to the complaint.

The argument rests almost entirely on a letter (pdf) from Verisign to ICANN in 2013, in which the registry sets out some of its plans for its IDN gTLDs.

The letter is imprecisely worded, to the point where if you squint a bit, drop some acid, and hit your head against the wall a few times, you might be persuaded that Verisign is saying it would be willing to sell the rights to 1.com for 25 grand.

The complaint says this letter is “ICANN policy”, and the rest of its arguments are pretty much based on that incorrect premise.

ICANN has already filed a demurrer, asking the court to throw out the complaint again, largely on the grounds that the letter is not “policy” and ICANN doesn’t have a contract with any of the plaintiffs that it could be accused of breaching anyway.

The latest filings can be found here.

ICANN to slash costs as Verisign’s magic money tree dries up

Kevin Murphy, April 30, 2024, Domain Policy

ICANN is looking for $8 million of cost savings, $3 million more than it expected a quarter ago, amid gloomy predictions about the domain industry’s likely performance this year.

The Org last week told community members that it’s having to revise its expected revenue down by $3 million to $145 million after it became clear domain sales won’t be as good as previously thought. The new budget is due to be approved by the board this coming weekend.

“ICANN faces an inflation of its costs and also happens to face a lack of inflation of its funding,” CFO Xavier Calvez said on one of two conference calls explaining the changes.

ICANN’s bean counters are now predicting a 4% decline in transaction fees from legacy gTLDs — a line item mostly comprising .com — for ICANN’s fiscal 2025, which begins this July. Back in December, when the first draft of the budget was published, the prediction was for 0% growth.

The grim numbers match Verisign’s own growth story for the rest of the calendar year. Company bosses last week predicted .com/.net to grow at between 0.25% and negative 1.75%, a downwards revision on its guidance in February.

Talking to Verisign and other registries and registrars and looking at the monthly transaction data they file is the main way ICANN formulates its budget predictions.

“We gauged very strong expectations of a contraction in domain name registrations,” ICANN programs director Mukesh Chulani said.

Meanwhile, ICANN estimates transaction fees for new gTLDs will increase 7% in FY25, obviously from a much lower base then legacy, compared to the December estimate of 2% growth.

ICANN was already expecting its funding to miss its spending requirements by $5 million, but that figure is now $8 million. But rather than run ops at a loss, ICANN has instead put this number on a line labelled “Cost Savings Initiatives” in order to present a balanced bottom line.

Where these cost savings might come from doesn’t seem to have been figured out yet, and there’s some community worry that services might be affected by cuts.

There was some talk of finding efficiencies in the travel budget or with contractors, but those budgets are $13 million and $24 million respectively, so any cuts there could be swingeing.

By far the largest expenditure line item is staff, which costs $90 million. But there’s been no change to the expected number of ICANN full-timers in the budget, so layoffs don’t seem to be on the cards just yet.

.com still shrinking because of China

Kevin Murphy, April 29, 2024, Domain Registries

Verisign’s .com gTLD shrunk by over a quarter million domains in the first quarter due to softness in China and US registrars’ pesky habit of putting up prices and the pain is likely to continue for the rest of the year, according to Verisign.

There were about 159.4 million .com domains and 13.1 million .net domains at the end of March, down a combined 270,000 from the end of 2023, Verisign said during its first-quarter earnings call on Thursday. Most of the decline appears to be in .com.

Registrations from Chinese registrars, which are about 5% of the total, were down about 360,000 in the period. Not ideal, but a lot less sharp of a drop than the 2.2 million it lost in Q4.

There were 9.5 million new registrations across both zones in the quarter, compared to 10.3 million in the year-ago period.

But CEO Jim Bidzos told analysts that competition from low-priced new gTLDs, some of which sell year one for under a dollar, is likely harming .com’s growth among cost-conscious Chinese registrants.

But he said the company is also seeing “softness” from US registrars, which he said are increasingly focused on increasing average revenue per user and putting up retail prices. This leads to fewer new registrations and renewals.

Bidzos said Verisign expects to introduce new marketing programs in the second half of the year — around the same time as the company’s base .com wholesale fee goes up from $9.59 to $10.26 — to help offset these declines.

The renewal rate for Q1 is expected to be about 74% compared to 75.5% a year ago. Bidzos said the total domain base shrinkage could be worse in Q2 due to the larger number of names coming up for renewal.

The company lowered its guidance for the year to between 0.25% growth and negative 1.75%. In February, it had guided flat, with a 1% swing in either direction.

Verisign’s top and bottom lines continue to grow during the quarter, with revenue up 5.5% at $384 million and net income up from $179 million to $194 million.

Domain universe grows on new gTLDs despite .com shrinkage

Kevin Murphy, February 15, 2024, Domain Registries

The number of domain names on the internet grew by about 600,000 during the fourth quarter of 2023, despite the drag caused by shrinkage in .com and .net, according to Verisign’s latest Domain Name Industry Brief.

There were 359.8 million registered domains at the end of the year across all TLDs, a 0.2% increase over September, the latest DNIB says.

The growth was hampered by declines in Verisign’s own flagship gTLDs, which were down by 1.2 million names over Q3 and a million names year-over year. Verisign blamed softness in China for the declines during its Q4 earnings call last week.

New gTLD reg volume picked up most of the slack, growing by 1.6 million or 5.3% over Q3, and 4.4 million or 15.9% over 2022. This seems to have been largely driven by six-figure increases at a handful of low-cost gTLDs coupled with smaller increases across the board.

ccTLDs grew more modestly, up about 200,000 names or 0.2% quarter over quarter and 5.3 million names, 4%, year over year. There were 138.3 million ccTLD domains at the end of the year. Growth seems to have been tempered by six-figure declines in the likes of .uk and .ru.

.com is shrinking but Verisign raises prices again anyway

Kevin Murphy, February 9, 2024, Domain Registries

Verisign has confirmed that it plans to exercise its fourth and final .com price-increasing power under its current registry contract, even as its domains under management continues to head south.

The company confirmed last night that it will increase the annual registration and renewal wholesale fee for a .com domain from $9.59 to $10.26 on September 1 this year. It’s the last of the four times it’s allowed to raise prices by up to 7% in its current contract with ICANN, which expires in November.

The news came as Verisign reported its fourth-quarter and full-year 2023 financial results, which were as profitable as we’ve come to expect.

But in terms of domains under management, .com and .net continued to decline, which CEO Jim Bidzos told analysts was all China’s fault. Domains managed by Chinese registrars shrank by 2.2 million in Q4, leading to an overall .com/.net shrinkage of 1.2 million names.

There were nine million new .com/.net registrations in Q4, down from 9.7 million in the same quarter in 2022.

Bidzos said the decline in China was due to factors such as stricter local regulations and a weaker economy, and said he expects those challenges to continue to hit Verisign’s numbers in 2024. He did not blamed higher prices for the drop.

Indeed, the .com zone file has been shrinking by about 1,500 domains per day on average since the start of the year. Zone numbers are usually a reliable predictor of DUM trends.

Revenue from China was down about $14.4 million, CFO George Kilguss said.

Bidzos said Verisign expects its DUM to be flat this year, with a possible 1% swing either way.

For Q4, the company reported revenue up 3% year over year at $380 million, with $265 million net income, up from $179 million a year earlier.

For the whole of 2023, revenue was up 4.8% at $1.49 billion and net income was $818 million, up from $674 million in 2022.

Domain universe grows despite .com drag

Kevin Murphy, November 16, 2023, Domain Registries

The number of registered domain names in the world grew by 2.7 million in the third quarter, despite market-leading .com shrinking, according to Verisign’s latest Domain Name Industry Brief.

There were 359.3 million domains across all TLDs at the end of September, according to the DNIB. up from 356.6 million at the end of June.

Over the same period, .com shrunk by half a million names as Verisign faces challenges from exposure to erratic demand from China.

New gTLD volumes were up by 2.1 million names to end the quarter at 30.2 million. Judging by zone files, at least half of these new names seem to be cheap, low-quality regs in the likes of .top and .cfd.

Total ccTLD names were 138.1 million at the end of the quarter, up by a million. All of the top 10 ccTLDs grew or were flat, except .uk, which lost about a hundred thousand names.

Bosnian government to sue US domain firm that cut it off

Kevin Murphy, November 3, 2023, Domain Registries

One of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s two governments has said it will sue a US domain name company — probably Verisign — for turning off the domain it was using for official government business.

“The Government of the Republic of Srpska will hire legal experts to prepare a lawsuit against the company that disabled the use of the website of the Government of the Republic Srpska without prior notice,” the government said in a statement on its new web site.

It did not name the company in question, but we can narrow it down to a few.

Its old domain, vladars.net, was registered via Dotster, a reseller for Domain.com, part of Newfold Digital. The .net registry is of course Verisign. These are all American companies subject to US legal jurisdiction.

The domain still exists in Whois, but has been removed from the .net zone file and does not resolve.

The Republika Srpska, or Serb Republic, is part of Bosnia and Herzegovina that doesn’t particularly want to be a part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. As such, its new domain is in .rs, the ccTLD for neighboring Serbia, rather than Bosnia’s .ba.

The old .net domain was reportedly deleted due to US sanctions against the Republic, which were expanded October 20 to include members of President Milorad Dodik’s family and several corporate entities.

The US accuses the Dodik family of widespread “graft, bribery, and other forms of corruption” and engaging in “divisive ethno-nationalistic rhetoric” to divert attention from their activities. It additionally accuses them of violating the Dayton Peace Agreement, which ended the war in the region in the 1990s.

Nominet wins Microsoft’s dot-brand business from Verisign

Kevin Murphy, October 30, 2023, Domain Registries

Nominet has taken over back-end registry services for Microsoft’s small portfolio of dot-brand gTLDs.

The company said it’s now running .azure, .bing, .hotmail, .microsoft, .windows and .xbox TLDs, bringing the total number of gTLDs on its registry platform to 74.

Microsoft had been with Verisign to date, but Verisign told us in July that it’s getting out of the dot-brand back-end business.

Almost 100 gTLDs have left Verisign this year, the vast majority landing at Identity Digital.

Nominet also took on .sky from Verisign earlier this year.

China has .com’s growth by the balls

Kevin Murphy, October 30, 2023, Domain Registries

Verisign has downgraded its expectations for .com/.net growth for the year into potentially negative territory, citing — not for the first time — low demand from China.

The registry expects its domain name base to grow at a maximum of 0.4% or shrink as much as 0.4% by the end of the year. That compares to a prediction of between 0% and 2.25% growth at the start of the year.

“Low demand from China remains the primary source of drag on the overall domain name base growth,” CEO Jim Bidzos told analysts on Thursday. “Excluding registrars based in China, both our domain name base and new registrations are up year-over-year”.

The company’s regulatory filing for Q3 shows that China revenue was down from $26.8 million to $22 million over the year. It was the only one of the four geographic reporting segments to show a shrinkage.

Verisign ended Q3 173.9 million .com/.net domains under management, down 0.1% over the year and down half a million names in the quarter.

While DUM growth may be on the decline, price hikes compensate and keep Verisign’s dollar-growth going.

The company reported year-over-year revenue growth up 5.4% at $376 million for the quarter of 2023. Net income was $188 million, up from $169 million a year ago.