Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

Is 80% of .xxx going to be defensive?

Kevin Murphy, August 4, 2011, Domain Registries

Is the new adults-only top-level domain going to turn out to be just as big of a trademark shakedown as some had feared?
EasySpace, a British domain name registrar, claims that 80% of its .xxx pre-orders are from organizations outside the porn industry.
“Out of the hundreds of businesses that have rushed to pre-register with Easyspace ahead of the opening of the Sunrise phase for .XXX domains on 7 September 2011, only 20% of them are from the adult industry,” the company said in a press release.
EasySpace is just one rather small registrar, of course, and its marketing of .xxx is very much in the “Protect your brand” camp, so its numbers may not necessarily hold up industry-wide.
The company is charging $189.99 ($310) for non-porn defensive registrations, an almost 100% markup on the registry fee.
Still, 80% is a big number, and likely to be used by critics not only of .xxx but of new TLDs in general.

The first .xxx porn site has gone live

Kevin Murphy, August 2, 2011, Domain Registries

Casting.xxx tonight has become officially the first live porn site to use a .xxx domain name.
It’s very not safe for work, of course, but if you head over there right now you can watch a handful of streaming videos, according to sources.
Casting.xxx is the first site to use a domain granted under ICM Registry’s Founders Program, which let the registry sell off or basically give away premium names to publishers.
ICM says it’s allocating about 1,500 domains to about 35 Founders, which is quite a lot more domains than I was expecting.
The .xxx top-level domain has been active in the domain name system for a few months now, but to date the only resolving domains have been those belonging to registry manager ICM.
Casting.xxx is registered to a Really Useful Ltd, which appears to have been set up purely to build sites on .xxx domains, of which casting.xxx is the first of several.
The .xxx sunrise period begins next month, with landrush in November and general availability slated for December.

Breaking: CentralNic regains control of gb.com

Kevin Murphy, August 2, 2011, Domain Registries

CentralNic has taken back control of gb.com, which was seized without warning by the company’s founder at the weekend.
The domain gb.com now resolves to CentralNic’s site, and the company has posted the following message:

The CentralNic service for domains ending in .gb.com has been fully restored. We apologize for any inconvenience – the interruption was effected without any warning by a third party, and was therefore out of our control.

The pseudo-TLD service, which serves primarily UK small businesses that couldn’t get the .co.uk they wanted, went down on Saturday, leaving registrants confused and angry.
I’ve reached out to CentralNic for comment and will update when I have more information.

PIR sets its sights on .ngo

Kevin Murphy, August 1, 2011, Domain Registries

The .org registry hopes to add .ngo – for Non-Governmental Organization – to its stable of top-level domains, when ICANN opens its new gTLD program next year.
It may well face competition for the domain, however.
It’s quite difficult to narrowly define what an NGO is, but the Public Internet Registry plans to adopt a fairly broad definition that will give it potentially “millions” of new registrants.
“We’re looking at global, regional, and local NGOs, we’re engaging with all of them,” said PIR chief Brian Cute. “This acronym is something that these organizations strongly identify with.”
Cute said PIR has letters of support from some NGOs already, but is not prepared to disclose the identities of its supporters just yet.
Many NGOs are based in emerging markets – according to Wikipedia, India has as many as 3.3 million of them. PIR hopes to encourage domain growth in developing nations, Cute said.
With that in mind, we’re probably not looking at super-premium pricing, though PIR is not talking specific details of its plan yet.
It will be a self-designated “community” application, meaning it will qualify for a Community Priority Evaluation in the event that ICANN receives more than one bid for .ngo.
When a CPE kicks in, applications are scored against a number of criteria and have to get 14 out 16 points in order to win a contested gTLD without going to auction.
Those 14 points are not easy to win, however. Even .ngo, with its commonly understood meaning, may be a hard call.
As it happens, there is already potentially one other .ngo bidder.
The British charity Article 25 has been pondering a .ngo application since 2008, according to its web site at dotngo.net.
That initiative seems to have roughly similar goals to PIR — global, restricted, non-profit — and VeriSign seems to have been engaged as a possible registry services provider.
PIR plans to stick to its existing back-end infrastructure provider, Afilias.
As a community application, it will be a “closed domain”, Cute said. Unlike .org, there will be eligibility criteria to pass before you’re allowed to register a domain name.
PIR also plans to apply for internationalized domain name transliterations of .org, in Chinese, Hindi, Cyrillic and Arabic, Cute said.
Here‘s the site for the application.

VeriSign boss leaves domain industry

Kevin Murphy, August 1, 2011, Domain Registries

Former VeriSign chief executive Mark McLaughlin, who resigned last week, is leaving the domain name industry entirely, signing up as the new CEO of Palo Alto Networks, a firewall vendor.
The privately held company is being tipped for an imminent IPO, which could mean a big stock payday for McLaughlin if executed successfully.
The Wall Street Journal quotes McLaughlin today as saying “the upside is on the equity side”.
Coming ahead of the launch ICANN’s top-level domains program, you could have been forgiven for thinking that McLaughlin may have been headhunted by a new gTLD player.
That would have been a heck of an endorsement of the commercial opportunity of new gTLDs, for the head of .com and .net to throw in with the newcomers.
But clearly McLaughlin has realized there’s more money in firewalls.
Smart man.
At VeriSign, founder Jim Bedzos has taken over as CEO while a permanent replacement for the 10-year VeriSign veteran is sought.

Fight over gb.com claims thousands of victims

Thousands of companies that use the pseudo-top-level-domain .gb.com have gone offline due to a legal fight between the registry and its founder.
CentralNIC sells third-level gb.com domains as a “Great Britain” alternative to .co.uk. A Google search reveals a great many small businesses use the extension for their web sites.
They’re all out of luck today. Anybody attempting to access any .gb.com domain is now welcomed by a placeholder page, which states:

You may be here because you have been sold a domain or email service using the gb.com domain that has ceased to work.
You can restore that service swiftly by registering with GB.COM Ltd.
GB.COM Ltd will not provide a service that you have paid others for, unless they have an arrangement with GB.COM Ltd.
If you have already paid for future service and it has ceased then you should contact your supplier.

GB.com appears to be owned by Stephen Dyer, who founded CentralNIC in 2000, but left the company following a buyout several years ago.
“This interruption relates to a longstanding legal dispute regarding the domain name gb.com, dating back to when the current shareholders acquired the business in 2004,” CentralNIC said.
Historical Whois records show that the email address associated with gb.com switched from CentralNIC to a webmail account at some point in September that year.
It’s currently registered to steve@enovi.com, which appears to be a Dyer-owned domain.
CentralNIC evidently has been selling domains under an extension it was not in control of for the last seven years, and now whatever leasing agreement it had arranged has broken down.
The company said: “We are currently taking legal advice about this and will be taking urgent steps to restore the service, but we cannot achieve that instantly.”
Until a solution can be found, it recommends that affected registrants sign up with GB.com to (hopefully) quickly restore DNS service to their sites.
However, the new GB.com site is so painfully amateurish that some customers seem to have mistaken it for a phishing attack.
I have some additional advice – after your gb.com domain is resolving again, register a new domain in a proper TLD (.uk, .com) and redirect all your traffic to it until your users know where to find you.
Then cancel the gb.com domain.
GB.com Ltd has already demonstrated pretty comprehensively that it doesn’t give a damn about your business, so I think you’ll agree it doesn’t deserve your money.
There are ways to go about a registry transition seamlessly, and this most certainly is not one of them.
Quite how GB.com hopes to match newly signed-up customers with the true previous registrants is not entirely clear – there’s potential for abuse unless it has full access to CentralNIC’s thick Whois.
Also worth pondering — where’s all the email to .gb.com domains going?
While this is a commercial dispute, rather than a technical stability problem, it still Looks Bad for CentralNIC, which recently has been heavily marketing itself as a “.brand” back-end provider.
It shouldn’t harm the company’s ability to pass an ICANN technical evaluation, but it may give potential clients pause for thought.
Of the 20 pseudo-TLDs listed on CentralNIC’s site, at least three others – us.com, us.org and gr.com – appear to be registered in the names of third parties, according to Whois records.
There’s no reason to believe these domains are in any immediate danger, however. They don’t appear to have any connection to GB.com or Dyer.
CentralNIC said: “We can confirm, with absolute certainty, that no other CentralNic domain extensions are subject to any such disputes.”
That will come as little comfort to the thousands of small businesses that find themselves offline today.
One such customer has set up a LinkedIn group to discuss the situation, and Twitter traffic from customers seems to be increasing as British users wake up to the news.
UPDATE: It seems that Stephen Dyer has form.
He was also director of Snappy Designs Ltd, owner of the photo-hosting site Fotopic.net, which went into liquidation earlier this year, leaving thousands of photographers stranded.
Amateur Photographer reported in March that potentially millions of images could have been lost due to the business’s failure.
The site currently says the images are safe. Users do not have access to them, however.
(spotted by @whois_search)

VeriSign CEO quits. But where’s he going?

VeriSign’s CEO and president Mark McLaughlin has quit the company for a CEO position at an undisclosed private company.
The news of his departure, after two years at VeriSign’s helm, came during the company’s second quarter earnings call yesterday.
McLaughlin’s been at VeriSign for over a decade. In his time as CEO, he oversaw a massive restructuring at the company.
VeriSign is now dramatically smaller – 1,000 people compared to 5,000 when he took over – following the sale of assets such as the security business, which Symantec bought.
His resignation is effective on Monday, but he’s told the company he’ll stick around until late August. Founder and chairman Jim Bedzos will become interim CEO while a replacement is found.
But where’s McLaughlin going?
The timing, less that six months before ICANN’s new top-level domains program kicks off, is certainly curious. It would be an unbelievable coup for a new gTLD firm to hire the former boss of .com.
A lot of people are switching companies at the moment, positioning themselves the best to exploit the new gTLD opportunity. (Anybody need a writer? I’m told my prices are very reasonable).
But he could be going anywhere, of course.
On VeriSign’s earnings call yesterday, McLaughlin said he wanted to join a private company and take it public, which made me think he may be leaving the domain business entirely.
McLaughlin is an advisor to Altos Ventures, a venture capital firm with a bunch of startups to its name.
There are not a great many companies in the domain industry – that we know about, at least – that immediately jump out as near-term IPO candidates.
McLaughlin plans to announce his new employer next week.

ICANN demands the right to terminate .jobs

ICANN has asked the International Chamber of Commerce to rule that it has the right to terminate Employ Media’s .jobs contract.
It’s filed its response to Employ Media’s demand for arbitration over the disputed Universe.jobs service, which saw the registry vastly expand the .jobs space.
Employ Media “transcended the very intent behind creation of the TLD” with Universe.jobs, which allocated tens of thousands of .jobs domains to the DirectEmployers Association, ICANN said.
The organization wants the ICC to rule that it “may, but is not required to, terminate the Registry Agreement with Employ Media”, as it has already threatened.
Employ Media took ICANN to arbitration in May, after ICANN notified it that it was in breach of its registry agreement and they were not able to settle their differences in private talks.
The registry wants a declaration that it is not in breach.
But according to ICANN, Employ Media is still and has always been restricted to selling domains just to human resources professionals to promote jobs “within their own organizations”.
That’s despite ICANN’s approval of a contract amendment last year that allowed the registry to sell non-companyname .jobs domains.
This liberalization, ICANN says, did not allow the company to launch Universe.jobs, which monetizes at least 40,000 geographical and vocational .jobs through a massive third-party jobs board.
ICANN is now trying to frame the arbitration proceeding around a single question – was its breach notice “appropriate” or not?
The whole debacle is based around two interpretations of the .jobs Charter, which spells out who can register .jobs domains. This is what it says:

The following persons may request registration of a second-level domain within the .JOBS TLD:
– members of SHRM [the Society For Human Resources Management]; or
– persons engaged in human resource management practices that meet any of the following criteria: (i) possess salaried-level human resource management experience; (ii) are certified by the Human Resource Certification Institute; (iii) are supportive of the SHRM Code of Ethical and Professional Standards in Human Resource Management, as amended from time to time, a copy of which is attached hereto.

Employ Media’s interpretation is fairly literal and liberal – any signed-up SHRM member can register a .jobs domain and somebody at DirectEmployers is a member and therefore eligible.
Becoming a SHRM member is pretty straightforward and cheap. It’s not much of a barrier to entry.
ICANN argues that this interpretation is bogus:

Employ Media has espoused policies that allow a .JOBS domain name (or thousands of them) to be used for virtually any purpose as long as a human resource manager is propped up to “request” the domain. In doing so, Employ Media has failed to enforce meaningful restrictions on .JOBS registrations, as required by the Registry Agreement.

It further argues that Employ Media should have allocated premium .jobs domains through an “open, fair and transparent” process, rather than the “self-serving… backroom deal” with DirectEmployers.
Evidence now filed by ICANN shows that the two organizations have been arguing about this since at least November 2009, when Employ Media launched a Universe.jobs “beta”.
ICANN also now says that it has no problem with Universe.jobs, provided that Employ Media and SHRM amend their Charter policies to make the service retroactively compliant.
The more this dispute progresses and the more convoluted and expensive it becomes, the more it leaves me scratching my head.
You can download the latest arbitration documents from ICANN.

ICM gives away .xxx domains to porn stars (video)

It seems that pretty much every time I’ve written about .xxx over the last five or six years the article has been mentioned, or focussed on, how the porn business hates it.
For a change, here’s a shameless propaganda video (possibly NSFW) that ICM Registry produced during a recent, evidently quite boozy, party at Platinum Lace, a strip joint in London.

Context: ICM was sponsoring the party.
The people heard supporting .xxx are either porn actresses who’ve just been given their .xxx domains, employees of the Paul Raymond stable of top-shelf men’s magazines, or domain registrars.
One of the interviewers is “Mario”, a Z-lister known for being annoying on the TV show Big Brother last year. I figured his 15 minutes were already up, but I guess not.
The other is ICM’s sales director Vaughn Liley. He’s the one who starts interviews with the question “So, do you think .xxx will be good for the industry, or great?”
Watch out, David Frost.
Also seen posing, though not speaking, is Ben Dover, pretty much the only mainstream-famous porn video producer ever to come out of the UK.

Could .om become the next typo TLD?

Will Oman’s .om domain follow in the footsteps of .co? Or .cm? Or neither?
The country-code top-level domain is set to be transferred to a new manager following an ICANN vote this coming Thursday.
The redelegation is one item on a unusually light agenda for the board’s July 28 telephone meeting. It’s on the consent agenda, so it will likely be rubber-stamped without discussion.
The domain is currently assigned to Oman Telecommunications Company, but the new owner is expected to be the national Telecommunications Regulatory Authority or an affiliated entity.
The Omani TRA was given authority over the nation’s domain names by Royal Decree in 2002.
It has already successfully had the Arabic-script ccTLD .عمان approved by ICANN for use as an internationalized domain name, but the IDN has not yet been delegated.
AusRegistry International this March won a $1.3 million contract with the TRA to provide software and services for the .om and .عمان registries.
At the time, the TRA said it planned to market both Latin and Arabic extensions to increase the number of domain registrations.
The .om ccTLD is of course a .com typo, like .co and .cm, but squatting is not currently possible due to its strict registration policies.
Only Omani entities may register .om domains today, and only third-level domains (such as example.com.om and example.net.om) may be registered. Domains may not be resold.
I have no particular reason to believe this situation will change under new stewardship, but it will certainly be worth keeping an eye on the TLD for possible policy changes.
When Cameroon’s .cm opened up, it implemented a widely vilified blanket wildcard in an attempt to profit from .com typos.
Colombia’s .co of course took the responsible route, disowning wildcards and embracing strong anti-squatting measures, even if its mere existence was still a headache for some trademark owners.