Displaying posts under "Domain Registrars"
Registrar Stakeholder Group questions if Minds + Machines is complying with registry and registrar agreements.
The separation between registry and registrar is being blurred with the introduction of new TLDs. For the first time, gTLD registries can also own domain name registrars.
This uncharted territory is sure to lead to first time issues that need to get ironed out. Here’s the first major one to be raised.
The ICANN Registrar Stakeholder Group (RrSG) is questioning Minds + Machines’ Priority Registration System and if the registry Minds + Machines is giving discriminatory access to its own registrar (also called Minds + Machines).
Domain Name Wire has obtained a letter (pdf) the group sent to ICANN contractual compliance today.
As background, the Priority Registration System allows a registrant to reserve a domain name and be guaranteed it will get it when the domain name launches. The system is enabled by Online Priority Enhanced Names database (“OPEN”).
In theory, any registrar can join OPEN and offer the service to their customers.
But RrSG argues that this isn’t exactly the case. It says that the Priority Registration System was enabled before Minds + Machines had finalized its Registry/Registrar Agreement (RRA), so other registrars were not able to join and therefore Minds + Machine’s registrar had discriminatory access.
RrSG questions if three contractual clauses are being honored:
* Section 2.9(a) of the New gTLD Registry Agreement – Registry Operator must provide non-discriminatory access to Registry Services to all ICANN accredited registrars that enter into and are in compliance with the registry-registrar agreement for the TLD
* Section 1(a) of Specification 9 of the New gTLD Registry Agreement – “…directly or indirectly show any preference or provide any special consideration to any registrar with respect to operational access to registry systems and related registry services…
* Section 3.7.3 of the 2013 RAA – “3.7.3 Registrar shall not represent to any actual or potential Registered Name Holder that Registrar enjoys access to a registry for which Registrar is Accredited that is superior to that of any other registrar Accredited for that registry.”
In reading the clauses, it seems that there might be a number of interpretations which ICANN will have to address.
Regarding the first one, if no other registrars have yet signed a R/R agreement with Minds + Machines, then is it actually discriminating amongst contracted registrars?
It seems that RrSG also isn’t sure which entity is making claims regarding enhanced access to the registry. Is MindsandMachines.com the registrar site, registry site, or both?
ICANN’s response will set precedent and may affect other registry’s launch plans.
Antony Van Couvering, CEO of Minds + Machines, released this statement to Domain Name Wire in response to the letter:
It’s clear that registrars want clarification on the rules around common ownership of registry and registrar, and we want that too, and have approached ICANN separately to ask for it. What we’re seeing now are very divergent interpretations of what the registry code of conduct really means. On the one side, registrars are concerned that registries don’t provide a commercial advantage to a house registrar — hence this letter. On the other side, some registries are refusing to provide their RRA to the Minds + Machines registrar unless we sign contracts that give them enforcement powers over their interpretation of how we should operate. We’re stuck in the middle. It seems that the only way to make everyone happy is to make everything a clone of .com, which is not what we think domain registrants want, and which is the opposite of the innovation and choice and competition that are enshrined as the core values of the gTLD program.
We value registrars commercially and have close relationships with many of them. It’s unfortunate, from our perspective, that the Registrar Stakeholder Group decided to use Minds + Machines as a test case, because it isn’t on point with regard to the bigger issue and we are confident that our Priority Reservation program is fair, fully within the rules, and is really great for customers.
We’re going to go through the usual ICANN channels to make our case, and simply note that this can’t have taken any registrars by surprise. We made a big announcement of the program at the ICANN Buenos Aires meeting, got the domain name industry press to cover it (as well as the Financial Times and others) and made every effort to sign up as many ICANN-accredited registrars as we could, including having multiple meetings with many of them at the ICANN meeting, some on the very evening we made the announcement. We have over a dozen registrars signed up, including some that voted to send the letter to ICANN.
Therefore I take this letter as a proxy for a bigger issue — that everyone, including us, is seeking clarity on how registries and registrars engage each other in this new gTLD world. We’ve already seen the vagueness lead to anti-competitive behavior from both camps and ICANN could do us all a favor by providing some guidance.”
Auction data show competition for new TLD registrations and shed light on strategic considerations for ordering domains.
What are domains registered under new top level domain names worth, and what is the demand for them?
We already know how many domains are being registered. .Guru has close to 30,000 registrations and .photography has topped 10,000. Most others are in the 1,000-5,000 range.
But digging deeper into the pre-registration process provides another interesting look at demand so far.
GoDaddy provided Domain Name Wire with some numbers about its new top level domain name auctions thus far. These auctions take place when more than one person places a pre-order for a domain at the same level. (Most of the time this happens for a standard pre-order, but also occasionally when a customer places an Early Access Program order for the same day/level.)
For the first set of seven Donuts domains (including the popular .guru), GoDaddy had 900 auctions. Through the first 14 domains there have been 1,400 auctions.
Here are auctions from the first batch of 7 that closed above $1,000:
These nine domains are obviously outliers, as most domains sold for well under $1,000. But it shows that people are willing to pay a decent amount for some of these new TLDs.
It may be difficult to rationalize which domains sold for more than others – that’s the nature of an auction in which two or more people are interested in the same item.
Consider some domains that sold for less: lifestyle.guru for $520, Taiwan.singles for $300 and bike.guru $200. You might think these domains would sell for more than VDI.guru (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure).
A key take-a-way from the early results is that there is demand for these domains, and often times multiple people want the same domain name. It will be interesting to see how this translates into a secondhand market, which will take longer to develop.
Some people might also change their strategy around acquiring second level domains in these new domain names based on this auction data.
Of the nine domain sales over $1,000, only one of the domain names was an auction in which the bidders paid more for the Early Access Program (EAP). This means that had one of the people interested in tire.guru registered it on the last day of EAP (a sort of reverse auction by the registry), they could have gotten it for around $200 instead of $5,250.
Conversely, GoDaddy had about 1,100 EAP orders for the first 14 TLDs. Many of these customers likely avoided an auction. But some wouldn’t have faced an auction even if they had placed a standard pre-order, which costs about $25-$70. Although I don’t know the total number of pre-orders GoDaddy received, back-of-the-envelope math suggests that many more domains were captured for a single customer than went to auction.
Do you place a standard pre-order and face a higher likelihood of auction? Or do you spend $200 on the last phase of EAP to jump ahead of the line? If you do place a pre-order, do you do it at multiple registrars?
It’s an interesting bit of strategy to consider.
In all likelihood, the company that paid $12,000 to get Soccer.guru on the first day of EAP could have gotten it for a lot less had it ordered it on a later day.
But if you really want a Donuts domain and think you might not be the only one, it probably makes sense to order it at some point during EAP to reduce your chances of ending up in an auction or having another registrar snag the domain for one of its pre-order customers.
Let the testing begin…
They haven’t been available for long, but already we’re seeing varying registration fees for Donuts’ domain names.
Domain name registrar GoDaddy is charging lower annual registration fees for some of the latest new top level domain name offered by Donuts — while charging a premium for others.
Pricing for many of the “second round” Donuts domains (e.g. .photography) as well as pre-orders for some of the to-be-released domains (e.g. .tips) are now $24.99. Most of the initial ones were $39.99.
It appears the first seven domains are all priced at $39.99 and up, including $69.99 for .ventures and .holdings. In the second batch of seven, .estate and .camera are $39.99 while the others are $24.99.
Prices at eNom also seem to have come down for some domains. I’m seeing fees of around $21 for “second round” domains .photography and .equipment, but $32 for first round .guru. eNom is also charging more for .holdings and .ventures at $49.99
You should expect lots of fluctuation in registration fees as registrars and registries test price points.
It’s reasonable to assume that customers will pay more for .holdings and .ventures domains since larger companies will be typical buyers. But only testing will tell.
One of the early criticisms of new top level domain names is that they cost 3-4 times as much as most existing domains, such as .com and .net. The pricing for some of the less expensive domains is around twice the cost of .com.
[Editor's note: the original version of this story implied that GoDaddy had raised its pricing for .holdings and .ventures. Based on Google cache's of GoDaddy's site, it appears the pricing has been higher all along.]
Tucows CEO Elliot Noss discusses the domain name business in the company’s latest investor call.
Tucows released Q4 2013 earnings and held its investor conference call this week. Here are some highlights:
* Tucows started charging for WHOIS privacy due to increased costs the company faces with the 2103 Registrar Accreditation Agreement.
* Domain parking is still a drag on the company. It expects a flat or downward trend. This also affects its expired domain sales revenue.
* The company sees GoDaddy’s acquisition of Afternic as a good thing because it will bring additional expertise to the secondary market for domain names.
* The company doesn’t expect much of a financial impact from new TLDs in 2014. Any impact will be in late Q3 and Q4 when better strings come out after resolving contention sets.
* Of the two sets of TLD launches so far (presumably Donuts’ first two batches of seven domains), people thought the first batch had better domains. But the second one outperformed the first, at least in the first couple days of availability. Tucows determined this is likely an awareness issue, so as people become aware of new TLDs launches might perform better. (It all gets back to new TLDs “coming out with a whimper“.)
* Hover, Tucows’ retail brand, saw 20% year-over-year growth in new registrations in Q4.
* The company started advertising Hover on TV and Ting (its mobile phone service) on TV, in movie theaters, and outdoor. It hasn’t been as effective as authentic endorsements and strategic partnerships, but Tucows will continue testing. (As an aside, I recently asked an employee why he stopped expensing his cell phone each month. Answer: “Ever since I switched to Ting, my bill is only like $20. So it’s not even worth expensing anymore.”
* Ting now has 50,000+ accounts and 80,000+ devices.
Domain name forwards to .uno registration page.
Domain name registrar GoDaddy has started using GoDaddy.uno, although perhaps not in the way the .uno registry intends for it to be used:
The domain name merely forwards to GoDaddy’s .uno registration page, which is all in English except for .uno’s slogan.
.Uno founder Shaul Jolles told Domain Name Wire last month that his goal is for .uno domain names to lead consumers to a separate Spanish language website for the brand that is using it.
The vision is that a Spanish speaker who knows about GoDaddy.com would go to GoDaddy.uno instead to use the site in his or her own language.
Perhaps forwarding GoDaddy.uno to the .uno registration page makes sense for now, but it might help if a bit more of the page was in Spanish. All in due time, I suppose.
This is the second brand I’m aware of to begin using a .uno domain name. The Trademark Clearinghouse for new top level domain names is forwarding both trademark-clearinghouse.uno and TMCH.uno to Spanish language content on its site.
The sunrise period for .uno ends tomorrow.