Actions suggest Verisign is ready to bring .web to market, not to bury it.
Shortly after domain name registry Afilias filed for Independent Review over the .Web top level domain, Verisign filed an amicus brief asking for an end to the shenanigans.
Domain Incite has a great summary of the filing, so I won’t rehash it. But I will discuss what Verisign’s goals might be.
For the uninitiated, here’s the background:
Nu Dot Co, a business founded by .Co’s founders, applied for the .web top level domain. In 2015, Verisign (NASDAQ: VRSN) decided it wanted to own .web and worked out a deal with Nu Dot Co in which Nu Dot Co would bid in the auction and Verisign would then buy the top level domain from it.
Nu Dot Co won the auction for $135 million, which was the amount of the second highest bid placed by Afilias.
Donuts subsequently sued, upset that Nu Dot Co pushed for an ICANN auction-of-last-resort in which the losers didn’t get to split the proceeds. Donuts lost its battle.
After Donuts exhausted its options, Afilias picked up the baton and filed for cooperative engagement with ICANN. Now it has escalated to the Independent Review Process.
During this time, U.S. antitrust forces investigated Verisign’s deal, ostensibly to see if its goal in getting .web was to quash competition. It decided to not take action, which suggests that it didn’t find any evidence that this was Verisign’s goal.
Fast forward to Verisign’s amicus brief. This is the first time Verisign has explained its side of the argument. It wants the matter resolved and wants to get control of .web.
What does this mean? Here are some reasons Verisign might now be pushing for speedy resolution:
1. It wants to bring .web to market. I tend to think that Verisign really wants to make money with .web. It doesn’t want to damage its bread-and-butter .com, but given how new TLDs have gone so far I think it would be very hard for .web to harm .com.
2. Its contract with Nu Dot Co could contain a clause that requires the company to wrap up the assignment soon.
3. It could be weighing in just to make sure it doesn’t lose the deal.
Regardless of Verisign’s thinking (and sometimes I have trouble understanding what the heck it is thinking), it’s fair to suggest that it’s the new top level domain companies, not Afilias, that have delayed the launch of .web. As Verisign points out in its brief
Afilias took no steps for over two years following its letters to ICANN to initiate an IRP or pursue any other ICANN accountability mechanism. Instead, Afilias sat on its supposed rights, relying on Donut’s CEP for a temporary stay of delegation, thereby scheming, along with Donuts, to delay the delegation of .web for as long as it could.
It’s possible that Afilias was free-loading on Donuts’ legal activity with the hope that it would be resolved in its mutual favor, but it certainly looks like it is trying to delay .web for as long as possible. It certainly could have made its own filings concurrent with Donuts’ activities.