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China + Domain Name Industry Knowledge


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Verisign’s Registration Data Access Protocol (RDAP) pilot is up and running.

You can now test it for .com and .net.  Afilias also has a pilot for .info.

Kevin Murphy over at DomainIncite sub-headed earlier today that “Verisign and Afilias have become the first two gTLD registries to start publicly testing a replacement for Whois.”

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Read Kevin’s article here.

As mentioned by Kevin, the output is in JSON format on the Verisign pilot. So you may want to install a JSON formatter browser extension in order to make sense of the presented data.

He reports the Afilias pilot is similar but does not currently have a friendly web interface.

I agree with Kevin. I think its fairly safe to say that RDAP is going to replace Whois soon.


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Reflecting back to 2009 – dotMobi, ICANN 36, Korea DMZ

Wow it’s hard to believe we shot this video EIGHT years ago this week inside the DMZ looking over to the border with North Korea, while attending the ICANN 36 meeting.

Not sure if the same would be attempted today, or if one could now even venture to where we stood.

Some things have remained the same. Dr. Evil is still in control over there.

Other things have changed.

Most, if not all of my former colleagues and the original folks at .mobi have moved on, professionally.

At the time of launch in 2006, and in late 2009 when this video was shot, a ton of web content looked like crap on mobile devices. Even on the iPhone—at least at first.

It was envisioned that content hosted on a mobile TLD (.mobi) web address would indicate that such content was utilizing W3C approved best practices to ensure a good user experience on mobile web-enabled devices, regardless of the handset or the network operator being used.

There was considerable effort to launch a solution featuring the .mobi TLD.  The TLD was originally financially backed by Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung, Ericsson, Vodafone, T-Mobile, Telefónica Móviles, Telecom Italia Mobile, Orascom Telecom, GSM Association, Hutchison Whampoa, Syniverse Technologies, and Visa.

We all were wowed in 2007 when Steve Jobs pinched and zoomed in on the front page of the New York Times when first introducing the original iPhone.  A .mobi “button” seemed to be on the horizon.

Nope. That didn’t happen.

That kind of lousy user experience didn’t last long—and unfortunately long term demand for .mobi web addresses waned as mobile content delivering technology progressed. Content adaptation, device detection software, mobile-publishing tools and other resources are now readily available to publishers/developers.

As a result, even though there’s plenty of content that looks great on your phone or tablet today, there’s still a lot of content hosted on .com or other TLDs that still presents a lousy experience on a mobile device.

I’m continually amazed that businesses spending money on custom web sites do not pay attention to the fact that probably most of their online traffic is coming to them via a mobile device. If your site looks and works like crap on a mobile device you are going to lose business.

But that’s not a TLD problem. It’s a technology utilization and best practice problem.

DotMobi registrations peaked at a bit over 1 million registrations a few years ago. Today, although in a rather steep decline, the TLD remains with 500K registrations.

Technology disrupts. Especially in mobile. Stuff happens.

I would not trade the experience gained and the friendships made for anything.

Mobile rules the Internet today.


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The Great Domain Correction of 2017?

There were only 1.8 million registered .com names when I joined the NSI (Network Solutions) Marketing Team in the summer of 1998. ICANN was formed just a few months later.

By the time we were acquired by Verisign in June of 2000 there were roughly 14 million names in the .com database. I recall predictions that one day there would be 100 million registered .com names. Some thought that was a craaaazy number and wanted to know what we were smoking.

To me achieving that number seemed possible, but that it might take a decade or more. The market then paused for a few years. Looking back it was incredible buying opportunity for those that understood the long term value of good generic keywords in the form of .com names. Today Verisign manages roughly 128 million registered .com names.

Relative to today’s lean operations at many domain registries and registrars, it’s hard to believe that back in 1998-2000, with a monopoly position and .com practically selling itself, NSI employed 50+ people on the marketing team pumping out the .com message day and night.  Messaging that included how .com could be used with this incredible “killer app” called “email” where you could have an address such as mary@flowers.com instead of marysflowers582@aol.com.

Now it seems that some TLDs are at a growth pause or experiencing negative growth, particularly in the cases of some new gTLDs that were heavily promoted in China, or where promo deals were done with greater China area registrars. I don’t need to call them out. You know who they are.  

Today’s market and regulatory conditions surrounding the creation and trading of domain names is quite different from market conditions that existed in the past. The China bubble has burst and the free-to-nearly-free domain create promos don’t seem to have worked. 

Some registry and registrar operators seem to have never adjusted to the new realities, or figured out how to leverage all the incredible data, tools, and experienced human intelligence available to them today vs. relatively little that was available to us 15-20 years ago, not to mention common business sense.

Some registry operators have latched on to a PR huckster type of introduction to the Chinese market that might please inexperienced applicants and domain name investors at first, but does little to demonstrate value compared to .com or the local ccTLD (such as .cn) and how to achieve scaled up real business and end-user utilization of a particular TLD via the registrar channel.

I’m not immune to this and have learned tough lessons via my personal and business experiences in China over the years. Sometimes the best way to gain traction in a foreign market is to say as little as possible publicly and really learn how the market and culture operate before you press on with operations, marketing and sales.

Especially for China. China is HARD.

You will not be successful there, as a foreign registry operator, at a minimum, unless you understand that you will likely lose money or barely break even for several years and are prepared to deal with that reality. You must be in it for the long term. Long term, at a minimum, is 5 years of sweating it out (flying back and forth on a near monthly basis) before things *might* work out.

Over the short to medium term the domain industry is likely to shed inefficient registry and registrar operators and investors, especially some of those who banked on new domain extensions (new gTLDs) that have no real consumer traction—which are many— and can no longer, or are just unwilling, to fund the basic holding/operating costs, let alone fund any marketing team or person.

For sure there is an easily foreseen correction—if not outright registration numbers recession—going on right now for some in the domain industry. Perhaps a short growth pause for .com and some ccTLDs, but their long term outlook to me is strong (same for some generic IDNs) as they do not need explaining to their primary target markets.

In case you didn’t read the latest Verisign Domain Name Industry Brief, the 294 ccTLDs make up about a 43% share of total global domain registrations, with the top 10 ccTLDs composing nearly 65% of the overall ccTLD count.  This has been rather consistent over the last 8 years, nudging from about 40% of the total market in 2009 to today’s 43%.

By comparison, the roughly 1,224 new gTLDs have only managed to capture about 7.7% of the overall global domain registration total, with the top 10 new gTLDs composing 64% of the total count—and that top 10 list is likely to shift around a bit in the coming months.

In May of 2013 I posted my thoughts on Zone file size of the average new open gTLD in 2016 and stated:

“…if applicants, the channel, and the industry as a whole do a bang-up job educating, marketing and selling their value props through existing and new channels—essentially hit the ball out of the park—we could see the global market share for new gTLDs in aggregate reach 18% by the end of 2016. I mean they/we/you would have to *kill* it to get to that point. That would be an achievement that means at least three times better performance in 3 years than what the legacy sponsored TLDs have achieved in the past 12 years.”

It is clear now that the new gTLD industry has not “killed” it.

Don’t get me wrong. There is money to be made with non .com TLDs depending upon your portfolio size, function and purpose to the industry. Even in China. There will continue to be plenty of opportunity there, and risk. (Disclosure: I provide consulting services to registry operators doing business in China or that have China on their radar.)

I think some new gTLD portfolio holders and backends are in a position to take advantage of the situation if they can carefully manage expenses for the next two years and don’t bet the farm on China. This includes ICANN, that may need to shed some personnel as a result of what may be “The Great Domain Correction of 2017.”

Last, I’m thinking some domain types that had dollar signs in their eyes just a few short years ago may be now wishing they invested the same funds into bitcoin!

Speaking of bitcoin, its status in 2017 reminds me of .com in 1998. It’s a relatively new digital asset that sells itself and appears to be enjoying rapid traction in a relatively unregulated “wild west” type of market. The “killer app” seems to be the blockchain and big time household names are paying attention. It doesn’t need much of a marketing team and the general public still doesn’t quite understand its future significance. 


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VIDEO + PHOTOS: 2nd China Domain Name Development Conference

*The following is a courtesy republishing of an original blog post by TLD Registry Ltd.

Just a few weeks ago, on January 10th, TLD Registry was a proud sponsor and invited speaker at the 2nd annual China Domain Name Development Conference held at the Beijing New World Hotel.
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The event was co-organized by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT), the Internet Society of China (ISC) and the ICANN Beijing Engagement Center.
Attendance was reported to be over 300 (triple vs. last year), consisting of registry operators, registrars, domain investors, the media and representatives from MIIT, CAICT, ISC and ICANN.
There were plenty of content and networking opportunities to keep one busy the entire day. This is just a partial list of some of the topics that were covered:
  • Domain Name Industry Regulation.  Review of 2016 and outlook for 2017.
  • Internet development trends in China
  • Domain industry development trends in China
  • UASG: Where are we now.
  • Report on Chinese IDN Universal Acceptance
  • Roundtable: Domain names in the new era
  • TLD entry license and review
  • Evolution of DNS structure and security practices at China Telecom
  • Trends of new gTLDs in the China Market
  • Analysis of the Digital Assets ecosystem and its future
Our CEO, Mr. Arto Isokoski, presented on “Providing innovation to the Chinese domain name marketplace.” He offered comments on the China opportunity, the importance of the digital economy, and upcoming Chinese IDN email initiatives.
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Our VP, Mr. Pinky Brand, participated in an extensive roundtable discussion: “Domain Name Market: The Next Step” with representatives from CONAC, Rightside, GMO, 190.com, West.cn, Yuwei, Domain.cn, RITT, and Afilias.
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As at any domain name conference, one of the best benefits of attending is the opportunity to network! There was no shortage of opportunities to do so in Beijing, especially at dinner, where many of the “who’s who” of the China domain name industry were on hand to talk shop and visit with old and new friends.
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In addition to the photos posted above, we’ve also created a short 3 1/2 minute video and photo montage to give you a taste of our day at the conference. We look forward to participating again!  Enjoy.
*The above is a courtesy republishing of an original blog post by TLD Registry Ltd.


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Getting in the mood for ICANN Buenos Aires

Being in the domain industry has its benefits beyond interacting with so many creative and talented people, and getting paid. One is travel to all kinds of spots around the world courtesy of the global nature of this business, not to mention ICANN meetings three times a year.  That’s a plus for me because I love travel photography and am always looking for great moods to catch through my lens after business has been conducted.

Many of us in the industry are off to Buenos Aires this week for the next ICANN global gathering. I had the opportunity to visit there for a full week in late 2010 with my wife. It’s a city of many contrasts. Do not be fooled by run-down looking buildings or areas. What lies inside will surprise you. Best steak, ever.

Enjoy BA and see you there!


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New gTLD Target date is April 23? Or is it?

I detect some delight in the domain name community today resulting from the latest posted video interview with ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé. In that interview Chehadé states “We are now targeting to be able to recommend for delegation the first new gTLD as early as the 23rd of April…”

On the surface this sounds like very good news.  No doubt by stating a date that Fadi said could slip a few days or weeks, but not months, is a sweet sound to many—at least there is a date.

While the entire interview clearly reinforces to me that Fadi is in control and that ICANN will move forward with implementing the program, I am not entirely convinced that the timeline for actual delegation and start of a sunrise period for an average not-in-contention-or-objection new gTLD applicant could move forward (by my calculations as much as 3 1/2 months) unless we hear more about the other processes that must fall in to line.  Fadi did say that various processes are being aligned or are now in alignment, so that is good to hear.

One process that I’m now assuming is on target is the GAC delivery of advice. That’s a bit surprising given the history, but then reading recent GAC statements and seeing how Fadi has reached out to various stakeholders in the short time he has been in control makes it seem plausible.  For example, he states that there has been more progress in his leadership roundtables and discussions with registries and registrars in the past weeks than there has been in the past two years.

So what does the date of April 23 mean for the Priority Draw #1 (IDN) applicant and the average not-in-contention-or -objection applicants that follow?  Well one thing that I didn’t hear are the words ‘requested for delegation.’  I heard ‘recommended.’  Does ‘recommend’ actually mean that ICANN will submit a root zone delegation request to IANA for the Priority Draw #1 applicant on April 23rd? And will they request delegation at a rate of up to 100 per week until they reach the limit of 1,000 for the year?

I’m not yet seeing April 23 a date that the Priority #1 Draw (IDN) Applicant could be live in the DNS, or even requested to be delegated, unless somehow someway the other processes have been changed or greatly accelerated. For example, ICANN has stated that no contracting activity would take place until after the Beijing meeting in mid-April.

Such processes include, for example, the all-important metering rate per week for PDT and Delegation Processing, # of days for contracting, # of days to process PDT, # of days for ICANN to submit root zone delegation request after the applicant passes PDT, # of days for IANA to process the root zone delegation request, # of days after Delegation before Sunrise Period begins.

Using my New gTLD Delegation Date Calculator and changing around a few assumptions, such as reducing the ‘Fudge Factor’ from 110 to 30 days, assuming a metering rate of 100 gTLDs per week instead of 20, slashing in half the time it takes ICANN to submit delegation requests and for IANA to process them, we could be looking at a first actual delegation date of June 3rd with a first assumed sunrise start date of July 3rd, give or take a few days. Holy moly that’s a full 3 1/2 months earlier than my previous calculation.  In theory Draw #1000 (or in sequence but not in contention or objection) could then be delegated by September 27 of this year.  But wow that would take a lot of aligning, pushing and shoving, and assumes no formal objections, no negative GAC advice, lawsuits, etc.

In any event Fadi and ICANN seem to be saying that the new gTLD program is going to happen, and that it is going to happen faster, by possibly as much as 3 1/2 months sooner than some might have previously thought.  If that’s the case, and you have not done so yet, it’s time to start thinking about your target market, your competition, your messaging, your channel, and executing your plan. Is it time to get the party started?


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I’m impressed by Fadi.

I could have ignored today’s ICANN New gTLD Applicant Update Webinar and just read summaries from the usual respected news and industry sources. However, with three hours slotted and likely questions regarding ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé’s somewhat eyebrow-raising comments at the regional ICANN Registry-Registrar meeting in Amsterdam last week—led me wanting to hear it all myself.

I’m glad I tuned in. The initial odd item was that there was not the usual participant chat-room function. ICANN mentioned this specifically at the start of the webinar. Some folks seemed annoyed but actually I found it refreshing. I think it helped the presenters and audience focus on the content and Q&A without the usual noise—good or bad. Now of course there is controversy and criticism that needs to be heard; but if everyone had been in a real physical room they would not be interrupting the presenter and would not be able to speak at more than a whisper. They’d have to resort to Skype or some other external chat function which we all know goes on at every ICANN meeting. So maybe that’s one reason the webinar ended after 1:50 instead of 3 hours—after anyone who wanted to ask a question was seemingly given the chance to do so—and live on the phone so everyone could hear the question straight from the participant’s mouth.

The welcome surprise was Fadi’s participation and remarks. He discussed ‘Sector Maturity.’  He talked about a possible ‘registrant bill of rights’ and the need to manage ourselves as an industry…or we will be managed.  He talked about opportunities and responsibilities that we need to embrace.  He said we must be mature, responsible, and ‘take care of ourselves.’  He urged us to “rise above our unique or individual issues or lenses” and try to see the bigger picture. It was a bit of a rehash of what he said in Amsterdam but I think it was important that today’s webinar participants heard it straight from his mouth, with all the inflection and tone—and not from an online news report.

Fadi’s remarks demonstrated to me that he is trying to lead a multi-stakeholder organization to fully grasp the high-level purpose and direction to take while also tackling head-on the minutiae and massive undertaking of the new gTLD program—let alone the incredible change management challenges it is heaving upon the ICANN staff.

I won’t get into all the real challenges that we all know still need addressing, but what I did hear at a macro level from Fadi and the others made me shift from negative to neutral at this stage on the prospects of the first new gTLDs being delegated into the root before this year is done. Unfortunately I can’t shift to positive until I actually see ICANN adhering to deadlines. There are several coming down the pipe in the next 90 days so let’s see what happens.

Fadi also remarked that “we will not jeopardize the stability of the DNS,” and are doing everything they can to keep the new gTLD program on track. He said, “to be super clear,” that ICANN is doing the work that is expected of them and that dates for the new gTLD program discussed in Toronto are on track. “We will not change it, unless there are DNS stability reasons for doing so.” OK, so that’s an out that could be applied in a variety of theoretical situations, but his further statements that he intends to increase the volume of communication on new gTLD operational issues and plans to attend future webinars leads me to believe we have a capable and likeable leader at ICANN.

Leaders continually guide, assert and clarify common goals in the big overall picture while getting their hands dirty.  Fadi seems to be doing such things and to that I offer a toast: “May we see deadlines met and new gTLDs delegated this year with no stability issues at all to the DNS.”