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Verisign issues statement on .cc/.tv situation in China

July 26, 2017Domaining, DomainnamewireComments Off on Verisign issues statement on .cc/.tv situation in China

Company has submitted applications but domains are not licensed for sale in China.

Last week some registrars in China dropped support for .cc and .tv domain names, both of which are managed by registry company Verisign. This was part of a directive from the Chinese government to suspend sales of a number of domains that have not yet received licenses from the government.

Verisign has a license for .com and .net, so those domains can be sold and hosted in China.

The company just issued a statement about the issue:

Verisign is engaged in discussions with the Chinese government to obtain licenses to provide domain name registry services for .cc, .tv and our Chinese IDNs. We submitted our updated applications in July 2017. We expect to begin to engage in discussions with the Chinese government about our final evaluation and ultimately obtain licenses for .cc, .tv and our IDNs.

Verisign says the domains will still be available through HiChina, Bizcn, Chinasource and 35 Tech while it awaits the government license.



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.VIP gets 75% renewal rate for early registrations

July 26, 2017Domaining, DomainnamewireComments Off on .VIP gets 75% renewal rate for early registrations

Company tops expectation it set last month.

Last month MMX (Minds + Machines) forecasted that about 70% or more of .VIP domains registered within the first 31 days of general availability last year would be renewed.

A commenter on that post claimed “There is no way it will be 70%”, insinuating it would be less. Now the totals are in and the number is indeed about 70%. 75% of domains registered during this period have been renewed.

This is an incredibly high first-year renewal rate for a new top level domain, especially one dependent on Chinese domain investors who have been scaling back investments lately.

In an announcement today, the company also said sales from H1 2017 won’t be as strong as the peak last year when .VIP launched. MMX didn’t launch any new domains in the first half of this year but will launch .boston later this year. However, it expects to reach breakeven based on renewal revenues covering fixed costs this year.

The company also said it is continuing to complete its “strategic review”, aka discussing selling the company.



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17 domain names end users just bought

July 26, 2017Domaining, DomainnamewireComments Off on 17 domain names end users just bought

From BrokenBrain.com to OutofPlace.com, here are 17 domain names that were acquired by end users over the past week.

Crypto currency domain names remain hot, and one qualifies for our end user list this week. Other end users buying domains include a cow-tagging company, a business that helps you match the color of your carpet to fix bleach stains, and a diet guru.

Lots of domains are still in escrow at Sedo, so there were many more sales for more money that aren’t included in this list.

Here are 17 sales at Sedo that have cleared escrow and are in the hands of end users:

(You can view previous lists like this here.)

DubaiOffPlan.com $7,500 – A company in Dubai that offers “off plan” real estate. I had to look this term up. It basically means real estate that hasn’t been built yet, or pre-construction real estate deals.

MySign.com $6,000 – Dotsoft Technologies, Inc. is a security/SSL company.

AllSync.com €5,000 – AllSync is a cloud storage company.

Evercoin.com $4,500 – The domain appears to have been purchased by a crypto currency exchange called Hazelcoin.

Owlit.com €3,000 – Online research company Owlit bought this domain and forwards it to Owlit.de.

BrokenBrain.com $3,000 – Health and diet expert doctor Mark Hyman, whose company is called UltraWellness.

Smartbow.com $3,000 – Smartbow is in the cow business. Seriously, it sells ear tags for tracking cow herds. It uses the domain name smartbow.at.

ChatRoulette.asia £2,999 – ChatRoulette, which is apparently still a thing.

Averx.com – $2,889 Averon has a mobile identity technology.

DeinSmartHome.com €2,778 – Dein means “your” in German. The buyer operates a site selling cell phones at DeinHandy.com.

BleachSpot.com $2,700 – The company that operates BleachStain.com offering a way to color match your carpet to fix stains from bleach. Oddly enough, I need this service.

Branditos.com €2,500 – Branding company Heyman Brandt DeGelmini.

Akadio.com $2,500 – HDF Group “ensures the sustainable development of HDF (Hierarchical Data Format) technologies and the ongoing accessibility of HDF-stored data”. I can’t figure out what this domain will be used for.

Kalutara.com £2,000 – Minor Hotel Group Limited. Kalutara is a place in Sri Lanka.

MyTheresa.pl €2,000 – Clothing company MyTheresa.com bought another ccTLD matching its brand.

OutofPlace.com $2,000 – Travel blogger Jeb Brooks rebranded from GreenerGrass.com to Out of Place.

LouisianaOnlineMall.com $2,000 – Someone in Louisiana bought this and it’s an online store offering Louisiana-themed merchandise.



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Shills, Insiders, & Front Runners – 5 Bidding Scandals

July 25, 2017Domaining, DomainnamewireComments Off on Shills, Insiders, & Front Runners – 5 Bidding Scandals

Joseph Peterson reviews domain industry auction bidding scandals to bring context to the NameJet issue that blew up last week.

scandalRecently, the domain auction platform NameJet found itself embroiled in a controversy involving “shill” bids. This is by no means the first such scandal to plague our little industry. In fact, at least 4 major auction houses aside from NameJet – and there aren’t many beyond 4 total – have been implicated at one time or another in fishy bidding. Time for a stroll down memory lane!

1. SnapNames – Infamously, SnapNames admitted in 2009 that one of its employees, under the user name “Halvarez”, had been bidding against customers for 4 years. The company’s own analysis indicated that 1 in 20 auctions had been affected, and Halvarez bids contributed 1% of the incremental revenue during that time. Those stats may have been even higher during the first 2 years when Halvarez’s bidding was most concentrated. SnapNames voluntarily paid compensation – with interest.

2. GoDaddy – A year before that story broke, GoDaddy and its then-VP Adam Dicker were embroiled in controversy and bad press surrounding his own insider bidding in their auctions, which he oversaw.  GoDaddy maintained at the time that Dicker did nothing improper, and perhaps he didn’t.  Then again, 7 years after leaving GoDaddy, Adam Dicker was virtually banished from the domainer community amid allegations of misconduct. So domainers will be forgiven for viewing that decade-old GoDaddy incident with suspicion.


Employee alias or celebrity domainer, corporate restitution or denial of culpability, what these 2 old scandals have in common is insider bidding. In both cases, an employee of the auction house would be at fault – not necessarily with the company’s knowledge. Indeed, the Halvarez behavior was contrary to SnapNames’s policy at the time. GoDaddy instituted a policy prohibiting employees from bidding against customers after the fact, 9 years ago, once complaints about Dicker surfaced. That policy remains in effect today.

The present NameJet scandal is unlike those 2 cases because it centers on customer misbehavior rather than employees. NameJet sellers were bidding in their own auctions, in violation of the TOS.  There’s no need to say “allegedly”, despite seller denials, because NameJet itself has officially confirmed this.

Self-bidding isn’t always shill bidding. That depends on the circumstances. It’s easy to imagine bids placed accidentally in bulk or through automation gone awry.  At NameJet, leftover backorders could result in a self-bid. We might even excuse trying to buy back a domain the bidder had lately sold, if we’re charitable (or gullible). Nobody will deny, however, that nefarious shill bidding on the part of sellers has been rampant for years. Really, it occurs at every single domain marketplace – auction house or not – wherever sellers can derive some advantage from fraud.

The NameJet scandal grabs attention for 2 reasons: (1) because of the high-profile sellers alleged or rumored or even hypothetically involved; and (2) the laxity of oversight. Apparently, brother brokers sharing the same last name could both bid in their own and one another’s auctions without NameJet’s system issuing a red flag. Worse still, they could place such questionable bids while receiving headline promotion from NameJet.

Yet this too is not unprecedented. We’ve seen seller shenanigans and marketplace inattention before…


3. Flippa – For many years, people were buying and selling bids for Flippa auctions. They did so in plain sight. At the time, it was common to see Flippa bids for sale on Fiverr. Any 16-year-old could buy a pizza just by selling a few well-placed clicks. The demand for shill bids was so great that some saw it as a viable business in its own right!  In one case I documented, bids were for sale on a website called FlippaBid.com, which wasn’t detected by Flippa despite brazenly infringing the marketplace’s own trademark. Even today, the web is littered with solicitations dating back to this 2011 – 2014 period:

I am looking for someone to bid on my flippa auction can anyone help ?
The auction is due to finish in the hour and i would like to get around the $100 mark
only one bid is required
You will not be required to purchase this auction
The auction finishes withi the hour so i need a bid to be placed rather quickly
thanks

Not exactly shy!

4. NetFleet – Unless you come from the land down under, you won’t have heard of this auction house, which is entirely focused on the .AU market. Nevertheless, it’s worth citing as an example of a company allegedly outbidding its customers. This would have occurred through a kind of “front running”, as I explained in 2015, with the auction house opening up sealed bids from domainers and then pitching the domain to end users based on those confidential amounts. Netfleet blamed a new employee for finding a legacy way of accessing user bids.


Hopefully, these 4 earlier bidding scandals provide some context for the current NameJet controversy. GoDaddy and NetFleet overcame their negative PR by making policy changes (and perhaps by changing management). SnapNames paid restitution. Flippa worked to beef up its policing efforts. NameJet shares Flippa’s problem: seller shills.

Clearly, any solution for NameJet requires detection and enforcement. Policy is toothless without monitoring. At the moment, creating multiple bidding accounts at NameJet is evidently quite simple – even if created consecutively with the same IP address. So it sounds like the company has done little to prevent abuse.

Given the enormous financial incentives to cheat plus the lack of effective regulation, many observers wonder how extensive the shill bids at NameJet have been over the past few years. And, given the lucrative, high-profile partnerships NameJet has formed with some sellers, many are worrying – and some proclaiming confidently without waiting for any evidence – that NameJet would have turned a blind eye to shills. Some domainers, whether resentful of celebrity sellers or suspicious of the establishment, have gleefully leapt to that conclusion.

Corporate conspiracies are infrequent, whereas seller shills are a dime a dozen. Mainly, that’s because customers outnumber staff. Also, employees have more to lose (by getting fired) than sellers do. Domainers, once banned from 1 marketplace, can simply go elsewhere or resume the same scam after putting on a false mustache. Companies might encourage employees to bid against customers, as the NetFleet case illustrates. Theoretically, an auction house might even program bots to place bids. But systematic fraud, once uncovered, is too obviously damning to be patched up; and for a publicly traded company this could prove catastrophic. Anything is possible, but we only need seller shills – not corporate collusion – to explain the facts so far.

Sadly, shill bids are part of domainer culture. When I first joined the forums years ago, I remember being asked by people left and right – people I’d only just met – to place sub-reserve bids in their Flippa auctions.

Shilling is so rife that we discuss it openly. In a recent live auction event, I told the person at my elbow that the auction we were both watching, which was just about to start, would stop 1 bid shy of its gigantic reserve price; and it did. Knowing the owner and the domain’s history, this was an easy prediction to make. Of course, that domain hasn’t been sold since.

Whether blatant or borderline, shill bidding is a daily occurrence in the domain industry. That’s not to say everybody does it. Most don’t. And it’s not to say the problem should go unaddressed. But it does mean we can’t sit back and rely on marketplaces to eliminate fraud. Participating in a largely unregulated domain market, as all of us do, requires keeping one’s eyes open.



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Net Donuts purchase price for Rightside and details of their registry agreement

July 25, 2017Domaining, DomainnamewireComments Off on Net Donuts purchase price for Rightside and details of their registry agreement

SEC filings show valuation of Rightside business and disclose deal value of registry services.

There are a couple interesting tidbits in SEC filings for Donuts acquisition of Rightside (NASDAQ:NAME) that are worth sharing as they could be important to companies in the domain name industry.

The first involves how much Donuts is actually paying for Rightside’s assets. The purchase price is $213 but Rightside has a lot of cash on hand after selling Enom and its half of NameJet to Tucows earlier this year. In fact, a draft of the acquisition agreement required Rightside to have $83 million of cash in hand at the expiration of the offer. While that number might have been negotiated again later, its inclusion in the tender statement suggests that’s about what the final number will be.

That means Donuts’ actual outlay for Rightside’s assets net of cash is about $130 million excluding deal costs of roughly $10 million. So the registry business (40 TLDs plus registry services), Name.com and the Aftermarket business (about 300k domain names and a parking business) were valued at $130 million.

The other figure is much smaller but might be relevant to domain registries. During the first five months of this year, Donuts paid Rightside $0.8 million for Rightside providing registry services for Donuts 200 top level domains. In the past couple of years the total deal value for this registry services agreement has been less than 1% of revenue, so likely in line with under $2 million per year.

Of course, Rightside and Donuts have always had a unique relationship given their partnership on new TLDs. Also, no other new TLD company has the scale of Donuts when it comes to number of TLDs. Still, this figure could give some indication of the current value of providing technical registry services.

By the way, Name.com’s wholesale fees paid to Donuts for selling Donuts new TLDs in the first five months of the year came in at $0.7 million.



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Domain investor Steve Kaziyev – DNW Podcast #145

July 24, 2017Domaining, DomainnamewireComments Off on Domain investor Steve Kaziyev – DNW Podcast #145

Learn what this domain investor is doing to buy and sell domain names.

dnw-podcastLike many domain investors, Steven Kaziyev was introduced to domain names while researching names for his non-domain business. Now he owns a strong portfolio of thousands of domains across mortgage, real estate, generics, brandables and other categories. Steve discusses how he acquires domain names and how he’s selling them now, including using BrandBucket. Learn what he’s doing for domain sales landing pages and how he thinks you can generate the most leads for your domains, as well as how to handle negotiations. We also discuss next month’s Name Summit event in NYC. Also: NameJet shills, Afternic markups, GoDaddy sells, .Amazon and trolling Trump.

Subscribe via iTunes to listen to the Domain Name Wire podcast on your iPhone or iPad, view on Google Play Music, or click play below or download to begin listening. (Listen to previous podcasts here.)



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Name Ninja creates price guide to help end user domain buyers

July 24, 2017Domaining, DomainnamewireComments Off on Name Ninja creates price guide to help end user domain buyers

Guidelines help startup entrepreneurs understand how much a domain name costs on the aftermarket.

Educating end users about the value of domain names is a regular challenge for domain name investors. So it’s helpful to have domain buyer broker Name Ninja issue guidelines that domain owners can refer to.

Name Ninja’s pricing guidelines are designed for startups looking to acquire a domain for their business but can apply to established businesses as well. It sets reasonable price expectations for popular types of domains such as one-word .com, two-word .com, and invented names in .com.

I’m sure Name Ninja founder Bill Sweetman is frequently contacted by people who want to buy a one-word .com for their business but haven’t set aside enough money. This guide (pictured below) will help set expectations. I will definitely refer to it when I’m negotiating to sell one of my domains.

Of course, there are will always be exceptions to each price range, but this is a great overview.



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Here’s what NameJet is doing about shill bidding

July 21, 2017Domaining, DomainnamewireComments Off on Here’s what NameJet is doing about shill bidding

Company releases statement including changes it is making.

Domain name auction site NameJet has posted an update about allegations of shill bidding and what it’s doing about it. You can read the full statement here, and here’s a summary:

1. NameJet has suspended some accounts that were bidding on their own domains.

2. The company made a technical change to prevent bidders from being able to bid on their own domains. (It’s surprising this was ever a possibility.)

3. It’s creating an activity tracking system to detect shill bidding.

4. It has created a dedicated email address (report_abuse at namejet.com) for people to report questionable activity.

5. It is suspending the “next bid wins” practice whereby sellers were able to lower their reserve so that the next bidder would win. This seems to be more of a perception issue than an actual shill bidding issue.

I think these are good steps in the right direction. I’d also suggest verifying ownership of domains before they can be listed and only letting the owner list domains, not a third party. Letting a third party list domains opens the system to abuse.



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Is a big TV network about to troll Donald Trump with a new cartoon?

July 21, 2017Domaining, DomainnamewireComments Off on Is a big TV network about to troll Donald Trump with a new cartoon?

Get ready for The Bigly Adventures of Donald Trump.

A client of corporate domain name registrar MarkMonitor registered a lot of domain name yesterday that suggest a new Donald Trump cartoon is in the works. The full list is below.

MarkMonitor has a lot of entertainment companies as clients. It’s not clear which client registered these domains because they are using MarkMonitor’s Whois privacy service. One of MarkMonitor’s clients is Viacom, owner of Comedy Central. But CBS Networks, owner of Showtime, just registered showtimedonald.com, showtimedonaldtrump.com, and showtimetrump.com, so it’s another candidate. It also uses MarkMonitor.

This is certainly a cartoon I’d tune in for.

adventuresofdonaldtrump.com
animatedtrump.com
bigleaguetoons.com
biglyadventures.com
biglyadventuresofdonaldtrump.com
biglytoon.com
cartooncabinet.com
cartoondonald.com
cartoonfakenews.com
cartoonkellyanne.com
cartoonpence.com
cartoonpresident.com
cartoonputin.com
cartoonspicer.com
cartoontrump2020.com
cartoonwhitehouse.com
donaldtrumpanimated.com
donaldtrumpanimatedseries.com
fakecartoonnews.com
fakescartoons.com
looniertoons.com*
lunatictoons.com*
makeamericatoonagain.com
makedonaldtoonagain.com
thebiglyadventuresofdonaldtrump.com
thecartoondonald.com
toondonald.com
toontrump.com
toontrump2020.com
trumpanimatedseries.com

*I’m assuming these are related as they were registered the same day.



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See, now here’s a good non-response UDRP decision

July 21, 2017Domaining, DomainnamewireComments Off on See, now here’s a good non-response UDRP decision

Panelist correctly denies complaint despite no response from domain name owner.

Yesterday I wrote about a a no good, very bad UDRP decision in which the domain owner didn’t respond but the panelist still shouldn’t have awarded the domain name to the complainant, Virgin.

Today comes a World Intellectual Property Organization decision with a non-response in which the panelist correctly denied the complaint.

Opus Group AB of Sweden filed the case against Opus Group LLC of New York.

We don’t know much about the domain owner, which didn’t respond to the dispute. But we do know that its name in Whois is Opus Group LLC, and Opus Group AB didn’t provide any evidence that this isn’t the actual registrant’s name.

That needed to be addressed because a company named Opus Group LLC would presumably have rights or a legitimate interest in the domain name OpusGroup.com.

Panelist Ian Lowe called the complainant on this. He also determined:

…the Panel considers that the Complainant has failed to demonstrate on any view that the Respondent is likely to have had the Complainant and its rights in any relevant trademark in mind at the time it registered the Domain Name, and that the Complainant has therefore failed to establish that the Domain Name was registered in bad faith.

It’s easy for a panelist to rubber stamp a complaint in which the domain owner doesn’t respond. Kudos to Ian Lowe for making the right decision in this case.

(The complainant also lost a case for Opus.group that is owned by a different group.)



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