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Speed-dating the new gTLD registry providers - Intro

July 7th, 2008

Names at Work guide to new top-level domains

Starting a new gTLD? Are you going to start your own registry, or outsource?

It’s a critical choice, because with “stability of the Internet” as the watchword of the day, you want to make double-sure that your application isn’t torpedoed on technical grounds. Unless you’re very sure of what you’re doing, it makes a lot of sense to find a partner who can pass all of ICANN’s tests.

But whom to choose? Who’s out there, and what do they offer? What prices do they charge? Will they help with your application. Do they support the business rules that you need to implement?

To help answer these and other questions, Jothan Frakes and I set up a “speed-dating” session during the recent ICANN meeting in Paris. Representatives of the different registry operators were introduced to TLD aspirants and those who (like me) are providing consulting services. Then we ushered them out of the room. Then we began the speed-dating: the registry operators were invited back in, one by one, and had to answer the same rapid-fire series of questions so that we could get an apples-to-apples comparison.

I’ll post up the specific results in a later post, after each of the registries has had a chance to agree that they really meant to say what they said (a.k.a. “fact-checking”). At present, we are waiting for a few stragglers to confirm.

For the moment let me introduce the players and comment on some of the aggregate data.

In addition to the well-known registries — VeriSign, Afilias, and NeuStar — 10 other registries showed up to explain their services. Some were not full-fledged registries, but offered ancillary services such as auction services (Pool.com, Moniker). Since we were looking at what a new TLD applicant might want to have as well as what they *must* have, we were inclusive in our invitations.

I’ll introduce each of these registry operators in more detail in later posts and present their answers to our questions, plus (if they consent) get their further comments going forward. I’ll also include URLs to any pages they have set up specifically for their new gTLD services.

For the moment, some preliminary trends emerge. First, it’s interesting to note how few ccTLD operators are throwing their hat in the ring. DENIC, the German registry operator who made a play for .NET when it was rebid a few years ago, has decided not to play. Granted, this session was put together at the last minute, so some ccTLD registries may not have heard about it, or weren’t ready to present. Also not here are alternate root operators, such as INIAC, which is not surprising given their “tin-foil-hat paranoia” about ICANN. Technically, however, they may well be capable, and they are receiving interest from potential TLD applicants.

Second, most of the registry operators are offering some kind of investment in projects they think have a good chance of succeeding. These registry operators are probably in as good a position as anyone to understand whether a new gTLD application has a possibility of succeeding, so if they decide to invest in your application that’s a pretty good vote of confidence.

Third, most will take payment however they can get it flexibly — which means either on a per-domain basis (the traditional method), or a flat fee, or a percentage of revenue, or a mix of these methods. If a registry operator wants a cut of your revenue as opposed to making you pay for every domain, that’s a good sign that they like what they see.

For some new TLDs, auctions may be very important. Moniker/SnapNames and Pool.com both offered registry auction solutions (as an add-on to actual registry operations), and Moniker’s solution provides live auctions at domainer events and other venues. Live auctions have been very effective for .mobi and may be critical for getting buy-in from the ever-important domainer customer base.

Finally, with a couple of notable exceptions, these are all outsourced solutions. Only a couple of operators will sell you (in one case, give you) software that you can set up on your own servers and administer yourself. For security-minded TLDs, this will be a big differentiator.

Much more detail to come after our contestants have finished deciding that they really meant what they said…

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8 Comments

  1. Antony — good post, and not only b/c it agrees with my take that this change will be good the the existing players, more than new entrants. Here’s my initial take — I didn’t think to use such a racy graphic: http://cparente.wordpress.com/2008/07/03/what-the-heck-is-icann-doing-with-domain-names/

    I’m looking forward to reading the registry answers. Hope things are well.

    Chris Parente | July 7th, 2008 at 4:51 pm

  2. Hi Chris - thanks for turning me on to your blog. Good stuff there. It looks as if you are prospering!

    Antony | July 7th, 2008 at 11:42 pm

  3. Moniker / Snapnames auction platform is Windows only, which is really annoying and effectively means that a lot of us cannot bid.

    Michele | July 8th, 2008 at 4:54 am

  4. Anthony,

    given that I was at the ICANN meeting, and have met both Jothan and you, I must tell you that this event must have been the most well kept secret of the meeting.

    As you are aware there are two Open Source registry packages, which are perfectly capable to be used for this particular purpose.

    One, FRED, runs some 400000 domain names at the NIC in CZ and CoCCATools over 50000 domain names of several different ccTLDs on one machine in Sydney and notably 1750 here in Windhoek (on our own hardware) for .NA.

    Both do the industry standard EPP protocol, CoCCATools also has a Web interface designed for use by small Registrars. FRED, which uses one minor extension to standard EPP is currently being considered for .AO, a small ccTLD.

    An Open Source Registrar package is currently nearing completion with work being done to make it compatible with both FRED and CoCCATools.

    I am concerned about emerging Registries outsourcing their back end to commercial operators , thus not only loosing control (and I am not even getting into the issue of redundancy or deeper technical ones) and increasing expenditure which is not what you want if you are building a business or run a non-profit operation.

    I am not concerned about this “Total Cost of Ownership” nonsense, but rather about capacity building.

    Never mind that the DNS is supposed to be purely technical solution to the problem of mapping names to numerical addresses, but most (recent) applicants for new gTLDs see it as a purely “commercial” vehicle, and not realizing that this is the absolute core of their business…

    Eberhard W Lisse | July 10th, 2008 at 1:14 am

  5. [...] the recent ICANN meeting in Paris, Jothan Frakes and Antony Van Couvering organized a “Birds Of a Feather” session for new TLD applicants to sit in and get to know who are the registry providers in [...]

    RegistryASP - Registry Speed Dating | July 23rd, 2008 at 10:21 pm

  6. [...] Read here for the introduction and the full list of registry players that was interviewed in the session. [...]

    RegistryASP - RegistryASP on Names@Work | August 25th, 2008 at 11:23 pm

  7. Sero Registry has been successfully running 6 TLDs on CoCCATools since 2007.

    Sero Registry | May 17th, 2009 at 10:58 pm

  8. [...] Although there is a lot to be covered on registry systems, I’ve chosen to focus on the critical business decisions that need to be made when outsourcing your new gTLD to a third-party vendor. Questions that are not covered in this article are; “Who’s out there, What solutions are they offering, and what are their prices”? Answers to these questions can be found on names@work in an article titled, ”Speed-dating the new gTLD registry providers – Intro” [...]

    Domain Registry Providers: Finding a Perfect Fit | UrbanBrain Inc. | September 1st, 2010 at 4:10 am

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