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Who Are the Major New gTLD Applicants and… (Part Two: Uniregistry)

Jean Guillon

...what is their approach to bringing new domain names to market?

This, the second in a series of articles looking at portfolio gTLD applicants, is focusing on Uniregistry. At the moment, the Uniregistry press machine is buzzing, like an angry bee, about two of the 50 TLDs in its portfolio: you may have read about .TATTOO and .SEXY. Yes! .SEXY but, according to Uniregistry, it is nothing to do with sex; it is about fashion, modelling and attitude. If the adult industry is already very well gifted by some very unpleasant extensions (should we thank ICANN for this?), Uniregistry is trying desperately to avoid positioning itself on the seedy side of the street with .SEXY. Uniregistry has some other interesting domain name extensions like .GUITARS and .PHOTO.

In order to shed some light on the main players in the New gTLD space, I have selected "commercial portfolio applicants" because they applied for "several" generic new gTLDs, sometimes dozens, sometimes hundreds.

As I previously wrote in part one of this series of articles (first part was about Famous Four Media), the vision I have of these "portfolio gTLD applicants" mine alone. The only difference between an "end user" reading this article (a potential Registrant) and me is that I have been in and around the domain name industry for years, as a Registrant, a Registrar and a Registry.

.Whoswho of Uniregistry

While Uniregistry is a portfolio applicant for around 50 new gTLDs, only 8 applications are uncontested. It is headquartered in the Cayman Islands and is staffed, almost exclusively, with people from the domain name industry.

Like Famous Four Media, the subject of my first article, Uniregistry has some larger than life characters. The largest of them and overshadowing the rest is Frank Schilling, the CEO of Uniregistry. I once shared emails with Frank, but it is important to note that I have not spoken to him in person prior to writing this article.

Dr Domain. Frank Schilling is almost a mythical figure in the domain name world. One of the few that has more than succeeded in the domain name business. He is the figure that every wannabe domainer wants to emulate. Long before new gTLDs were announced by ICANN, I had heard about Frank Schilling 'the domainer' but never had I heard about Frank Schilling 'the businessman'.

Now it is important to know that there are domainers and then there are ... DOMAINERS. Some domainers monetize, park and re-sell hundreds of domain names, sometimes thousands. Frank Schilling is at the very top of the domaining business. He manages a highly profitable portfolio of some 350,000 domain names. Some refer to him as 'Big Frank', in reference to his stature in the domaining industry. With Uniregistry, his new venture, maybe he will come to be known as to as 'Big.Sexy'?

Uniregistry is the result of Frank's conviction that running Registries will be more lucrative than buying and selling second level domain names. But it's about more than just the money; according to Frank, "There is an opportunity to be part of a revolution within what is already the most revolutionary invention of mankind: the Internet."

You will find more about Frank Schilling and his team on Uniregistry

What are the differences between the Famous Four Media (FFM) and the Uniregistry project?

All projects are different but at the moment, for commercial registries, they are all about launching new gTLDs, to recoup the initial investment. There are differences between these two portfolio players with Uniregistry building its own registry back-end system whereas Famous Four Media is using well established registry back end providers. Similarly Uniregistry has launched its own Registrar to distribute its domain names in addition to existing registrars (and others') whereas Famous Four Media is relying on the established distribution channel of ICANN Accredited registrars. There is one approach that both FFM and Uniregistry agree on concerning their launches: it must be SIMPLE for the Registrant (the person who buys domain names) to buy domain names.

Neither applicants use broadcast communications overly much and appear to rely on Registrars to promote their domain names. Uniregistry's website is pretty clear about this: you read about the TLDs they applied for and they stick to the applicant guidebook regarding Sunrises: there is no more than the minimum required to launch...and, as for FFM, their domain names prices and incentives to Registrars make their domain names probably the lowest you will find on the market.

The Internet welcomes innovations so is simple the right approach?

Except for domainers and other professionals in the domain name industry, domain names are "a pain in the neck" for most applicants (corporate brands and individuals alike) to deal with. Simply renewing a domain name when you have a domain name portfolio of hundreds of names to manage is a job few people want to handle in any IP or tech department; for several reasons:

  • the more domain names you have, the more you must be organized for renewal in order to avoid dropping domain names;
  • at some point, you always have to deal with a domainer who wants to resell a domain name you could have wanted to register or ... you definitely need ... now!
  • there's always someone in the company who registers a domain name without telling the person who manages the portfolio. At some point...this domain name can be lost if it is not transferred to the company's official accredited Registrar;
  • What about that trainee who registered a domain name containing the brand of the company and promptly left the company?
  • What about that domain name registered with a Hotmail address that no one reads?

There are dozens of examples like these. I was once in charge of managing a domain name portfolio of 800 domain names. On the day I started, I had the chance to find out that all renewal emails arrived to the same address: good starting point. But… I started receiving alerts everyday because, in those days, there was no yearly invoicing organized to renew domain names. I then understood why the accounting department just hated the previous domain portfolio manager: this guy could not pay with a Credit Card…

Although all these examples do not always have a direct connection with the subject, they underline the fact that a new gTLD applicant must sit in the Registrant's chair to understand his needs and how it works in "real life". The reason why .MUSEUM .AERO and .TRAVEL domain names "do not sell" is no surprise: if you add the fact that it is a nuisance as such, to an already difficult process to register and renew a domain name, the chances are high the potential Registrant will drop it.

"Simple you said"? This is the approach FFM and Uniregistry have in common. A potential Registrant must go to his Registrar, follow a Sunrise Period process if he needs it, and with a few clicks, buy it at the right price. Then, the job is done! The new and mandatory Trademark Clearinghouse registration process is a good (and very expensive) idea but it adds many steps to registering a domain name: if the number of Sunrise registrations is so low...there is a reason for this. One recent news: Uniregistry will be launching its own Registrar soon. Surprisingly, Uniregistrar.com is registered to… Uniregistry.

By Jean Guillon, New generic Top-Level Domains' specialist
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Uniregistry has no landrush, or premium names model. Thomas A Gilles  –  Feb 04, 2014 11:28 AM PDT

Hi Jean,

Great exploration of the portfolio applicants so far, kudos :)

One important difference in the launch model of Uniregistry TLDs I believe is their absence of landrush phase and premium reserve or tiered pricing. The Uniregistry applications state that they will proceed directly from Trademark Sunrise to General Availability, with a minimum number of reserved names for technical operation and marketing of the TLD. The applications also state that the Uniregistry model does not rely on speculative valuations of domain names for sales at premium prices.

I think this is the most unique aspect of their model, and presents great opportunity for first-come, first-served registrations at standard retail price when General Availability opens.

Thank you Thomas.I agree, ordinary users are Jean Guillon  –  Feb 05, 2014 2:24 AM PDT

Thank you Thomas.

I agree, ordinary users are familiar with this approach to reach General availability after a Sunrise and a Landrush with no more complexity. It can also be a waste of time and money to prepare Premium procedures.

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