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Who Are the Major New gTLD Applicants and… (Part Three: Minds + Machines)

Jean Guillon

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

Minds + Machines was the first "new gTLD portfolio applicant" I spotted early in 2008, when .PARIS started being mentioned. Then came a few other projects like .HORSE and later .VODKA. Being French, my vision of good new gTLD suffixes may be slightly different to those native English speakers. Therefore, I favour some TLDs such as .SURF and .ART over some clearly English terms others such as .HORSE. I like .BLOG, .HOTEL and .RESTAURANT too and I like the idea of niche markets with .YOGA ... another TLD which could be marketed in French too. In 2008, I remember starting to follow the CEO of Minds + Machines, Anthony Van Couvering's communications in the online press and I remember that he used to focus on one word: the opportunity for new gTLDs to bring innovation to the domain name sphere. Today, things have moved on and I question whether many applicants will bring anything but new TLD space since it has taken far too long for new gTLDs to launch. Innovation has a cost, unfortunately!

.Whoswho of Minds+Machines

The Pioneer. Antony Van Couvering (AVC) is the CEO of Minds + Machines and over the years there have been more than a few public representatives for the company but AVC still remains. He is very much "the man in charge". He is the equivalent of Geir Rasmussen for Famous Four Media and Frank Schilling for Uniregistry, Ben Crawford for Centralnic, Jon Nevett for Donuts.

Note: not all CEOs of their company but they are the public persons known to represent the TLDs they applied for.

Monsieur Moolah. I understand that the money man is Fred Krueger, founder and Chairman of TLDH of which Minds + Machines is a subsidiary. TLDH is a publicly traded company on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange. M+M is different from portfolio applicant Famous Four Media in that it owns and manages the back-end Registry for its applications in the same way as Uniregistry. M+M is the first applicant to have announced its 92 new gTLD applications on the first of June 2012 (68 for itself). It is the fourth largest applicant after Donuts, Google and Amazon. In January 2014, an additional US$33.6 million was raised from institutional and other investors.

To learn more about the M+M management team, you will have to check this link.

What are the differences between M+M and the other portfolio applicants?

In a recent video from DomainDiction, I learnt that the wholesale pricing for domain names posted for sale would be € 29 at the Registry; this may mean € 50 to € 60 for the Registrant. It looks like the retail price will be higher than FFM, Uniregistry and Donuts, M+M's will also have high prices for Premium domain names. The reason they give for this is that M+M doesn't want to see speculators grab them.

M+M is also the first new gTLD project to have been publicly traded on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange with offices in Dublin, London, Munich and Santa Monica in California. This gives advantages and disadvantages, easy access to funds if trading well but more rigorous reporting and transparency to the market. When everyone knows what's in your coffers it makes it difficult to trade effectively in auction.

Compare this with the portfolio applicant Famous Four Media, which has two extremely well-funded ventures behind the project to back-up the 60 investment companies which, each applied for one gTLD. Famous Four Media is keeping its cards close to its chest, I know they are well funded but the only other thing I know is that they are keeping their powder dry.

Compare this also with Uniregistry which is funded by 'Big .Sexy' Frank Schilling, the big advantage Uniregistry has is that Frank is in total control and has only himself to answer to. On the downside, he may find it more difficult to raise additional funds should the need arise or may be reluctant to give away some control over the business.

The rush to approach potential Registrants

Most commercial new gTLD applicants are driven to make a profit and sell; sell fast! Traditionally, a Registry has not sold domain names prior to launch, if Registrars have already started to offer "pre-registrations" without even knowing if any new gTLD will be launched, why wouldn't Registries want to support and de-risk their pre-registration offering with strong guarantees?

The Sunrise Periods which force brands to go through the Trademark Clearinghouse registration process, as a prerequisite to register a domain name, doesn't help Registries get-to market early since Sunrise registrations give priority to Trademark holders.

M+M has instituted a "Priority Reservation program" which lets a Registrant reserve his name right away, with a guarantee to be able to acquire the domain name at a later stage. It means, that the domain name is blocked, right from the start (the Registry) from being registered by a third party (like a Registrar or a Registrant). Whether this is on the right side of the line according to ICANN's rulebook we will have to wait and see, since it is causing considerable consternation with both other Registries and Registrars.

At the moment M+M is all about its .COOKING TLD and, I have heard, the first domain name to be registered and launched should be recettes.cooking (recipes.cooking in French): some French guy registered this second-level domain name — vive la France!

By Jean Guillon, New generic Top-Level Domains' specialist
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Share your comments

Congrats to Antony and his team!I did Alex Tajirian  –  Feb 18, 2014 10:00 AM PDT

Congrats to Antony and his team!

I did not expect any innovation from the TLD program either. New and benefits do not necessarily imply innovation.  I think it is a buzzword that it still being abused in the press.

Patience is a virtue Jean Guillon  –  Feb 18, 2014 10:10 AM PDT

It is still far too recent I would say. Famous Four Media Governance Councils are an innovation for groups and industries: they are the link between Registrants and the Community.

Coming soon... Jean Guillon  –  Feb 19, 2014 3:35 AM PDT

...Donuts.

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