Author Archives: aeisner

Big Changes Coming for .CA WHOIS

As we pointed out last week, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) which operates the .ca registry, is about to introduce some big changes to its existing WHOIS policies. The changes are largely associated with what information WHOIS databases, registrars and resellers are able to disclose about registrants.

These upcoming changes will have a pretty significant impact on some of our .CA policies. Specifically:
Our public WHOIS database, like CIRA’s, will protect registrant information by default. All personal information about individual registrants will be kept private, including the name of the Registrant and the name and any contact information.

  • Registrants have the ability to disable WHOIS privacy from the CIRA registrant interface if they choose to do so. It is enabled by default.
  • Corporations and organizations will have the option to request similar WHOIS protection in special circumstances. It is disabled by default.
  • Interested third parties will still be able to contact the registrant by using a contact form available on CIRA‚Äôs website (similar to other WHOIS privacy services).
  • Resellers will be required to keep registrant information confidential, revealing personal information via telephone or otherwise under very specific circumstances only.

These changes will come into effect on June 10. CIRA will begin messaging registrants about the upcoming changes this week.

Introducing Tucows Personal Names Service

As a company that powers the services of many large web hosting and ISPs, we are acutely aware of how competitive these areas can be. In fact, one of the most frequently asked questions I receive from our customers is, “how do I make my company stand out?” Historically, the answer has largely been price, service and marketing. While these factors will always be important, I’m extremely excited to introduce a new service that will give Tucows resellers another competitive edge.

nametag.jpgIt‚Äôs our Personal Names Service and it’s all about giving people the chance to own their own name.

In 2006, we purchased a Colorado-based company named NetIdentity, which has an extremely successful service offering email and web addresses based on some of the most popular surnames in the world. These names include Smith, Johnson, Brown, Chavez and nearly 40,000 other names. All told, about 66 percent of the population of the United States will find a match for their name in the portfolio.

Today, I’m extremely excited to introduce a wholesale version based on this model, which we’re calling our Personal Names Service. This service lets our resellers offer email and web addresses based on our extensive portfolio of surnames. Each name purchased includes:

  • An email account, powered by the Tucows Email Service, which includes our easy-to-use AJAX webmail, forwarding and anti-spam/anti-virus.
  • A-Record and CNAME control, allowing users to host these domains wherever they like.
  • Management for both email and DNS within OpenSRS, our domain name management platform.

Our Resellers are free to offer this service as an extension of their existing offerings, or even introduce a completely new “identity”-based service. I’d strongly encourage our resellers to look seriously at offering this service for a number of reasons:

  • It gels well with the existing offerings.
  • It‚Äôs available to Tucows Resellers only, giving them an advantage over many of their competitors.
  • With close to 40,000 popular surnames in our database, the majority of their customer’s names will be available.
  • It taps into the very real desire for high-quality domain names as consumers seek to secure a personal digital identity.
  • It‚Äôs extremely affordable.

This is a great opportunity to get on board with a trend that will gain huge popularity in 2008. If you’re a Tucows reseller, be sure to check out the service. And if you’re not a Tucows reseller, sign up today!

Adam Eisner Reports from ICANN

icann_meeting_logo.pngTuesday was “Constituency Day”, when ICANN’s supporting organizations (like the Registrar Constituency and the Registry Constituency) each meet individually to discuss important policy developments and determine Constituency positions on key issues. As a member of the Registrar Constituency, Tucows was represented by myself and Elliot Noss, our President and CEO. We spent the day discussing a wide range of issues with our fellow Registrars, including topics like domain name tasting and domain transfers. The Constituency also met with key members of ICANN to discuss recent developments in areas like budgets and compliance.

Today was what I like to call ‚Äúmeeting day‚Äù — now that I‚Äôm registered, settled in, and with the all-day Registrar Constituency meeting overwith, it was time to meet with some of our suppliers. These days can get quite busy, as we offer Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) and Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) from many different suppliers. This can lead to a lot of meetings! In most of these meetings we discuss the newest developments at Tucows, learn about new products and services at each Registry, and try to get a good feel for where each product, as well as the market in general, is headed. While a litany of meetings may sound boring, they‚Äôre actually a great opportunity to gather data which will have an important impact on product and marketing strategies.

There are more meetings in store tomorrow, as well as some interesting ICANN sessions. I’m particularly interested in attending a session on the changing gTLD environment, which will cover important topics like the evolving Registrar-Registry relationship structure, Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), and new gTLDs set to enter the market in the next couple of years.

As a reminder, even if you aren’t in New Delhi for ICANN, you can still take part in the Meeting thanks to online streaming of many of the sessions. Check the full schedule for links to sessions and webcasts.

On the Ground in New Delhi

Editors note: Adam Eisner, Product Manager, Domains made it safe and sound to India and he’s already checked in with some early thoughts as ICANN’s 31st Meeting gets underway.

I’m in New Delhi this week, attending the 31st Public Meeting of ICANN. As James mentioned in his previous post, we are an active participant in ICANN meetings and events, as the policies set forth by ICANN have a big impact on both Tucows and on you and your customers.

As Product Manager for our domain name business, ICANN events are an extraordinary opportunity to meet with important vendors, registries, policy decision makers and counterparts from other registrars all in one place. Over the next several days, I will meet many of our registries and suppliers, learn about new domain name opportunities, gather important market data, and attend ICANN-led sessions on policy development. I will also participate in a meeting of the ICANN Registrars Constituency, of which Tucows is a member. The Constituency will discuss a wide range of issues important to policy, including the Add Grace Period (AGP), which has been a hot topic of late in light of recent developments around domain tasting.

In short, much of the data gathered from meetings and sessions at an ICANN conference are applied in ways that have a direct impact. It also allows us to relay thoughts and opinions back to registries and ICANN, which play an important part in the decisions they make. Stay tuned for updates as the conference takes shape.

ICANN Proposed Tasting Fee a Good First Step

Earlier this week, the ICANN Board recommended making the ICANN fee of $0.20 per domain year non-refundable. Previously, that fee was refundable if the domain was deleted within the five day Add Grace Period (AGP).

Around the same time, Google announced it would drop names consistently added and deleted during the AGP from its AdSense program, making it far more difficult to profit from ads served on those domain names.

icann.jpgWe think ICANN’s resolution to introduce a fee is a good first step, but we don’t believe it goes far enough; some tasters will look at a nominal $0.20 fee as a cost of doing business. Add Grace Period abuse could be further diminished or eliminated by substantially shortening the AGP period to 12 hours or less. This would let registrants correct ‘true’ mistakes like spelling errors (which is what the AGP was originally intended for), while significantly curbing the practice of tasting at the same time.

For those of you who aren’t aware of what tasting is, here’s a quick overview: Generic Top Level Domains (also known as ‘gTLDs’) support what is known as an ‘Add Grace Period’ (AGP). Originally designed to correct domain name registration errors like typos and such, the AGP allows registrars to delete any names they register within five days, and receive a full refund.

Over the past several years the AGP has been used largely for profit instead of correcting mistakes. Some registrars register names en masse, display ads on them, measure their traffic, and then see which ones might be profitable to keep. The rest are deleted before the end of the grace period. How many names are deleted? According to an ICANN report, 94% of all .com registrations in January 2007 were deleted. Some registrars even re-register and delete the names over and over, allowing them to essentially keep the names for free.

The result of this practice is short-term trademark infringement, consumer confusion as sites disappear/re-appear (and point to advertising), and a great deal of unnecessary (and potentially dangerous) operational load.

Domain tasting will be one of many issues up for discussion at ICANN’s 31st International Public Meeting, will take place between February 10 and 15. I’ll be heading to India in two weeks and I’ll provide coverage of the meetings here on the Tucows blog.

A million ways to say thanks

It’s been a busy year for our domain name business. We’ve introduced our Premium Domains service, dropped our prices, built a more transparent billing structure and made many of our domain name features – including DNS and WHOIS Privacy – completely free.

money.jpgToday, we’re adding another big announcement to the pile: we’re going to share over $1 million in revenues with resellers over the next 12 months. We’ll be doing this through our Parked Pages and Expired Domains programs, both of which are designed to help our resellers make more money from unused and expiring domain names.

Under the terms of both these programs, we split all net advertising revenue 50-50 with our resellers. And if, at a later date, we sell one of these names through our Premium Domains service, we’ll share 10% of net revenue with the original reseller as well.

So why did we decide to do this? After all, we could have simply kept the money; in fact, many registrars do. Our philosophy, though, is a little different ‚Äì we think customers should be rewarded for choosing to sell and register names with Tucows. One million dollars, we think, is one very nice way to say “thank you.”

You can read our full announcement here.

More value with Tucows domains

A couple of weeks ago, we made a pretty big announcement that represented a fundamental shift in the way we think about domain name pricing. If you missed it, you can read all about it here. We made a couple of changes that day. First, we included more transparency in the pricing structure for domains that gives you a clear understanding of where your domain dollars are going. Second, we dropped our prices and added features to help you stay competitive in the domains marketplace.

Since that announcement went out, we’ve been working hard to build in several additional improvements all of which went live over the past weekend:

  • As promised, the Tucows management fee, registry fee and ICANN fee are now listed as separate items in the Reseller Web Interface.
  • We’ve also extended out new, transparent pricing structure to .mobi and .name domain names, too. (It was introduced for .com, .net, .org, .info and .biz domain names earlier this month).
  • You can now offer one year .mobi registrations to your customers, down from the previous minimum of two years.
  • Managed DNS and WHOIS Privacy are now available free of charge to Tucows customers, providing you with even more value to pass along to your customers.

Looking ahead, we’re going to strive to continue to find innovative ideas that add value and services to our domains package.

Tucows Reduces Wholesale Domain Name Pricing

How’s this for a radical idea: Charge less for each domain, then add more services and features and then fully explain where every penny of each transaction goes. It sounds crazy, but that’s exactly what we’re doing starting today.

Here’s the full news release.

Historically at Tucows, we’ve listed two separate fees for each domain name transaction: the domain price charged by Tucows and the ICANN fee charged in addition to the price. Starting on August 25 we’ll list three line items for each new purchase, renewal or transfer: the price we’re charged by the registry, the ICANN fee, and a management fee Tucows charges on each sale.

You won’t be able to see the management fee as a separate line item in your accounts until August 25, but we’ve already implemented the new pricing structure behind the scenes. Effective today our prices are based on this new management fee model. Our new base price for a .COM name, for example, has dropped from $10.05 to $9.20:

Here’s how that price breaks down:

  • Cost of a .COM domain name, charged by the registry to Tucows: $6.00
  • ICANN fee: $0.20
  • Tucows management fee: $3.00

Total: $9.20

Wholesale .com Price Breakdown

.com, .net, .org, .info and .biz all get this cost breakdown treatment and a price drop.

As a customer, what do you get with this management fee? Quite a bit:

  • Free Name Suggestion Tool powered by DomainsBot
  • 50% of net domain parking revenue
  • The ability to sell any of hundreds of thousands of premium domain names
  • Access to a library of APIs and web-based tools for provisioning and management of domains
  • Technical support.

And starting on September 1st we’ll be adding even more value with:

  • Free WHOIS Privacy
  • Free Managed DNS

We’re sure you’ll agree that this new pricing structure provides much more clarity into where your money goes when a domain is purchased through Tucows.

Introducing Premium Domain Names

In my last blog entry, I wrote that a domain name suggestion tool was the “tip of the iceberg” in re-thinking the domain name search process. Today we’re pleased to introduce what we think is another important step in the evolution of domain name search: Premium Domain Names.

Like the name implies, Premium Domain Names are high-quality domains that are owned by third parties and available for sale. Historically, these names have been bought and sold among a relatively tight-knit group of professionals; however, this market, also known as the “aftermarket”, is quickly moving mainstream. Consumers and businesses alike are starting to realize that many of the names they once thought to be “unavailable” are actually for sale, and our Premium Domain Names service lets you offer these names to your customers. What’s more, the transaction closely resembles a “new” domain name purchase; so, instead of waiting days for the escrow and transfer processes to complete, these names arrive in your account in seconds. We've made it is easier to find and a buy a great domain name. We put together a screencast that explains how our Premium Domain Name service works. We've also built a demonstration of our service, where you can query our premium name database of over 600,000 high-quality names, and also see the results of our name suggestion tool. Go ahead and check out how easy (and fun) it is to search for a great name for yourself, business, or brand.

For our customers it means that integrating our Name Suggestion Tool and Premium Domain Names feature into the domain name search process, will significantly increase the chance that a visitor to your website will find the domain name they want. And that doesn’t just mean more revenue from a domain name sale; it means more ancillary revenue from services sold on top of the domain, and will result in another (hopefully) long-lasting customer relationship for your business.

Both our Name Suggestion tool and Premium Domain Names feature are entirely free to our wholesale domain resellers; in fact, Tucows resellers earn a 10% commission on any Premium Domain Name sold. And together, these features will make sure out customers satisfy more customer searches and leave less money “on the table.”
Customers who already have an account with Tucows, can get started right away. Simply login to the Reseller Web Interface and activate the feature. For more information on Premium Domain Names, visit our Services site.