The Donuts Story: From 3,000 gTLD Ideas To Over One Million Registrations. All Paid For!

It started as an idea between four people who, for the domain name world, had been involved in the space for a long long time. As ICANN discussed the introduction of new gTLDs they got together and shared their ideas. And the result to date is Donuts, a company with over one million domain names registered across 152 gTLDs and with more gTLDs and plenty more registrations to come. The gang of four had known new gTLDs were on the road map for some time and each were intending to independently look at the possibilities, but, being known to each other and with similar ideas, they decided to work together and look at raising money from a number of investors. Starting with 3,000 candidates they ended up with 307. After the “big reveal” by ICANN they found half were uncontested. And since then auctions commenced, with 30 or 40 contention sets now resolved while several more set to resolve. At the end of it all, company co-founder and Executive Vice President Dan Schindler believes Donuts will have around 200 gTLDs on their books. And how do you finance such an idea? Raising money, as it turned out, was much easier than anticipated, said Schindler, following the recent ICANN meeting in Los Angeles. In part, it was because Donuts focused on gTLDs they believe “provide a specific and meaningful choice and not long and convoluted names in a meaningless extension,” Schindler said. They have even thought about the non-English speaking world and the opportunities that lie there with four internationalised gTLDs applied for, three of which were uncontested and one won at auction. Another 20 applications were for non-English gTLDs. But the programme wasn’t without its obstacles and headaches. One was the trademark or brand owners community who Schindler notes certainly caused regulators to be fearful about how they went about the programme. As a result of the fear campaign run by some trademark owners and their representative organisations, years were spent building the Trademark Clearinghouse and Rights Protection Mechanisms. Schindler points out the frustration of this as they have not been as deeply used as some predicted. “As expected it was scaremongering. We want to see the rights protection mechanisms the trademark owners so desperately wanted to be used by them.” Much more successful though has been Donuts’ own Domains Protected Marks List. The DPML allows trademark holders to block their trademarks from being registered across all Donuts gTLDs. So where are they today? Schindler says Donuts is more than happy with the results to date. “All of our gTLDs have outperformed our forecasts.” But some have been more of a surprise than others. One of these that has performed unexpectedly well has been .guru, now with well over 75,000 registrations and sixth on the nTLDstats.com list of all new gTLDs. “.guru has been an enormous surprise to us,” Schindler said. “We were really surprised and we’ve tried to analyse why. But most likely it’s because it’s fun and everyone can claim to be a .guru.” “Also, .photography has been a very pleasant surprise. But in a world of 2 and 3 letter TLDs, it’s a surprise longer names do well.” Schindler also said .technology had been a surprise, now closing in on 48,000 registrations. Donuts also expected .email, .today and .company to do well and all three have over 43,000, 41,000 and 32,000 registrations, respectively. Looking to the future, Schindler is confident there will be high rates of renewals and continuing success. For starters, Schindler stressed every one of the one million plus domains registered in their gTLDs has been paid for. And most were registered and paid for by early adopters, so Schindler says Donuts is confident they will have high renewal rates. “They were registered for longer term investments. There is not enormous type in traffic so speculators haven’t entered the market on a large scale – they were bought for longer term investments,” Schindler believes. And twelve percent of domains registered across Donuts’ gTLDs “are already living breathing sites. That is really encouraging. With more being used, use begets use.” For now though Donuts is focusing on winning the gTLDs that are currently in contention, getting a registrar channel on board and, in 2015, boosting the profile even further of the new gTLDs past the early adopters with a massive marketing programme. And what of the aforementioned ICANN meeting? Schindler said it had “two very significant and positive outcomes, not just for Donuts but for all operators of new gTLDs.” “The release of two character sub-domains that have previously been withheld was an enormous success for all the registries. And it’s hugely exciting for us.” The result is that the nxd names that were on the names collision list and were subsequently put on a do not register black list. So some phenomenal names, such as digitial.photography, could not be sold. But Schindler said they will be available in the very near future. One area though that Donuts is disappointed by, though, is the inconsistency of verdicts as it pertains to community gTLD applications. “This is a nonsense,” Schindler complained. “And what is familiar and what is isn’t. We need consistency and to stick to the guidebook. Let’s play by the rules we all agreed to.”

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