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Who Are the Major New gTLD Applicants and… (Part One: Famous Four Media)

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

This article is the personal analysis by a new gTLD consultant who has been following the ICANN new gTLD program from the beginning but with a Frenchman’s perspective.

I recently read an article which made me smile because entitled “the top 10 new gTLDs to follow in 2014”. But according to what? I partially read it to find out that it was written by a professional from a certain culture and written for a certain culture. None of the top 10 new gTLDs listed in the article were of any interest to me: a French person.

I .love ICANN

I like to remind people that the last version of the ICANN new gTLD applicant guidebook is only available in English and want to point out that the perception of new gTLDs can be different from one country, language or culture to another. Whatever ICANN thinks or does not think, does or does not, think or forgets about, there is no equal opportunity between English and non-English speaking persons to understand what new generic top-level domain names are. For this reason, it is important to note out that my analysis of the major applicants below is the understanding of a European person.


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. I did not select applicants with “closed” applications (who will not make domain names available to the public) so Amazon and Google are not in my list. Here is my list of applicants: Donuts, Famous Four Media, Minds+Machines (TLDH) and Uniregistry. It is possible I will add more in the future according to feed-back I receive.

Let’s start with Famous Four Media

Famous Four Media’s people comprise domain name experts and financiers that I know personally. FFM is a new organization in the new gTLD world. It took time for the new gTLD industry to find out about them. Even today, few people know about their go-to-market plans, who they are and… How well-funded they are. It is important to be rich prior to facing auctions. In August 2011, FFM already had more than £43 million in its pockets.

For such a “famous” organisation, the personalities involved are somewhat larger than life so I have given nicknames to the three principals:

  • Mr Money. Iain Roache is the man behind the money. Previously running mergers and acquisitions for Cisco, he is the guy who finds investment and bankrolls the business.
  • The Deal Machine. Charles Melvin is the experienced deal maker. He is the guy behind contention set resolution and new registry acquisition. If there is a deal to be done Charles is the guy to get it sorted.
  • The Domain Brain. Geir Rasmussen is a name you may have heard in the past. Geir was the guy behind the .NAME Top-Level Domain with 214.831 domain names registered (as of April 2013) a target many new gTLD applicants would be overjoyed to reach. For an Internet geek he’s pretty hardcore listing sky-diving, scuba-diving, skiing and flying jets among his playtime hobbies.

You will find more about the team on: Domain Venture Partners

The project

Some applicants like to talk, sometimes way too much, and it is easy to meet them. Others are less effusive and are hard to pin down for a ‘Cup of tea and a chat’. Famous Four Media does not talk much because there is no need to at this stage of the new gTLD application process. If you want to meet them, until recently, you had to fly to Gibraltar to do so. The reason for this is not to spread unnecessary information. FFM has a very strict and conservative approach to its global project and the main objective is to follow the plan and win as many TLDs as possible, no matter what it takes.

There is no time to waste participating in the ICANN new gTLD process: the longer participants talk, the longer it takes to reach the final validation process… and do what they came here for, which is to sell domain names.

The challenge for FFM (Famous Four Media) and almost all other applicants, is the unwarranted changes and off-the-cuff changes and inconsistencies which have occurred in what seems to be an ill-prepared and badly conceived objection process which has surprised the company. Despite these challenges, Famous Four Media appears to be one of the most realistic and well prepared applicants, with well-respected founders, experienced operational staff and deep pockets.

How many in the portfolio?

FFM applied for 60 new gTLDs and will, at the date this article is written, be sure to win and launch 12 TLDs of its portfolio: .BID - .ACCOUNTANT - .DATE - .DOWNLOAD - .FAITH - .LOAN - .TRADE - .MEN - .WEBCAM - .SCIENCE - .REVIEW and .WIN. FFM is also an applicant for contested .WINE new gTLD.

The other FFM TLDs are in contention set and some face—or have faced—objections.

How FFM is different compared to other applicants?

Famous Four Media does not talk publicly unless it is absolutely necessary. Its go-to-market strategy appears simple and straightforward (that in itself is different to most applicants)—reward the distribution channel well and make it easy to do business with FFM. In favour of protecting brand owners IP rights, its applications go far beyond the bare minimum required by ICANN. I am assured that FFM will soon announce a special—and efficient—solution to protect brands on all of its new extensions to be launched. Listen carefully because I hear a surprise is coming from the quiet crowd from ‘the Rock’.

By Jean Guillon, New gTLDs "only".

Filed Under


It's been awhile since I have written Doug Mehus  –  Feb 4, 2014 9:04 PM

It’s been awhile since I have written and/or commented on CircleID. One of the articles I’d previously extensively on was VeriSign’s short-lived SiteFinder service. :)

Although I didn’t read the entire blog post, I read certain sections on the key aspects of their application and strategy, which was more or less a decent write-up.

However, part of the reason I lost interest, perhaps, in reading the entire article is you said you’ve chosen not to feature Google’s Charleston Road Registry and Amazon’s obscure Belgium or Luxembourg subsidiary because they are “closed” applications. Curious, why? The reason being is, according to Google’s own Charleston Road Registry, they’ve committed to making *some* of their previously “closed” gTLD bids “open” to the public via an unsponsored registry-type format. I believe even Amazon has reluctantly been forced to commit to offering at least some of its gTLD applications, if successful, as “open” format. Why not feature their “open” applications and let the public know which ones are “closed” so that they can make up on their own mind in terms of not wanting Google or Amazon to “win” any of the “closed” gTLD bids?

I would welcome a Google or Amazon into the space, if they were to operate certain gTLDs in an “open” manner as they would likely have the scale to offer lower prices versus that of a Uniregistry or a Donuts, for instance. They also are unencumbered by their lack of operating a public domain name registrar, directly or indirectly. They would also add competition in terms of the back-end technical registry administration, which in many of the new applicants’ cases is still being outsourced to any of the “Big Three” (i.e., Afilias, NeuStar and VeriSign). So, although there are many new potential registry operators, those “Big Three” are still winning in terms of having the infrastructure in place to lure those operators into selecting them to provide services like EPP provisioning and registry WHOIS services, aren’t they?

I fear that if companies like Donuts and Uniregistry end up winning the “lions’ share” of the new gTLDs, in part because of they seek to provide a high return to the private equity and hedge funds backing them but also because they’re ultimately controlled by the “Big Three” back-end technical administration players on price, the consumer will lose out and we’ll be back to being forced to pay a minimum of $35/year to register domain names. That may be good for cutting out the domain squatting industry, but with so many gTLDs coming on stream, it’s going to be more expensive to park domains anyway. All you’ll be doing is hurting the retail domain name owner, including small business owners.

What am I missing?


The right price. Jean Guillon  –  Feb 5, 2014 8:30 AM

I spent a lot of time working for brands. I once managed clients with domain name portfolios of up to 60.000 domain names. One of the most common problem was to waste time with cybersquatters, UDRPs and dealing with the administrative, and following that mess because the more people help you solve problems, the more things you need to think about. It was not even a problem of price but a problem of time. I think the price of $35 is perfect because a cybersquatter will, probably, think twice. Not so long ago I thought new domain names were far too expensive but if this is really the case, price will lower with time.

That's true that raising the price will Doug Mehus  –  Feb 5, 2014 10:43 PM

That's true that raising the price will discourage cybersquatters and it's refreshing to know that even the domain registrars don't like cybersquatters, but I have to wonder why the .com, .net and .org gTLDs don't go that way as well. Certainly, .net and .org could be more equally-compared to the new gTLD entrants and they can manage the cybersquatting reasonably well, despite not raising their prices. I think a better alternative would be for the first year's registration to be $35 and subsequent renewals only $10-15, otherwise they risk not seeing any growth due to the boatloads of new competition, which is the biggest thing we can do to kill the cybersquatting industry. I also think the new "Uniform Rapid Deletion" (or whatever it's called) will be a huge driver in cutting down on cybersquatting. :) Also, should we not require Frank Schilling to divest his entire shareholding in Name Administration Inc, a well-known domain squatting and monetization company, because of the inherent conflict of interest in also holding a controlling interest in a domain name registry? I would argue vehemently that we should. A lot of "domainers" hold him in high regard and, honestly, I don't see why. ;) Curious, no thoughts on my comments as to why you didn't review Amazon and Google's own "open" gTLD applications? You seem to be unfairly favouring proponents like Donuts (and why are they proposing to operate these gTLD registries through hundreds of LLC subsidiaries? I think it's because they're going to try "cash in" by selling off the certain ones quite quickly - they don't want to have a long-term "skin in the game!) and Uniregistry (controlled by the aforementioned Frank Schilling, a famous domain squatting and monetization aficionado). I'm no fan of Amazon's applications, nor Google's Web search monopoly, but at least Google's applications seem to be fair and transparent to the end user. Similarly, I'm hoping UnitedTLD, owned by Demand Media's RightSide Group, will be successful in their bids as well. :) Cheers, Doug

When it is too long, I don't read :-) Jean Guillon  –  Feb 6, 2014 8:42 AM

I am sorry for not responding, I didn't see it as a question. I think my answer is in your last paragraph: Amazon and Google are brands who tried to applied for closed generic TLDs. It is not their business to sell domain names to the public.

Google has committed to operating the gTLDs Doug Mehus  –  Feb 7, 2014 1:48 AM

Google has committed to operating the gTLDs that it has applied for (listed at:  http://www.google.com/registry/) in a fair, open and transparent manner. I think they’ll also operate them more cost-effectively and encourage competition away from the “Big Three” registry administrators (back-end technical administration service providers such as VeriSign, Afilias and NeuStar). I fail to see how you still consider them as purely “closed” gTLD operators. Amazon.com, somewhat reluctantly, offered to make change some of its gTLD applications to “open” ones.


All of their generic strings are now open? Jean Guillon  –  Feb 7, 2014 3:46 PM

It all their TLDs are now open, I should definitely include them in my list but I don’t think it is the case. Is it for .SEARCH ?

hi Jean,Yes, because of Google's monopoly in Doug Mehus  –  Feb 7, 2014 9:26 PM

hi Jean,

Yes, because of Google’s monopoly in search, you’re right about not wanting them to have “.search” as a closed application. I don’t see it on their website (http://www.google.com/registry/), where their “open” gTLD applications are. Definitely though, I do support them, and thank you for including them, in your reviews of operators of so-called “open” or unsponsored gTLD registries.

When I check on the ICANN gTLD status page, it looks like there are only four applicants for .search, which seems quite low. One is Amazon’s obsure Luxembourg subsidiary (probably a “closed” one), one is Google’s and the other two are dotNow and Bitter McCook LLC (which sounds like it could be “open” and one of Donuts’ applications). Unless Google’s is “open”, and because I don’t know anything about dotNow, I’d have to support Donuts for .search. :)


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