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Who Are the Major New gTLD Applicants and… (Part Four: Donuts)

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

Donuts is an applicant that threw the entire domain name industry into uproar due to the number of applications it submitted: 307 in total. Recent figures about Donuts are available here.

It is hardly surprising that whenever new gTLDs are mentioned in the media that Donuts are mentioned alongside due to shear number of applications that they have submitted. There are dozens of articles in the media mixing information and opinions about Donuts. Often, they address the benefits to those registrants who are excited about the possibility of acquiring a new domain name and the threats to those who have an existing .COM domain name portfolio. Some are focus on the plight of corporate IP departments, wrestling with how they are going to react in the face of all of Donuts’ launches who are concerned because they have to go through the expensive nightmare of registering in the Trademark Clearinghouse to register a new domain name. And finally, there are comments from those ‘long in the tooth’ industry insiders who yoyo between being impressed and appalled by the Donuts project.

Prior to the publication of their applications, in early July 2012, this project had remained a well-guarded secret. No one suspected that a new applicant would come out of the blue, with so many applications and such a level of investment.

.Who’s who of Donuts

Donuts is “an American project developed by American people”.

Da boss and da money – Paul Stahura is co-founder and CEO, a ‘technology entrepreneur’ (some may say Internet geek) who founded a Registrar named eNom in his garage. eNom is now one of the largest ICANN accredited Registrars in the world.

Da Mouthpiece – Jon Nevett is co-founder and EVP Corporate Affairs i.e. the Donuts person to whom to address legal questions, objections and subpoenas.

Da Buy-or-Die man – Dan Schindler is co-founder and EVP of Sales and Marketing. Dan is a veteran in the domain name business.

The new gTLD world is a small one and there are probably other names you may recognize associated with Donuts. You can read more about the Donuts team here.

What are the differences between Donuts and the other portfolio applicants?

One factor, which is very noticeable, is the number of applications made by Donuts Inc. but when looking at the amount of capital that was raised by each portfolio applicant in order to fund applications, run registries and win contention sets, there is much less of a disparity.

Donuts created one legal entity for each application, in the same way that Famous Four Media did and completely unlike Minds and Machines / TLDH and Uniregistry. The key point here is that, with one legal entity per application, that legal entity can change ownership easily. Let’s imagine that a major French wine producer would want to acquire the Donuts .VIN new gTLD. Because of this, it would be made possible, as well as acquiring the .WINE from Famous Four Media.
Donuts is running its own registry back-end software in the same way as Uniregistry and Minds and Machines and unlike Famous Four Media which is using proven registry back-end providers.

The Donuts .project

“Industrialization” is the keyword here. With such a large number of new domain name extensions to manage, it requires a huge amount of management and organization to get to the point. Their target is not Sunrises registrations but “the grand opening” that is General Availability: that fantastic moment when anybody can come and buy with a few clicks. There are no closed applications in the Donuts portfolio nor there are specific rules for a specific application: all Donuts’ TLDs are new identities offered to the web: there is no need to demonstrate that you belong to a “community” or reside in a certain place to register a domain name.

Donuts is offering a ‘brand protection’ solution called the Domain Protected Marks List (DPML) which should allow trademark owners to ‘block’ their marks across the Donuts registries. This seems good at first glance, at but it is a very limited rights protection solution it does not put names into the registry, which doesn’t allow Registrars like 1&1 to add products or services around the domain name and doesn’t allow brand owners to benefit from domain traffic.

Donuts is probably the most pure-play commercial venture of all the portfolio applicants. The past has shown that closed or restricted applications that block community members from buying a domain name do not fair well. We are aware that there are rules that allow corporations to help protect their trademarks from malicious registrations, but to a commercial registry this is just another delay from the free market economy nirvana of General Availability.

Will Donuts .work commercially?

Years ago many applicants were very justifiably enthusiastic about their future sales! Everybody believed that they would sell hundreds of thousands new domain names, for one single TLD because that was what happened when there were only 20 gTLDs. Even my personal website still mentions a turnover of € 12,000,000 in year 3 after launch, for one single Community TLD project… I remain confident that this is still possible, if the community endorsing the project does its job and if the communication starts early enough to spread the word but… that takes a long time and the new gTLD application process can offer many unwelcome surprises.

Unfortunately, no one expected so many new gTLD applications to be returned to ICANN and the domain name market is now crowded with so many possibilities that potential buyers will probably have to make some harsh choices.

A Registrant may not register a .VENTURES and a .ENTERPRISES or a .CONSTRUCTION and a .BUILD. If making a choice leaves the opportunity open for another buyer, it does not mean all TLDs will trend the same way and that they will all generate similar sales. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some TLDs sell fewer domain names even than .MUSEUM and even if these are open applications.

If I have learned anything from the Internet it is this: Anything, no matter how unlikely, can and will happen.

By Jean Guillon, New gTLDs "only".

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Donuts not running its own back end? Jean Guillon  –  Feb 28, 2014 10:10 AM

I was just informed that Donuts is not running its own back-end Registry. Actually that is right but…I tend to write what I read between the lines and I apologize for this.
Correction then: Demand Media (sorry, Rightside Registry?) is doing this.

Oh…next article coming is about…Rightside Registry by the way. Probably readers will understand better my writing then :-)

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