An Idea Transformed Into One Million New gTLD Domain Registrations: The Donuts Story

In ten months Donuts has gone from a handful of domains registered to well over a million across 152 new gTLDs, accounting for around a third of both domains registered across all of the new gTLDs and number of gTLDs available. And all of their domains are fully paid for the company boasts!

And the company is very happy with how they’ve got here. Some of their gTLDs have performed way beyond expectations. One that has performed unexpectedly well has been .guru, now with well over 75,000 registrations and sixth on the list of all new gTLDs.

".guru has been an enormous surprise to us," Donuts co-founder and Executive Vice President Dan Schindler told NetNames. “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.

"All of our gTLDs have outperformed our forecasts," said Schindler. "But some have been more of a surprise than others.

The path to get to where Donuts is now has been not without hurdles, but apparently also not as difficult as it could have been. The idea for Donuts started as four domain industry veterans, including Schindler, pooled their ideas as the new gTLD programme was being planned. Rather than work independently they realised they had similar goals and it would be best to work together.

Working together they started with 3,000 possible strings and ended up applying for 307 new gTLD strings. After the “big reveal” by ICANN they found around half were uncontested. Since then auctions have commenced and 30 or 40 contention sets are now resolved and several more set to be resolved soon. At the end of it all Schindler believes Donuts will have be managing around 200 gTLDs.

To get to where they are now required not just big ideas, but also some money. For a new idea, raising money turned out to be much easier than anticipated Schindler said 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 while financing wasn’t as big a hurdle as it could easily have been, 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.

Looking to the future, Schindler is confident of 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, 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."