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Using digital fear to get more domain name registrations!

It seems that the .KIWI registry is using a new technique to get more domain name registrations. Digital fear along with some old fashioned domain name inflated registration numbers.

Umbrellar.nz, a New Zealand hosting and domain name company, in corporation with the .KIWI registry published a report called “THE BUSINESS DIGITAL SECURITY REPORT .KIWI“.

Here are a few headlines and quotes from the report scaring domain name registrants of mainly .nz domains into buying .kiwi domains:

  • Angus Richardson of Dot Kiwi on how to protect your online brand and some cautionary tales: “The total cost to secure the domain names important to your customers is low relative to the cost of having your brand tarnished by cyber-attack. By securing domain names early, you are doing yourself an enormous favour.”
  • $100 VERSUS A COMPLICATED LEGAL SYSTEM
  • 4 WAYS YOU COULD BE PUTTING THE ONLINE SECURITY OF YOUR BUSINESS AT RISK

The report is targeting Umbrellar’s 75,000 customers (mainly from New Zealand) and their 255,000 managed domains. Umbrellar has been in business for over 15 years and is one of NZ’s first web hosting companies.

Using digital fear customers are urged into buying .kiwi domain names to save themselves from cyber-squatting and other security risks. Of course domain name digital fear is not all that new. Brand protection agencies have been selling fear to corporations for years and especially after New gTLDs came out in early 2014. I am not against brand protection but sometimes it gets out of hand.

The report is also using some inflated .kiwi registration numbers to make the .KIWI extension seem more credible and desirable than it is. .KIWI is currently ranked 17th overall in new gTLD domain registrations with a little over 200k domains. According to Namestat.org .kiwi had about 10,300 registrations on November 13th 2016. (less than a month ago) .KIWI launched in May 2014 and had less than 12,000 registered domains on its 1 year anniversary. It lost a few domains after that peak up to last month.

187,282 (96.1%) of the 200k domains have been registered with Tucows Domains Inc. and Web Drive Ltd in the past 3 weeks. The registrar Web Drive Ltd is owned by Umbrellar while Tucows is famous for its OpenSRS reseller program. Either Web Drive or Umbrellar must be an OpenSRS reseller.

Most (if not all) of the 187k domains are now registered to “Umbrellar Limited t/a Freeparking” and parked.

umbrellar-parking

It is really unfortunate that Angus Richardson, managing director of .KIWI, is lying about the registration numbers in the report: “In 2011 I helped set up the .kiwi registry to give New Zealanders a fresh and unique online identity. Since that time, more than 100,000 of our domain names have been registered by Kiwis and Kiwi businesses, so this is a good domain to consider for New Zealand businesses.” It is not even a good lie as the current fake numbers are above 200,000.

Adam Yamada wrote an article 2 days ago wondering about these new .kiwi registrations. The answers came from the report published yesterday and an article on a New Zealand security blog SecurityBriefNZ.

The truth is that .KIWI and Umbrellar are the ones that registered about 187k .kiwi domains to supposedly protect their customers:

“Two companies are taking a stand against cyber squatting and domain abuse by putting 200,000 .kiwi domain names on hold for a year as the owners develop their domain strategies.

Global registry Dot Kiwi and hosting provider Umbrellar will work together to ensure that the 75,000 customers are able to put their domain on hold for a year while they decide if the .kiwi domain name fits with their strategies.”

“Recent research in New Zealand shows one in ten Kiwis are likely to fall for scam emails. Globally, spear-phishing directed toward company employees increased by 55% last year. So the risks are very real,” says Dot Kiwi managing director Angus Richardson.

This is quite an investment on behalf of the .kiwi registry and Umbrellar of at least $200k (if not a lot higher). This could make or possibly break a small registry like .kiwi.

It is not clear how customers can claim their .kiwi domains that are “on hold” if they ever want to.

Sold.Domains

About Konstantinos Zournas

Konstantinos studied Computer Engineering and Computer Science in London and lives in Athens, Greece. He works on domain names, websites and software development. Has been online since 1995 & domaining since 2002.

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18 comments

  1. I counted 58,000 .kiwi domains that were registered in late November under that Umbrella corp.

    They match existing .co.nz domains mostly, or .com (presumably belonging to NZ clients.)

    There is a lot of data processing that has been done to select such domains, many of which appear to be “garbage.” It’s a ticking bomb for tm holders or businesses in NZ, for sure.

  2. Great info and research Konstantinos. Couldn’t understand why there was such a large jump in the registration numbers.

  3. Crazy practices these days. Digital terror alone is a bad business practice. Adding inflated stats is just another tip of the bucket to make this whole thing messy.

  4. Sssh! If domain companies hear that its possible to sell domains with fear, they all might do it!

    Oh, wait…

  5. “Domain trading is a big
    industry, and as your brand or project
    builds inherent value, the potential
    value of any domains associated
    with your brand will also increase.
    That’s when you risk ‘cyber squatters’:
    people who purchase domains and
    won’t give them up without a hefty
    sum being paid. For example, the
    most expensive domain ever fought
    over is vacationrentals.com, which
    was sold in 2007 for the princely sum
    of 35 million USD.”

    Misinformation wankers.

  6. I’m waiting to see this evidence of rampant cybersquatting within New Zealand. Oh, apart from registering all these names “on behalf” of people who never asked for them.

    Epic fail.

  7. G’day everyone, Angus here from Dot Kiwi.

    I thought I would jump in here and say a few words, because I obviously have a different point of view of all this, and in addition to genuinely enjoying reading industry related commentary and appreciating the authors I wanted to reiterate Adam’s point and applaud your research Konstantinos.

    Firstly, I want to point out that domain squatting is a genuine concern for all businesses, not just those in New Zealand. I did some research recently into the top websites in NZ by traffic, and found that in many instances the owners of those sites had comparable domains, such as .NZ at the 2nd level (ie. .nz rather than .co.nz), which had been registered by squatters. Unfortunately, this issue is not just limited to the country-code, as we have seen instances of it in .kiwi as well. While we would be considered a small TLD relative to the .NZ ccTLD, .kiwi does have strong awareness in New Zealand, and consequently can pose a risk to brands whose customers may be confused if receiving communications from a domain squatter with malicious intent. Consider the article below which just came out today in NZ, this is exactly what we want to avoid happening with a .kiwi domain:

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/87334326/new-plymouth-district-council-attempt-to-purchase-website-after-porn-problems

    Secondly, instances of domain squatting do not just negatively impact the brand owners but also the .kiwi TLD as a whole. If the brand reputation of .kiwi is negatively impacted by an abusive registration, not only is the .kiwi registry negatively impacted, but more importantly so are all of the existing .kiwi registrants who use .kiwi for a website or email address. This strategy of protecting .kiwi domains on behalf of brand owners is a way for us to minimise that risk as best we can.

    Thirdly, I really just want to point out that this is not a scam to inflate our numbers at all, nor “sell by fear”. If we wanted to inflate our numbers, there wouldn’t have been a press release explaining the situation, it would have been far easier if that was the objective here. Also, if the objective was to “sell by fear”, we would not be providing domains free of charge.

    Thanks again for taking the time to discuss .kiwi as it’s always a pleasure for me to speak about it with industry experts.

    Kindest regards,

    Angus

    • I’m still waiting to see evidence of rampant cybersquatting within either .nz or .kiwi.

      The only example you’ve provided is alarmist at best. The New Plymouth City Council have no exclusive rights to “newplymouthnz” and that guys CURRENT usage where he promotes his own business that builds houses in New Plymouth NZ demonstrates rights to it.

      You actions seem to suggest that only one entity can have rights over a term. If that’s the case then there was absolutely no reason to bring .kiwi into existence as all you were doing was promote the opportunity of the very thing you feared – allowing SOMEONE ELSE to use a term other than the “owner” of that domain in .nz or .co.nz or .net.nz or whatever.

      Locking out other potential users of generic .kiwi domain is just shooting yourself in the foot. Until you can prove that there are 170,000 trademark owners in nz – who coined their own tm rather than pinching generic or descriptive terms – at risk of cybersquatters infiltrating .kiwi, you action just reeks of an alarmist marketing ploy.

      So, where’s this list of 170,000 brands you are “protecting”?

      Also, could you please provide evidence of there many instances of “cybersquatters” sitting on .nz versions of .co.nz domains you speak of? Are you saying the .nz conflicted names process failed?

      • Yes, he is actually saying that only registrants of the respective .nz domains is worth a .kiwi.
        Here is an idea for Angus: why don’t you close out .kiwi, reserve everything and make each registrant sign a declaration of why he/she is entitled to each domain. Just lovely…

        BTW I would like to have domainmedia.kiwi for free. I am media about domains and even write about .kiwi. How do I get it?

    • 1. Genuine concern. Yes. Amplified greatly in your fear spreading report. Yes. Not your job to evaluate and treat. Yes again! You are not cybersquating police. And cybersquatting police doesn’t ask a 3rd company to register 200,000 domains. Especially because ICANN will not allow a registry to do so.
      2. No, registering 200,000 thousands to supposedly protect .kiwi by taking .nz domains and registering them in .kiwi is not the strategy you claim. It is a strategy to inflate numbers and sell domains to scared registrants.
      3. Yes, it is a scam. You reported this inflated number instead of the real one. And yes it sell by fear. Providing the 1st year for free doesn’t make these registrations a gift. People still have to pay for the next renewals.

      It is not your job to register random domains. Registrants choose to register the domains or not. They don’t want the domains they don’t want to register parked and they certainly don’t want the domains they want to register to be parked before they buy them and owned by some 3rd company.

      You are also forcing the registrar on the potential clients. We still have not heard how registrants can claim their domains if they ever want to.

      Some people will be confused trying to register their domains and will even give up. Some companies will even file for UDRPs on the domains that this 3rd party registered.
      This is a big mess and I would like to think what ICANN has to say.

      You inflated the numbers and you created all sorts of problems you haven’t thought of. Better be honest about it.

    • You are at risk from receiving multiple UDRP filings with this move.
      Has Umbrella taken a position in dot kiwi?

  8. One thing to note is that while .nz domains can now be registered at the second level (directly under .nz), it has long been restricted to third level registrations (ie .co.nz).

    .nz has a number of third levels including .geek.nz .maori.nz .org.nz etc
    and also .kiwi.nz…

    But .co.nz is obviously the most popular by far.
    Stats: https://dnc.org.nz/node/1225

    To say that .kiwi is another redundant TLD doesn’t seem inappropriate.

  9. nTLDs were introduced ostensibly to create new opportunities for new registrants with new projects. For the .KIWI registry to insist instead on brand protection, pairing .KIWI domains with existing .NZ / .CO.NZ sites, is to grant that the TLD is merely redundant – even to mandate that very redundancy.

    Of course, we all understand why the registry would want to change course. There are few new projects launched online in any given year – especially in a small country like New Zealand. At best, only a fraction of those would sidestep .CO.NZ and .NZ and choose a third, less familiar option. Meanwhile the number of old sites is much bigger. If they can only be persuaded to pay another bill …

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