David Goldstein - Verisign Moves Closer to Acquiring .WEB


    It looks like Verisign will finally get the chance to run the .web gTLD. In July 2016 the string was auctioned by ICANN and a mysterious company called Nu Dot Co, one of the 7 applicants, won the auction with a huge $135 million bid. It later turned out that Verisign had put up the money for Nu Dot Co and they were planning to acquire the gTLD.

    Some of the other applicants weren’t happy that Verisign, the .com and .net registry, was behind the bid. So Donuts, one of the applicants, filed a lawsuit against ICANN alleging they had failed to properly investigate the background to Nu Dot Co prior to the auction and to prevent the auction going ahead at the time. A judge ruled in November 2016 the court case couldn’t go ahead as all new gTLD applicants had agreed to no lawsuits. Donuts appealed and that lawsuit is reportedly still ongoing.

    In another possible derailment of Verisign’s bid to operate the gTLD, the Department of Justice commenced an investigation in January 2017 when their Antitrust Division requested “certain material related to [Verisign] becoming the registry operator for the .web gTLD. On January 9, 2018, the DOJ notified [Verisign] that this investigation was closed. Verisign previously announced on August 1, 2016, that it had provided funds for Nu Dot Co’s successful bid for the .web gTLD and [Verisign] anticipates that Nu Dot Co will now seek to execute the .web Registry Agreement with ICANN and thereafter assign it to Verisign upon consent from ICANN.”

    While $135 million is a lot of money for a new generic top level domain, it could be that Verisign isn’t that interested in making .web a success, but rather ensuring that the most likely of the new gTLDs to be a competitor to .com and .net is not a threat, which may have been part of the DOJ’s investigation. At the end of 2017’s third quarter there were 145.8 million .com and .net domain names out of a total of 330.7 million around the world.