This year saw the surprise launch of .AR direct registrations, announced just the day before the Sunrise period commenced. Landrush runs from November into early 2020, whilst General Availability is set to start in February.
Likewise, Cyprus launched direct registrations under .CY on a first come, first served, basis. Furthermore the Registry removed the local presence requirements meaning that foreign companies can register .COM.CY and .CY domains more easily.
Elsewhere the Australian Registry, auDA, teased us with the proposed launch of direct registrations under .AU in 2019, however the launch was postponed to allow for a public consultation and an awareness programme. They now anticipate that the launch will take place at some point during the first half of 2020.
Meanwhile, back in the UK, the Right of Registration period for direct .UK domain names concluded five years of reservation for the holders of equivalent second-level
.UK domains. Nominet have said that “by the close of the rights period over 8 million rights holders out of the original 10 million have either taken up their rights to their equivalent .uk domain, or the rights expired” (Source: https://www.nominet.uk/reserved- uk-rights-faqs/). The remaining domains were made generally available in batches following the 25 June deadline.
The new .EU regulation was published on 29 March 2019 and whilst the new provisions will come into effect in 2022, Article 20 of the regulation came into effect early on 19 October 2019. The relevance of this Article is that it allows citizens of EU Member States to own .EU domain names regardless of their current country of residency. This is not directly related to Brexit since an EU citizen can now own a .EU domain name whilst living in any other country of the world, but is certainly timely with a (possibly) looming Brexit.
As attention turns to the second round of new gTLD applications, the launches of those applications from the first round slowed significantly during 2019 with only six launches compared to more than double that last year.
Thus far, the most successful of these has been .DEV, currently standing at more than 165,000 registrations, and placed number 25 in the rankings by registration volume (taken from ntldstats.com). The other five failed to make any great strides in the statistics however .BOND and .NEW only recently launched. That said, the eligibility restrictions on .NEW will make it an unlikely candidate for the top of the rankings.
An alternative to the defensive registration, Blocking Mechanisms certainly made a splash in 2019 with the launch of services from three providers, adding to the existing services from Identity Digital (the “DPML”) and the TMCH (the “TREx”).
The Registry behind .CLUB launched their TrademarkSentry service to block domains in the .CLUB namespace, whilst Uniregistry launched UniEPS and Uni EPS+ which blocks domains across 26 of their own TLDs.
Arguably the most interesting newcomer in 2019 however was the AdultBlock service, brought by ICM Registry. With the ten-year .XXX blocks reaching the end of life, the AdultBlock and AdultBlock plus services offer a replacement but with broader coverage and more flexibility than before. For starters, the blocks will not only take effect across the .XXX namespace but will also include .ADULT, .SEX and .PORN.
There are two more new gTLDs already set to launch in 2020. The first is .GAY; originally planned for August the launch was delayed until next year, possibly as soon as January. The second is .ZUERICH which has seen a number of setbacks since its earlier launch date in 2017. The launch is currently set for July 2020 but we will have to wait and see whether this delayed TLD gets off the ground.
With approximately 100 new gTLDs delegated but not yet launched from round 1, we may see a push to get these through the system before the next round starts.
Finally, who can ignore Brexit? Yet another ‘Brextension’ has meant that any planned actions for .EU domains owned by UK holders have been shelved, again. We await further news on whether a Deal is reached and whether that will have any impact on UK domain owners but we will continue to keep you advised with the latest updates as soon as they become available.