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The “.ro” Gold Rush (2018) (viorel.me)
169 points by kioleanu 19 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 65 comments

> Because that’s not quite sustainable (hindsight is 20/20), they decided to switch all the domains they already sold for life to yearly subscriptions.

What? At least in the U.S., if you sell something with a lifetime ownership term, you can't just renege and change the terms after the fact (well you can try, but you're asking to be sued).

It was more along the lines of "it's yours for a one time fee, but we reserve the right to modify the registration agreement and the applicable fees at any time". In 2017 the government has decided to charge a yearly fee. It was never a lifetime subscription, but everyone assumed it was, since they weren't charged.


Almost everything at this level of consumer has a TOS that allows the larger company/organization to basically change anything. And if it didn't most customers still wouldn't have the legal resources to challenge it. One of those interesting quirks of consumer free markets.

> most customers still wouldn't have the legal resources to challenge it

The weaponization of the legal process. Those with the biggest armies win.

Facebook liked to call it "Friendly Fraud" when they were stealing from children, the phrase suits a lot of shitty company behavior.


You can if you're the government.

It's amazing how weirdly managed some TLDs are. There was the controversy with .io, but my favorite experience was .pn (Pitcairn Islands apparently.) I had a .pn domain for a year, that I bought directly from their nic. The trouble is, it's practically all managed manually. Luckily I didn't really need to, but I was not sure at all how to renew a .pn domain because I purchased it from a form that let me specify nameservers and a domain - that's it.

Some registars support it but generally only with business subscriptions like Gandi's - so it's actually cheaper to buy it directly. But I still find it fascinating how not-automated it all was.

Pitcairn only has 50 inhabitants according to Wikipedia! Apparently there was a conflict between the islander who had management of the domain and the island's Council (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.pn).

Pitcairn Island is (was?) a bit of a mess. It probably sets records for the ISO region with:

* most people with wikipedia articles per capita

* the most sex offenders per capita

* least variety of last names (something like half the people there have the last name Christian)

Tom Christian, the previous .pn administrator, and his wife were apparently both shunned by the community when they spoke out against the sexual abuse of children and the claims of some of the men on the island that it was part of their traditional way of life. Most of the men convicted got off with slaps on the wrist because the island doesn't have the resources to support locking up a substantial part of its adult population.

This should be posted anytime someone asks about using a non-standard TLD. Do you really want it badly enough to take on the extra risk?

Dot TM (Turkmenistan) is also a weird one. They started taking registrations and I managed to get a really short one, paid for it with my credit card and was happy.

Shortly afterwards I got an email notifying me that they stopped all new domain registrations, apparently because there were some obscene names that got registered.

All existing domains continued to work for free for years.

Then, almost 10 years later they sent another email notifying the new pricing: $1000 per 10 years. At that point I dropped the domain - it was just used for fun anyway.

This just sounds like the old drop days, companies like snapnames, pool, namejet, godaddy have had backorders and snapping up as fast possible over APIs for ages. Only interesting bit is the policy change that caused it.

You'd think by now that people would have learned the only TLD with real value is .com, and to avoid "gold rush" mentality on country codes or newly minted TLDs.

And if they didn't learn that, at least learn not to trust an entity that was willing to break contracts or change the terms whenever it was in their financial interest to do so.

What's even attractive about the letters .ro? That's not a common suffix for English words, and it's not particularly memorable.

Well, -ero is an extremely common word ending in Spanish, for one, corresponding to the -er in Hacker. Portuguese has -eiro. (Even in English a lot of businesses/products are called "[something] Hero".)

3,000 EUR to potentially get access to a ton of good domains doesn't seem like a big deal?

If I knew I could register 100 interesting domains, I would totally be willing to pay that price.

Was it total, or per domain? The article doesn't clarify.

3000 total sounds super duper cheap.

It sounds like the license to be a reseller was just a single 3000 EUR upfront cost.

depends. 3000 is a lot of money in Romania

> If you want a really good domain, you can end up paying 500EUR per year for it.

Can't you transfer it to a different reseller in the first year? You should be able to switch resellers with your domain. In worst case, you can start your own reseller.

I'm from Romania, and my firstname.ro was available late last year, but someone else bought it...I don't have a problem with that...I was willing to pay 50 euros, since it's a common name, I assume it went for a lot more.

I don't understand why it would be 500 euros/year. Once you bought it, it's yours, you can renew it for 9/year.

I got firstname.be a while back, and I did pay more for it than 50 euros. Guess it depends on how much you want it -- I'd been waiting nearly 16 years until the domain finally expired. Didn't really feel like waiting another 16 years... :)

I've had steve.org.uk for a good few years. Then I moved to Finland, and saw that steve.fi was due to expire in about four months.

Believe me I hammered their registrar the day the domain expired, looking to purchase it. Of course it then went into a redemption-state. But eventually, it became mine. Thankfully the previous-owner was willing to let it go.

All this and not even a drop of css!

Hey, it's in development !

yeah, you can switch resellers, so the info in the article is not corect.

Corect is not correct.


I wonder if domain names are not overvalued... I know your domain name is part of a brand but isn't it better to pick an original name than a common name to have people remember you? Especially now that the URL bar is also a search bar in most browsers.

How many books a year are sold books.com? How many requests does search.com serves daily?

.com domains are in a similar space as 1-800 numbers in terms of branding.

This has been happening in the .au for years. One example: https://www.drop.com.au/

Registrars that run drop catch auction sites increase their odds by acquiring more connections to the Registry.

I’d go for Moloch rather than Hanlon. This kind of zero-value race for the bottom feeders is too wasteful and tragic.

It's "unfair" to pay auction rates? How?

Why should the auction site get the domain to sell in the first place? A Romanian public asset is being basically dumped for 6 euros to a select group of private companies who then reap the rewards. It's not unfair between you and the other auction bidders, it's unfair between you and the auctioneer and the Romanian tax payer.

It is possible that there is enough auction sites created that the expected profit to the auction site is 0.

Economically, this is called rent-seeking behaviour. While perfectly legal, this feels unfair because the middleman adds no value whatsoever.

I'm not sure this really fits as rent-seeking. Usually, with rent-seeking, you manipulate either the political or economic landscape to give yourself a benefit without creating any value. In this case, resellers are taking advantage of a poorly designed system that was already in place to create a market for something that was being allocated stupidly.

And I think a key point here is that some form of this was inevitable. Even if they didn't set up the privileged API, you'd still have a glut of speculation, because that's what happens when you sell off a high value commodity below market. The only question is who is in a position to take advantage, and it doesn't seem from the article like resellers manipulated themselves into that position, so much as found themselves there by default.

>a poorly designed system that was already in place to create a market for something

So...an economic landscape?

Yes, but not one they manipulated for this end, at least as far as the we can tell from the information in the article.

They bought a reseller license for the purpose of snapping up and auctioning off high-value domains rather than acting like a traditional reseller.

Did they? Or did they do the same thing domain resellers have been doing for decades, with the only notable thing about this being that a bunch of more desirable domains came up for sale recently?

Domain resellers that have been caught doing this sort of thing in the past have also been criticized. In particular I remember a lot of criticism some time ago about the practice of watching for WHOIS queries to see what domains people are interested in, then buying the domain and trying to sell it back to the original searcher for more.

They have been criticized for that, yes, but I think undeservedly so. Fundamentally, I just think it's pretty dumb how we allocate domains in the first place, and that this sort of thing should be seen as the natural consequence of allocating resources stupidly.

As for the other thing, I think front-running is a pretty different situation, and is bad for reasons that don't apply here. Although I believe most of the legend of that came in part from a misunderstanding of what was happening. Some registrars would put a hold on the domain you searched for, which would automatically be released after a day or two. Their rationale was that it was a bad experience to search for a domain, and then have it snapped out from under you during checkout. Of course, it also conveniently prevented you from buying the domain from a competitor, and I have no doubt that that was part of the motivation for doing it. I agree that that's a bad practice, but true front-running is much worse.

It's a private entity that reaps the benefits of what is a public good presumably...

it's not private until it have an owner.

or are you normalizing the criminal behavior of godaddy where registrars can rush and buy the domain while you're doing the check out process just to sell back to you for more?

The private entities I was speaking about are the auctionning registrar, the public good is the right to serve .ro domain (which should benedit Romanians at large).

Also, presumably the additional cost on the .ro ccTLD from the bots hammering the servers is burdening the Romanian citizen, and the benefits are going to the offending registrars...

Citation for the GoDaddy claim?

OP is probably referencing domain front running. Basically when you search a registrar for an available domain, if the domain is available they'll put a 5 day hold on the domain, making it available solely through that registrar but not others. It forces the searcher to buy it through that one registrar if they want it. I couldn't find any direct evidence of GoDaddy doing it, but there's a lot anecdotal reports of them doing it, and it's confirmed that Network Solutions was doing this.


A comment in a previous discussion with some more information: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4362961

Thanks. That's pretty lame but definitely not the same as buying up the domain and then raising the price. (Which would be shady but also probably a money-loser overall.)

A domain name is a private good, not a public good.

The exclusivity of the domain name is a public good. The right to use the domain name is a private, transferable good.

Were the auction site operated by Romania, the value of courses.ro would be determined by auction, paid by a willing buyer, and received by the Romanian polity. Instead, the Romanian polity receives 300EUR as an entrance fee to a race-track where luck is significant in determining the winner. There is nothing in the linked article suggesting that the number of entrants is limited.

It's an excludible good in the economic sense, but the value wasn't created by the private company, but by the public WWW itself. This is classic rent seeking.

Sure, just like the public's promise to keep off a chunk of land is a private good.

That's how our current system works, but it probably works that way primarily because the groups in charge wanted to raise money, not because it's a fundamental philosophical truth that it should work that way.

Can you clarify what you mean by that? Would you say that ICANN "owns" all domain names, then sells them in bundles, making them private goods?

A domain isn't a private good until it's actually owned by a private party.

"A domain name is a private good, not a public good.... until it is sold (or rented) to person x, with the understanding that he can renew it forever if he follows a few rules.

Country ones are owned by the country - TLD's are a bit more unclear.

Do you ask for real or just troll? It is unfair because, because the domain costs 6€ if you’re the middleman and 300€ otherwise. I guess €3000 is not a super high entry barrier, but probably there is some red tape as well.

it's an auction. I don't see the problem with that. But this is only to get the domain initially...after that, you pay the normal, reasonable price

you see the value of a good, buy it and then resell it at a better price so you can make a profit.

this is free market 101 as far as I'm concerned...

I can think of many times the "free market" causes unfair or immoral things, and I know you can as well, so why would you conflate the two with no other supporting argument?

Can I buy it for 6EUR then, and resell it? No, I can't, so it's not a free market, is it?

If the Romanian government knew what it was doing, it would be auctioning these domains itself and capturing the proceeds. If something is worth $500 but the government will sell it to a sufficiently credentialed and capitalized buyer for $9, that's very nearly free money for the lucky auctioneers.

I remember getting a .store domain one time. But I couldn't sign up for Alibaba with that tld. So I decided that only .com/net will be acceptable from now on.

I had a .io for a project. Ended up getting internet from some corporate/government entities. Went in to demo, and *.io was blocked on their enterprise network! Will still with .com or .net as well.

I would just be like, "oh you don't have Internet?" I thought you had a connection to the Internet. Then I might lookup the IP using my phone's connection and use that as the URL... And work into my speech the fact that they don't actually have the Internet :)

isn't this the case for other tlds as well? pool.com does the same for all of the "main" tlds (.com, .net, .org, etc.)

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