Rule of the oligarchs?

Where does ICANN’s money come from? It is easy to find their annual accounts  and estimates.  These give the big numbers.  Finding out which individual companies or organizations are behind the numbers is harder,  although admittedly not much harder if you know the lingo.

ccTLD Registries

The latest year for which complete data are available is the twelve months ended 30th June 2017. This link shows  financial contributions made in that period by Registries that administer country code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) e.g. .uk, .de, .fr and so on.

In the UK our ccTLD is Nominet. Nominet, like many other ccTLDs, is a not for profit. ccTLD Registries hold their positions by virtue of a contract awarded to them by the national government of the jurisdiction concerned. Some ccTLD Registries may even be inside a Government Department or they are run by a Government agency.

The published information on ccTLDs is easy to assimilate. The list is well short of two pages and the entries are presented pretty much alphabetically by country. Yet only about 100 countries are mentioned while there are around 200 ccTLDs. I gather there is no requirement for ccTLDs to subscribe so the mystery is why any of them do. It’s not obvious what they get for their money.

In the year ended 30th June 2017 the financial contribution made by all the ccTLDs combined was just over US$ 1,200,000. If they were to  be counted as a single business they would not be in the top 10 of all contributors.  The highest single contribution by a ccTLD was US$ 225,000. Power players in ICANN politics they are not.


This second link is to a page showing contributions made by Registrars, a couple of other types of ICANN affiliates and the Registries  for gTLDs. The huge preponderance of ICANN’s year on year income comes from these sources. This is the bit that matters. Overwhelmingly, the entities here are conventional businesses although there are some not for profits e.g. The Public Interest Registry. It runs .org.

More complicated than it needs to be

As you will see, the published list for this constituency is anything but easy to understand. It is 49 pages long, containing over 3,700 individual entries. They are listed alphabetically. Nothing wrong with that but, did you know, for example, that “Binky Moon”,  one of  the largest contributors to ICANN, is the business that trades as “Donuts”?

There are hundreds of entries from two particular Registrars: one called  “Camelot LLC” and the other called “ LLC”.

Aside from Camelot and DropCatch there are lots of entities with multiple entries. In addition to the individual ones, couldn’t they all be grouped together under whichever is the ultimate beneficial owner? That way we could easily see the total net contribution made to ICANN’s funds by each business or organization.

By converting the published pdf to an Excel spreadsheet I was able to work out a number of things without an enormous amount of effort but, memo to ICANN, in future why don’t you do that? Make it your aim to present these data in a way that is as easy as possible for anyone interested to find, analyse and understand from any and every angle that is likely to be of interest. Embrace the light.

Domination by the few not the many

In the year ended June 2017 ICANN’s total core income was US$ 137, 245, 623. Of this US$ 42,818, 745 comes from one company – Verisign – Registry of, inter alia, .com and .net. That is 31.2% of ICANN’s entire year on year income coming from one source.

Lest we forget, .com and .net are where the vast majority of child sex abuse materials are found on the open internet and much that is now on the dark net will have originated there. Shame on Verisign and shame on ICANN for not doing anything about it.

GoDaddy, a Registrar,  is next in line in terms of the size of their engagement with ICANN’s piggy bank: a “paltry” US$ 9,789, 485. That’s 7.1% of the total. Very close behind is DropCatch at US$ 9,364, 624 (6.8%).

There were a few entries from entities that looked like they were probably linked to DropCatch but I excluded them from my calculations just in case I was wrong. However, if they were added in DropCatch would probably edge out GoDaddy from the No. 2 spot.

Either way in 4th place we have “Binky Moon” at US$ 5,043183 (3.6%).

Thus, four companies between them provide just shy of 50% of ICANN’s entire income. The top 21 entities provide 63% of it and if there is a further round of consolidation and takeovers  ICANN’s dependency on an even smaller number of businesses will grow ever more pronounced. This cannot be healthy for ICANN or the internet.

Things you need to know about ICANN for the pub quiz

In Q1 2018 there were 333.8 million domain names in existence. That’s up 0.4% on Q4 2017. The annual rate of growth in registrations continues to be about 1%

.com and .net accounted for 148.3 million registrations, or 43% of the total. The combined total for all ccTLDs in the same quarter was 146.3 million, although it seems this category is growing at a faster rate: 2.2% per annum.

After .com the next largest domain is .cn i.e China. No surprises there.  It checks in at 21.4 million. However, the number three domain in the world is .tk, with 19.9 million registrations. tk belongs to Tokelau. Tokelau consists of three atolls in the South Pacific. They are a dependent territory of New Zealand. The population of Tokelau is 1,500.

.tk domains are free. That probably helps explain their meteoric rise and maybe the faster rate of growth for ccTLDs as a whole. If I was a competing Registry I might be annoyed but why should anyone else worry? Just relax. ICANN obviously has the situation completely under control.