Verisign questions who is really holding up .web

Are there additional forces supporting Altanova in its battle against Verisign?

Picture of a laptop computer, a cup of coffee and a plant on a desk with the word .web in white letters on a green background.

Why is Altanova continuing to challenge .web, and are there other companies behind this effort?

That’s the question Kirk Salzmann, Vice President and Associate General Counsel at Verisign, asked in a recent post on CircleID.

Altanova was the runner-up in the auction for .web and has been fighting the auction result ever since.

Altanova is essentially what’s left of Afilias after selling most of its business to Identity Digital (formerly Donuts). Afilias’s web application was not part of the transaction. (Identity Digital also applied for .web and unsuccessfully sued after the auction.)

In a carefully worded post, Salzmann notes that many parties (basically, any new top level domain operators) benefit from .web being held back from market. So, who really owns Altanova at this point, and are there more people behind this than just Altanova?

Salzmann wrote in part:

Equally concerning, Altanovo stated that its financial losses exceeded its assets in its public financial filings, while quickly adding that its “directors were confident that the Company will be able to continue in existence due to the availability of support from an associated company.” The only business of Altanovo appears to be the litigation involving .web. Its litigation bill for the first IRP was over $10 million and the cost of the second one may be just as high. If Altanovo cannot pay its own litigation bills without obtaining funding from an unidentified “associated company,” one has to ask—who exactly is benefiting from the delay in the delegation of .web, and who has the incentive to pay to keep .web off the market? The history here tells us that Donuts and Afilias, now Identity Digital and Altanovo, started working together to fix the price at which .web would be acquired years ago, and both continue to benefit by keeping .web off the market today.

My assumption has always been that Altanova is made up of a few remaining Afilias owners, and they have an axe to grind. They’d love to get .web, but delaying Verisign from getting it is also nice. Either they could win the domain and have something to run, or Verisign might pay them to go away. Again, this has just been my assumption.

But the narrative that keeping .web off the market helps top level domain name companies might be incorrect at this point. First, I don’t think .web will make a huge splash at this point in the game unless Verisign puts substantial marketing effort behind it. Second, any additional mindshare .web gets would actually be helpful for competing new top level domains, as it introduces more people to the idea that there are alternatives to .com.

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