Startup applies for 307 generic top-level domains

Donuts has raised $100 million in venture capital and plans to serve as a registry, the company says

A startup named Donuts has raised US$100 million in venture capital and has applied for 307 generic top-level domains in the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers' open gTLD application process, the company said Tuesday.

Donuts' gTLD applications are for generic, dictionary terms, said Jon Nevett, a cofounder and vice president of corporate affairs at the company. Donuts, based in Bellevue, Washington, will serve as a domain-name registry, a wholesale seller of domain names within the gTLDs it buys, he said.

ICANN launched the new gTLD program in January amid objections that the sale of new domains would cause headaches for trademark owners. The new program will allow new TLDs such as .hotel or .bank, as well as gTLDs in non-Latin characters, in addition to current gTLDs such as .com and .info.

Donuts expects few problems in the process of buying the gTLDs, Nevett said. The company has not applied for gTLDs featuring any trademarked names, he said. If there's more than one legitimate application for a new gTLD, ICANN can hold an auction.

"We'd be increasing the real estate on the Internet," Nevett said. "We think they're good, generic terms that will give consumers more choice and benefits."

The new domains will be targeted toward specific services, he said. Donuts gave an example of .tickets, a gTLD where Web users could expect to go to buy event tickets. "There will be more names geared toward what consumers are looking for," he said.

The new gTLDs would likely go live in 2013, Nevett said.

Donuts' announcement, the largest application made public so far, shows pent-up interest in new gTLDs, said Alexa Raad, CEO of Architelos, a TLD marketing consultancy. "The smart money has already followed some of these opportunities," she said.

Applying for multiple domains may be smart, as it gives Donuts bargaining power in the long process after the ICANN reveals the applications June 13, she said.

As of last Wednesday, ICANN had about 1,900 applications for new gTLDs, and several gTLDs will likely have multiple applications, Raad said. Companies with multiple applications may be able to partner with others that want the same gTLD or make agreements to drop some competing applications, she said.

ICANN plans to auction disputed gTLDs as a last resort, she said. "There will be some interesting gamesmanship after June 13," Raad said. Multiple applications "allow you to go to a few more cards in your deck."

Two other companies have announced large numbers of gTLD applications. Top Level Domain Holdings, based in London, announced on Friday that it has applied for 92 gTLDs, including .blog, .law, .restaurant, .work and .vodka.

Last Thursday, Directi Group announced it had applied for 31 gTLDs, including .news, .hotel, .baby, .web and .doctor.

Executives with Donuts include Paul Stahura, cofounder and CEO, who founded domain-name registrar eNom in 1997. Cofounder and COO Richard Tindal ran NeuStar's domain name registry, and Nevett served as president at Domain Dimensions, a domain name consultancy.

Investors in Donuts include Adams Street Ventures, Austin Ventures and Comerica Bank, the company said.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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