Donuts applies for way more than a dozen domain names

Of the 1,930 new domain names submitted to ICANN recently, who had the most applications?

Was it Amazon with 76? Not even close. How about Google with 101? Nope.

Actually, that’d be Donuts with 307 submissions from .app to .sucks. The group beat out behemoth Google for most submissions by more than a factor of three.


They’ve staked their claim for domains such as .basketball, .shop, .computer and .film.

“We’re very happy chaps at the moment,” Donuts co-founder Dan Schindler told The Times in an interview from the company’s Los Angeles office.

And it didn’t come cheap. The price tag for all of those topped $56 million.

This group of four industry experts quietly incorporated in the early part of last year with the sole intention of becoming a domain name registry, according to Schindler.

“We’ve been in stealth mode for quite a while because, obviously, this is a very competitive landscape,” he said.

The company, based in Bellevue, Wash., incorporated just a couple of years ago and started generating name possibilities. From a list of about 3,000, they winnowed it down to the 307 they submitted.

And not all are in English. Four are in Chinese, and another 12 are in Spanish, French and German, Schindler said.

How in the world do you pick what you think are winners?

With a mixture of science and art, the group employed about 25 metrics to assess each string, including what’s already registered in the .com space and popular keywords, Schindler explained.

“At the end of the day, this is an art,” he said.

And, frankly, they are banking on all of them being successful.

Donuts, whose Los Angeles office is just a few miles from the nonprofit agency deciding the fate of its applications, has deep roots in the industry. In fact, the company’s chief financial officer used to be CFO for ICANN. Collectively, the management team brings more than 50 years’ experience to the table and has been strategizing about this path for the past six years in different incarnations, Schindler said.

The other three co-founders of Donuts are chief executive Paul Stahura, who founded domain-name registrar eNom in 1997; chief operating officer Richard Tindal, who had formerly managed the registry of .biz and .us domains for NeuStar; and vice president of corporate affairs Jon Nevett, who earlier led policy for Network Solutions.

Half of their submissions are uncontested. Among the other half, 68 have only one other applicant and 45 have just two.

One domain -- .app -- actually has 13 applicants in contention for it.

And having raised more than $100 million for this venture, they feel they are in a good position to negotiate, Schindler said.

“We look forward to resolving those other names we’ve applied for,” he said. “We’ve raised all this money because we want to run all these domains.”

Clearly, with half of the submissions uncontested, this fearless foursome won’t walk away with doughnut holes.

So what’s with the company name?

These name experts actually spent months, even years, pondering that company name.

They finally settled on Donuts, for several reasons that Schindler shared. One was that the word, like the tasty treat it defines, conjures the notion of options. (Think of all the goodies in the signature big pink box.)

“Is there anybody who doesn’t love a doughnut?” he said. “We wanted to depict variety and choice.”

Another reason was infused with a little more tech-based humor. The first, middle and last letters of Donuts are DNS, as in Domain Name System.

And a very, very inside joke among them had to do with the color of the first letter. It was a teal D -- a TLD, as in top-level domain.

You’ve got to love techie humor.

Next steps have all applicants vying for which group their applications will be batched in. And then begins ICANN’s process of review.

“It has been a roller coaster,” Schindler said. “It has taken longer than some of us would like ... [but] we’re at the end of the beginning.”


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