GoDaddy takes over MMX domains: .bayern and .nrw also change operators

The US hosting and domain giant Godaddy is taking over numerous top-level domains (TLD) from its US competitor Minds + Machines (MMX), including the endings of the federal states of Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia, for the equivalent of around 100 million euros. The Ministry of Digital Affairs in Bavaria and the Ministry of Economics in North Rhine-Westphalia are still somewhat perplexed about the deal. A decade ago, the state authorities selected MMX as the operator. It is still unclear whether they will agree to the inclusion of their TLDs in the GoDaddy portfolio.

A total of GoDaddy will take over 28 TLDs from MMX and then add it to its portfolio of 240 domains. This includes address zones such as .vip, .fashion, .cooking, yoga and .sexy, but also a number of cities and regional domains such as .miami, .boston. “The companies that operate .bayern and .nrw” – MMX Bayern and MMX NRW – “are also part of the takeover package from GoDaddy Registry”, a spokesman for MMX in the USA confirmed to heise online. “We are currently in talks with the various public bodies in order to discuss the appropriate next steps with them.”

In North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria they are still a bit at a loss about the takeover for the time being. The Ministry for Economy, Innovation, Digitization and Energy in North Rhine-Westphalia does not want to answer any questions “because of ongoing discussions with the operator”. In its brief answer, the Bavarian State Ministry for Digital emphasizes that it has not yet received an “official request” to take over the operator, but will then “examine the facts and possible options”. The federal states do not operate the technical backend of their domains themselves; for NRW this is done by the German Knipp GmbH, for the Bavarian address zone it is the British Nominet.

With the takeover of the contract for .bayern, GoDaddy would probably also have to take on the obligation to share Bavaria in the turnover. It was not least because of this clause that the Bavarian Ministry of Finance, headed by Markus Söder at the time, preferred the US company to possible local consortia. For contractual reasons, the ministry does not want to say how much money has flowed from this agreement so far. In view of the modest usage figures to date, however, the calculation is unlikely to have paid off. On the part of MMX it only says that it has always met its contractual obligations in this regard.

The private domain administration organization Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) still has to approve the sale of the TLD package to GoDaddy. “In the past, however, such change-of-control requests were answered positively in the vast majority of cases,” writes Florian Hitzelsberger, lawyer at the domain registrar United Domains. However, the intervention of ICANN against the takeover of the .org TLD by Ethos revealed that there was leeway in approving such deals.

However, Hitzelsberger points to another player who could veto: It is “no less interesting whether China agrees to the takeover”. Because individual MMX domains may be sold in China and if the world’s largest registrar from the USA takes over the helm, the Chinese government will probably consider whether to give the green light for this. “Much in the world of domains is now not a purely technical, but also a global political question,” says the domain expert.


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