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Tucows Inc.
Traded as
Industry Internet services
Mobile telecommunications
Founded Flint, Michigan (1993)
Headquarters Toronto, Ontario
Key people
Elliot Noss (President and CEO)
Stanley Stern (Chairman)
Products OpenSRS
Revenue $80.939 million USD (2009)[1]
$12.241 million USD (2009)[1]
Number of employees
~175 (2012)[2]
Website tucows.com

Tucows Inc. is an Internet services and telecommunications company, headquartered in Toronto, Ontario. The company is one of the largest domain registrars and operates Hover, and OpenSRS, a platform for domain resellers. In 2012, Tucows launched Ting, a wireless service provider, and continues to operate its namesake directory of shareware and freeware software downloads.

The company was formed in Flint, Michigan, in 1993. The Tucows logo is two cow heads, a play on the homophone "two cows."

Company history[edit]

Tucows' head office in Toronto

Scott Swedorski started Tucows in 1993 to provide users with downloads of both freeware and trial versions of shareware. The name originally was an acronym for The Ultimate Collection Of Winsock Software.[3] Internet Direct, owned and operated by John Nemanic, Bill Campbell, and Colin Campbell, acquired Tucows in 1996.[3] STI Ventures acquired Tucows in 1999.[3]

The company employed roughly 30 employees in Flint in 1998.[citation needed] There were additional employees in Canada.[citation needed] Scott Swedorski personally oversaw day-to-day activity in the Flint office located in the White House building on Beecher Road in Flint for several years.[citation needed]

In 2000, Tucows acquired Linux Weekly News.[4]

In 2001, Tucows, Inc. became a wholly owned subsidiary of Infonautics, and after acquiring Tucows, Infonautics changed its name to Tucows, Inc.,[5] a business tactic called a "reverse takeover." Information Today, Inc. reported on August 26, 2002 that Tucows had sold eLibrary and Encyclopedia.com, its search and reference services properties, to Alacritude, LLC, a Chicago-based company.[5] Tucows had acquired eLibrary and Encyclopedia.com in a merger with Infonautics, Inc. in August 2001.[5]

In 2004, Tucows acquired Mississippi-based Boardtown Corporation, a billing software provider. In January, 2006, Tucows completed its acquisition of certain assets of Critical Path, an outsourced email services provider.

In June, 2006 Tucows paid $18 million to purchase Mailbank.com Inc - a company that owns over 17,000 domain names for common surnames like smith.net or brown.org. Mailbank generates income from selling advertising on the websites of the name-based domains and also from customers who want e-mail accounts with their surname as the domain.

On June 15, 2006, Noss disclosed that the portfolio of NetIdentity's surnames acquired by Tucows represents at least 68 percent of US and European surnames.[6] Noss disclosed that the cost of the acquisition was $18 million.[6] On February 19, 2008 Tucows announced that they were launching a "Personal Names Service" using their portfolio of 39,000 surname domain names.[7] "The launch of the Personal Names Service marks the complete integration of the surname assets we acquired with NetIdentity into our wholesale channel," said Elliot Noss, President and CEO of Tucows.[7]

On 26 August 2006, Tucows was the winning bidder on an eBay auction for the web calendar site Kiko.com. In a blog entry about the purchase, it was revealed that they plan on rolling the features of Kiko into their existing email platform.[8]

On July 27, 2007, Tucows acquired ItsYourDomain.com (IYD), another privately held ICANN-accredited wholesale registrar offering domain services through a network of over 2,500 affiliates with over 700,000 domains under management.[9] Tucows paid US$10.35 million in cash for IYD.[9] "From our perspective IYD was perhaps the only substantial wholesale domain registration base that might be available over the next few years, and it's a compatible business that we'll be able to fold in to our existing operations," said Elliot Noss, President and CEO, Tucows Inc.[9] ItsYourDomain.com managed 699,951 domains compared to Tucows's 5,919,987, at the time of the sale in July 2007 ItsYourDomain.com's monthly growth of 29,181 exceeded Tucows growth of 21,126.[10]

By June 2008, Tucows had a total of three domain name registration services called ItsYourDomain (IYD), NetIdentity, and DomainDirect. Tucows decided to discontinue these three services, and merge them into one new domain name registration service, called Hover. Hover is a simple domain registration service powered by Tucows Inc, that started in July 2008. All IYD, DomainDirect, and NetIdentity customers are forwarded to Hover.com to resume their domain needs.[11]

On November 6, 2008, Tucows announced that they were launching Butterscotch.com, an online video network that with video tutorials to explain Internet technology and that the site was beginning with 35 video tutorials with plans to reach 500 clips by Spring 2009.[12]

On October 14, 2011, Butterscotch.com producer Sean Carruthers stated production was shut down.[13]

Business lines[edit]

Tucows is the third largest ICANN-accredited registrar in the world and the company is the largest publicly traded registrar.[10]

On July 28, 2008, Tucows announced the rebranding of their wholesale services, calling it "Open SRS".[14]

  • Domain portfolio management

Tucows has three sources of income from their Domain portfolio: 1) Advertising from pages of domains within their domain name portfolio;[15] 2) Sales of domains from their portfolio, which is constantly being replenished;[16] 3) Auction of the steady stream of thousands of domain names that expire every day and become available for resale.[17]

In November 14, 2007, Tucows disclosed that they offer pay-per-click advertising on the pages of domains within their domain name portfolio.[15] When a user types one of these domain names into the address of the browser (direct navigation), they are presented with dynamically generated links which are pay-per-click advertising.[15] Every time a user clicks on one of the links listed on a web page, it generates revenue for Tucows through their partnership with third parties who provide syndicated pay-per-click results.[15] In their financial reports, Tucows does not break out their advertising income due to Direct Navigation from advertising income from other sources including the download site.[15]

On February 7, 2008 Tucows disclosed that Tucows switched from Google Ads to a new advertising partner in 2007 which led to a revenue increase of over one third.[18]

On May 7, 2008, Tucows announced it put a process in place for the regular sale of direct navigation names.[19] These domain names would come from names that expire each month from customers who decide they no longer want the domain names and that Tucows is able to select the ones they want to keep from these domain names.[20]

Tucows announced on June 12, 2008 that they have reached an agreement with Afternic to auction Tucows’ large daily inventory of expired domain names.[17] "We have over eight million domains under management and thousands expiring every day, so this deal provides us with a great way to share revenue with our resellers while participating in Afternic’s popular secondary domain name marketplace,” said Bill Sweetman, General Manager of Tucows Domain Portfolio.[17] Tucows will share 10% of the gross sale price with the reseller for the sale of expired domains that were originally registered through the reseller.[21] Revenue will be shared automatically without the reseller having to take any additional action.[21] Sweetman explained that Tucows chose Afternic as a partner even though SnapNames with Register.com and NameJet with NetSol/eNom are the dominant players in expired domains.[22]

On October 29, 2008 Tucows announced that they would begin direct sales from their inventory of premium domain names under the brand name of Yummy Names.[23] The service was created especially for marketers to obtain a high-quality domain name from Tucows inventory including countryrock.com, divorced.com, lemons.com, listener.com, mygarden.com, myhomepage.com, thepub.com, tool.com, and veggies.com. "A high-quality domain name is short, relevant and most importantly, easy to remember.[23] Customers have the option of purchasing a premium domain name outright or leasing the name.[23] In 2009 one of Tucows' subsidiaries Buydomains Holdings Inc. sold another premium domain name for a record $50,000 for Myhomepage.com.[24]

On February 20, 2008 Tucows announced a portfolio of over 1,000 "gems" - domain names that have the highest potential value in the portfolio including names such as "Jewellers.com," "Actresses.com," "BasketballPlayers.com," and "ProjectManagers.com."[25]

Domain Name Wire reported on February 28, 2008 that Tucows had successfully defended against an arbitration proceeding over the domain name Batchelor.com, that Tucows had acquired as part of its NetIdentity purchase.[26] The complaint had been filed by Ken Batchelor Cadillac Company, a car dealership in San Antonio, Texas.[26] The National Arbitration Forum panel determined that the car dealership had not established rights in the mark "Batchelor."[26] Bill Sweetman, General Manager, Domain Portfolio at Tucows, said that Tucows has won every surname arbitration proceeding it has responded to and that Tucows does not sell domains from its NetIdentity portfolio.[26] "If we were to sell one of those domains, not only do we sell the business value associated with the surname, but it hurts the overall portfolio," said Sweetman.[26] "It’s different from a portfolio of generic domains. You don’t think twice about selling one of those for the right price."[26]

In another case on September 18, 2007 Weidner Investment Services, Inc. filed a complaint claiming that Weidner was considered a trademark or service mark in which the Complainant had rights and asked the National Arbitration Forum to order the transfer of Weidner.com from Tucows to Weidner.[27] Tucows failed to respond to Weidner in the case and the National Arbitration Forum transmitted a Notification of Respondent Default to the parties and on November 7, 2007 ruled that Tucows had to transfer Weidner.com to Weidner Investment Services, Inc.[27]

  • Email services

Tucows provides millions of email boxes through their network of over 9,000 service providers.[28] Customers of Tucows fully hosted email service are provided with POP3, IMAP, WAP and webmail access.[28] Providers using Tucows Email Service have the option of using Tucows' spam and virus filtering with their current email infrastructure.[28]

As part of the NetIdentity acquisition, Tucows had problems migrating retail customers' email from a third party provider to Tucows in-house mail systems in September 2006.[29] That migration is the basis for the article "System migration may be the most dangerous thing you ever do" in ITworld.[29]

Starting August 12, 2008 Tucows Email Service running on their servers designated as Cluster A experienced a multi-day outage lasting until the afternoon of Friday, August 15, 2008.[30][31]

On October 6, 2008 Cluster A again suffered another multi-day outage affecting at least 50% of users and at times all users.[32] As of the afternoon of October 9, 2008 this cluster was still partially down ("degraded") preventing an unknown number of users from being able to retrieve email.[33]

On January 9, 2009, Tucows scheduled a maintenance window and shut their email servers down for about 4 hours. Unfortunately, a hardware failure occurred which caused their OpenSRS team to need to perform a hard drive restore. This took about 17 hours.[citation needed]

  • Retail services

Tucows sells services to consumers and small businesses and offers personalized email through net identity.[18] Tucows also offers customers hosting and other services with NetIdentity.[6] Tucows also expected to receive income for pay per click advertising revenue from domain parking the surnames.[6]

  • Mobile phone services

In February, 2012, Tucows launched a new mobile phone business, under the name of Ting [1]. Ting resells voice and data services from the Sprint network.

De-emphasis and divestment of business lines[edit]

De-emphasis of software downloads Tucows maintains a download archive that includes more than 30,000 software titles in its worldwide network of partner sites. Although some listing features are now available only for pay, basic listing remains free. The original creator of the Tucows software archive, Scott Swedorski, announced in November 2003 that he had resigned from Tucows.[3] On March 10, 2006, Tucows Content division closed its satellite office located in Flint, Michigan, USA and relocated the remaining editorial functions to its corporate head office in Toronto. On February 7, 2008 Tucows disclosed that Tucows plans to de-emphasize the software download aspect of their business.[18]

Divestment of web hosting accounts On May 6, 2008 Tucows announced that they are getting out of the web hosting business.[34] As part of the divestment Tucows signed an agreement for Hostopia to purchase about 14,000 Domain Direct, NetIdentity and ItsYourDomain.com (IYD) customer web hosting accounts and would migrate the web hosting accounts to Hostopia's unified web service platform by July 2008.[34]

Divestment of equity interest in Afilias On November 5, 2008 Tucows announced that it was selling its entire 7.38 percent equity interest in Afilias for $7.4 million.[35] Afilias is the registry operator of the .info and .aero TLDs, and the service provider of the .org generic top-level domain (gTLD), .mobi mobile phone TLD, and a provider of domain name registry services for several countries around the world, including .AG (Antigua and Barbuda), .BZ (Belize), .GI (Gibraltar), .HN (Honduras), .IN (India), .ME (Montenegro), .SC (the Seychelles), and .VC (St. Vincent and the Grenadines).[36]


Domain name add grace period (AGP) abuse On January 8, 2008, Tucows published an article on their company web site titled "Registrar Reputation and Trust" explaining the company's values and their position on domain name front running.[37] "We work to uphold the rights of Registrants. That means, for example, not putting 60-day locks on domains when a Registrant makes a change to their WHOIS information effectively locking some into a renewal and blocking domain name transfers to other Registrars. That also means having a clear, defined policy surrounding expiry and redemption periods."[37] Tucows has found a way to address the issue of domain tasting.[37] "Tucows works to prevent domain name tasting by charging our Resellers a monetary fee on domain name registrations that are cancelled within the five-day Add Grace Period (AGP)," Koole said.[37] "Tucows doesn’t use WHOIS query data or search data from our API to front-run domain names," Koole added.[37]

On January 30, 2008, Tucows announced that although they support ICANN’s resolution to introduce a fee to discourage domain tasting and Google's decision to drop names added and deleted during the AGP from its AdSense program, Tucows thinks Add Grace Period (AGP) abuse could be further diminished or eliminated by shortening the AGP period to 12 hours or less allowing registrants to correct spelling mistakes that the AGP was originally intended for.[38]

Registrar of illegal domain names In late 2014 or early 2015, Tucows was notified of registering a domain name which is illegally selling unapproved drugs, according to Japan health authorities, and requested suspension of the domain name. To date the domain names with Tucows are still operating illegally.[39] Tucows has operated similar domain names for years.[40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Edgar Online Financials. "TUCOWS INC /PA/ Financials" Jan 17, 2011.
  2. ^ "Form 10K SEC Filing". 
  3. ^ a b c d DP Director. "Tucows' founder and president Scott Swedorski announced earlier this week that he has resigned from Tucows" by Al Harberg. November 30, 2003.
  4. ^ "LWN.net Weekly Edition for January 17, 2008". Retrieved 2008-01-24. 
  5. ^ a b c Information Today Inc. "Tucows Sells Two Former Infonautics Services" by Paula J. Hane. Augusut 26, 2002.
  6. ^ a b c d Seeking Alpha. "Tucows Podcast on Its NetIdentity Acquisition - Transcript" June 15, 2006.
  7. ^ a b Tucows Press Release. "Tucows Launches Personal Names Service" February 19, 2008.
  8. ^ "Why We Bought Kiko.com". Retrieved 2006-09-05. 
  9. ^ a b c Domain Tools. "ItsYourDomain acquired by Tucows" by Jay Westerdal. July 30, 2007
  10. ^ a b Registat. "Domain Names under Management" July, 2007.
  11. ^ Say Hello to Hover
  12. ^ Canadian PR Newswire. "Tucows Sweetens Technology Learning with Butterscotch.com" November 6, 2008.
  13. ^ Twitter-Sean Carruthers. Butterscotch shut-down
  14. ^ Open SRS Reseller Blog. "Re-introducing OpenSRS" July 28, 2008.
  15. ^ a b c d e SEC Filings for TCX. "Form 10-Q for TUCOWS INC /PA/" November 14, 2007.
  16. ^ PRNewswire-FirstCall. "Tucows Sells 2,500 Domain Names" June 19, 2007.
  17. ^ a b c Tucows Press Release. " Tucows Collaborates With Namemedia’s Afternic.Com To Auction Daily Inventory Of Expired Domain Names" June 12, 2008.
  18. ^ a b c Seeking Alpha. "Tucows Inc. Q4 2007 Earnings Call Transcript" February 7, 2008.
  19. ^ Seeking Alpha. "Tucows Inc. Q1 2008 Earnings Call Transcript" May 7, 2008.
  20. ^ RBC Capital Markets Growth Conference "Tucows Presentation" October 27, 2008.
  21. ^ a b Tucows Corporate blog. "Tucows and Afternic.com Team Up for Expired Domain Auction" June 12, 2008.
  22. ^ Domain Name Wire. "Tucows and Afternic Deal Q&A" June 12, 2008.
  23. ^ a b c Tucows Press Release. "Tucows Opens Hidden Treasure Chest of Premium Domains with YummyNames" October 29, 2008.
  24. ^ http://domainnamewire.com/2009/05/19/myhomepagecom-sells-for-50000/
  25. ^ Tucows Press Release. " Tucows Reveals Key Domain Name Portfolio Assets" February 20, 2008.
  26. ^ a b c d e f Domain Name Wire. "Tucows Fights off Car Dealership" February 28, 2008.
  27. ^ a b National Arbitration Forum. "Weidner Investment Services, Inc. v. Tucows.com Co." Claim Number: FA0709001080246 November 7, 2007.
  28. ^ a b c Tucows Press Release. "Tucows Announces Enhancement to the Tucows Email Service." January 31, 2008.
  29. ^ a b IT World. "System migration may be the most dangerous thing you ever do" by Joel Shore. September 26, 2006.
  30. ^ "OpenSRS Blog - Update on Cluster A Email Service Issues, August 13, 2008". 
  31. ^ "OpenSRS Blog - Closing Notes on the Cluster A Email Service Interruption, August 18, 2008". 
  32. ^ "OpenSRS Blog - Cluster A Email Service Issues". 
  33. ^ "Video of Rick Yazwinksi explaining Email issues". 
  34. ^ a b Tucows Press Release. "Hostopia to acquire certain shared hosting customer assets of Tucows Retail Service Group" May 6, 2008.
  35. ^ Tucows Press Release. "Tucows Sells Equity Interest in Afilias for $7.4 million" November 5, 2008.
  36. ^ Afilias - Global Registry Services
  37. ^ a b c d e Tucows. "Registrar Reputation and Trust" by James Koole. January 8, 2008.
  38. ^ Tucows Blog. "ICANN Proposed Tasting Fee a Good First Step" by Adam Eisner. January 30, 2008.
  39. ^ "My Twitter Spat With a Russian Rogue Internet Pharmacy Operator". legitscript.com. 18 January 2015. 
  40. ^ "Rogues and Registrars: Top 10 List". legitscript.com. November 2012. 

External links[edit]