Tucows Inc. is a publicly traded Internet services and telecommunications company, headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is the second-largest domain registrar worldwide and operates Hover, eNom, and OpenSRS, a platform for domain resellers. In 2012, Tucows launched Ting, a wireless service provider and fiber Internet 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".
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". Internet Direct, owned and operated by John Nemanic, Bill Campbell, and Colin Campbell, acquired Tucows in 1996. STI Ventures acquired Tucows in 1999.
The company employed roughly 30 employees in Flint, Michigan, in 1998 with additional employees in Canada. For several years Scott Swedorski personally oversaw day-to-day activity in the Flint office located in the White House building on Beecher Road.
In 2000, Tucows acquired Linux Weekly News.
In 2001, Tucows became a wholly owned subsidiary of Infonautics, and afterwards Infonautics changed its own name to Tucows, a business tactic called a "reverse takeover". On August 26, 2002, Tucows sold eLibrary and Encyclopedia.com, its search and reference services properties inherited from Infonautics, to Alacritude.
In 2004, Tucows acquired Boardtown Corporation, a billing software provider.
On August 19, 2005 Tucows went public on the Toronto Stock Exchange and the American Stock Exchange.
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, such as smith.net and brown.org. Mailbank generates income from ads on its websites (from domain parking) and also from customers who want e-mail accounts with their surname in the domain name.
On June 15, 2006, Noss disclosed that the portfolio of NetIdentity's domain names acquired by Tucows represents at least 68% of surnames in the United States and Europe, and that the cost of the acquisition was $18 million. On February 19, 2008 Tucows announced that they were launching a "Personal Names Service" using their portfolio of 39,000 domain names. "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.
On August 26, 2006, Tucows won an eBay auction for the web calendar site Kiko.com. The company planned to roll Kiko's features into their existing email platform.
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, paying US$10.35 million. 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.
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 name registration service powered by Tucows Inc, that started in July 2008. All IYD, DomainDirect, and NetIdentity customers are fulfilled by Hover.com.
On November 6, 2008, Tucows announced that they were launching Butterscotch.com, an online video network with video tutorials to explain Internet technology, starting with 35 video tutorials and plans to reach 500 clips by Spring 2009. On October 14, 2011, Butterscotch.com producer Sean Carruthers stated production had been shut down.
In December 2014, Tucows launched RealNames, offering e-mail service using domain names acquired from Mailbank.com Inc.
On January 20, 2017, the company acquired eNom for $83.5 million, making Tucows the second-largest domain registrar in the world.
Tucows is the second-largest ICANN-accredited registrar in the world and the largest publicly traded registrar.
In July 2008, Tucows rebranded its wholesale services as "Open SRS".
Tucows has three sources of income from its domain portfolio: 1) Advertising from pages of domains within their domain name portfolio; 2) Sales of domains from their portfolio, which is constantly being replenished; 3) Auction of the steady stream of thousands of domain names that expire every day and become available for resale.
In November 14, 2007, Tucows disclosed that they offer pay-per-click advertising on the pages of domains within their domain name portfolio. 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. Every time a user clicks on one of the links listed on a web page, it generates revenue for Tucows through its partnership with third parties who provide syndicated pay-per-click results.
On February 7, 2008, Tucows disclosed that it had switched from Google Ads to a new advertising partner in 2007, which led to a one-third increase in its revenue.
On May 7, 2008, Tucows announced it put a process in place for the regular sale of direct navigation names. 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.
Tucows announced on June 12, 2008, that they have reached an agreement with Afternic to auction Tucows’ large daily inventory of expired domain names. "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. 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. Revenue will be shared automatically without the reseller having to take any additional action. Tucows chose Afternic as a partner even though SnapNames with Register.com and NameJet with NetSol/eNom are the dominant players in expired domains.
On October 29, 2008, Tucows announced that it would begin direct sales from their inventory of premium domain names under the brand name of Yummy Names. The service was created especially for marketers to obtain a high-quality domain name from Tucows inventory. Customers have the option of purchasing a premium domain name outright or leasing the name. In 2009 one of Tucows' subsidiaries, Buydomains Holdings, sold another premium domain name for a record $50,000 for Myhomepage.com.
On February 20, 2008, Tucows announced a portfolio of over 1,000 "gems", or domain names that have the high potential value such as "Jewellers.com", "Actresses.com", "BasketballPlayers.com", and "ProjectManagers.com".
In February 2008, Tucows successfully defended against an arbitration proceeding over Batchelor.com, which it had acquired as part of its NetIdentity purchase. The complaint had been filed by Ken Batchelor Cadillac Company, a car dealership. A National Arbitration Forum panel determined that the dealership had not established rights in the mark "Batchelor". In fact, Tucows has won all surname-related arbitration proceedings.
In 2007, Weidner Investment Services filed a complaint claiming that Weidner was its trademark or service mark and asked the National Arbitration Forum to order the transfer of Weidner.com from Tucows to Weidner. Tucows failed to respond, and the National Arbitration Forum ordered Tucows to transfer Weidner.com to Weidner Investment Services.
In January 2017, eNom was sold to Canadian domain seller Tucows for $83.5M Canadian.
Tucows provides millions of email boxes through their network of over 9,000 service providers. Customers of Tucows fully hosted email service are provided with POP3, IMAP, WAP and webmail access. Providers using Tucows Email Service have the option of using Tucows' spam and virus filtering with their current email infrastructure.
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.
Starting August 12, 2008, Tucows Email Service running on their servers designated as Cluster A experienced a multi-day outage lasting until August 15, 2008. On October 6, 2008, Cluster A again suffered another multi-day outage affecting at least 50% of users and at times all users. 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.
Tucows sells services to consumers and small businesses and offers personalized email through net identity. Tucows also offers customers hosting and other services with NetIdentity. Tucows also expected to receive income for pay per click advertising revenue from domain parking the surnames.
In February 2012, Tucows launched a new mobile phone business called Ting, which resells voice and data services on Sprint and T-Mobile networks. As of March 2017, the service has approximately 250,000 subscribers.
On December 15, 2014, Ting announced it was buying ISP Blue Ridge InternetWorks of Charlottesville, Virginia, which was already building fiber Internet. They began offering symmetrical gigabit fiber internet without bandwidth caps. Since expanding the existing fiber network in Charlottesville, Ting has also launched a similar service in Westminster, Maryland and Holly Springs, North Carolina. Ting also announced plans to expand into Sandpoint, Idaho and Centennial, Colorado in 2017.
Tucows maintains a download archive that includes more than 30,000 software titles in its worldwide network of partner sites. Although some listing features now have fees, basic listing remains free. Tucows founder Scott Swedorski announced his resignation in November 2003. On March 10, 2006, Tucows Content division closed its satellite office located in Flint, Michigan, 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.
On May 6, 2008, Tucows announced that they are getting out of the web hosting business. 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.
On November 5, 2008, Tucows announced that it was selling its entire 7.38% equity interest in Afilias for $7.4 million. 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).
On January 8, 2008, Tucows explained its values and position on domain name front running: "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." Tucows addresses domain tasting "by charging our Resellers a monetary fee on domain name registrations that are cancelled within the five-day Add Grace Period (AGP)", but it "doesn’t use WHOIS query data or search data from our API to front-run domain names".
Although it supports ICANN’s fee to discourage domain tasting and Google's decision to drop names added and deleted during the AGP from its AdSense program, Tucows claimed that AGP abuse could be further curbed by shortening the AGP period to 12 hours or less, sufficient time for registrants to correct spelling mistakes—AGP's original purpose.
In 2015, the U.S. Trade Representative included Tucows on its annual "notorious markets" list—the first time it has named a domain name registrar—in order to set an example for what happens to registrars that do not block or suspend sites that sell illegal goods. Tucows responded that it suspended dozens of sites every day, but that "unlike some competitors, it considered all complaints carefully to ensure they were justified".