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Verisign adds 750,000 .com names instantly with reporting change

Kevin Murphy, March 23, 2015, 13:16:20 (UTC), Domain Registries

Verisign has boosted its reportable .com domain count by almost 750,000 by starting to count expired and suspended names.
The change in methodology, which is a by-product of ICANN’s much more stringent Whois accuracy regime, happened on Friday afternoon.
Before the change, the company reported on its web site that there were 116,788,107 domains in the .com zone file, with another 167,788 names that were registered but not configured.
That’s a total of 116,955,895 domains.
But just a few hours later, the same web page said .com had a total of 117,704,800 names in its “Domain Name Base”.
That’s a leap of 748,905 pretty much instantly; the number of names in the zone file did not move.
.net jumped 111,110 names to 15,143,356.
The reason for the sudden spikes is that Verisign is now including two types of domain in its count that it did not previously. The web page states:

Beginning with the first quarter, 2015, the domain name base on this website and in subsequent filings found in the Investor Relations site includes domains that are in a client or server hold status.

I suspect that the bulk of the 750,000 newly reported names are on clientHold status, which I believe is used much more often than serverHold.
The clientHold EPP code is often applied by registrars to domains that have expired.
However, registrars signed up to the year-old 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement are obliged by ICANN to place domains on clientHold status if registrants fail to respond within 15 days to a Whois verification email.
The 2013 RAA reads (my emphasis):

Upon the occurrence of a Registered Name Holder’s willful provision of inaccurate or unreliable WHOIS information, its willful failure promptly to update information provided to Registrar, or its failure to respond for over fifteen (15) calendar days to inquiries by Registrar concerning the accuracy of contact details associated with the Registered Name Holder’s registration, Registrar shall either terminate or suspend the Registered Name Holder’s Registered Name or place such registration on clientHold and clientTransferProhibited, until such time as Registrar has validated the information provided by the Registered Name Holder.

Last June, registrars claimed that the new policy — which came after pressure from law enforcement — had resulted in over 800,000 domains being suspended.
It’s an ongoing point of contention between ICANN, its registrars, and cops.
Verisign changing its reporting methodology may well be a reaction to this increase in the number of clientHold domains.
While its top-line figure has taken a sharp one-off boost, it will still permit daily apples-to-apples comparisons on an ongoing basis.
My assumption about the link to the 2013 RAA was correct.
Verisign CFO George Kilguss told analysts on February 5.

Over the last several years, the average amount of names in the on-hold status category has been approximately 400,000 names and the net change year-over-year has been very small.
While still immaterial, during 2014, we saw an increase in the amount of names registrars have placed on hold status, which appears to be a result of these registrars complying with the new mandated compliance mechanisms in ICANN’s 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement or RAA.
In 2014, we saw an increase in domain names placed on hold status from roughly 394,000 names at the end of 2013 to about 870,000 at the end of 2014.

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Comments (4)

  1. Graeme says:

    It’s my sense that many registrars opt to change the DNS, rather than use clienthold for suspending unverified domains.
    This means the total # of domains currently suspended due to the registrant verification requirement is most likely considerably larger than the 870k listed above.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      I think Kilguss was saying that there were 870,000 names on ClientHold, but that 400,000 was the usual baseline.
      I would infer from that that the effect of 2013 RAA was an additional 470,000 names on ClientHold at the moment (December 2014) the data was captured. I could be wrong.
      You’re of course right that some registrars send suspended names to a placeholder page instead of turning off the DNS entirely, so the number of names affected very probably is much higher than 470k.

  2. Phil Buckingham says:

    Kevin, Although it is totally immaterial to Verisign’s financial reporting , this will impact on its deferred revenues. At least it is a start to getting a better, clearer comparison between .Com and the 600 (and growing) Not.Com

  3. Until Q2 last year, the Verisign registry reports for .com/.net did not included all non-AGP deletions. There is a considerable difference between the published Verisign domain count and the zonefile domain count but much of this is due to domains in the deletion process. There is a marked jump in the difference starting between the published count and the zonefile count starting with the January 2014 data.

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