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Unstoppable Domains goes down after domain hijack

Kevin Murphy, July 12, 2024, Domain Tech

Unstoppable Domains, operator of the blockchain-based alternative naming system, has had its domain hijacked and is warning customers to be wary of further scams and attacks.

“Unstoppabledomains.com has been subject to an attack. Do NOT open emails from @unstoppabledomains.com or use the website until further notice,” the company tweeted on Twitter.

Company founder Matthew Gould suggested in a tweet that the company’s registrar account, at SquareSpace, has been compromised. He said he suspected it may be related to SquareSpace’s acquisition of Google Domains.

He said the attackers are already sending out “fake emails” and that he expects them to set up a fake web site at the .com domain. It does not currently resolve from where I’m sitting.

The Whois record shows that the domain was updated shortly after 0200 UTC today and then again just a few minutes ago.

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Four more gTLDs in emergency measures

ICANN has thrown four more gTLDs into the Emergency Back-End Registry Operator program, presumably as a prelude to terminating their registry’s contracts in a few weeks.

Asia Green IT System’s .pars, .shia, .tci and .همراه (.xn--mgbt3dhd) are all going EBERO, meaning Nominet will take over their operation on ICANN’s behalf.

Not that they need much operation, given that all four, which all connect in some way to Iran and Iranian culture, were unlaunched and dormant, with no third-party registrations.

The four TLDs, along with AGIT’s .nowruz, which went into EBERO last week, had been running on CoCCA’s back-end, but it sounds rather like the registry forgot to pay its bills, causing CoCCA to disable its services.

That led to functions such as Whois going offline, triggering a breach of the ICANN Registry Agreement. A day of Whois downtime in one week gives ICANN grounds to get Nominet involved and move towards termination.

A breach notice issued a couple weeks ago gave AGIT until the end of the month to come back into compliance or risk termination. That escalation now appears inevitable.

AGIT almost got to run .islam and .halal, but had its applications rejected after protests from governments of Muslim-majority country. Somehow, .shia did not receive the same outcry.

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New gTLDs and ccTLDs drive domain universe growth

Kevin Murphy, July 12, 2024, Domain Services

The seasonally strong first quarter saw growth return to the domain industry, despite .com’s continuing woes, according to the latest edition of Verisign’s Domain Name Industry Brief.

There were 362.4 million domain registrations across all TLDs at the end of March, up by 2.5 million names or 0.7% from the start of the year, according to the report. Growth over 12 months was 7.5 million or 2.1%.

The growth came in spite of continued shrinkage at Verisign’s own .com and .net. The flagship .com was down from 159.6 million to 159.4 million while .net remained flat at 13.1 million, the DNIB states.

The two TLDs combined lost a total of 0.3 million names over the quarter and 2.3 million names over the year, Verisign said.

ccTLD regs were up to 139.5 million, an increase of 1.2 million or 0.9% from the start of the year and 3.7 million from a year earlier.

Russia’s .ru overtook the Netherlands’ .nl to become fourth largest ccTLD. That’s 6.4 million versus 6.3 million, but Verisign’s methodology sees it count some 770,000 Cyrillic .РФ domains as if they were also .ru.

All of the top 10 ccTLD grew apart from .uk and .it.

New gTLDs also performed strongly, with 33.3 million regs at the end of the quarter, up 1.5 million (4.7%) sequentially and six million (22.1%) year over year.

Perhaps because the raw volume numbers have started make Verisign’s TLDs look terrible in comparison over the last few editions, the DNIB has started reporting an estimated renewal rate for many of the TLDs the DNIB tracks.

As you might expect, the renewal numbers for new gTLDs suck. While established TLDs like .com have the usual mid-70s percent renewal rate, that number plummets to the 20s when you look at big 2012-round TLDs such as .xyz, .online and .top.

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Eight interesting recent dot-brand registrations

If somebody told me that this blog spends altogether too much time shitting on dot-brand gTLDs, I probably wouldn’t argue with them very long or hard before conceding they probably have a point.

So I thought it might be useful, in the interests of balance, to occasionally (perhaps monthly) highlight some of the more interesting dot-brand registrations I’ve spotted recently.

There’s usually plenty to choose from — 34 dot-brand registries registered a total of 135 domains in June, many of which already resolve to live web sites, and there have been over 25,000 registrations to date — so these picks are purely subjective.

lra.amazon

LRA could stand for a great many things, but one of those things is Labour Relations Agency, which raises an eyebrow given that Amazon is currently fighting its warehouse workers’ attempts to unionize in the UK. Right now, it doesn’t resolve for me.

showthemyourpride.itv

I’ve seen this one promoted on the actual television here in the UK! It’s a campaign by broadcaster ITV, fronted by comedian Alan Carr, to get people to make gay people’s lives a little easier by calling out homophobia and such. It was registered June 27, when Pride Month was pretty much over.

go.volvo

The domain only leads to a 404 right now, but it’s notable because it’s Volvo’s first registered .volvo domain and the name is suggestive of some kind of planned portal site or redirect function. Fifty other dot-brands already have go.brand domains registered. Car brands have had a mixed history in the dot-brand space — some have enthusiastically embraced the concept, others have cancelled their registry contracts. In the first category, both .bmw and .mini also received “go.” registrations in June.

listen.afl

.afl is for the Australian Football League, and this domain redirects to a directory of its podcasts on its main .com.au web site.

ca.pioneer

Providing national portals using two-letter country codes at the second level is a fairly popular dot-brand use case, with Germany’s .de the most popular if you exclude strings that are also English words (my, id, it, etc). You might expect ca.pioneer to lead you to a Canadian portal, but it actually takes you to… ahem… usa.pioneer.

admaker.jio

Indian telco JIO is using this domain for a service that makes advertisements, believe it or not. It has about 20 other .jio domains, like stream.jio and translate.jio, that lead, without redirects, to similar hosted apps.

gpt.lundbeck

Registered by the pharma giant back in May, this is the second registered “gpt” in a dot-brand after gpt.fox. Presumably standing for AI buzz-phrase Generative Pre-trained Transformer, I can’t tell you what either site does because they’re password protected. Lundbeck has over 270 .lundbeck domains, most of which resolve.

beam.google

Could this be the eventual brand for Google’s Project Starline videoconferencing technology, which was first announced back in 2021? It certainly seems possible, given that this April-registered domain leads, without a domain redirect, to the Starline web site.

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.me premium sales down

Registry-reserved premium domain sales were down a fair bit last year, according to a summary released by the registry today.

DoMEn said it sold €317,500 of premiums last year. That compares to a total of €591,500 in 2022, when the numbers came in two halves.

It sold 51 premiums in total, compared to 77 in 2022, with an average sale price of €6,215.69.

One and two-character domains accounted for 16 sales, compared to 24 in 2022.

DoMEn blamed a “much weaker primary domain market in the post-COVID era, coupled with the slower economic and venture capital investment activities on a global scale” for the decline.

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Pride fails to reverse gay domains decline

There are any number of ways gay people can express themselves during Pride, but buying gay-themed domain names doesn’t appear to be one of them.

Zone files show that the .gay gTLD lost over 700 domains in June, which is recognized in most Anglophone liberal democracies as Pride Month, to end the period with about 21,400 names.

Meanwhile, .lgbt lost about 80 domains over the same period, ending the month with about 3,700 domains in its zone.

The declines were not unique to June. Both gTLDs have been on the slide for a while, with .gay peaking at 29,761 domains last November and .lgbt peaking at about 3,930 in May 2023.

.gay is managed by GoDaddy, .lgbt by Identity Digital.

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Unstoppable announces another new gTLD bid

In the run-up to the 2012 new gTLD application round, we were hard-pressed to find a company willing to announce an application. This time around, announcements are coming out of the blockchain world at the rate of about one a week.

Unstoppable Domains has announced that it’s working with Raiinmaker Network to operate .raiin, first as a blockchain-only namespace and later as a new gTLD hopeful.

Raiinmaker says it developers a blockchain protocol that “utilizes decentralized AI and scalable Web3 powered infrastructure to transform the distribution of value tied to authentic identity, data and behavior.”

No, me neither.

Unstoppable said it “will be planning and strategizing with Raiinmaker Network for the next ICANN gTLD application to further solidify its place in the digital landscape.”

It’s the tenth potential application the company has publicly revealed.

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Blockchain naming firm gets ICANN accreditation

A company heavily involved in promoting blockchain-based domain name alternatives has received its ICANN registrar accreditation, allowing it to sell real domains as well.

Switzerland-based Freename’s London subsidiary seems to have obtained the accreditation in the last week or so. Accreditation means it gets the right to sell gTLD domains from any registry that it can sign a contract with.

Freename currently sells names in thousands of “TLDs”, many of which collide with existing ICANN gTLDs and which of course only work with special client software installed.

Fellow blockchain naming company Unstoppable Domains already sells real .com domains, but I believe that’s as a reseller rather than a full-fat ICANN registrar.

Last year, it emerged that ICANN had turned down an offer of sponsorship from Freename.

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ICANN takes over gTLD after Whois failures

ICANN has swooped to take over operation of a new gTLD after it missed its strict thresholds for Whois availability.

.nowruz, originally operated by Istanbul-based Asia Green IT System, is now in the Emergency Back-End Registry Operator program, meaning its essential functions will be carried out by Nominet.

The gTLD is the Latinized version of the word for the Persian new year holiday. It has barely a dozen domains under management and is the only one of AgitSys’s five gTLDs with any registrations.

The company’s other gTLDs — .pars, .shia, .tci and .همراه (.xn--mgbt3dhd) — were also all found to have breached their registry agreements, but as they have no third-party domains where was no need for the EBERO, ICANN said.

The takeover follows a rapidly issued notice last week, in which ICANN Compliance accused AgitSys of a range of breaches of contract.

It seems AGIT went into breach with ICANN after its back-end provider, CoCCA, terminated its contract after a “breach” earlier this year. CoCCA said it had been turning off services ever since the contract ended.

.nowruz becomes the third gTLD from the 2012 round to go into emergency measures, the others being .desi and .wed, which went EBERO seven years ago.

ICANN said it planned to auction off .wed in 2021, but nothing has come of that plan yet.

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Verisign: would-be .com contract killers are “wrong”

Verisign has responded to the campaign to have the US government cancel its contract to run .com and open the agreement to competitive bidding, saying it is “wrong” and “based on a fundamental misunderstanding” of the deal.

The American Economic Liberties Project, the Demand Progress Education Fund, and the Revolving Door Project put their names to letters last week calling the .com deal between ICANN and Verisign a “de facto cartel” that competition authorities should dismantle.

But, as others have also pointed out, Verisign says that removing the US government from the trilateral agreement would not have the effect the letter-writers believe it would.

In a regulatory filing, Verisign said:

The campaign, and the letters, assert that the 32-year-old Cooperative Agreement between the Department of Commerce (Department) and Verisign involving the .com top-level domain registry can be terminated by the Department on August 2, 2024, and, if it is, the management of .com can be transferred after a competitive bidding process. This assertion is wrong: If the Department chooses to sunset the Cooperative Agreement, which Verisign does not seek, the .com registry will continue to be managed pursuant to the terms of Verisign’s and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ (ICANN) valid, enforceable Registry Agreement

In other words, if the US government butts out, all that’s left to regulate .com pricing is ICANN, and ICANN is institutional averse to regulating pricing, believing it would open it up to genuine concerns about cartel-like behavior.

The Cooperative Agreement (pdf) states:

upon expiration or termination of the Cooperative Agreement, neither party shall have any further obligation to the other and nothing shall prevent Verisign from operating the .com TLD pursuant to an agreement with ICANN or its successor

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