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Anti-terror rule dropped from new TLD guidebook

Kevin Murphy, September 27, 2010, Domain Policy

ICANN will cut references to terrorism from its Draft Applicant Guidebook for new top-level domains, after criticism from some Arab stakeholders.

The ICANN board of directors decided on Saturday at its retreat in Trondheim that it will revise its policy of doing background checks on new TLD applicants:

The background check should be clarified to provide detail and specificity in response to comment. The specific reference to terrorism will be removed (and the background check criteria will be revised).

The reference to “terrorism” first showed up in DAGv4, the latest draft. It caused a bit of a stir, with at least two Arab community members harshly criticizing ICANN for its inclusion.

Khaled Fattal of the Multilingual Internet Group told ICANN it would “be seen by millions of Muslims and Arabs as racist, prejudicial and profiling” while Abdulaziz Al-Zoman of SaudiNIC observed that’s it’s not globally accepted “who is a terrorist and who is a freedom fighter”.

It appears that their complaints have been heard.

US seeks powers to shut down domains

Kevin Murphy, September 20, 2010, Domain Policy

COICA is the new acronym we’ll all soon be talking about — it’s the law that could give the US its very own Great Firewall of China.

A bipartisan group of US senators today introduced the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, legislation that would enable the government to quickly turn off domain names involved in piracy.

The bill would enable the Department of Justice to seek a court order against a domain name it believes is involved in piracy or selling counterfeit goods.

If the sponsoring registrar or registry is located in the US, the order would force it to stop the domain from resolving and lock it down.

The likely effect of this would be to force piracy sites out of .com and into offshore registrars. But the bill has thought about that too.

If it’s a non-US registrar and registry, injunctions could be sought to block the domain at the ISP level.

That’s right folks – if this bill passes, the US would get its very own Chinese-style national firewall.

The bill would allow the domain registrant to petition the court to lift the order.

“By cracking down on online piracy of television shows and movies, we hope this bill will encourage copyright owners to develop innovative and competitive new choices for consumers to watch video over the internet,” said Sen. Herb Kohl.

Which is about as disingenuous a statement as it gets, when you think about it, given that it essentially eliminates a major incentive for business model innovation.

Man asks ICANN for “list of all domains”

Kevin Murphy, September 20, 2010, Domain Policy

A man has used ICANN’s freedom of information procedure to ask for “a list of all registered domains”, forcing the organization to politely decline.

Barry Carter wrote (pdf):

Per http://www.icann.org/en/transparency/didp-en.htm please provide me a list of all registered domains (including all public registrant information). If you are unable to provide this information, please let me know why.

As you might imagine, with the number of registered domains in the gTLDs and ccTLDs numbering in the hundreds of millions, that’s what you might call a Big Ask.

ICANN’s response (pdf) patiently explains that it doesn’t have such a list and that assembling one would constitute an unreasonable request under its Documentary Information Disclosure Policy.

Still, worth a shot, eh?

RapidShare’s UDRP campaign seizes 44 domains

Kevin Murphy, September 17, 2010, Domain Policy

The final results are in. RapidShare’s recent campaign to reclaim its brand from the pirates using the UDRP appears to be over, and it had about a 90% success rate.

Over the last few months the file-hosting company filed 46 UDRP complaints, covering a total of 49 domains, and it managed to win all but five of them.

The vast majority of the contested domains, 43 in total, contained the word “rapidshare”, which RapidShare has trademarked.

The company won all of them with one notable exception: rapidshare.net. The panelist in that case found that the domain had been registered before RapidShare had acquired its rights.

The remaining six domains just contained the term “rapid”. In these cases, the company had a harder time proving its case and therefore had mixed results.

It lost its complaints over rapiddownload.net, rapidbay.net, rapid4me.com and rapid.org largely on the grounds that “rapid” is not sufficiently confusingly similar to “rapidshare”.

However, it managed to win rapidpiracy.com on the dubious basis that “piracy” and “share” are conceptually similar, as I blogged earlier this month.

It also managed to secure rapidpedia.com, on the even more dubious (and barely discussed) grounds that the domain “replicates the first and dominant element of the trademark”.

All of the complaints were handled by WIPO.

One in five domains use a privacy service

Kevin Murphy, September 14, 2010, Domain Policy

As many as 20 million domain names are registered via Whois privacy or proxy services, an ICANN-sponsored study has found.

The study, conducted by the National Opinion Research Center, looked at a sample of 2,400 domains registered in .com, .org, .net, .info and .biz.

It found that 18% of these names used a privacy/proxy service to hide the contact details of the true registrant. Its margin of error means the actual number could be between 16% and 20%.

Extrapolating to the universe of 101 million domains registered in these five TLDs at the time the sample was taken in January 2009, NORC estimates that between 17.7 million and 18.4 million domains used a proxy.

NORC also estimates that the current number of private registrations could be “substantially higher” today, due to increased market traction for such services.

This, combined with the growth in registration numbers to over 115 million domain names as of January 2010, means that the actual number of privacy/proxy registrations among the top five gTLDs is likely to be substantially higher than 18 million.

When you consider that some privacy services charge as much as $10 a year for private registrations, that adds up to quite a healthy market.