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Frakes to lead Moniker

Kevin Murphy, September 7, 2015, Domain Registrars

Domain industry veteran Jothan Frakes has been tapped to take over leadership of troubled US registrar Moniker.

Frakes will take over from CEO Bonnie Wittenburg.

The news emerged during the DomainFest Asia conference in Macau, at which Frakes is a speaker, overnight.

Moniker will be his first CEO gig, but he’s a bit of a jack of all trades in the industry.

Frakes has previously worked for Sedari, Minds + Machines, Oversee.net and Moniker.

He was one of the technical evaluators for the new gTLD program, subcontracted to KPMG.

For the last couple of years he’s been a key figure behind the NamesCon and DomainFest conferences.

It might be a wise hire for Moniker — Frakes is well known and well liked in the domaining community, somewhere Moniker’s reputation has suffered horribly over the last year.

Its market share has been plummeting for years, but matters were exacerbated in June 2014 with a disastrous switch to a new registration platform that was uniformly despised (read these comments) and broke everything.

Reddit peppers Go Daddy boss with sexism questions

Kevin Murphy, September 4, 2015, Domain Registrars

Go Daddy can’t seem to shake off the legacy of its long-running, sexually suggestive TV advertising.

In an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit yesterday, CEO Blake Irving seemed to face more questions about sexism, women in technology and equal opportunities hiring than any other topic.

He made about 70 posts during the session, at least 10 of which related to Go Daddy’s relationship with the equally-fair sex in some way. Some Reddit users wondered aloud whether some such questions had been planted by Go Daddy sock-puppets.

The “best”-rated question on the thread addressed the company’s old TV commercials, which in the early days regularly featured scantily-clad, large-breasted women. Irving said:

The old ads helped GoDaddy build massive brand awareness in the US. They weren’t helpful to our reputation as an egalitarian provider of services though, and they didn’t do enough to tell people what we actually do. One of the first things I did at GoDaddy was pivot the advertising to reflect what we did and who we did it for. When 58% of small businesses in the US are run by women you should reflect the great work they do as small businesses. That’s what we’ve done with our ads over the past two years.

Irving joined Go Daddy in December 2012. Its ads since then have focused less and less on the prurient interest.

Irving also pointed out in one answer than a third of the company’s executive team is female.

He was also asked a number of questions about the new .ski gTLD (he was wearing a branded baseball cap in the AMA’s accompanying photograph).

Go Daddy employees also seemed to be out in force, asking multiple questions about this year’s corporate Christmas party.

When asked about the prospects for new gTLDs versus .com, Irving sat on the fence:

We’re seeing steady increases in awareness and the first instances of big global brands using the names (like abc.xyz and brand TLDs like home.barclays). We expect this to continue to drive new gTLD sales over time. For the foreseeable future, COM will likely remain the most desired name in the US and outside. It’s universally recognizable around the world. Either way, our goal is to provide the best choices available for each customer and the new gTLDs make getting the perfect name for you much more likely.

When asked “Does your burning evil raise your body temperature?”, Iriving replied:

Ummmm …. GoDaddy is an eco-conscious company, so we are firmly against practices that are harmful to the environment, including the use of malevolent forces as a fuel source. But, I do like a good bike ride to get my heart pumping.

The whole AMA can be read here.

OpenTLD suspension reinstated

Kevin Murphy, August 25, 2015, Domain Registrars

ICANN has suspended OpenTLD’s ability to sell gTLD domain names for the second time, following an arbitration ruling yesterday.

OpenTLD, part of the Freenom group, will not be able to sell gTLD names or accept inbound transfers from tomorrow — about two hours from now — to November 24, according to ICANN’s web site.

That doesn’t give the company much time to make the required changes to its web site and registrar systems.

As reported earlier today, OpenTLD lost its battle to have the suspension frozen in arbitration with ICANN.

The arbitrator agreed with ICANN Compliance that the registrar cybersquatted its competitors and has not yet done enough to ensure that it does not do the same again in future.

Yes, you are dangerous, arbitrator tells “cybersquatter” OpenTLD

Kevin Murphy, August 25, 2015, Domain Registrars

Free domains provider OpenTLD has been dealt a crushing blow in its fight against the suspension of its Registrar Accreditation Agreement.

ICANN is now free to suspend OpenTLD’s RAA, due to the company’s “pattern of cybersquatting”, following a decision by an independent arbitrator.

The arbitrator ruled yesterday that OpenTLD’s suspension should go ahead, because “OpenTLD’s continued operation could potentially harm consumers and the public interest.”

The 90-day suspension was imposed by ICANN Compliance in June, after it became aware that OpenTLD had lost two UDRP cases filed by competing registrars.

WIPO panelists found in both cases that the company had infringed its competitors’ trademarks in order to entice resellers over to its platform.

The suspension was put on hold voluntarily by ICANN, pending the arbitrator’s ruling on OpenTLD’s request for emergency stay. That request was conclusively rejected yesterday.

The arbitrator wrote:

the Arbitrator has little doubt that the multiple abusive name registrations made by OpenTLD, each of which included the registered mark of a competing domain name registrar and OpenTLD’s subsequent use of those domains… formed part of a broad concerted effort by OpenTLD calculated to deliberately divert name registration business, otherwise destined for competing domain name registrars… away from those registrars to OpenTLD instead.

He wrote that OpenTLD needs to put a process in place to prevent similarly cybersquatty behavior in future, rather than just making a commitment to changing its ways.

It’s pretty harsh stuff.

OpenTLD said recently that a suspension would “devastate” and “decimate” its business, due to the intertwining of its massive ccTLD business and rather smaller gTLD platform, but the arbitrator thought a technology workaround would be rather simple to implement.

No RAA means no gTLD sales and no inbound transfers.

OpenTLD is part of Freenom, which runs .tk and other free-to-register ccTLDs.

The company’s only ray of sunlight in the ruling is that the arbitrator said the costs of the proceeding should be split equally, not all falling on OpenTLD’s shoulders.

ICANN has not yet re-instituted the suspension, but it could come soon.

The full ruling can be read here.

Registrants guilty until proven innocent, say UK cops

Kevin Murphy, August 19, 2015, Domain Registrars

UK police have stated an eyebrow-raising “guilty until proven innocent” point of view when it comes to domain name registrations, in comments filed recently with ICANN.

In a Governmental Advisory Committee submission (pdf) to a review of the Whois accuracy rules in the Registrar Accreditation Agreement, unspecified “UK law enforcement” wrote:

Internet governance efforts by Industry, most notably the ICANN 2013 RAA agreement have seen a paradigm shift in Industry in the way a domain name is viewed as “suspicious” before being validated as “good” within the 15 day period of review.

UK law enforcement’s view is that a 45 day period would revert Industry back to a culture of viewing domains “good” until they are proven “bad” therefore allowing crime to propagate and increase harm online.

The GAC submission was made August 13 to a public comment period that closed July 3.

The Whois Accuracy Program Specification Review had proposed a number of measures to bring more clarity to registrars under the 2013 RAA.

One such measure, proposed by the registrars, was to change the rules so that registrars have an extra 30 days — 45 instead of 15 — to validate registrants’ contact information before suspending the domain.

That’s what the UK cops — and the GAC as a whole — don’t like.

They have a point, of course. Criminals often register domains with bogus contact information with the expectation that the domains will not have a long shelf life. Fifteen days is actually quite generous if you want to stop phishing attacks, say.

The Anti-Phishing Working Group says phishing attacks have an average up-time of 29 hours.

Clearly, ICANN’s Whois accuracy program is doing little to prevent phishing as it is; a switch to 45 days would presumably have little impact.

But the number of domains suspended for lack of accuracy at any given time is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands, and registrars say it’s mostly innocent registrants who are affected.

Verisign said this March that .com domains “on hold” grew from roughly 394,000 names at the end of 2013 to about 870,000 at the end of 2014.

In June 2014, registrars claimed that over 800,000 domains had been suspended for want of Whois accuracy in the first six months the policy was in place.