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dotShabaka Diary — Day 1

Kevin Murphy, August 8, 2013, Domain Registries

Three weeks ago, dotShabaka Registry became the first of the current crop of new gTLD applicants to sign a registry contract with ICANN, but there’s still a way to go before launch.

The company has offered to provide DI readers, in a series of journal entries, with an insight into its operational experiences and concerns as شبكة. progresses on the path to delegation and launch.

With a Prioritization Draw number of 3, dotShabaka will be often be the first to encounter any pitfalls that emerge in the latter stages of the new gTLD evaluation and delegation process.

DI has agreed to carry the journal, unedited, in the belief that a regular focus on operational matters from a high-prioritization applicant will prove an invaluable resource for applicants and program observers alike.

Here’s the first entry:

Welcome to The شبكة. Journal.

In association with Domain Incite, dotShabaka Registry has launched a journal series to provide regular updates on our progress through delegation and then launch.

The aim will be to offer a transparent insight into the operations of شبكة.. As the first new TLD to sign a Registry Agreement and begin the delegation process, we are throwing the door wide open and will report the good, bad and ugly of our experience via this journal.

You can expect to read reports on our interaction with ICANN, how we handle technical issues and our progress with establishing commercial operations.

For example, we can report that:

شبكة. began pre-delegation testing in the first-available slot on Monday 5th August – nearly three weeks after ICANN’s ‘earliest path’ timetable published in Durban. We are confident of a successful outcome after passing beta testing in July.

Updated RPM Requirements were finally published for comment on 6th August. The good news for شبكة. is the welcomed proposed revisions to support anchor tenants. The bad news is that public comment process is open until 18 September. Another delay!

This lack of certainty has made it impossible for us to finalise launch plans and policies, which is frustrating.

The good news is شبكة. is in the low risk category for New gTLD Collision Risk Management and we don’t expect any impact on the timeline for delegation. Who will be left standing with شبكة. after ICANN’s ‘risk mitigation’ actions for name collisions and GAC Advice are accounted for?

We welcome your feedback and encourage readers to comment below in the Domain Incite comment box. We’ll attempt to address questions the community may have.

Please stay tuned for future updates exclusively via Domain Incite.

One-time disclosure: I’d like to state for the benefit of those who are seemingly always ready to pounce on DI for “selling out” that the journal series are not “sponsored” posts.

There’s no financial relationship whatsoever between DI and dotShabaka or any of its affiliated companies. This is just about the info.

Another dot-brand gTLD bid withdrawn

Kevin Murphy, August 8, 2013, Domain Registries

Eighty-year-old adhesives company Avery Dennison has withdrawn its application for the .avery new gTLD.

The application was ranked 1,780 in ICANN’s evaluation queue, meaning it was due to receive its Initial Evaluation results shortly. By withdrawing now, the company gets a bigger refund.

According to its application, Avery Dennison makes “cutting-edge pressure-sensitive solutions, self-adhesive and reflective base materials, and innovative consumer and office products”.

A dot-brand with a Key-Systems back-end, .avery was the company’s only new gTLD application.

Trademarks still trump founders in latest TMCH spec

Kevin Murphy, August 7, 2013, Domain Registries

New gTLD applicants and ICANN seem to have failed to reach an agreement on how new registries can roll out founders programs when they launch.

A new draft of the Rights Protection Mechanism Requirements published last night, still appears to make it tricky for new gTLD registries to sell domain names to all-important anchor tenants.

The document (pdf), which tells registries what they must do in order to implement Sunrise and Trademark Claims services, is unchanged in many major respects from the original April draft.

But ICANN has published a separate memo (pdf) comprising a handful of asks made by applicants, which highlight where differences remain. Both are now open for public comment until September 18.

Applicants want text adding to the Requirements document that would allow them to give or sell a small number of domains to third parties — namely: anchor tenants — before and during Sunrise periods.

Their suggested text reads:

As set forth in Specification 5 of the Agreement, Registry Operator MAY activate in the DNS up to one hundred (100) names necessary for the operation and promotion of the TLD. Pursuant to these Requirements, Registry Operator MAY register any or all of such domain names in the TLD prior to or during the Sunrise Period to third parties in connection with a registry launch and promotion program for the TLD (a “Qualified Registry Launch Program”), provided that any such registrations will reduce the number of domain names that Registry Operator MAY otherwise use for the operation and promotion of the TLD as set forth in Specification 5.

The base new gTLD Registry Agreement currently allows up to 100 names to be set aside before Sunrise only on the condition that ownership stays in the hands of the registry for the duration of the registration.

Left unaltered, that could complicate deals where the registry wants to get early registrants through the door to help it promote its gTLD during the critical first few months.

A second request from applicants deals with the problem that Sunrise periods also might interfere with preferred allocation programs during the launch of community and geographic gTLDs.

An example given during the recent ICANN Durban meeting was that of the .london registry giving first dibs on police.london to the Metropolitan Police, rather than a trademark owner such as the Sting-fronted band.

The applicants have proposed to allow registries to request “exemptions” to the Requirements to enable this kind of allocation mechanism, which would be offered in addition to the standard obligatory RPMs.

Because these documents are now open for public comment until September 18, that appears to be the absolute earliest date that any new gTLD registry will be able to give its mandatory 30-day pre-Sunrise warning.

In other words, the hypothetical date of the first new gTLD launch appears to have slipped by a couple of weeks.

Donuts, Uniregistry and Famous Four respond to ICANN’s new gTLD security bombshell

Kevin Murphy, August 6, 2013, Domain Registries

Following the shock news this morning that ICANN wants to delay hundreds of new gTLD applications due to potential security risks, we pinged a few of the biggest applicants for their initial reactions.

Donuts, Uniregistry and Famous Four Media, which combined are responsible for over a fifth of all applications, have all responded so far, so we’re printing their statements here in full.

As a reminder, two reports published by ICANN today a) strongly warn against delegating so-called “dotless” domains and b) present significant evidence that “internal name collisions” are a real and present danger to the security and stability of many private networks.

ICANN, in response to the internal name collision issue, proposed to delay 20% of all new gTLD applications for three to six more months while more research is carried out.

It also wants to ask new gTLD registries to conduct outreach to internet users potentially affected by their delegated gTLD strings.

Of the three, Donuts seems most upset. It sent us the following statement:

One has to wonder about the timing of these reports and the motivations behind them. Donuts believes, and our own research confirms satisfactorily to us, that dotless domains and name collision are not threatening to the stability and security of the domain name system.

Name collisions, such as the NxD (in the technical parlance) collisions studied in this report, happen every day in .com, yet the study did not quantify those and Verisign does not block those names from being registered.

We’re concerned about false impressions being deliberately created and believe the reports are commercially or competitively motivated.

There is little reason to pre-empt dotless domains now when there are ICANN processes in place to evaluate them in due course. We don’t believe that ICANN resources need to be deployed at this point on understanding the potential innovations of possible uses nor any security harms.

We also think that name collision is an overstated issue. Rather than take the overdone step of halting or delaying these TLDs, if the issue really is such a concern, it would be wiser to focus on the second-level names where a conflict could occur.

As the NTIA recently wrote, Verisign’s inconsistencies on technical issues are very troubling. These issues have been thoroughly studied for some time. It’s far past due to conclude this eight-year process an move to delegation

As I haven’t previously heard any reason to doubt Interisle Consulting’s impartiality or question its motivation in writing the name collisions report I asked Donuts for clarification, but the company declined to elaborate.

Interisle has been working with ICANN for some time on various technical studies and is also one of the new gTLD program’s independent evaluators, responsible for registry services evaluations.

Uniregistry CEO Frank Schilling was also unhappy with the report. He sent the following statement:

We are deeply dismayed by this new report, both by its substance and its timing. On the substance, the concerns addressed by the report relate, primarily if not solely, to solvable problems created by third-parties using the DNS in non-standard ways. We expect that any problems will be addressed quickly by the companies and individuals that caused them in the first place.

On ICANN’s timing, it is, come just as the first new gTLDs are prepared to launch, very late and, quite obviously, highly disruptive to the long-standing business plans of the companies that relied on ICANN’s guidebook and stated timelines. Uniregistry believes that the best approach is to move forward with the launch of all new gTLDs on the existing schedule.

Finally, Famous Four Media is slightly more relaxed about the situation, judging by the statement it sent us:

Famous Four Media’s primary concern is the security and stability of the Internet. Since this is in the interest of all parties involved in the new gTLD program from registries to registrants and all in between Famous Four Media welcomes these proposals.

Whilst the latest report, and the consequent ICANN proposals, will inevitably cause delays and additional costs in the launches of new gTLDs, Famous Four Media does not believe it will impact its go-to-market plans significantly. The majority of our TLD strings are considered “low risk” and see this in a very positive light although other applicants might not afford to be as sanguine.

According to the DI PRO New gTLD Application Tracker, which has been updated with the risk levels ICANN says each applied-for gTLD poses, 18 of Famous Four’s 60 original applications are in the riskiest two categories, compared to 23 of Uniregistry’s 54 and 102 of Donuts’ of 307.

New gTLDs are the new Y2K: .corp and .home are doomed and everything else is delayed

Kevin Murphy, August 6, 2013, Domain Registries

The proposed gTLDs .home and .corp create risks to the internet comparable to the Millennium Bug, which terrorized a burgeoning internet at the turn of the century, and should be rejected.

Meanwhile, every other gTLD that has been applied for in the current round could be delayed by months in order to mitigate the risks they pose to internet users.

These are the conclusions ICANN has drawn from Interisle Consulting’s independent study into the problems that could be caused when new gTLDs clash with widely-used internal naming systems.

The extensive study, which drew on 8TB of traffic data provided by 11 of the 13 DNS root server operators, is 197 pages long and absolutely fascinating. It was published by ICANN today.

As Interisle CEO Lyman Chapin reported at the ICANN meeting in Durban a few weeks ago, the large majority of TLDs that have been applied for in the current round already receive large amounts of error traffic:

Of the 1,409 distinct applied-for TLD strings, 1,367 appeared at least once in the 2013 DITL [Day In the Life of the Internet] data with the string at the TLD position.

We’ve previously reported on the volume of queries new gTLDs get, such as the fact that .home gets half a billion hits a day and that 3% of all requests were for strings that have been applied for in the current round.

The extra value in Interisle’s report comes when it starts to figure out how many end points are making these requests, and how many second-level domains they’re looking for.

These are vitally important factors for assessing the scale of the risk of each TLD.

Again, .home and .corp appear to be the most dangerous.

Interisle capped the number of second-level domains it counted in the 2013 data at 100,000 per TLD per root server — 1,100,000 domains in total — and .home was the only TLD string to hit this cap.

Cisco Systems’ proposed .cisco TLD came close, failing to hit the cap in only one of the 11 root servers providing data, while .box and .iinet (both also used widely on home routers) hit the cap on at least one root server.

The lowest count of second-level domains of the 35 listed in the report came from .hsbc, the bank brand, but even that number was a not-inconsiderable 2,000.

Why are these requests being made?

Surprisingly, interactions between a security feature in Google’s own Chrome browser and common residential routers appear to be the biggest cause of queries for non-existent TLDs.

That issue, which impacts mainly .home, accounts for about 46% of the requests counted, according to the report.

In second place, with 15% of the queries, are requests for real domain names that appear to have had a non-existent TLD — again, usually .home — appended by a residential router or cable modem.

Apparent typos — where a user enters a URL but forgets to type the TLD — were a relatively small percentage of requests, coming in at under 1% of queries.

The study also found that bad requests come from many thousands of sources. This table compares the number of requests to the number of sources.

2013 RankStringCount (thousands)Prefix Count (thousands)
1home952944302
2corp144507185
3ice1978948
4global12352308
5med1080180
6site1071650
7ads10563148
8network871157
9group858045
10cisco828478

The “Count” column is the number, in thousands, of requests for each TLD string. The “Prefix Count ” column refers to the number of sources providing this traffic, counted by the /24 IP address block (each of which is up to 256 potential hosts).

As you can see, there’s not necessarily a correlation between the number of requests a TLD gets and the number of people making the requests — .google gets queried by more sources than the others, but it’s only ranked 24 in terms of overall query volume, for example.

Interisle concluded from all this that .corp and .home are simply too dangerous to delegate, comparing the problem to the year 2000 bug, where a global effort was required to make sure software could support the four-digit dating scheme required by the turn of the century.

Here’s what the report says about .corp:

users could be taken to the wrong web site (and possibly be exposed to phishing attacks) or told that web sites do not exist when they do, depending on how the .corp TLD is resolved. A corporate mail system might attempt to deliver email to the wrong server, and this could expose sensitive or confidential information to someone who was not supposed to receive it. In essence, everything deployed in the private network would need to be checked.

There are no easy solutions to these problems. In an ideal world, the operators of these private networks would get a timely notification of the new TLD’s delegation and then take action to address these issues. That seems very improbable. Even if ICANN generated sufficient publicity about the new TLD’s delegation, there is no guarantee that this will come to the attention of the management or operators of the private networks that could be jeopardized by the delegation.

It seems reasonable to estimate that the amount of effort involved might be comparable to a wholesale renumbering of the internal network or the Y2K problem.

It notes that applied-for TLDs such as .site, .office, .group and .inc appear to be used in similar ways to .home and .corp, but do not appear to present as broad a risk.

To be clear, the risk we’re talking about here isn’t just people typing the wrong things into browsers, it’s about the infrastructure on many thousands of private networks starting to make the wrong security assumptions about domain names.

ICANN, in response, has outlined a series of measures sure to infuriate many gTLD applicants, but which are consistent with its goal to protect the security and stability of the internet.

They’re also consistent with some of the recommendations put forward by Verisign over the last few months in its campaign to show that new gTLDs pose huge risks.

First, .corp and .home are dead. These two strings have been categorized “high risk” by ICANN, which said:

Given the risk level presented by these strings, ICANN proposes not to delegate either one until such time that an applicant can demonstrate that its proposed string should be classified as low risk

Given the Y2K-scale effort required to mitigate the risks, and the fact that the eventual pay-off wouldn’t compensate for the work, I feel fairly confident in saying the two strings will never be delegated.

Another 80% of the applied-for strings have been categorized “low risk”. ICANN has published a spreadsheet explaining which string falls into which category. Low risk does not mean they get off scot-free, however.

First, all registries for low-risk strings will not be allowed to activate any domain names in their gTLD for 120 days after contract signing.

Second, for 30 days after a gTLD is delegated the new registries will have to reach out to the owners of each IP address that attempts to query names in that gTLD, to try to mitigate the risk of internal name collisions.

This, as applicants will no doubt quickly argue, is going to place them under a massive cost burden.

But their outlook is considerably brighter than that of the remaining 20% of applications, which are categorized as “uncalculated risk” and face a further three to six months of delay while ICANN conducts further studies into whether they’re each “high” or “low” risk strings.

In other words, the new gTLD program is about to see its biggest shake-up since the GAC delivered its Advice in Beijing, adding potentially millions in costs and delays for applicants.

ICANN’s proposed mitigation efforts are now open for public comment.

One has to wonder why the hell ICANN didn’t do this study two years ago.