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China domain name registrations plummeting

The Chinese ccTLD has lost almost four million domain name registrations since it implemented Draconian identification requirements last December.

According to CNNIC, the .cn manager, there were 9.53 million domains registered at the end of February, compared to 12.28 million in January and 13.45 million in December.

That’s a loss of 3.9 million domains since the new registration requirements were introduced mid-December.

The bulk of the loss appears to have come from pure .cn names, which dropped from 8.61 million in December to 6.14 million in February.

The .com.cn namespace lost about half a million names over the same period. The rest of the drop-off came in lesser-used second-level domains such a .org.cn.

Since December 14, CNNIC has required all Chinese registrants to provide photo ID before they register a domain.

Recently, the registry has tried to enforce retroactive enforcement of this requirement, causing registrars including Go Daddy and Network Solutions to abandon the TLD altogether.

VeriSign plans domain tasting service

VeriSign plans to offer a service that would allow domain names to be registered for as short a period as a month, possibly creating a system of legitimised domain tasting.

The company has asked ICANN (pdf) if it can launch a Domain Name Exchange service, whereby registrars could cash in unused names, transferring the remaining time on the registration to a new domain.

The service, according to VeriSign’s filing, is designed for registrars that offer domain registration as part of bundled hosting packages paid for on a monthly subscription basis.

Currently, those registrars have to register the domain for a full year with VeriSign, even if the customer stops paying for it after a month or two, the company said.

Under Domain Name Exchange, registrars would (continue reading)

Christians descend on ICANN’s .xxx forum

It took a few weeks, but American Christian groups have finally noticed that ICM Registry’s .xxx domain is back under consideration at ICANN.

The number of comments on ICANN’s latest .xxx public comment forum has rocketed today, reminiscent of the first time this proposal was considered.

While the emails fail to address the issues at hand — how ICANN should process ICM’s application in light of the IRP decision — they do at least avoid using form letters.

The general sentiment is anti-pornography, rather than anti-.xxx.

Here’s a sample:

Please do not approve a .xxx domain for peddlers of pornography. Pornography is degrading to women and destructive to families.

and

Pornography is vile and can lead to breakdown of marriages, abuse, even murder in some cases.

and

Money talks, and the money this kind of sleaze (“Dot-XXX”) generates veritably screams.

and

History has shown that civilizations that go down this road eventually fail due to lack of moral standards. This type of internet will increase the danger of a society that has no moorings, that has no “right or wrong.” It will lead to more such atrocities such as drugs, revolting against society, even death.

I hope you’re listening, ICM Registry. You are the lead in the drinking water.

Check it out.

Germany plans new gTLD: .gesellschaftmitbeschränkterhaftung

The German Department of Commerce has announced plans to apply to ICANN for a new gTLD, .gesellschaftmitbeschränkterhaftung, to represent German companies on the web.

It’s believed to be the first public announcement of a new gTLD by a government agency anywhere in the world.

“For far too many years German companies have had to rely on dot-com domain names to conduct their affairs online,” German business minister Hans Vottisyornäm said in a statement.

“Dot-com has no meaning in the German language, confusing German internet users,” he added. “As soon as ICANN approves our plan, we believe dot-gesellschaftmitbeschränkterhaftung will quickly become the TLD of choice for German businesses on the international stage.”

Gesellschaftmitbeschränkterhaftung, which roughly translates as “com”, will have prices starting at $149 per year, but registrants will receive a free .aktiengesellschaft name with every purchase, if they can present the correct paperwork.

Go Daddy has already backed the TLD, and is planning a multi-million-euro TV ad campaign starring David Hasselhoff and a horde of busty Bavarian beer wenches.

“This could be the biggest thing since .tel,” Bob Parsons said in a statement.

Nominet seeks new chair

Kevin Murphy, March 30, 2010, Domain Registries

Bob Gilbert has stepped aside as chairman of .uk registry Nominet, to be replaced temporarily by deputy chair Gordon Dick.

The news comes as Nominet seeks to draw a line under a tumultuous few years that have seen the non-profit company attempt to fight off domainers on the one hand and a power grab by the UK government on the other.

These efforts have been hit and miss.

While Nominet has successfully reformed its corporate governance to make it less vulnerable to capture by special interests, the government will still shortly enact the Digital Economy Bill, which gives the business secretary unprecedented reserve powers to appoint a new .uk registry manager.

“Having successfully updated Nominet’s constitution, a time consuming exercise for all involved, it is now time for the company to move into its next phase of development under new leadership,” Gilbert, who joined Nominet in 2005, said in a statement.

WIPO wants tougher cybersquatting rules on new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, March 29, 2010, Domain Registries

The World Intellectual Property Organization reckons ICANN should toughen its stance against new gTLD registries that allow cybersquatting.

The “trademark post-delegation dispute resolution procedure” or Trademark PDDRP would let trademark holders try to suspend new TLDs and receive compensation when a registry allows cybersquatting.

WIPO wants the burden of proof on trademark holders relaxed, making it much easier to file complaints.

Currently, the draft process would require complainants to show registries’ “specific bad faith intent” to profit from cybersquatting.

WIPO thinks this should be broadened to include deliberate recklessness.

“In seeking to give meaning to ‘intent,’ the criteria should, without as such imposing or implying any sweeping registry policing duty, also encompass instances of willful blindness,” WIPO wrote.

The comments came in response to ICANN’s public comment period on the process, which closes on Thursday.

ICM says ICANN’s options for .xxx are ‘unacceptable’

Kevin Murphy, March 28, 2010, Domain Registries

ICM Registry has issued a speedy response to ICANN’s .xxx approval options paper, calling it “unacceptable” and urging the ICANN board to put the issue to bed ASAP.

Late Friday, ICANN published a flowchart outlining the possible ways the board could handle .xxx in the light of February’s Independent Review Panel decision, which found ICANN acted unfairly when it rejected the TLD in 2007.

ICM president Stuart Lawley said in a letter to ICANN today that most of the paths through the flowcharts “are in many respects substantively and procedurally inconsistent with the IRP declaration”.

The company believes the IRP decision resets the approval process to prior to the 2007 decision, when the two parties were in contract talks for an already-approved TLD.

The letter claims that “it would be inappropriate, illegal and inconsistent with ICANN’s core values and model of self governance for ICANN to set up an evaluative process that is lacking in objectivity and that does not affirmatively give effect to the underlying IRP declaration”.

There are presumably few people involved with ICANN in any doubt that ICM intends to take its case to the ‘proper’ courts if needs be, which is probably why its powers-that-be have been unwilling to meet with the company.

As I reported Friday, the options paper creates the possibility of re-evaluating the .xxx application under the Draft Applicant Guidebook v4 for new gTLDs, which is not yet completed.

It also suggests that ICANN will have to ask its Governmental Advisory Committee for its current opinion on the application, a move likely to stretch out a decision for months.

It also has an option to expedite the approval based on the “sponsored” TLD process under which ICM, and others such as .post and .asia, originally applied.

ICM’s latest letter is here. ICANN’s options paper can be found here. The public comment period is open here. Unlike many ICANN comments periods, it has comments.

ICANN may kick .xxx into new gTLD round

Kevin Murphy, March 27, 2010, Domain Registries

ICANN has chosen to deal with the controversial .xxx TLD application by leaving essentially all options, including urging it into the next gTLD round, wide open.

ICM Registry had pushed for a speedy resolution to its long-running application, following the Independent Review Panel decision that went in its favour last month, but it hasn’t got one.

In Nairobi, ICANN’s board asked ICANN’s staff to tell it what its options were for dealing with the ruling, and staff today responded with this flowchart. Oh, and this flowchart.

It seems that these options are still on the table: (continue reading)

The most confusing new gTLDs (allegedly)

Kevin Murphy, March 26, 2010, Domain Registries

I don’t know how I missed it until today, but I’ve discovered ICANN has a web-based tool that will be used to determine whether new gTLDs could be confused with existing strings.

The Sword Group algorithm compares applied-for strings with a list of existing TLDs and reserved words such as “icann” and “ripe”.

It looks for “visual similarity”, which means not only common sequences of characters but also the pixel-by-pixel similarities of each character.

Numerical scores are assigned. Any match scoring below 30 is not considered worthy of reporting.

As an experiment, I ran each of the strings on newTLDs.tv’s list of publicly announced TLD hopefuls through the available “pre-production” algorithm.

Here are my findings.

1. The algorithm is pretty much worthless. (continue reading)

Nominet bill set for UK law

Kevin Murphy, March 25, 2010, Domain Registries

The UK government is set to pass a controversial law that will create powers to regulate domain names more or less arbitrarily and even seize control of the .uk registry.

The Digital Economy Bill is best known for its Draconian anti-piracy provisions, but it also gives the relevant Secretary of State the power to replace Nominet as the .uk registry manager.

To oust Nominet, the secretary of state would have to decide that certain fairly broad criteria had been met. Quoting from the bill’s explanatory notes:

The registry itself, its end-users (that is, owners of or applicants for domain names) or registrars (that is, agents of end-users) have been engaging in practices prescribed in regulations made by the Secretary of State which are unfair or which involve the misuse of internet domain names; or

The registry’s arrangements for dealing with complaints in connection with domain names do not comply with requirements prescribed in regulations made by the Secretary of State.

The practices in question are expected to include: cybersquatting, drop-catching, “pressure sales tactics”, phishing, distributing malware, spamming or “intentionally misleading the public into believing there is a connection between the domain name owner and other organisations”.

Basically, the daily background noise of the internet. (continue reading)