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Will VeriSign change its name?

VeriSign’s $1.3 billion sale of its SSL business to Symantec yesterday means not only that the company will be almost entirely focussed on domain names, but also that it will no longer “sign” anything.

The word “VeriSign” will cease to describe what the company does, so will it change its name?

The idea could make sense, given that the services Symantec bought are all about trusting the VeriSign brand, and Symantec has acquired certain rights to use that brand.

Under the deal, Symantec is allowed to use the VeriSign name in authentication services such as the VeriSign Trust Seal. The company plans to incorporate “VeriSign” into a new Symantec trust logo.

VeriSign boss Mark McLaughlin said on a conference call yesterday that Symantec is buying certain VeriSign trademarks, such as Thawte and GeoTrust, but that VeriSign will stay VeriSign.

Symantec will be able to use the VeriSign brand in its logos for a “transition period of time over a number of years”, McLaughlin said.

On the one hand, there’s a potential for a certain degree of confusion that might persuade VeriSign to brand itself afresh. On the other, corporate rebranding is not cheap.

I suppose, if it does choose to rename itself, it had better hope that its first choice of .com is available.

ICANN says no to Bulgarian ccTLD

Bulgaria can not have a localized-script version of its country-code domain .bg, because it looks too much like Brazil’s current ccTLD.

Bulgarian business daily Dnevnik is reporting that ICANN has turned down Bulgaria’s request for .бг, the Cyrillic translation of .bg, because it looks very much like .br.

Part of ICANN’s internationalized domain name fast-track process checks whether applied-for strings could be visually confusing. Clearly, this is one of them.

Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have already passed the test and have active IDN ccTLDs.

The Bulgarians are not giving up, however. Dnevnik reports that the country will most likely apply for .бгр instead.

VeriSign poised to sell SSL business to Symantec

Reliable news sources including the Wall Street Journal and Reuters are reporting that VeriSign is on the verge of offloading its market-leading SSL certificate business to Symantec for over $1 billion.

The sale would be the latest in a series of spin-offs that started in 2007, highlighting the company’s renewed focus on domain names.

VeriSign spent many years acquiring a bunch of companies in tenuously related markets – deals that never really made any sense to me – and the last few years selling them off again.

But SSL is not really in the same category as VeriSign’s bizarre forays into, for example, the Crazy Frog ringtone company. It’s the business the company was founded on when it was spun out of RSA Security 15 years ago.

It’s called VeriSign for a reason.

But offloading the SSL business would make sense. One of the reasons VeriSign bought Network Solutions ten years ago was the obvious retail synergies between domain names and SSL certificates – customers could buy both at the same time.

That synergy was diluted when VeriSign spun the NSI registrar business out as a separate company three years later, creating the vertically separated domain name market we know today.

Symantec, with its fingers in the enterprise and home/small business pies, might be able to make a better crack at the SSL game.

So is this bad news for SSL’s current silver medal holder, Go Daddy?

Possibly. Symantec is a force to be reckoned with – only marketing prowess could explain why so many people use Norton.

Of course, these news stories could be nonsense.

But my guts say they’re probably based on the same kind of leaks that companies often float to the press, to see what the markets do, when they’re in the final stages of negotiations.

Porn domain firm urges ICANN to ignore the haters

ICM Registry has asked ICANN to set aside the views of thousands of naysayers and approve the porn-only .xxx top-level domain as soon as possible.

The company has sent three documents to ICANN today, two of which set out ICM’s position in the same firm tone that has characterized its previous missives.

Basically: no more delays, your only option here is to get back into contract talks now.

I would say ICM is drawing a line in the sand, but ICM has drawn so many lines in the sand recently it’s beginning to look like a game of beach tic-tac-toe (which, visualizing it, is kinda appropriate).

The third document is a post-game summary of ICANN’s recently closed comment period on the .xxx application, which attracted record comments. That’s written by former ICANN public participation wonk Kieren McCarthy and is more measured in tone.

ICM president Stuart Lawley believes that the thousands of copy-paste comments from US-based anti-porn Christian groups can be safely ignored. I get the impression ICANN will probably agree.

The volume of comments on an entirely irrelevant issue – that is, the content of websites on the Internet – was one of the original reasons this process went off the rails. ICANN should not repeat its earlier mistakes and pander to those interests.

Given that a substantial number of comments came from the porn industry itself, notably the Free Speech Coalition, Lawley wrote that “debate about community support is no longer appropriate”.

ICM’s on shakier ground here than with the Christians. A TLD for a sponsored community that is unequivocally hated (NSFW) by a vocal part of that community can’t look good.

But the FSC, along with the Adult Entertainment Broadcast Network, one of its members, “represent only a small fraction of the adult industry”, Lawley claimed.

Over 100,000 .xxx domains have been pre-registered over the last five years and several hundred of these people sent ICM’s copy-paste letter to ICANN. ICM says this indicates adult industry support, though I think that’s a less than watertight argument.

ICANN’s board will undoubtedly have a good old chinwag about their current predicament at their retreat this weekend, but they’re not due to make any decisions until the Brussels meeting a little over a month from now.

.jobs seeks comment on dictionary domains

The sponsor organization behind the restricted .jobs domain is soliciting comment on a plan to substantially liberalize the TLD, allowing generic and two-letter registrations.

The Society For Human Resource Management has published a very brief survey, asking HR folk what they think the pros and cons to the plan might be.

The .jobs domain is run by Employ Media. It’s currently restricted to companyname.jobs registrations, and as such has been predictably unsuccessful.

Now Employ Media wants to branch out into geographical and generic domains. As I reported last month, it looks like it’s trying to remove essentially all of its significant registration restrictions.

The attempt at a policy shift follows a deal made with DirectEmployers Association to monetize geographic domains that raised eyebrows at ICANN late last year.

ERE.net has more here.

German domains see severe downtime

Many domains ending in .de, Germany’s country-code TLD, have seen downtime today, after something went wrong at Denic, the registry manager.

Details are sketchy at the moment, but it appears from chatter on the DNS-Ops mailing list that several instances of the .de zone stopped serving addresses this morning.

It appears that the affected servers were responsible for .de domains beginning with F through Z, so facebook.de would have worked, but heise.de would not.

The German slice of Twitter has been going a bit nuts with comments, and the German press is already on the case.

This is obviously a huge headache if you’re German or do business in Germany — I hate to think how many transactions could have been disrupted by the downtime — and I expect Denic will take a lot of flack at home over the coming days and weeks.

The problem, however, does appear to have been fixed. SANS estimates the outage as a little over an hour.

Porn trade group director says .xxx could be a gTLD

One of the directors of porn industry organization the Free Speech Coalition has suggested the .xxx top-level domain could be approved as an unrestricted gTLD.

Tom Hymes, who sits on the Free Speech Coalition’s board of directors, wrote to ICANN urging it first and foremost to kill ICM Registry’s .xxx application once and for all.

But Hymes went on to say: “If that scenario is unacceptable to the Board for one reason or another, I would then encourage it to explore a gTLD option for ICM.”

He noted that he was writing in a personal capacity, not as a representative of the FSC.

ICM’s application was filed under the 2005 round of “sponsored” TLDs, which meant it had to show backing from a sponsorship organization and some measure of ownership restriction.

For example, the Society for Human Resource Management is the sponsor for .jobs and the Universal Postal Union backed .post.

ICM, which has never been part of the adult entertainment industry, created a policy-making body called the International Foundation For Online Responsibility, IFFOR, to act as its sponsor.

In my view, IFFOR was basically a crude hack to get around the fact that in 2005 ICANN was not looking for any new gTLDs.

The FSC doesn’t like IFFOR, because a) it will make policy on what can be hosted under .xxx domains and b) the adult industry will not control its board or see any of its money.

Hymes, in his personal capacity, seems to be saying that an unrestricted .xxx gTLD would be okay. It’s the first ground I’ve seen anyone in the porn industry give in this debate. He says:

To its credit, the Board is striving to solve the dot xxx imbroglio by dangling a gTLD in front of ICM, a solution ICM thus far has refused to consider. But that sort of suspicious recalcitrance can no longer be tolerated. Instead of threatening to bring a costly lawsuit against ICANN in order to secure control of a policy making regime for which it does not have the required support, ICM should cut its losses, save everyone a lot of money and take the gTLD while it has the opportunity.

I happen to agree, mostly: .xxx would make a heck of a lot more sense, and would be a whole lot less controversial (Christians notwithstanding), as a gTLD.

Unfortunately, I can’t see it happening. Not easily, anyway.

There’s no ICANN process in place for approving gTLDs today, and if ICANN were to choose to kick ICM into the next new gTLD round, there’s a pretty good chance that ICM would find itself fighting a contested string battle with other applications.

From a process point of view, sponsored TLDs are a failed experiment.

ICANN accused of Twitter faux pas over Arabic domains

The registry behind one of the new Arabic-script ccTLDs has sharply criticised ICANN for the way it introduced internationalized domain names to the root this week.

Adrian Kinderis, CEO of AusRegistry, accused ICANN, specifically those responsible for the IANA function, of “embarrassing incompetency” and cultural insensitivity.

Kinderis’ beef is that IANA added the three new Arabic IDNs to the root without giving their local managers so much as a headsup.

AusRegistry is the back-end provider for امارات. the United Arab Emirates’ new IDN ccTLD, as well as its ASCII original.

“I was alarmed to discover that the relevant ccTLD Managers were only notified many hours after the fact, long after the same IANA staff member had broadcast the news on a personal Twitter account,” he blogged.

While Kinderis was diplomatic enough not to name names, he’s talking about IANA registry manager Kim Davies, who broke the web-changing news on Wednesday with a tweet.

“This was an inappropriate manner in which to announce an event of this importance,” Kinderis wrote. “It displays a disturbing lack of understanding and a complete disregard of the cultural and political significance of this event within the Arabic world.”

He goes on to point out that the announcement was made during Saudi Arabia’s weekend, leaving ccTLD managers scrambling to get their marketing in place on their day off.

I could keep quoting. It’s a fairly extraordinary attack on aspects of ICANN’s culture. Go have a read.

The internet is polyglot as full IDNs go live

Click this: http://وزارة-الأتصالات.مصر/

It’s the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, owner of one of the world’s first fully non-ASCII internet domain names.

If you hover over the link, you might see the Punycode translation appear in your browser’s bottom bar, even though the href itself is in Arabic script.

Thanks to ICANN, from today the Latin script no longer has a stranglehold on the domain name system.

I’m afraid I won’t be able to tell you what the three newly created internationalized domain name ccTLDs are, because none of the software on my machine wants to let me use them in a sentence without switching my cursor to right-to-left editing mid-way through the word or changing the characters entirely, and after ten minutes of beating my head against the keyboard I gave up.

Anyway, the new domains represent Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

They were all recently approved by ICANN as part of its “fast-track” IDN ccTLD process, which promises to give countries the equivalent of their ASCII ccTLD in their native script.

After 25 years, the English language no longer has exclusive rights on the DNS. Not what I’d call a “fast” track, but we got there eventually.

ICANN has more here.

Iron Mountain gets into bed with CRS

Iron Mountain and Central Registry Solutions have made a deal to referrer prospective new gTLD applicants to each other’s services.

The companies said that Iron Mountain will refer wannabe registries to CRS for registry services and CRS will refer them to Iron Mountain for data escrow services.

It strikes me that the deal is probably better news for Iron Mountain, given that CRS is actively engaged in seeking out new TLD applicants to partner with whereas Iron Mountain, presumably, is not.

Iron Mountain already does a lot of work with registries and registrars that have to escrow their Whois information under the terms of their ICANN contracts.

Some of these contracts specify the company as the only escrow agent allowed, whereas the current Draft Applicant Guidebook for new gTLD applicants is less prescriptive.

CRS is a partnership of Network Solutions and CentralNIC, manager of the .la ccTLD and a handful of geographical second-level domains such as uk.com and us.com.