Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

CentralNIC says .la business as usual

Kevin Murphy, April 12, 2011, Domain Registries

CentralNIC, which manages .la as a “city top-level domain” for Los Angeles, says recent moves to “reclaim” the domain for Laos will not affect its offerings.

As I blogged Friday, Laos has recruited Vietnamese experts to help LANIC, the delegated sponsor of .la, bring the registry back to the nation.

According to a press release from Vietnamese registrar Dot VN, LANIC wants to “retrieve and manage the Laotian country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) .LA”.

But UK-based CentralNIC, which currently manages the registry, seems to disagree with the extent of the transition. A company spokesperson provided this statement:

We saw this [Dot VN] press release and understand it relates to work in the Lao PDR with LANIC assisting them on their Lao IDN and the development of a server in Laos for the release of the second level domain extensions, such as .com.la, .edu.la, .gov.la – which are reserved specifically by LANIC to serve the Lao people.

LA Registry works under a mandate from LANIC to develop the .LA address outside the Lao PDR and will continue to do so.

The Dot VN press release does not refer to Laotian IDNs or third-level domains. Nor does any coverage I’ve found elsewhere. Dot VN did not respond to a request for comment.

According to this presentation (pdf), LANIC was planning “to move the ccTLD dot la primary server and registry data base to Lao PDR” as recently as last June.

VeriSign to offer different prices to different registrars?

Kevin Murphy, April 12, 2011, Domain Registries

VeriSign may be able to offer differential pricing for .net domain names under the just-published draft .net registry contract.

The current .net agreement expires at the end of June, but VeriSign has a presumptive right of renewal.

The newly negotiated contract has a new “Special Programs” clause would enable VeriSign to offer pricing incentives to registrars in “underserved geographies” not available to other registrars.

Here’s the meat of the paragraph:

Registry Operator may for the purpose of supporting the development of the Internet in underserved geographies provide training, technical support, marketing or incentive programs based on the unique needs of registrars located in such geographies to such registrars, so long as Registry Operator does not treat similarly situated registrars differently or apply such programs arbitrarily. Registry Operator may implement such programs with respect to registrars within a specific geographic region, provided, that (i) such region is defined broadly enough to allow multiple registrars to participate and (ii) such programs do not favor any registrar in which Registry Operator may have an ownership interest over other similarly situated registrars within the same region.

Later, the part of the contract that limits VeriSign’s registry fee and requires uniform pricing among all registrars has been amended to specifically exclude these special programs.

The contract does seem to envisage differential registrar pricing, within certain geographic parameters, perhaps enabling VeriSign to stimulate growth in low-penetration markets.

It’s probably too early to speculate, given that we don’t know what incentives VeriSign has in mind, but it’s not difficult to imagine a scenario where particularly attractive pricing could cause a bunch of shell companies to emerge in, say, Africa or Asia.

For now, the provision would only apply to .net domains, but VeriSign has been known to use .com as a venue for dry runs of services it wants to offer in .com. The .com contract is up for renewal next year.

The proposed .net contract (pdf) contains a number of other changes (pdf), some of which mirror language found in other registry contracts, some of which are new.

There’s a provision for VeriSign to be able to “prevent” the registration of certain names, such as those that would have led to the Conficker worm spreading, in order to protect the security of the internet.

Some of the things that have not changed are also quite interesting.

With ICANN’s recent “vertical integration” decision, which will allow registries and registrars to own each other, you’d think the .net contract renegotiation would be the perfect opportunity for VeriSign to signal its intentions to get into the registrar business, as Neustar already has.

But it has not. The contract contains the same prohibitions on cross ownership as the earlier version.

And as Domain Name Wire noted, the new contract would allow VeriSign to continue to increase its prices by 10% every year until 2017.

That could lead to a maximum of about $9 per domain per year, including ICANN fees, by the time the deal is next up for renewal, if VeriSign exercised the option every year.

There’s an ICANN public comment period, open until May 10.

Japanese quake victims get free .org renewals

Kevin Murphy, April 11, 2011, Domain Registries

The Public Interest Registry and 15 domain name registrars are working together to auto-renew .org domains that expired during the aftermath of the recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

According to a PIR press release, registries and registrars will waive their renewal fees for one year.

The deal is only good for .org domains registered to a Japanese address that were due to expire between March 11 and June 11 this year.

Participating registrars include: Go Daddy, Ascio, INDOM, WebNic.cc, Net 4 India, Discount Domains, Fabulous, Blacknight, Dotster, Moniker, Spirit Domains, Advanced Internet Technologies, Japan Registry Services, PSI-Japan, Network Solutions, and NameSecure.

Additional details can be found at the PIR web site.

Laos to reclaim .la from Los Angeles?

An effort has kicked off in the south-east Asian nation of Laos to “reclaim and relaunch” the .la top-level domain, which is currently being marketed to businesses in Los Angeles.

According to a press release from Dot VN, the “exclusive registrar” for Vietnam’s .vn ccTLD, the two governments came to an agreement to move .la late last month. Dot VN said:

On March 23, Mr. Nguyen Thanh Hung – Deputy Minister of Information and Communications of Vietnam and Mr. Padaphet Sayakhot – Deputy of Laos National Posts and Telecommunications Management Agency signed a memorandum for Vietnam to support Laos to retrieve and manage the Laotian country code Top Level Domain (“ccTLD”) “.LA”.

The announcement talks about a transition plan under which VNNIC, the .vn registry, will temporarily take over the management of .la domain names on behalf of LANIC, the nominal .la registry.

Under the current plan Vietnam will support LANIC in the management and operation of the ccTLD “.LA” by hosting the registry platform in Hanoi while concurrently training LANIC staff, with the eventual goal of turning over complete management of “.LA” to LANIC by 2012.

Today, .la domains are sold from www.la as “the internet address for Los Angeles” and “the first city top-level domain”, equivalent to possible future TLDs such as .paris and .rome.

That site, as well as the the name servers for .la, are currently operated by CentralNIC, the London-based registry services provider, under an agreement with a company called LA Registry Pte Ltd.

But according to IANA records, LANIC has been the designated .la sponsoring organization, as well as its technical and administrative contact, since 2002.

That being the case, there will presumably be no requirement for a lengthy IANA redelegation request if any transition is to take place.

Dot VN’s statement does not mention CentralNIC or existing registrants at all. I’ve been unable to obtain clarification from either company so far, but will provide a follow-up when I do.

LANIC’s web site, incidentally, is currently a parked page.

Local news coverage from the region, in Vietnamese, can be found here and here.

ICM faces porn anger over .xxx

ICM Registry executives took the brunt of angry opposition to the .xxx top-level domain from pornographers at an adult industry trade show this week.

A two-hour session on .xxx, which took place at The Phoenix Forum in Arizona the day after ICM and ICANN signed their registry contract, saw the new TLD attacked on multiple fronts.

Defending, ICM’s Vaughn Liley tried to explain why .xxx isn’t as bad as many in the US adult industry believe but, on the back foot from a misjudged opening gambit (asking the openly hostile audience of pornographers if any of them supported child porn), often found himself adding to the confusion.

Now that .xxx has been approved and the contract signed, the discussion focused largely on how ICM and its policy body, the International Foundation For Online Responsibility, will actually function.

Pornographers wanted to know, for example, why anybody would want to invest in marketing a .xxx domain if IFFOR could one day make a policy that excluded their business from the TLD.

I get the impression that the pro-ICM speakers, which included Greg Dumas of GEC Media, could have benefited from having copies of the company’s policy documents in front of them.

At one point, Liley flatly denied that ICM plans to “spider” .xxx domains to enforce compliance with IFFOR policies, such as the prohibition on meta tags that suggest the presence of child pornography.

Minutes later, a .xxx opponent read aloud from the IFFOR policy (pdf) that says all registrants must consent to “automated monitoring”.

A semantic misunderstanding? Possibly. But it left Liley facing calls of “liar” from the audience.

The question of whether this monitoring will extend to, say, .com domains, if the registrant chooses to redirect their .xxx names, was left unanswered.

IFFOR policies will be created by a Policy Council of nine members, five of which will be drawn from the adult entertainment industry.

Earlier in the discussion, Liley denied that IFFOR’s board of directors or ICM will have “veto” power over these Policy Council policies, calling it “factually incorrect”.

Again, an audience member reading aloud from the IFFOR Policy Development Process document (pdf) showed that the IFFOR board has the ability to block a policy under certain circumstances.

Not only that, but ICM gets to object to policies that emerge from IFFOR, under certain circumstances. If this happens, ICM will work with IFFOR “to modify the Proposed Policy to address any concerns identified by ICM”.

There may be enough limitations on ICM’s powers to mean it’s not technically a “veto”, but it’s close.

It makes perfect sense for ICM to have this safeguard, of course. If IFFOR were to be captured by the haters, they could easily make mischief that could ruin its business.

Many of the other questions raised at the forum related to issues that will effect all new TLD launches and concern all new TLD opponents, such as brand protection.

My conclusion after watching the two-hour session: ICM needs to work on its messaging.

The company actually has several ideas for how it could help the porn industry make money, but you wouldn’t know it from any of its public statements to date.

If you have a free couple of hours, the video can be watched here.