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IWF finds child abuse imagery on new gTLD domains

Kevin Murphy, April 21, 2016, Domain Services

The Internet Watch Foundation said it found child abuse imagery on new gTLD domain names for the first time in 2015.

The UK-based organization, tasked with identifying and blocking child abuse imagery online, today released its 2015 annual report.

The report says that it found 68,092 unique URLs with this illegal content in the year, spread over 1,991 domains. It says:

Five top level domains (.com .net .ru .org .se) accounted for 91 per cent of all webpages identified as containing child sexual abuse images and videos.

However, it also says that child abuse was found on new gTLDs for the first time.

While the report doesn’t make much of this trend, it should be worrying.

The IWF said it took action on 436 new gTLD domains in 2015, many of which “appeared to have been registered specifically for that purpose”.

While new gTLD names appear to be responsible for a very small percentage of flagged URLs, they seem to be 21% of the total number of domains on which child abuse imagery was found.

This discrepancy may be explained by the fact that 78% of the total abuse URLs were found on free-to-use image hosting sites, probably concentrated in .com.

The IWF added that 138 of the new gTLD domains hosted “disguised” abuse sites. These are sites where illegal content is only shown when visitors arrive from a specific referrer link.

The IWF offers a “Domain Alerts” service to its members, which allows registries and registrars to quickly take down domains confirmed as containing illegal material.

Judging by its member list, not many domain name companies are members.

Members include Go Daddy, ICM Registry, .London Domains, Rightside, Afilias and Nominet.

Facebook bought a registrar

Kevin Murphy, April 14, 2016, Domain Services

Facebook has acquired a domain name registrar, according to its point person in ICANN.

Facebook domain manager Susan Kawaguchi said on tonight’s GNSO Council teleconference, as a matter of disclosure, that Facebook recently acquired a registrar.

Multiple sources say the registrar is RegistrarSEC LLC.

DI records show that RegistrarSEC took over the ICANN registrar accreditation of Focus IP Inc, doing business as AppDetex, on March 26.

RegistrarSEC is led by one of the long-gone founders of brand protection registrar MarkMonitor, Faisal Shah, and Chris Bura, founder of Alldomains.com.

Facebook is one of MarkMonitor’s most prominent clients.

RegistrarSEC is not a conventional registrar. It had just 11 registrations under its IANA ID at the end of 2015.

But its parent was founded in 2013 as primarily a provider of brand protection services focused on the mobile app space.

My guess is that Facebook is interested in RegistrarSEC’s parent’s intellectual property, rather than its registrar.

Domains “worth $3 million” put up for first industry hackathon

Kevin Murphy, April 12, 2016, Domain Services

The domain name industry is about to get a new type of conference.

Domain broker Ryan Colby of Outcome Brokerage is to host what is believed to be the first domain “hackathon”, and says he already has domains he estimates as being worth $3 million submitted for the event.

Codemology, as the conference will be called, will be held over two days in Charlotte, North Carolina, in October.

The idea is to bring the owners of premium domain names together with angel investors and young, skilled developers, with the hope that some workable business ideas might emerge.

“We are trying to utilize the ‘excess capacity’ of premium domains in the marketplace, which are just sitting there doing nothing, oozing with potential, waiting for the next killer idea,” Colby told DI today.

Over the weekend of the event, the goal will be to create a bunch of “minimal viable products” for each selected domain that could be developed further.

It’s a free event, but attendees need to go through an application process before being given tickets. Colby said he’s marketing the event at university students and those who regularly attend hackathons.

The list of domains that will be used has not been finalized yet, but Colby’s clients have already submitted at least four pretty terrific one-word dictionary .coms.

Domains in new gTLDs will also make an appearance.

“If you’re a domain owner, why not submit it to the kid from MIT who might have a winning idea? There’s no risk, and huge upside if something comes about,” Colby said.

The developers keep the IP rights to whatever they code during the event, he said.

“It’s up to the domain owner to choose to collaborate, buy their IP or walk away,” he said.

Colby said he’s working on an app that will allow people to vote on domains that have been submitted, with the most popular ones being used at Codemology.

He said he’s hopeful of running similar events in other cities after the Charlotte conference.

Architelos files bankruptcy after Afilias lawsuit

Kevin Murphy, March 21, 2016, Domain Services

Afilias has managed to bury domain security software provider Architelos, which filed for bankrupcty today.

Architelos filed Chapter 7, which basically means the company will close and its assets will be liquidated to pay off creditors.

Its only major creditor is Afilias, which won a patent lawsuit against it last August.

The jury in the case set damages at $10 million, finding that Architelos had misappropriated Afilias trade secrets, but the trial judge recently indicated her intention of reducing the award to $2 million.

Even that was a bit too rich for the company, which floated the idea of operating NameSentry on a revenue share with Afilias until its debt was paid.

Clearly, that’s no longer going to happen.

Architelos was founded by Alexa Raad in 2011, to exploit the new gTLD opportunity as a consulting and software tools provider.

It made seven figures in its first year, mainly through gTLD application consulting fees, but saw modest adoption of its subsequent security offering, NameSentry.

The flagship service only made $300,000 in revenue, according to court documents. After the August verdict, Architelos’ sales pipeline dried up.

The software and the US patents covering them are the company’s key assets, though Afilias is expected to be awarded at least partial ownership rights of the patents.

The company had about 10 employees at its peak, but has been operating on a skeleton crew of two or three for the last few months.

Architelos said in a blog post that NameSentry customers will be able to continue to use the service in the short term, but what happens to it in future depends on how the bankruptcy court appointed trustee does with it.

Afilias also has an outstanding lawsuit against Architelos and Raad in Canada.

Famous Four confirms link to AlpNames, mass new gTLD development project

Kevin Murphy, March 21, 2016, Domain Services

New gTLD registry Famous Four Media has confirmed its connections to registrar AlpNames and two other Gibraltar-based companies involved in the mass development of new gTLD domains.

FFM chief legal officer Oliver Smith said that the company shares owners with AlpNames, A Domains Ltd and a company I’d never heard of before called Socium Networks.

“It is fair to say that some of the shareholders in FFM do hold shares in and part fund these companies,” he said in an email.

“FFM is leading Gibraltar’s evolution as a technology hub by engaging with new businesses, offering up our experience, and in some circumstances such as A Domains and Socium Networks, incubating their operations,” he said.

“We engage at this level predominantly because it’s in our interest, and the domain name industries’, to support businesses who share a common purpose in growing the new gTLD market space,” he said.

“FFM has a great working relationship with all three companies, much in the same manner as we have with our other client partners, except that our geographic proximity allows for greater face time and collaboration,” he said.

The link between AlpNames and FFM will not surprise many members of the industry.

AlpNames is FFM’s biggest registrar partner by a long shot, accounting for 75%+ of the registrations in many of of the gTLDs in FFM’s stable.

It consistently prominently advertises FFM’s domains on its storefront with sub-$1 pricing.

What’s perhaps less well known are A Domains and Socium, both of which seem to be involved in bulk-developing hundreds of thousands of domains from FFM’s gTLD portfolio.

As I noted Friday, A Domains owns huge chunks of the .party, .trade and .review zones (to name three), largely long-tail geographic domains.

A UDRP complaint A Domains won last year revealed that the strategy is to algorithmically register domains matching towns and cities of over 30,000 inhabitants then populate the sites with scraped content. For example.

Socium appears to be run by the same person, Chris Cousins, and has the same strategy.

Socium’s web site states: “We have over 100,000 sites currently under management and plans to launch over 1,000,000 more by the third quarter of 2016.”

This triple-play (registry, registrar, registrant) combo seems to be at least partly responsible for the large numbers of domains in FFM’s zone files.

At least a third of .review seems to be owned by A Domains, for example.

All the A Domains names I came across were registered via AlpNames during the early days of general availability when AlpNames was selling names at cost.

It’s not a completely new way for a registry to try to (indirectly) monetize its portfolio.

When .pro was owned by Hostway, a registry subsidiary owned and developed around 43,000 .pro domains matching US zip codes, under a service known as Zip.pro.

That seems to have been a failure, however. When Afilias took over .pro in early 2012 it did not acquire Zip.pro and the domains all expired in August that year.

Employ Media has tried something similar with a partner, the DirectEmployers Association.

The Universe.jobs project, controversial when it launched, saw DirectEmployers register and mass-develop thousands of geographic and industry-focused jobs portals. Universe.jobs appears to still live.