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Cruz-Duffy bill would put brakes on IANA transition

Kevin Murphy, June 9, 2016, Domain Policy

America’s continuing unique oversight role in the DNS root management system, fuck yeah!

That’s basically the takeaway from a new bit of proposed US legislation, put forward by Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Sean Duffy in both houses of Congress yesterday.

The two Republican Congressmen have proposed the inappropriately named Protecting Internet Freedom Act, which is specifically designed to scupper the IANA transition at the eleventh hour.

PIFA would prevent the National Telecommunications and Information Administration from backing away from its role in the DNS root management triumvirate.

It’s supported, ironically, by a bunch of small-government right-wing think tanks and lobby groups.

If the bill is enacted, NTIA would need a further act of Congress in order to cancel or allow to expire its current IANA functions contract with ICANN

The bill (pdf) reads:

The Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information may not allow the responsibility of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration with respect to the Internet domain name system functions, including responsibility with respect to the authoritative root zone file and the performance of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority functions, to terminate, lapse, expire, be cancelled, or otherwise cease to be in effect unless a Federal statute enacted after the date of enactment of this Act expressly grants the Assistant Secretary such authority.

The bill also seeks to ensure that the US government has “sole ownership” of the .gov and .mil TLDs “in perpetuity”.

These ownership rights are not and have never been in question; the inclusion of this language in the bill looks like a cheap attempt to stir up Congresspeople’s basest jingoistic tendencies.

A Cruz press release said the IANA transition “will allow over 160 foreign governments to have increased influence over the management and operation of the Internet.”

Duffy added:

President Obama wants to hand over the keys to the Internet to countries like China and Russia. This is reckless and absurd. The governments of these countries do not value free speech. In fact, they censor the Internet and routinely repress and punish political dissidents. They cannot be trusted with something as fundamental to free speech as a free and open Internet.

It’s unfiltered scaremongering.

No country — not China, Russia, the US nor any other government — gets increased powers under the IANA transition proposal, which was painstakingly crafted by, and is now supported by, pretty much all community stakeholders over two years.

In fact, governmental power is significantly curtailed under the proposal.

Post-transition, the Governmental Advisory Committee’s current voting practice, which essentially requires unanimity, would be enshrined in ICANN’s bylaws.

If the GAC came to ICANN with advice that did not have consensus — that is, some governments formally objected to it — ICANN would be able to reject it much more easily than it can today.

The one area where the GAC does get a new role is in the so-called “Empowered Community”, a new concept that will enter the ICANN bylaws post-transition.

The Empowered Community would be a non-profit legal entity formed by the ICANN community in the exceptional event that the ICANN board goes rogue and starts doing really egregious stuff that nobody wants — for example, introducing Draconian policy regulating freedom of speech.

The EC would have the power to kick out the ICANN board members of its choice, reject the ICANN budget, throw out proposed bylaws amendments and so on. As far as ICANN is concerned, the EC would be God.

Its members, or “Decisional Participants” would be the GNSO, the ccNSO, the ALAC, the ASO and the GAC.

The fact that the GAC has a seat at the EC table is the straw that Cruz, Duffy and co grasp at when they talk about governments getting increased power in a post-transition ICANN.

But the GAC’s voice is equal to those of the other four participants, and the GAC is not allowed a vote on matters stemming from ICANN’s implementation of consensus GAC advice.

In other words, the only way Cruz’s boogeymen governments would ever get to push through a censorship policy would be if that policy was also supported by all the other governments or by the majority of the diverse, multi-stakeholder ICANN community.

The arguments of Cruz and Duffy are red herrings, in other words.

Not only that, but the US record on attempted censorship of the DNS root is hardly exemplary.

While it’s generally been quietly hands-off for the majority of the time ICANN has had its hand on the rudder, there was a notable exception.

The Bush-era NTIA, following a letter-writing campaign by the religious right — Bible-thumping Cruz’s base — exerted pressure on ICANN to reject the proposed porn-only .xxx gTLD.

So who’s the real threat here, Red China or Ted Cruz, the man who tried to ban the sale of dildos in Texas?

The Protecting Internet Freedom Act is obviously still just a bill, but Republicans still control both houses of Congress so it’s not impossible that the tens of thousands of hours the ICANN community has put into the IANA transition could be sacrificed on the altar of embarrassing the President, who is probably Kenyan anyway.

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China conference leads to 49% .vip spike

The Global Domain Industry Conference, held in China over the weekend, has led to a huge boost in .vip domain sales.

Registry Minds + Machines told the markets this morning that the recently launched gTLD hit 404,892 as of 1600 UTC yesterday, up 49% from Friday.

CEO Toby Hall confirmed to DI that China is very much behind the spike, and that the conference helped raise the profile of .vip.

Billings and orders have now hit $5.5 million, up from $3.2 million on May 22, M+M said. That number includes sunrise and premium sales.

At GDS, M+M sold eight .vip domains auction for a total of $232,000 before auction commissions, which very likely inspired the spike in base-fee registrations.

Photos of GDS published on social media yesterday show a packed auditorium, with hundreds of attendees.

While M+M makes much of the fact that it has not used a “freenium” strategy for .vip — which it says may lead to better renewal rates than competitors — retail prices are still pretty damn cheap.

At West.cn, its leading Chinese registrar, a .vip can be had today for about $3. It’s closer to $10 at GoDaddy.

Today’s batch of zone files have not yet been published by ICANN for verification, but yesterday there were 245,872 names in .vip.

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ICANN slaps first deadbeat dot-brand with breach notice

The world’s third-largest mobile phone company, worth some $14 billion a year, is the first new gTLD registry operator to refuse to pay ICANN fees.

That’s according to ICANN’s compliance department, which last night slapped Bharti Airtel with the new gTLD program’s first public contract breach notices.

The notices, which apply to .bharti and .airtel, claim that the Indian company has been ignoring demands to pay past due fees since February.

The ICANN quarterly fee for registries is $6,250. Given .airtel and .bharti were delegated 11 months ago, the company, which has assets of $33 billion, can’t owe any more than $37,500.

Bharti Airtel is, according to Wikipedia, the third largest mobile network operator in the world and the largest in India, with 325 million subscribers.

Yet ICANN also claims it has had terrible difficulty getting in touch with staff there, saying:

ICANN notes that Bharti Airtel exhibits a pattern of non-response to ICANN Contractual Compliance matters and, when responses are provided to ICANN, they are often untimely and incomplete.

The compliance notices show that ICANN has also communicated with Verisign, the registry back-end operator for both gTLDs, to try to get the matters resolved.

According to ICANN, the registry is also in breach of terms that require it to publish links to its Whois service, abuse contacts and DNSSEC practice statements on its web site.

The sites nic.airtel and nic.bharti don’t resolve (for me at least) with or without a www., but the Whois services at whois.nic.airtel and whois.nic.bharti appear to work.

These are the first two registries of any flavor emerging from the 2012 application round to receive public breach notices. Only one pre-2012 gTLD, .jobs, has the same honor.

ICANN has given Bharti Airtel 30 days from yesterday to come back into compliance or risk losing its Registry Agreements.

Given that both gTLDS are almost a year old and the nic. sites still don’t resolve, one wonders if the company will bother.

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.xyz tops 5 million domains as penny deals continue

XYZ.com became the first new gTLD operator to top five million domains in a single TLD last night, when .xyz added almost 1.5 million names.

According to our parse of today’s zone file, .xyz has 5,096,589 names, up 1,451,763 on yesterday’s 3,644,826.

On Monday, the number was just under 2.8 million.

The massive spike came after what was supposed to be the final day of a three-day discounting blitz, as registrars sold the names for $0.02, $0.01 or even nothing.

Uniregistry, which sold for a penny, seems to have claimed the lion’s share of the regs.

The company supplied DI with data showing it had processed over 1.16 million registrations on June 2, about 90% of which CEO Frank Schilling said were .xyz sales.

At its peak, Uniregistry created 95,793 new domains in an hour, this data shows.

Judging by the numbers published on its home page, the registrar has pretty much doubled its domains under management overnight.

The rapid growth of .xyz is very probably not over.

Some registrars said they will carry on with the penny giveaways for an extra day.

At least one popular registrar, NameCheap, told irritated customers that the popularity of its $0.02 offer meant it had a backlog of registration requests that would take 12 to 24 hours to process. Those may not have showed up in the zone file yet.

In addition, .xyz prices are expected to be dirt cheap — just $0.18 at Uniregistry, for example — for the rest of the month, at least at the 50-odd registrars XYZ says are participating in its promotion.

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Amazingly, .blockbuster will soon be a gTLD

Video rental chain Blockbuster may have gone the way of the the 8-track, the VCR, and the Nokia cell phone, but it will soon have a gTLD of its own.

The .blockbuster gTLD application completed its pre-delegation testing with ICANN this week and is now with IANA/Verisign, ready to go live on the internet in the coming week or so.

It’s a fairly straightforward dot-brand application, even though the brand itself is pretty much dead.

Blockbuster, which at its peak in 2004 had 9,000 rental stores in its chain, was rescued from its Netflix-induced bankruptcy by TV company Dish Network back in 2011.

Dish applied for .blockbuster in 2012 when the brand was still, if only barely, a going concern.

However, since that time all of its remaining Blockbuster stores have been closed down and the Blockbuster-branded streaming service has been renamed Sling.

The web site at blockbuster.com is a husk that hasn’t been updated since 2014.

And yet the brand will shortly be at the cutting edge of online branding by having its own new gTLD.

A dot-brand without a brand? Surely this will be among the most useless new gTLDs to hit the ‘net.

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