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Governments to get more power at ICANN

Kevin Murphy, August 18, 2014, Domain Policy

Governments are to get more power to influence ICANN’s board of directors.

Under a proposal launched late Friday, ICANN plans to make it harder for the board to reject the often-controversial advice of the Governmental Advisory Committee.

Today, the board is able to reject GAC advice with a simple majority vote, which triggers a consultation and reconciliation process.

Following the proposed changes to the ICANN bylaws, the threshold would be increased to a two-thirds majority.

The change is to be made following the recommendations of the Board-GAC Recommendations Implementation Working Group, made up of members of the board and the GAC.

The new rule would bring the GAC into line with the multistakeholder Generic Names Supporting Organization. The ICANN board also needs a two-thirds vote to reject a formal GNSO recommendation.

The differences between the GAC and the GNSO include the lack of detailed industry awareness GAC members regularly demonstrate during their public meetings, and the fact that GAC advice regularly comprises deliberately vague negotiated language that ICANN’s board has a hard time interpreting.

That disconnect may improve in future due to the recent creation of a GAC-GNSO liaison position, designed to keep the GAC up to date with policy goings-on between the thrice-yearly ICANN meetings.

The proposed bylaws change is open for public comment, but appears to be a fait accompli; the board has already said it will use the higher voting threshold if called to make a decision on GAC advice prior to its formal adoption.

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EasyDNS changes take-down policy after man dies

Kevin Murphy, August 15, 2014, Domain Registrars

Canadian registrar EasyDNS has amended its take-down policy after a customer of one of its registrants died of an overdose.

In a frank blog post today, CEO Mark Jeftovic said that the man had died using a “controlled substance” ordered online. The web site in question used a domain registered via EasyDNS.

As a result of the death, and conversations with ICANN and the US Food and Drug Administration, EasyDNS has changed its policy.

It will now turn off any domain used for a pharmacy web site unless the registrant can produce a license permitting it to sell pharmaceuticals in the territories it sells to.

Previously, the company would only turn off a pharmacy-related domain with a court order.

It’s a notable U-turn for the company because Jeftovic is an outspoken critic of unilateral take-down notices.

In January, he referred to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy as a “batch of clowns” for demanding that EasyDNS and other registrars take down unlicensed pharmacies without court orders.

He also has an ongoing beef with the UK police over its repeated requests for file-sharing and counterfeiting-related domains to be taken down without judicial review.

Jeftovic blogged today:

[I]n one case we have people allegedly pirating Honey Boo Boo reruns and on the other we have people dying. We don’t know where exactly, but the line goes somewhere in between there.

We have always done summary takedowns on net abuse issues, spam, botnets, malware etc. It seems reasonable that a threat to public health or safety that has been credibly vetted fits in the same bucket.

As a private company we feel within our rights to set limits and boundaries on what kinds of business risk we are willing to take on and under what circumstances. Would we tell the US State Department to go to hell if they wanted us to take down ZeroHedge? Absolutely. Do we want to risk criminally indicted by the FDA because of unregulated vicodin imports? Not so much.

You can read his full blog post here.

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Reported mass exodus from .com explained

Kevin Murphy, August 15, 2014, Domain Registries

Did Verisign suffer from a massive 2,600% increase in the number of deleted .com domain names this April?

Not quite, although the bizarre spike in deletes may have highlighted an area where the company was previously out of compliance with its ICANN Registry Agreements.

April’s .com registry report, filed with ICANN and published last week, shows 2.4 million domains were deleted, compared to just 108,000 in March and 90,000 in April 2013.

The spike looks surprising, and you may be tempted to think it is in some way related to the arrival of new gTLDs.

But look again. Could .com, a registry with over 116 million domains under management, really only see roughly 100,000 deletes every month? Clearly that number is far too low.

So what’s going on? I asked Verisign.

The company said that it has implemented “voluntary” changes to its reporting of deleted domains, based on the standard new gTLD Registry Agreement, which specifies what must be reported by new gTLD registries.

It said:

Prior to the April 2014 monthly reports, and per the ICANN gTLD registry reporting guidelines, Verisign reported on only deleted domains outside of any grace period.

There are five “grace periods” permitted by ICANN contracts: the Add Grace Period, Renew/Extend Grace Period, Auto-Renew Grace Period, Transfer Grace Period, and Redemption Grace Period.

The familiar Add Grace Period allows registrars to cancel registrations within a week of registration if the registrant made a typo, for example, and asked for a refund.

The Redemption Grace Period covers domains that have expired and do not resolve, but can still be restored for 30 days at the request of the registrant.

According to Verisign, before April, domains that were deleted outside of any of the five grace periods were reported as “deleted-domains-nograce”.

From April, the company is reporting domains only as “deleted-domains-nograce” if they delete outside of the Add Grace Period.

According to my reading of the .com contract, that’s what Verisign should have been doing all along.

The contract, which Verisign and ICANN signed in late 2012, defines “deleted-domains-nograce” only as “domains deleted outside the add grace period”. There’s no mention of other grace periods.

The same definition can be found in the 2006 contract.

It appears to me that Verisign may have been under-reporting its deletes for quite some time.

Verisign said in response that it does not believe it has a compliance issue. A spokesperson said: “[We] voluntarily updated our reporting of deleting domain names so that our reporting is aligned with ICANN’s reporting clarifications for the new gTLDs.”

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Infosys withdraws dot-brand bids

Kevin Murphy, August 15, 2014, Domain Registries

Indian consulting giant Infosys has dropped its bids for two dot-brand new gTLDs.

It withdrew its applications for .infosys and .infy this week, leaving it with no remaining applications.

Both bids were straightforward dot-brands applications with no objections or contention. Both had passed Initial Evaluation and were just awaiting contract signing.

Infosys, which provides business and IT consulting services and outsourcing, is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and had revenue of $8.4 billion in its last reported year.

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Donuts wins .ltd gTLD contest

Kevin Murphy, August 15, 2014, Domain Registries

Donuts has emerged the victor of the contention set for .ltd, beating six other applicants for the new gTLD.

Dot Registry, NU DOT CO, Afilias and myLTD all withdrew their applications this week, evidently after a private auction.

LTD Registry and C.V. TLDcare withdrew their applications in April and May respectively.

The string is of course an abbreviation for “limited” as in “limited liability company”, used by privately held companies in many companies including the UK.

While bids for comparable TLDs such as .inc, .corp and .gmbh have received criticism from company regulators in the US and Germany, .ltd hasn’t raised as much of a ruckus.

Like all Donuts gTLDs, it looks like .ltd is set to be unrestricted.

I’m not a fan of corporate identifier TLDs. They always strike me as more prone to defensive registrations than other, more descriptive strings.

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