Go Daddy has been accused by a competitor of “thwarting” domain name transfers in violation of ICANN rules. (Note: story has been updated, see below).
The problem has reared its head due to the ongoing SOPA-related boycott of the company’s services, and appears to be related to Go Daddy’s decision earlier this year to throttle Whois queries.
NameCheap, one of the registrars that has been offering discounts to Go Daddy customers outraged by its recently recanted support of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, blogged today:
As many customers have recently complained of transfer issues, we suspect that this competitor [Go Daddy] is thwarting efforts to transfer domains away from them.
Specifically, GoDaddy appears to be returning incomplete WHOIS information to Namecheap, delaying the transfer process. This practice is against ICANN rules.
We at Namecheap believe that this action speaks volumes about the impact that informed customers are having on GoDaddy’s business.
It’s a shame that GoDaddy feels they have to block their (former) customers from voting with their dollars. We can only guess that at GoDaddy, desperate times call for desperate measures.
Part of transferring a domain from Go Daddy to NameCheap involves checking the identity of the registrant against Whois records.
Judging by a number of complaints made by Reddit readers today, it appears that NameCheap and other registrars are attempting to automatically query Go Daddy’s Whois database on port 43 at sufficient volume to trigger whatever throttling algorithm Go Daddy has in place to prevent the “harvesting” of contact data.
Go Daddy caused a similar ruckus earlier this year when it started blocking DomainTools and other Whois aggregation services from collecting full Whois records.
The registrar giant claimed then that it was trying to protect its customers by preventing the inappropriate use of their contact data.
However, while blocking a third-party information tool is merely annoying and disturbing, interfering with legitimate inter-registrar transfers could get Go Daddy into hot water, even if it is inadvertent.
NameCheap says it is doing the required Whois look-ups manually for now, and that it will honor each transfer request.
Giving Go Daddy the benefit of the doubt, I assume that this problem is ongoing largely due to the Christmas holiday, and that it will be rectified as soon as the appropriate people become aware of it.
Add this to your list of reasons .com and .net need a thick Whois.
UPDATE: All registrars have access to an ICANN service called RADAR, which enables them to specify the IP addresses they use to query competitors’ Whois databases.
Whitelisting IP addresses in this way could prevent a registrar’s queries being throttled, but not all registrars use the service.
According to this screenshot, NameCheap has not whitelisted any IP addresses in RADAR, which may be the reason it is having problems transferring Go Daddy customers’ domains to itself.
New generic top-level domain applicants will have to find between $18,000 and $300,000 per gTLD to cover the risk of their business failing, according to ICANN.
ICANN revealed the figures, which have been calculated from prices quoted by 14 potential emergency back-end registry operators, in a pre-Christmas info-dump on Friday.
The so-called Continued Operations Instrument is designed to cover the cost of paying an EBERO to manage and/or wind down a failed gTLD business over up to three years.
All new gTLD applicants must either secure credit or put cash in escrow to cover the COI, the amount of which depends on how many domains under management they anticipate.
This table shows the size of the COI for various sizes of zone.
|Projected Number of Domains||Estimated 3 Year COI (USD)|
This essentially means that any registry that plans to grow its gTLD into a commercially successful volume business needs to find $300,000 to cover the cost of its potential failure.
Only five previously introduced new gTLDs have topped 250,000 domains under management in their first five years: .info (with 8 million today), .biz, .name, .mobi and .tel (which peaked at 305,000).
Smaller gTLDs, comparable to a .cat, .jobs or .travel, will only have to find $40,000 to $80,000. It’s likely that the majority of .brand applicants will only need to secure the minimum $18,000.
While potentially expensive, it’s welcome clarity into new gTLD funding requirements, albeit coming just two weeks before ICANN begins to accept applications.
ICANN also threw a bone to potential applicants from countries with poor access to credit.
The organization previously only contemplated allowing credit from banks with an ‘A’ rating or higher, but it now says it will accept, in its discretion, financial instruments from the highest-rated institution available to the applicant.
ICANN said it may also consider becoming a party to these credit agreements, again in its sole discretion, but that such applicants could lose points when their application is scored as a result.
Seventeen US Congressmen have put their names to a letter asking ICANN to delay its new generic top-level domains program.
The bipartisan group was led by Rep. Fred Upton, chairman of the House technology subcommittee that held a hearing into new gTLDs last week. They wrote:
Although we believe expanding gTLDs is a worthy goal that may lead to increased competition on the Internet, we are very concerned that there is a significant uncertainty in this process for businesses, non-profit organizations, and consumers. To that end, we urge you to delay the planned January 12, 2012 date for the acceptance of applications for new gTLDs.
The letter (pdf), sent yesterday to ICANN president Rod Beckstrom and chairman Steve Crocker, goes on to note the objections of several groups, including the Coalition for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight, that have opposed the program in recent weeks.
Given these widespread concerns, a short delay will allow interested parties to work with ICANN and offer changes to alleviate many of them, specifically concerns over law enforcement, cost and transparency that were discussed in recent Congressional hearings.
It is notable that the letter was sent directly to ICANN’s top brass.
Previous requests of this kind have been sent to ICANN’s overseers in the US Department of Commerce, which has already indicated that it does not intend to strong-arm ICANN into changing its new gTLD plans.
ICANN’s senior vice president Kurt Pritz said last week that the chance of delay was “above zero”.
Whether this latest letter changes the math remains to be seen.
Opposition to the January 12 launch date in the US currently appears to be reaching a critical mass.
In what is likely to turn out to be a storm in a teacup, ICANN’s At-Large Advisory Committee is set to vote on a resolution calling for a delay to the new generic top-level domains program.
The ALAC, ICANN’s policy-making body tasked with representing individual end users, has been discussing a possible update to its position on new gTLDs for the last few days.
A first-draft motion, proposed by vice-chair Evan Leibovitch, said the program “would be harmful to the public interest” and requested that its January 12 launch be “suspended”.
It’s since been watered down twice, and may well be watered down further before (and if) the ALAC considers it at its January 24 monthly meeting.
The resolution currently talks about a “a deep concern about the possible harmful effect on Internet end-users of a single massive expansion of gTLDs”.
It adds that ICANN should “phase-in” the introduction of new gTLDs, “releasing no more than 25 every three months” with about a third coming from poor or community-based applicants.
It appears to be a reaction to ICANN’s newly developed applicant support program, which was weaker than many proponents of the cheaper gTLDs for worthy applicants had hoped.
Even in its current form, the resolution is attracting much more opposition than support from members of the At-Large, so it seems unlikely that it will go anywhere.
To advocate for a phased approach to new gTLDs, or to recommend a delay, would represent a huge U-turn from the ALAC’s existing position.
In 2009, the group said supported “the expedient introduction of new gTLDs” and that it did not believe a “trial run” with a limited number of applications was appropriate.
Still, there’s nothing wrong with changing one’s mind as new evidence comes to light, of course.
Twenty-eight domain name industry players have written to two influential US senators in support of ICANN’s new generic top-level domains program.
Calling it “innovative and economically beneficial”, the letter takes issue with third-party claims that the program was “rushed”, pointing out that it took a long time and lots of people to develop.
Since the formation of the multi-stakeholder Internet governance, no process has been as inclusive, and no level of outreach has been as far-reaching as the one facilitating discussion of namespace expansion.
While new gTLDs will experience different levels of end-user adoption, we optimistically anticipate the useful possibilities for new services and applications from the namespace, the positive economic impact in the United States and globally, the inclusion of developing nations in Internet growth and development, and the realization of the hard work and preparation of the thousands of interested stakeholders dedicated not only to their own interests, but that of the global Internet.
The letter (pdf) was signed almost exclusively by registrars, registries, applicants and consultants; with one or two possible exceptions, all companies that stand to make money from new gTLDs.
It was sent to Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, chair and ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
That committee held a hearing into new gTLDs two weeks ago during which Rockefeller expressed cautious support for the concept, saying he was in favor of competition.
The letter is dated December 8, the day of the Senate hearing.
A similar hearing in the House of Representatives last week resulted in two Congressmen sending a letter (pdf) to the Department of Commerce requesting a delay to the program.