Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

NamesCon 2015 bigger, longer and more popular

Kevin Murphy, January 5, 2015, Domain Services

NamesCon 2015 is due to kick of in Las Vegas this coming weekend with about 50% more attendees that its inaugural outing last year.

Organizers tell me that so far roughly 750 people (not including press and staff) have registered to attend the conference, which is taking place for the second year at the Tropicana hotel. That’s up from the roughly 525 registered a week before the 2014 event.

Some are expecting the final turnout to top 800.

Registrations were boosted as 2014 came to a close by the announcement that NamesCon had acquired the rights to use the longstanding DomainFest brand and domain to promote its own show.

The show is due to run from Sunday, January 11 to Wednesday, January 14, a day longer than the year-ago event.

NamesCon is a bit of a strange beast, catering heavily to domainers but with also a strong series of sessions aimed at digital brand managers and the intellectual property side of the industry.

Where else could you see sessions called “Workshop: I’m Getting Sued – What Do I Do Now?” and “Making the Most of Your .BRAND and the Evolving Internet” running side by side?

For domainers, a highlight of the week may be the live domain auction, which is being run by Right Of The Dot and SnapNames from January 13 from 1630 until 1930 local time.

There are 350 names going to auction, in an eclectic mix of legacy and new gTLDs.

Currently, slightly more than half of the 23 names with bids are new gTLD domains, though their asking prices are a lot lower than the .coms on the list — most seeing bids in the $250 range compared to a top .com bid fo $51,000 for agree.com.

Domains that do not sell during the live event will carry over to an extended auction that ends February 5.

TLD Registry, which runs a couple of Chinese-script new gTLDs, has a strong presence at NamesCon too, sponsoring a day-long session on the Chinese domain market on the Sunday.

Keynote speakers during the conference proper include Akram Atallah, president of ICANN’s Global Domains Division, as well as executives from Go Daddy, Donuts, Uniregistry and others.

DI will be in attendance. I’ve agreed to do a presentation on DI PRO and industry metrics on Sunday, probably sharing the stage with another tools vendor, on Sunday, but the exact time and location have yet to be confirmed.

Conference passes are still available for $799 from the NamesCon web site. Registration on the door goes up to $849. For context, that’s still less than half the price you’d paid to go to TRAFFIC.

1 Comment Tagged: ,

New gTLDs pummel .net below 15 million domains

Kevin Murphy, January 2, 2015, Domain Registries

Verisign’s .net gTLD has had a disappointing start to 2015, as its zone file dipped below 15 million domains for the first time since achieving the milestone.

As of last night, .net had 14,998,404 names in its zone, a daily dip of over 10,000 domains.

That’s down by about 200,000 names from the roughly 15.2 million it had in March 2014, the earliest count for which I have records.

The gTLD first passed 15 million in August 2013, according to a celebratory blog post at the time.

Verisign has previously blamed the “confusion” created by the launch of new gTLDs for the decline, which was inexorable in 2014.

In October, CEO James Bidzos told financial analysts that “.net may be more susceptible to that confusion that swirls around new gTLDs.”

My similar view is that the existence of new gTLDs is causing people to wake up to the fact that defensive or shopping cart up-sell .net registrations are now superfluous, and that the days of .net riding on big brother .com’s coat-tails may be numbered.

There are still about 31,000 dark .net domains — registered names not present in its zone file — according to Verisign.

At the end of August 2014, .net had 15,569,398 registered names, according to the most recent available ICANN registry report.

3 Comments Tagged: , ,

.uk suspension problems worse than I thought

Kevin Murphy, December 31, 2014, Domain Registrars

Problems validating the addresses of .uk domain registrants, which caused one registrar to dump the TLD entirely, are broader than I reported yesterday.

Cronon, which does business as Strato, announced last week that it has stopped selling .uk domain names because in more than a third of cases Nominet, the registry, is unable to validate the Whois data.

In many cases the domain is subsequently suspended, causing customer support headaches.

It now transpires that the problems are not limited to .uk second-level names, are not limited to UK registrants, and are not caused primarily by mailing address validation failures.

Michael Shohat, head of registrar services at Cronon, got in touch last night to clarify that most of its affected customers are in fact from its native Germany or from the Netherlands.

All of the affected names are .co.uk names, not .uk SLDs, he added.

And the validation is failing in the large majority of cases not due to Nominet’s inability to validate a mailing address, but rather its inability to validate the identity of the registrant.

“This is where the verification is failing. The database they are using can’t find many of our registrants’ company names,” Shohat said.

“So 30% of our registrations were being put on hold, almost all of them from [Germany] and [the Netherlands], and 90% of them because of the company name. We checked lots of them and in every single case the name of the company was correct, and the address as well,” he said.

Michele Neylon of the ICANN Registrar Stakeholders Group said that Cronon is not the only registrar to have been affected by these issues. Blacknight Solutions, the registrar Neylon runs, has been complaining about the problem since May.

According to Neylon, the Nominet policy causing the issue is its data quality policy, which covers all .uk and .co.uk (etc) names.

The policy itself is pretty vague — Nominet basically says it will work with each individual registrar to determine a baseline of what can be considered a “minimum proportion of valid data”, given the geographic makeup of the registrar’s customer base.

Domains that fail to meet these criteria have a “Data Quality Lock” imposed — essentially a suspension of the domain’s ability to resolve.

Earlier this year, Nominet did backtrack on plans to implement an automatic cancellation of the names after 30 days of non-compliance, following feedback from its registrars.

“It’s disappointing that Cronon have taken this step; we hope they will consider working with us to find a way to move forward,” a Nominet spokesperson added.

She said that the registry has over recent years moved to “more proactive enforcement” of Whois accuracy. She pointed out that Nominet takes on the “lion’s share of the work”, reducing the burden on registrars.

“However, our solution does not include non-UK data sets to cross-reference with, so it is possible that some false positives occur,” she said. “Registrars with a large non-UK registrant bases, who are not accredited channel partners, would be affected more than others.”

An Accredited Channel Partner is the top tier of the three Nominet offers to registrars. It has additional data validation requirements but additional benefits.

While .co.uk domains are not limited to UK-based registrants, all .uk SLD registrants do need to have a UK mailing address in their Whois for legal service.

The company’s inability to validate many non-UK business identities seems to mean .co.uk could also slowly become a UK-only space by the back door.

9 Comments Tagged: , , , , ,

Big registrar dumps .uk — a glimpse of Christmas future?

Kevin Murphy, December 30, 2014, Domain Registrars

German registrar Cronon, which retails domains under the Strato brand, has stopped carrying .uk domains due to what it says are onerous Whois validation rules.

In a blog post, company spokesperson Christina Witt said that over one third of all .uk sales the registrar has been making are failing Nominet’s registry-end validation checks, which she said are “buggy”.

With the introduction of direct second-level registration under .uk, Nominet introduced a new requirement that all new domains must have a UK address in the Whois for legal service, even if the registrant is based overseas.

According to its web site, Nominet checks registrant addresses against the Royal Mail Postcode Address file, which contains over 29 million UK addresses, and does a confidence-based match.

If attempts to match the supplied address with a UK address in this file prove fruitless, and after outreach to the registrant, Nominet suspends the domain 30 days after registration and eventually deletes it.

It’s this policy of terminating domains that has caused Strato to despair and stop accepting new .uk registrations.

“Databases of street directories or company registers are often inaccurate and out of date,” Witt wrote (translated from the original German). “The result: addresses that are not wrong, in fact, are be found to be invalid.”

Nominet is throwing back over a third of all .uk names registered via Strato, according to the blog post, creating a customer support nightmare.

Its affected registrants are also confused about the verification emails they receive from Nominet, a foreign company of which they have often never heard, Witt wrote.

I don’t know how many .uk names the registrar has under management, but it’s reasonably large in the gTLD space, with roughly 650,000 domains under management at the last count.

If Strato’s claim that Nominet is rejecting a third of valid addresses (and how Strato could know they’re valid is open to question), that’s quite a scary statistic.

Nominet seems to be using an address database, from the Royal Mail, which is about as close to definitive as it gets. And it’s only verifying addresses from a single country.

I shudder to imagine what the false negative rate would be like for a gTLD registrar compelled to validate addresses across 200-odd countries and territories.

The latest version of the ICANN Registrar Accreditation Agreement requires registrars to partially validate addresses, such as checking whether the street and postal code exist in the given city, but there’s no requirement for domains to be suspended if these checks fail.

[UPDATE: Thanks to Michele Neylon of the Registrars Stakeholder Group for the reminder that this RAA requirement hasn’t actually come into force yet, and won’t until the RrSG and ICANN come to terms on its technical and commercial feasibility.]

Where the 2013 RAA does require suspension is when the registrant fails to verify their email address (or, less commonly, phone number), which as we’ve seen over the last year leads to hundreds of thousands of names being yanked for no good reason.

If Strato’s story about .uk is correct and its experience shared by other registrars, I expect that will become and important data point the next time law enforcement or other interests push for even stricter Whois rules in the ICANN world.

5 Comments Tagged: , , , , , , ,

One company now owns almost a third of all registrars

Kevin Murphy, December 30, 2014, Domain Registrars

TurnCommerce acquired another 299 registrar accreditations from ICANN over Christmas week.

The company, which is behind domain properties including DropCatch.com, now has at least 452 registrars in its stable. That’s over 31% of the 1,456 total currently reported by Internic.

Each of the new accreditations is named “DropCatch”, followed by a number from 446 to 751. Each has a matching .com domain as its nominal base of operations and an associated LLC shell company.

At $4,000 a year for the base accreditation fee, TurnCommerce must be spending close to $2 million a year in ICANN fees alone.

Companies in the drop-catching business acquire large numbers of registrars in order to control more batches of connections with which to spam gTLD registries with “add” requests when potentially valuable domains expire and are deleted.

With almost a third of all accredited registrars now operating under the same control, one imagines TurnCommerce’s chances of securing the names it wants have been significantly improved.

As well as DropCatch, TurnCommerce runs retail registrar NameBright and premium sales site HugeDomains. It has plans to launch additional services at Expire.com and PremiumDomains.com shortly.

Its latest crop of registrars means ICANN has accredited over 2,200 companies since the gTLD registrar market was opened for competition 15 year ago, though many have allowed their contracts to lapse or, less frequently, have been terminated by ICANN compliance efforts.

13 Comments Tagged: , , , ,