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The first .xxx phishing site?

Kevin Murphy, January 3, 2012, Domain Registries

Those readers following @domainincite on Twitter may have noticed I spent a lot of time on Friday Googling for .xxx web sites, to get an idea how the new namespace is being used.

All in the name of research, of course.

As well as the expected video, dating and forum sites, I found one or two inexplicably safe-for-work oddities.

I also found what I believe may be the first .xxx site set up for phishing.

The domain name signin.xxx, registered to an individual in Ohio, looks extremely suspicious, especially when you consider the subdomains the registrant has created.

Here’s a screenshot of the URL www.hotmail.com.signin.xxx:

Signin.xxx

I have no evidence that the site has been used in a phishing attack, or that the registrant intends to use it in one. However, it seems pretty clear that he’s noticed the potential for abuse.

The page’s footer offers to sell the domain for a seven-figure sum.

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Belarus cuts itself off from the web

Kevin Murphy, January 3, 2012, Domain Policy

You think the Stop Online Piracy Act is bad policy? Be grateful you’re not Belarusian.

The former Soviet state has reportedly banned its citizens from accessing foreign web sites, in a law that becomes effective later this week.

“Registered” entrepreneurs in the country will also be forced to use domain names registered in Belarus (presumably .by), according to a report from the Library of Congress.

Users accessing foreign sites face misdemeanor charges and fines, while operators of WiFi hotspots, such as cafes, face the shutdown of their businesses for violations, according to the report.

The law, as reported, appears to be so insanely Draconian I can’t help but wonder if the Library of Congress has got its facts wrong.

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Businesses may call for more new gTLD trademark protections

Kevin Murphy, December 31, 2011, Domain Policy

It’s open season on ICANN at the moment, and as the number of letters opposing the new gTLD program flittering between Washington DC and Marina del Rey becomes confusingly voluminous many groups think they’ve found another opportunity to demand last-minute changes.

ICANN’s Business Constituency is now considering making several recommendations for “critical improvements” to protect trademark holders in the new gTLD universe.

While the recommendations are still under discussion, they could include adding the option to transfer a domain name to a brand owner after a successful Uniform Rapid Suspension complaint.

This would prove unpopular among domain investors and others as it would increase the likelihood of the untested URS being used as a replacement for the already controversial UDRP, potentially increasing the risk of reverse domain name hijacking.

The BC is also discussing whether to ask for a “permanent registry block” feature to be added the forthcoming Trademark Clearinghouse, enabling brand owners to block their trademarks from all new gTLDs for a one-time fee in much the same way as ICM Registry enabled in the .xxx sunrise.

The Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse made a similar request to ICANN last week.

The idea is unlikely to find favor because it would essentially grant trademark owners exclusivity over strings, a right not usually given to them by trademark law.

Other BC discussion topics include making the Trademark Clearinghouse permanent (instead of just running for the first 60 days of each new gTLD) and putting a firm date on the opening of the second-round application window, a popular request from brand owners.

Much like 13th-hour requests originating in the At-Large Advisory Committee, the BC’s position is likely to be substantially revised before it is submitted to ICANN officially.

While ICANN chairman Steve Crocker told .nxt this week that there are no plans to delay or rate-limit the new gTLD program, it’s less clear whether the Applicant Guidebook is still open for the kinds of substantial amendments now being discussed by the business community.

But my hunch is that, regardless of the political pressure being brought to bear on ICANN in the US, the new gTLD program is going to launch on January 12 in more or less its current form.

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Go Daddy eats humble pie after SOPA boycott

Kevin Murphy, December 30, 2011, Domain Registrars

Go Daddy lost tens of thousands of domain name registrations totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost recurring revenue due to yesterday’s SOPA-related boycott.

NameCheap, the eNom reseller that spearheaded the campaign against Go Daddy, said on Twitter that it had raised over $25,000 for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, suggesting that it saw over 25,000 inbound transfers using its SOPASUCKS discount code.

Twitter noise also suggests that several other registrars, such as Name.com and Gandi, gained from the protest.

The boycott went ahead due to Go Daddy’s former support of the Stop Online Piracy Act, which many Americans believe will infringe civil liberties by erecting a great big DNS firewall around the country.

The company withdrew its support for the bill before Christmas, but many customers either chose to ignore its new stance or to point out that “not supporting” did not necessarily mean “opposing”.

Frankly, I think many people just wanted to lash out, and withdrawing business from a company with an established reputation for being a bit downmarket is a lot easier than, say, turning off SOPA-supporting ESPN or cutting up your SOPA-supporting Visa card.

Warren Adelman, Go Daddy’s new CEO, issued this statement last night, clarifying the company’s position:

We have observed a spike in domain name transfers, which are running above normal rates and which we attribute to Go Daddy’s prior support for SOPA, which was reversed.

Go Daddy opposes SOPA because the legislation has not fulfilled its basic requirement to build a consensus among stake-holders in the technology and Internet communities. Our company regrets the loss of any of our customers, who remain our highest priority, and we hope to repair those relationships and win back their business over time.

The company has over 50 million domains under management. Even if 50,000 were transferred to other registrars, that’s still only 0.1% of Go Daddy’s installed base.

Name server records compiled by DailyChanges also heavily suggest that the company sold over 43,000 new domain registrations yesterday.

The fact that Adelman chose to eat humble pie rather than pointing this out was probably a wise PR decision.

Also, NameCheap deserves some kudos for running a very effective social media campaign.

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DomainIncite’s top posts of 2011

Kevin Murphy, December 29, 2011, Gossip

It’s been an eventful year in the domain name industry, and also for DomainIncite.

Pages views and unique visitors to DI more than tripled in 2011. We welcomed on board several new advertisers and will post our 1,000th article at some point over the next few days.

The year’s biggest rolling stories have been the slow creep towards the launch of ICANN’s new gTLD program, the depletion of the free IPv4 pool, the launch of the controversial .xxx gTLD, and the ongoing tensions between civil liberties advocates and intellectual property interests.

These trends are reflected in the top ten DI posts, by traffic, for 2011.

1. Bit-squatting – the latest risk to domain name owners

This curious security twist on the well-known typosquatting problem came to light during the Black Hat security conference in July. While the risk posed by bit-squatting is tiny, it was still the most-read story of the year.

2. The first .xxx porn site has gone live

This year saw the final approval and delegation of the long-anticipated .xxx top-level domain. Casting.xxx was the first .xxx domain not owned by ICM Registry to start resolving, and we scooped the story in August.

3. Facebok.com given to Facebook despite “theft” claim

The fact that this story about a dispute over the domain facebok.com receives so much search traffic is a testament to the fact that many people continue to a) type domain names into search boxes and b) misspell them.

4. Gratuitous Go Daddy girl butt photo

The headline is self-explanatory. I’d like to think its position in the year’s most-popular posts says a lot more about you than it does about me, but frankly I think we both should hang our heads in shame.

5. Microsoft spends $7.5 million on IP addresses

ICANN finally ran out of IPv4 this year, leading to the emergence of a secondary market in IP addresses. Microsoft’s purchase of a big batch from Nortel in March kicked off this continuing story.

6. Google ranks new .xxx site higher than its .com

For a brief period in August, Google was ranking ifriends.xxx, newly purchased by the adults-only dating site iFriends, higher than its usual .net and .com addresses, under certain circumstances.

While that may no longer be the case, it was an interesting indication of how search engines may experiment with ranking new gTLDs in future.

7. YouPorn challenges new gTLDs with review demand

In October, YouPorn operator Manwin became only the second company ever to file an Independent Review request with ICANN. While its focus was .xxx, its arguments were broad enough to encompass the entire new gTLD concept. One to watch in 2012.

8. Pirates set up domain seizure workaround

The SOPA and PIPA bills in the US were hot topics in the second half of 2011. In October, we broke the story of how pirate-operated DNS services were already springing up to help internet users circumnavigate domain seizures and DNS interception.

9. Facebok.com had 250 million hits a year

Again, it’s a sad fact that when you write about typo domains, you sometimes inherit traffic for those typos. That’s at least partially responsible for another Facebok.com story in our top ten.

10. .xxx domains go live

Back in April, icmregistry.xxx became the first .xxx domain name to start resolving on the internet. DI broke the story, and it got a bunch of traffic.

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