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Microsoft objects to Google’s dotless domains plan

Kevin Murphy, June 11, 2013, Domain Tech

Microsoft has strongly urged ICANN to reject Google’s plan for a “dotless” .search gTLD.

In a letter sent a couple of weeks ago and published last night, the company says that Google risks putting the security and stability of the internet at risk if its .search idea goes ahead.

David Tennenhouse, corporate vice president of technology policy, wrote:

Dotless domains are currently used as intranet addresses controlled by private networks for internal use. Google’s proposed amendment would interfere with that private space, creating security vulnerabilities and impacting enterprise network and systems infrastructure around the globe.

It’s a parallel argument to the one going on between Verisign and everyone else with regards to gTLD strings that may conflict with naming schemes on internal corporate networks.

While they’re subtly different problems, ICANN recently commissioned a security study into dotless domains (announced 11 days after Microsoft’s letter was sent) that links the two.

As Tennenhouse says in his letter, ICANN’s Security and Stability Advisory Committee, which has Google employees on it, has already warned about the dotless name problem in SAC053 (pdf).

He also claims that Google had submitted follow-up comments to SAC053 saying dotless domains would be “actively harmful”, but this is slightly misleading.

One Google engineer did submit such a comment, but it limited itself to talking about clashes with internal name certificates, a slightly different issue, and it’s not clear it was an official Google Inc comment.

The new gTLD Applicant Guidebook currently outlaws dotless domains through its ban on “apex A records”, but that ban can be circumvented if applicants can convince a registry services evaluation panel that their dotless domain plans don’t pose a stability risk.

While Google’s original .search application envisaged a single-registrant “closed generic”, it later amended the proposal to make it “open” and include the dotless domain proposal.

This is the relevant bit of the amended application:

Charleston Road Registry will operate a service that allows users to easily perform searches using the search functionality of their choice. This service will operate on the “dotless” search domain name (http://search/) and provide a simple web interface. This interface operates in two modes:

1) When the user has not set a preference for a search engine, they will be prompted to select one. The user will be provided with a simple web form that will allow them to designate a search engine by entering the second level label for any second level domain registered with in the TLD (e.g., if “foo.search” was a valid second level domain name, the user could indicated that their preferred search engine was “foo”). The user can also elect to save this preference, in which case a cookie will be set in the userʹs browser. This cookie will be used in the second mode, as described below. If the user enters an invalid name, they will be prompted again to provide a valid response.

2) If the user has already set a preferred search engine, the redirect service will redirect the initial query to the second level domain name indicated by the userʹs preference, including any query string provided by the user. For example, if the user had previously selected the “foo” search engine and had issued a query for http://search/?q=bar, the server would issue a redirect to http://foo.search/?q=bar. In this manner, the userʹs query will be consistently redirected to the search engine of their choice.

While Google seems to have preempted some concerns about monopolistic practices in the search engine market, approval of its dotless search feature would nevertheless have huge implications.

Make no mistake, dotless domains are a Big Deal and it would be a huge mistake for ICANN to treat them only as a security and stability issue.

What’s weird about Google’s proposal is that by asking ICANN to open up the floodgates for dotless domains, it risks inviting the domain name industry to eat its breakfast, lunch and dinner.

If ICANN lets registries offer TLDs domains without dots, the new gTLD program will no longer be about delegating domain names, it will be about auctioning exclusive rights to search terms.

Today, if you type “beer” into your browser’s address bar (which in all the cases I’m aware of are also search bars) you’ll be directed to a page of search results for the term “beer”.

In future, if “beer” is a domain name, what happens? Do you get search or do you get a web page, owned by the .beer registry? Would that page have value, or would it be little better than a parking page?

If browser makers decided to implement dotless domains — and of course there are plenty of reasons why they wouldn’t — every borderline useful dictionary word gTLD would be sold off in a single round.

Would that be good for the internet? I’d lean toward “no”.

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Directi launches pre-reg site for .host gTLD

Directi is to offer preregistration for its uncontested gTLD applications, and it’s starting with .host.

The company will accept expressions of interest from potential registrants from June 17, where it has a booth at the HostingCon show in Austin, Texas, according to business head Sandeep Ramchandani.

Directi’s other two uncontested bids — .press and .space — will also get preregistration pages.

It’s the usual pre-reg deal: free and no-obligation.

While .host has not yet passed its Initial Evaluation, the company’s other applications have has a smooth ride so far so it’s a pretty reasonable assumption that this one will also pass.

The bid also has no objections and no special Governmental Advisory Committee advice.

While preregistration services have proved controversial in the past, they’re becoming increasingly common as new gTLDs start thinking about what a crowded market they’re walking into.

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Uniregistry is too .sexy for new gTLD objection

.SX Registry has asked for its formal objection to Uniregistry’s .sexy gTLD application to be withdrawn, we understand.

It’s believed to be among the four objections, according to ICANN, that have been dismissed by the dispute resolution providers following withdrawal requests from the objectors.

The ccTLD registry had filed String Confusion Objections to .sexy and to one of the two applications for .sex. The .sex objection appears to be still pending.

While there’s an interesting decision to be had in the .sex case — how audibly similar are “sex” and “ess-sex”? — I’m not sure the same could be said for the extra-syllabled .sexy.

Resolution providers are currently in the process of picking panelists for all new gTLD objections, so decisions are not expected for months.

Note: this is the second and last time DI will use a Right Said Fred allusion in a headline related to .sexy. We reserve the right to mock others who use similar headlines in future.

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China pushes .pw to over 250,000 names

Directi’s .PW Registry has taken over 250,000 domain registrations in the two and a half months since it launched, largely thanks to growth in China.

According to recent DomainTools research, Chinese registrars such as DNSPod and Xin Net lead .pw sales, and .PW business head Sandeep Ramchandani told DI today that this trend is now even more noticeable.

The frankly surprising volume seems to be due largely to its low pricing and some aggressive registrar promotion. Xin Net, for example, sells .pw names for about $6 each, compared to $9 for .com.

While Chinese-script domains are available, most registrations are for Latin strings, Ramchandani said.

The 250,000 number excludes domains that have been deleted for abuse, of which there have been quite a lot.

Ramchandani said that the registry’s abuse department is staffed around the clock.

Directi is using NameSentry from Architelos to track abusive names and has made deals with the most-abused registrars to take down names at the registry level when they pop up, he said.

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Late new gTLD objections “not unfair”

Kevin Murphy, June 10, 2013, Domain Policy

ICANN Ombudsman Chris LaHatte has ruled that the decision to accept formal new gTLD objections sent one minute after the filing deadline “does not create unfairness”.

The decision is a blow to at least one applicant, which had tried to have an objection against it kicked out for being late.

LaHatte received a complaint from the applicant, believed to be represented by Galway Strategy Group’s Jim Prendergast, last month.

The complainant said that an objection by a competing applicant was sent at 00:01:02 UTC on March 15, one minute and three seconds after the deadline laid out in ICANN’s Applicant Guidebook.

But the dispute resolution providers hired by ICANN to manage objections decided to give a little leeway, agreeing among themselves (with ICANN’s tacit consent) to a five-minute extension.

Now LaHatte has decided — entirely reasonably in my view — that this was not unfair.

He wrote: “It is my view that a five minute window is a proportionate response and does not create unfairness for the applicants, but does provide fairness given that it is only five minutes.”

He added that at least one other objection, which was filed much later, was rejected for its tardiness.

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