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Multiple live gTLDs will be auctioned in October

Kevin Murphy, September 23, 2014, Domain Registries

Exactly 11 months after the first new gTLDs were delegated to the DNS root, DI has learned that a batch of live gTLDs are heading to auction for the first time.

There’s now officially an aftermarket for top-level domains.

“Multiple” delegated 2012-round new gTLDs will be auctioned off next month, with the exact date yet to be finalized, according to a reliable source.

The venue will be Applicant Auction, which has been helping applicants resolve gTLD contention sets via private auction for the last year.

The auction is understood to be invitation-only and the identities of the gTLDs up for grabs, and their associated registries, are a closely-guarded secret.

What conclusions we can come to will rather depend on which gTLDs are being sold.

If they’re gTLDs that are already in general availability, and perhaps have suffered worse-than-expected sales, it probably wouldn’t look very good for the new gTLD program.

But if they’re pre-launch strings belonging to portfolio applicants that have always looked like obvious investment vehicles, the optics might not be as damaging.

We’ll have to wait and see. If the auctions are successful, at some point over the next couple of months we can expect to see one or more new gTLDs change hands.

It won’t be the first time a gTLD has been bought — successful applicants from earlier rounds have been acquired by larger competitors — but it will be the first time a delegated new gTLD has been auctioned off when it’s still basically an unproven asset rather than a full-blown business.

It could be the first example of “domaining” with TLDs.

In this round, NCC Group bought .trust — an uncontested application with no ICANN contract — from Deutshe Post in February, while Rightside has acquired some TLDs from Donuts under a pre-existing deal.

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Comcast users report name collision bugs

Kevin Murphy, September 23, 2014, Domain Tech

US cable ISP Comcast has become the latest company to experience problems caused by name collisions with new gTLDs.

In this case the gTLD in question is .network, which Donuts had delegated at the end of August.

Users of Comcast’s Xfinity service have been complaining about various issues linked to collisions ever since.

It turns out some Xfinity hubs use the domain home.network on residential networks and that this default configuration choice was not corrected by Comcast before .network went live.

The collision doesn’t appear to be causing widespread internet access issues — Xfinity has close to 20 million users so we’d have heard about it if the problems were ubiquitous — some things appear to be failing.

I’ve seen multiple reports of users unable to access storage devices on their local networks, of being unable to run the popular TeamSpeak conferencing software used by gamers, problems with installing RubyGems, and errors when attempting to use remote desktop tools.

Judging by logs published by affected users, Donuts has been returning the domain “your-dns-needs-immediate-attention.network” and the IP address 127.0.53.53.

Anyone Googling for 127.0.53.53 — the IP address selected to ICANN’s “controlled interruption” name collision management plan — will currently find this ad:

Cyrus Namazi, vice president of DNS industry engagement at ICANN, confirmed to DI that ICANN has received multiple reports of issues on Comcast residential networks and that ICANN has been in touch with the ISP.

Comcast is working on a permanent fix, he said.

Namazi said that ICANN has not received any complaints from users of other ISPs. Most collision-related complaints have been filed by residential users rather than companies, he said.

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Donuts snatches four new gTLDs at auction, beating Amazon to .video

Kevin Murphy, September 23, 2014, Domain Registries

Donuts has emerged the victor from four new gTLD auctions this week, getting its hands on .money, .video, .sale and .legal.

Notably, Uniregistry, Minds + Machines and Amazon have withdrawn from the .video race, leaving Donuts the winner.

.video was one of the gTLDs Amazon had originally applied for as a “closed generic” that it intended to keep for itself and its affiliates. Now, it will be an open generic under Donuts.

Donuts also won .sale against Uniregistry, Dot-Sale and Famous Four.

Minds + Machines withdrew its .sale application in April 2013, before even Initial Evaluation.

Colombian applicant Primer Nivel, affiliated with My.co, withdrew its application for .legal, leaving Donuts the only remaining bidder, while Famous Four dropped out of the two-horse race for .money.

Meanwhile, dotCOOL has pulled its bid for .memorial, leaving applications from Afilias and Donuts still active. Presumably, one of these will withdraw later in the week.

As usual, winning bids have not been revealed.

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Fight over ICANN’s $400,000 Hollywood party

Kevin Murphy, September 22, 2014, Gossip

Corporate sponsors raised $250,000 to fund a $400,000 showbiz gala for ICANN 51 next month, but ICANN pulled the plug after deciding against making up the shortfall.

Sources tell DI that the lavish shindig was set to take place at Fox Studios in Los Angeles on October 15, but that ICANN reneged on a commitment to throw $150,000 into the pot.

Meanwhile, a senior ICANN source insists that there was no commitment and that a “misunderstanding” is to blame.

ICANN announced a week ago that its 51st public meeting would be the first in a while without a gala event. In a blog post, VP Christopher Mondini blamed a lack of sponsors and the large number of attendees, writing:

One change from past meetings is that there will not be an ICANN51 gala. Historically, the gala has been organized and supported by an outside sponsor. ICANN51 will not have such a sponsor, and therefore no gala. ICANN meetings have grown to around 3,000 attendees, and so have the challenges of finding a gala sponsor.

This explanation irked some of those involved in the aborted deal. They claim that the post was misleading.

Sources say that sponsors including Fox Studios, Neustar and MarkMonitor had contractually committed $250,000 to the event after ICANN promised to deliver the remaining $150,000.

But ICANN allegedly changed its mind about its own contribution and, the next day, published the Mondini post.

“The truth is there were sponsors, the truth is it wasn’t too big,” said a source who preferred not to be named. “There was enough money there for a gala.”

The venue was to be the Fox Studios backlot, which advertises itself as being able to handle receptions of up to 4,000 people — plenty of space for an ICANN gala.

I’ve confirmed with Neustar, operator of the .us ccTLD, that it had set aside $75,000 to partly sponsor the event.

But Mondini told DI that ICANN had not committed the $150,000, and that claims to the contrary were based on a “misunderstanding” — $150,000 was the amount ICANN spent on the Singapore gala (nominally sponsored by SGNIC), not how much it intended to spend on the LA event.

“There was no ICANN commitment to make up shortfall,” he said. “It was misheard as an ICANN commitment.”

More generally, ICANN’s top brass are of the opinion that “we shouldn’t be in the business of spending lots of money on galas”, Mondini added.

“ICANN paying for galas is the exception rather than the rule,” he said.

He added that he stood by his blog post, saying that a failure to find sponsors to cover the full $400,000 tab is in fact a failure to find sponsors.

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Verisign plans TLD standards group

Kevin Murphy, September 22, 2014, Domain Tech

Verisign is trying to form a new industry standards-setting association for domain name registries and registrars.

To be called the Registration Operations AssociationTM (yes, according to its web site it is apparently already trademarked), Verisign wants potential members of the group to meet in October to figure out whether such an association is needed and what its remit would be.

But the Domain Name Association apparently has other ideas, suggesting in a recent blog post that the DNA would be the best place for these kinds of technical discussions to take place.

In the second of a series of three blog posts revealing the ROA plan, Verisign senior director Scott Hollenbeck said:

The primary purpose of an association would be to facilitate communication and technical coordination among implementers and operators of the EPP protocol and its current extensions to address interoperability and efficiency obstacles.

EPP is the Extensible Provisioning Protocol used by registrars to transact with all gTLD and many ccTLD registries. It’s an IETF standard written by Hollenbeck over a decade ago.

One of the problems with it is that it is “extensible” by design, so every time a registry extends it to deal with a peculiarity of a particular TLD, partner registrars have to code new connectors.

In a world of hundreds of new gTLDs, that becomes burdensome, Hollenbeck explained in his posts.

An industry association such as the formative ROA could help registries with common requirements standardize on a single EPP extension, streamlining interoperability.

That would be good for new gTLDs.

It’s no secret that many registrars are struggling to keep up with new gTLD launches while providing a good customer experience, as Andrew Allemann pointed out last week.

The need for cooperation seems plain; the question now is what is the correct forum.

While Verisign is pushing for a new group, the DNA reckons the task could be best-performed under its own umbrella.

Executive director Kurt Pritz blogged:

Given its multi-functional and global diversity, the DNA will be an effective place to coordinate discussion of these issues and to involve broader domain name industry involvement.

Verisign isn’t a DNA member. In fact, it appears to be the only significant back-end registry provider in the western world not to have purchased a membership.

But Pritz said in his post that technical discussions would not be limited to DNA members only — anyone would be able to participate without coughing up the $5,000 to $50,000 a year the group charges:

Recognizing that industry-wide issues are… well … industry wide, the DNA Board determined that this work must include those inside and outside the DNA, welcoming all domain name industry members. Scott and others from Verisign and other firms are invited regardless of whether they join the DNA.

So is the industry going to have to deal with two rival standards-setting groups?

In the many years I was a general Silicon Valley tech reporter, I must have written scores of articles about new technologies spurring the creation of competing “standards” organizations.

Usually, this involved pitting an incumbent monopolist such as Microsoft against a coalition of smaller rivals.

It makes for great headlines, but I’m not sure the domain name industry is big enough to support or require multiple groups tackling the same problems.

With resource-strapped registries and registrars already struggling to make new gTLDs work in any meaningful way, I doubt their geeks would appreciate duplicating their efforts.

I don’t know whether the DNA or ROA would be the best venue for the work, but I strongly suspect the work itself, which almost certainly needs to be done, only needs to be done once.

Verisign wants interested parties to meet in Los Angeles on October 16, just as the ICANN meeting there concludes. The meeting may also be webcast for those unable to attend in person.

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