Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

More layoffs planned at NetSol

Kevin Murphy, October 17, 2011, Domain Registrars

Web.com plans to lay off more people than previously expected at recently acquired domain name registrar Network Solutions, according to a report.

“There is significantly more overlap than we originally estimated, and so it’s likely going to be more headcount reduction,” CEO David Brown said in a Reuters interview.

He named marketing, development, and engineering as areas where the merged company plans to cut more than $30 million in costs.

If there was any doubt about it, he confirmed that NetSol’s incumbent CEO faces the chop. Lower-level staff appear to have safer positions.

At least two senior NetSol executives have already jumped shipped since the acquisition was announced.

Senior director of policy Statton Hammock left to form his own consulting business a month ago, and last week senior policy manager Paul Diaz joined the Public Interest Registry.

Web.com announced its $561 million acquisition of NetSol in early August. It had already acquired the company’s old rival, Register.com.

Comment Tagged: , , ,

ICANN steps in front of astrology lawsuit

Kevin Murphy, October 15, 2011, Domain Tech

ICANN has agreed to take over a critical online time zone database, after its original operators were sued for copyright infringement by an astrology software company.

The organization said last night that it will start to manage the Internet Time Zone Database, following the retirement of Arthur David Olson, who has managed it for nearly 30 years at the US National Institutes of Health.

“The Time Zone Database provides an essential service on the Internet and keeping it operational falls within ICANN’s mission of maintaining a stable and dependable Internet,” ICANN COO Akram Atallah said.

While it’s possible that ICANN will face criticism for this apparent case of “mission creep”, the move could actually be pretty good news for new top-level domains applicants.

The tz database is used by countless applications and platforms. It’s baked into Java, PHP, Perl, Python, .NET, PostgreSQL and BSD-derived operating systems including Mac OS X.

If ICANN is able to leverage those relationships, it may be able to increase adoption of its Universal Acceptance of TLDs project, an authoritative database of all live TLDs.

This could help new gTLDs, primarily those longer than three characters, have a smoother ride in terms of compatibility with internet software.

But the real reason for the handover to ICANN at this time appears to be the fact that Olson was sued at the end of September by Astrolabe, a Massachusetts-based provider of astrology software.

Astrolabe claims (pdf) it has copyright on some facts about historical time zone information, and has sued Olson for an injunction and damages

The lawsuit prompted the removal of the FTP site where the database is hosted, and oodles of bad karma for Astrolabe after the suit was reported in The Register.

So has ICANN just risked having its name added to the lawsuit in order to ensure the ongoing stability of the time zone database? Is it taking one for the team? It certainly appears so.

According to Astrolabe’s latest observations:

Conditions are confused and uncertain. Feelings run high. Perceptions are altered, leading to misunderstandings. Imagination, escapism, and gullibility are factors to contend with.

Indeed.

Comment Tagged: , ,

ICANN directors ruled out of CEO search

Kevin Murphy, October 15, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN’s directors have been barred from applying for the soon-to-be-vacated CEO position.

The board elected a panel of directors to get the CEO search underway last Tuesday, but noted:

no current or incoming member of the Board or liaisons may be considered as a candidate for the role of the CEO for the current CEO Selection process.

A replacement for Rod Beckstrom, who announced that he will step down when his contract expires next June, will now be overseen by a special CEO Search Process Management Work Committee.

The committee will comprise: Steve Crocker, Bertrand de La Chapelle, Erika Mann Chris Disspain, Cherine Chalaby, Ray Plzak and R. Ramaraj. George Sadowsky will chair.

I had previously put at least three of those on my speculative list of “insiders” who could conceivably apply for the CEO’s job.

Comment Tagged: , , ,

VeriSign yanks domain seizure power request

Kevin Murphy, October 13, 2011, Domain Registries

That was quick.

VeriSign has withdrawn its request for new powers to delete domain names being used for abusive purposes, just a few days after filing it with ICANN.

The company had proposed a policy that would give law enforcement the ability to seize .com and .net names apparently without a court order, and a new malware scanning service.

The former came in for immediate criticism from groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, while the latter appeared to have unnerved some registrars.

But now both proposals have been yanked from ICANN’s Registry Services Evaluation Process queue.

This is not without precedent. Last year, VeriSign filed for and then withdrew requests to auction off one-letter .net names and a “Domain Name Exchange” service that looked a bit like domain tasting.

Both came in for criticism, and have not reappeared.

Whether the latest abuse proposals will make a reappearance after VeriSign has had time to work out some of the more controversial kinks remains to be seen.

2 Comments Tagged: , , , , , ,

Registrars not happy with VeriSign abuse plans

Kevin Murphy, October 12, 2011, Domain Registrars

VeriSign has been talking quietly to domain name registrars about its newly revealed anti-abuse policies for several months, but some are still not happy about its plans for .com malware scans.

The company yesterday revealed a two-pronged attack on domain name abuse, designed to counteract a perception that .com is not as secure a space as it should be.

One prong, dealing with law enforcement requests to seize domains, I covered yesterday. It’s already received criticism from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and American Civil Liberties Union.

The other is an attempt to introduce automatic malware scanning into the .com, .net and .name spaces, rather like ICM Registry has said it will do with all .xxx domains.

Unlike the daily ICM/McAfee service, VeriSign’s free scans will be quarterly, but the company intends to also offer a paid-for upgrade that would search domains for malware more frequently.

On the face of it, it doesn’t seem like a bad idea.

But some registrars are worried about the fading line between registrars, which today “own” the customer relationship, and the registries, which for the most part are hidden away in the cloud.

Go Daddy director of network abuse Ben Butler, asked about both of yesterday’s VeriSign proposals, said in a statement that they have “some merit”, but sounded several notes of caution:

This is going to make all registrars responsible for remediation efforts and negative customer-service clean up. The registrar at this point becomes the “middle man,” dealing with customers whose livelihood is being negatively impacted. As mentioned in their report, the majority of sites infected with malware were not created by the “bad guys.”

While there is an appeal process mentioned, it could take some time to get issues resolved, potentially leaving a customer’s website down for an extended period.

This could also create a dangerous situation, allowing registries to gain further control over registrars’ operations – as registrars have the relationship with the registrant, the registrar should be responsible for enforcing policies and facilitating remediation.

It has also emerged that VeriSign unilaterally introduced the malware scanning service as a mandatory feature of .cc and .tv domains – which are not regulated by ICANN – earlier this year.

The changes appear to have been introduced without fanfare, but are clearly reflected in today’s .tv registration policies, which are likely to form the basis of the .com policies.

Some registrars weren’t happy about that either.

Six European registrars wrote to VeriSign last month to complain that they were “extremely displeased” with the way the scanning service was introduced. They told VeriSign:

These changes mark the beginning of a substantive shift in the roles of registries regarding the monitoring and controlling of content and may lead to an increase of responsibility and liability of registries and registrars for content hosted elsewhere. As domain name registrars, we hold the position that the responsibilities for hosted content and the registration of a domain name are substantially different, and this view has been upheld in European court decisions numerous times. In this case, Verisign is assuming an up-front responsibility that surpasses even the responsibilities of a web hoster, and therefore opens the door to added responsibilities and legal liability for any form of abuse.

In the end, the registrar community will have to face the registrant backlash and criticism, waste countless hours of support time to explain this policy to the registrants and again every time they notice downtimes or loss of performance. These changes are entirely for the benefit of Verisign, but the costs are delegated to the registrants, the registrars and the hosting service providers.

The registrars were concerned that scanning could cause hosting performance hits, but VeriSign says the quarterly scan uses a virtual browser and is roughly equivalent to a single user visit.

They were also worried that the scans, which would presumably ignore robots.txt prohibitions on spidering, would be “intrusive” enough to potentially violate European Union data privacy laws.

VeriSign now plans to give all registrars an opt-out, which could enable them to avoid this problem.

It looks like VeriSign’s plans to amend the Registry-Registrar Agreement are heading for ICANN-overseen talks, so registrars may just be digging into a negotiating position, of course.

But it’s clear that there is some unease in the industry about the blurring of the lines between registries and registrars, which is only likely to increase as new gTLDs are introduced.

In the era of new gTLDs, and the liberalization of ICANN’s vertical integration prohibitions, we’re likely to see more registries having hands-on relationships with customers.

Comment Tagged: , , , , , ,