Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

Porn group threatens lawsuits over new TLDs

Kevin Murphy, December 2, 2010, Domain Registries

Porn trade group the Free Speech Coalition has added its name to the list of organizations saying that ICANN could be sued over its new top-level domains program.

In her latest letter to ICANN, FSC executive director Diane Duke has made a last-ditch attempt to get the proposed .xxx TLD rejected, and not-so-subtly raises the threat of court action:

ICM Registry promises millions of dollars of income for ICANN, assuming that income is not consumed by the inevitable litigation which ICANN will find itself a party to if the proposal is adopted

But she also writes about lawsuits targeting the new TLD program itself.

ICM’s .xxx application is being handled under the rules established for “sponsored” TLDs in 2003, rather than the rules for gTLDs in the Applicant Guidebook that will be enforced in future.

As such, .xxx is not subject to challenges such as the “morality and public order objections” envisioned by the AGB, unlike potential future applications such as .porn. Duke wrote:

What about those in the adult community who wish to apply for a gTLD? With ICANN’s policy development in regards to “Morality and Public Order” will gTLDs be held to a higher standard than the sTLD? Does ICANN believe that it is not liable for this inequity? Any company prepared to invest the substantial moneys necessary to manage a gTLD will surely take ICANN to court to demand equitable standards for their TLD application.

She goes on to suggest that ICM itself may sue to block such applicants.

Does ICANN really believe that the litigious ICM will sit idly by while a .SEX or .PORN gTLD is introduced? Is ICANN so naive to believe that the purveyor of the “sponsored” TLD, who spent in excess of $10 million to bully its way through ICANN’s processes, will stop its threats of litigation with a mere approval of the sTLD?

Is the FSC privy to the TLD aspirations of others in the adult business? Or is this just a lot of hot air born out of desperation? I guess time will tell.

The FSC becomes the third organization to publicly threaten litigation in order to get what it wants out of ICANN.

As I’ve previously reported, the International Olympic Committee and the BITS financial trade group have already made similar noises.

ICANN expects to set aside $60,000 from every $185,000 TLD application fee to deal with “risks” including the expense of defending itself from lawsuits.

The ICANN board is expected to vote on the .xxx application and the new TLD program next Friday. I expect the number of organizations threatening lawsuits will be in double figures by then.

1 Comment Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

VeriSign launches free cloud domain security service

Kevin Murphy, December 2, 2010, Domain Tech

VeriSign is to offer registrars a hosted DNSSEC signing service that will be free for names in .com and the company’s other top-level domains.

The inventively named VeriSign DNSSEC Signing Service offloads the tasks associated with managing signed domains and is being offered for an “evaluation period” that runs until the end of 2011.

DNSSEC is an extension to DNS that allows domains to be cryptographically signed and validated. It was designed to prevent cache poisoning attacks such as the Kaminsky Bug.

It’s also quite complex, requiring ongoing secure key management and rollover, so I expect the VeriSign service, and competing services, will be quite popular among registrars reluctant to plough money into the technology.

While some gTLDs, including .org, and dozens of ccTLDs, are already DNSSEC-enabled, VeriSign doesn’t plan on bringing the technology online in .com and .net until early next year.

The ultimate industry plan is for all domain names to use DNSSEC before too many years.

One question I’ve never been entirely clear on was whether the added costs of implementing DNSSEC would translate into premium-priced services or price increases at the registrar checkout.

A VeriSign spokesperson told me:

The evaluation period is free for VeriSign-managed TLDs and other TLDs. After that period, the VeriSign-managed TLDs will remain free, but other TLDs will have $2 per zone annual fee.

In other words, registrars will not have to pay to sign their customers’ .com, .net, .tv etc domains, but they will have to pay if they choose to use the VeriSign service to sign domains in .biz, .info or any other TLD.

Comment Tagged: , , , ,

.CO publishes domain seizure policy

Kevin Murphy, December 1, 2010, Domain Registries

.CO Internet reserves the right to shut down your .co domain name if you’re being naughty.

That’s pretty much what the company has said today with the announcement of its Rapid Domain Compliance Process.

the Rapid Domain Compliance Process gives the .CO Registry the ability to quickly lock, cancel, transfer or take ownership of any .CO domain name, either temporarily or permanently, if the domain name is being used in a manner that appears to threaten the stability, integrity or security of the .CO Registry, or any of its registrar partners – and/or that may put the safety and security of any registrant or user at risk.

While the company has not published full details of how the system works, it seems to be based on security monitoring carried out by Neustar, the registry’s back-end provider, rather than a complaints-driven procedure.

Verboten activities include, as you might expect given .co’s vulnerability to typos, phishing, as well as distributing malware and child pornography.

What’s surprising about this is that .CO Internet is being “proactive” about shutting down sites, rather than waiting to receive complaints to its abuse@ address.

While the announcement is undoubtedly good for the registry’s corporate responsibility image, it also has the potential to backfire horribly if mistakes are made.

Initiatives to block web sites considered security risks almost always lead to false positives.

Even when genuinely criminal sites are taken down, it can lead to loud (if spurious) claims of “censorship”, as we discovered this week with the .com seizures in the US – and they had a court order.

.CO Internet’s policy does not explicitly place piracy or selling counterfeit goods on its naughty list, but it doesn’t rule them out either.

Not to be too cynical, but I give it six months before the first “seized” domain owner cries foul.

2 Comments Tagged: , ,

Porn industry “ready for war” with .xxx

Kevin Murphy, December 1, 2010, Domain Registries

The Free Speech Coalition and ICM Registry are poised to do battle over the .xxx top-level domain at next week’s ICANN meeting in Cartagena, Colombia.

The FSC, which has opposed the porn-only domain for years, is trying to rally its troops with a flyer declaring it’s “Ready For War”, illustrated with a photograph apparently of Cartagena’s battlements.

(Apropos, really, given the city’s history fighting off the British and ICM’s habit of recruiting Brits for key positions.)

The FSC said on its blog:

the majority of adult Internet business owners and webmasters do not support being categorized in an Internet ghetto that will cost them millions in extra fees annually and also make it easier for anti-adult entities to censor and block their sites.

The trade group will be represented at the meeting by executive director Diane Duke and chair Jeffrey Douglas.

But ICM will have them out-gunned almost 10-to-1. President Stuart Lawley tells me the company is sending 19 people to the meeting.

Discussion of the .xxx TLD is on the ICANN board’s agenda for its meeting Friday December 10. I think it’s quite likely to be approved at that time.

The main stumbling block for ICM is ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee, which has expressed reservations about the domain over the years and is firmly opposed to “controversial” TLDs.

Which way the vote swings will depend greatly on what the GAC has to say, and how the power struggle it’s currently engaged in with ICANN pans out.

Here’s part of the FSC’s flyer.

Free Speech Coaltion declares war

Comment Tagged: , , , , ,

.SO extends sunrise, delays landrush

Kevin Murphy, November 30, 2010, Domain Registries

.SO Registry, the company behind the newly launched Somalian top-level domain, has added an extra month to its sunrise period and delayed its landrush accordingly.

The trademark-holders-only sunrise was due to run for the month of November. Instead, it will now end December 31.

The registry said on Thursday that the changes were made “due to the high demand” for sunrise registrations.

The landrush, which will be open to all, is now scheduled to launch January 11.

10 Comments Tagged: , , ,

File-sharers try to create .p2p domain

Kevin Murphy, November 30, 2010, Domain Registries

A move to create a .p2p top-level domain outside of the regular DNS root is under way.

Following the outcry over the US government’s seizure of 82 .com domain names this weekend, a group of coders have decided to create a namespace not overseen by ICANN (which had nothing to do with it).

It’s not entirely clear to me how many projects have launched.

There’s a blog over here that talks about a “distributed DNS” that would be “decentralized”, but this new wiki seems to be limited to the idea of launching .p2p as a TLD.

(Interestingly, dot-p2p.org appears to have been registered several days prior to the weekend’s domain name seizures)

The .p2p project plans to create an application that would intercept all DNS requests for .p2p domains and route them via a peer-to-peer network rather than the user’s regular DNS servers.

This presumably means that the entire .p2p zone file could wind up being stored on endpoints, which sounds like a scalability challenge to me.

More problematic is the the issue of “decentralization”, which is of course critical when you’re talking about trustworthy DNS. It can be summed up in this sentence:

“Hello, I’m bankofamerica.com.”

If anybody can claim to own any domain name, you need to be able to figure out who’s telling the truth.

The .p2p initiative seems to be dealing with this by, um, centralizing control over .p2p domain assignments to a free “registrar” at nic.p2p.

To prevent warehousing, registrants would need to prove they already own the string in another TLD in order to register the equivalent .p2p domain.

The project is obviously in its very early stages, as demonstrated by this wiki page, which tries to figure out the problem of decentralization using some kind of trust/voting system.

Here’s an example of the lack of thought that seems to have gone into it so far:

A small conflict, not malicious

1. Alice assigns fbi.p2p -> 1.1.1.1.
2. Bob propagates the assignment to his node, because he trusts Alice.
3. Dave assigns fbi.p2p -> 2.2.2.2. Conflict created.
4. Carol sees the conflict and:
– Decides to just follow the decision of her trustees and assigns fbi.p2p -> 2.2.2.2, or
– Does not create any assignment. There will be a warning and she will try to work out the problem with others.
5. Everyone will try to agree on a solution.

The page also currently includes this beauty:

Botnet-driven attack

1. Chuck owns a botnet and uses 10^6+ zombies to game the system.
2. Shitload of fake request need to be disproved
3. …
4. Problem? :U

The project seems like a heck of a lot of wheel-reinventing in order to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

1 Comment Tagged: , , , , ,

Is this the domain name industry’s first music video?

Kevin Murphy, November 30, 2010, Domain Registries

DotAfricaConnect is pretty serious about its plan for .africa.

The company yesterday released this music video to promote its top-level domain bid. Unlike most corporate anthems, this one is actually not terrible, despite the dodgy editing.

The singer, Patricia Kihoro, appears to be the former winner of an African TV talent show. It mystifies me how few people in the room seem to be paying her, and her dancers, any attention.

Comment Tagged: ,

Domain universe breaks through 200 million

Kevin Murphy, November 29, 2010, Domain Registries

VeriSign is reporting that the number of registered domain names worldwide broke through the 200 million mark in the third quarter.

There were 202 million domains at the end of September, according to the company’s Domain Name Industry Brief, which was published today.

Over half of those domains, 103 million names in total, can be found in the .com and .net namespaces that VeriSign manages.

In a not-so-subtle plug for VeriSign’s 2011 growth strategy, the company also declared that the next ten years will be “The Decade of the International Internet”.

In the coming decade, the Internet will continue to become a ubiquitous, multi-cultural tool, fueled in part by the adoption of IDNs. By enabling online content and businesses to be represented in local scripts and languages, IDNs help the Internet to expand the power of technology to regions and cultures, and connect the world in new ways. Over the past year, several new IDNs for ccTLDs have been approved. The next step will be approval of IDNs for generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs).

The company, of course, plans to apply to ICANN to operate IDN versions of .com and .net, although it has not to date discussed openly which languages or strings it wants.

The VeriSign report also says that ccTLD registrations grew 2.4%, compared to the same quarter last year, to 79.2 million domains.

I expect this growth would have been tempered had it not been for the relaunch of .co, which occurred during the quarter, but it does not merit a mention in the report.

The report also reveals that .info has overtaken .cn in the biggest-TLD charts, although this is due primarily to the plummeting number of registrations in the Chinese ccTLD.

1 Comment Tagged: , , , , , , ,

ICANN had no role in seizing torrent domains

Kevin Murphy, November 29, 2010, Domain Policy

Okay, this is getting a bit silly now.

As you may have read, the US government “seized” a bunch of domain names that were hosting sites allegedly involved in piracy and counterfeit goods over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Over 80 domains, all of them in the .com namespace, had their DNS settings reconfigured to point them to a scary-looking notice from the Department of Homeland Security’s ICE division.

Somehow, in several reports over the last few days, this has been pinned on ICANN, and now some pro-piracy advocates are talking about setting up alternate DNS roots as a result.

Claims that ICANN colluded with the DHS on the seizures seem to have first appeared in TorrentFreak, which broke the news on Friday.

The site quoted the owner of torrent-finder.com:

“I firstly had DNS downtime. While I was contacting GoDaddy I noticed the DNS had changed. Godaddy had no idea what was going on and until now they do not understand the situation and they say it was totally from ICANN.”

For anyone involved in the domain name industry and the ICANN community, this allegation screams bogosity, but just to be on the safe side I checked with ICANN.

A spokesperson told me he’s checked with ICANN’s legal, security and compliance departments and they all had this to say:

ICANN had nothing to do with the ICE investigation… nobody knew anything about this and did not take part in the investigation.

All of the seized domains were .coms, and obviously ICANN has no technical authority or control over second-level .com domains. It’s not in the position to do what the reports allege.

If anybody were to ask ICANN to yank a domain, all it could do would be to politely forward the request to the registrar (in the case of torrent-finder.com, apparently Go Daddy) or the registry operator, which in the case of .com is of course VeriSign.

It would make more sense, save more time, and be less likely to create an international political incident, for the DHS to simply go directly to Go Daddy or VeriSign.

Both are US companies, and the DHS did have legal warrants, after all.

That’s almost certainly what happened here. I have requests for comment in with both companies and will provide updates when I have more clarity.

In the meantime, I suggest that any would-be pirates might be better served by switching their web sites to non-US domains, rather than trying to build an alternate root system from the ground up.

UPDATE: Ben Butler, Go Daddy’s director of network abuse, has just provided me with the following statement, via a spokesperson:

It appears the domain names were locked directly by VeriSign. Go Daddy has not received any law enforcement inquiries or court orders concerning the suspension of the domains in question.

Go Daddy has not been contacted by ICE or DHS on the domain names in question.

The statement goes on to say that Go Daddy believes that it should be the registrar’s responsibility to handle such takedown notices.

With regard to the registry taking action against the domain names in question, Go Daddy believes the proper process lies with the registrar and not the registry. This gives the registrar the ability to communicate with their customer about what has happened and why. When the registry acts, Go Daddy is unable to provide any information to our customers regarding the seizure of their domain names.

Go Daddy routinely cooperates with government and law enforcement officials to enforce and comply with the law.

I’ll post any statement I receive from VeriSign when I have it.

UPDATE: VeriSign sent this statement:

VeriSign received sealed court orders directing certain actions to be taken with respect to specific domain names, and took appropriate actions. Because the orders are sealed, further questions should be directed to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

39 Comments Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Rejected Bulgarians want ICANN appeal

Kevin Murphy, November 29, 2010, Domain Registries

A handful of Bulgarian internet users have asked ICANN for the right to appeal the rejection of .бг, the proposed Cyrillic country-code top-level domain.

ICANN has received five emails from from the country in the last week, all expressing frustration that .бг (.bg) was turned down with no public explanation and no right to reply.

The string was rejected in May due to what ICANN determined was its confusing visual similarity with Brazil’s ccTLD, .br.

Polls of the Bulgarian people have been unable to find consensus on a suitable alternative, and the government has repeatedly said it would like to apply again or appeal.

Whether to introduce a right of appeal for rejected applicants is one of the topics ICANN is currently soliciting comments on as part of the review of its IDN ccTLD Fast Track program.

Bulgarian freelance developer Stoyan Danev wrote in his comment:

The Bulgarian community has clearly demonstrated that selecting another string is unacceptable and if the proposed one is not approved, Bulgaria will remain WITHOUT an IDN ccTLD. This is really against the ICANN policy of making Internet accessible to everyone.

He questioned whether .бг really is confusable with .br, linking to the Unicode web site, which suggests that б can be confused with 6 but not b, to prove his point.

Another commenter suggested that that the .бг registry could make it a matter of policy to only accept registrations at the second level that include at least one uniquely Cyrillic character.

2 Comments Tagged: , , , , , ,