Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

Christians try new strategy in anti-.xxx campaign

Kevin Murphy, May 6, 2010, Domain Policy

(UPDATED) Anti-porn protesters have changed tack in their campaign to get ICANN to kill the .xxx top-level domain.

The followers of crusading PornHarms.com founder Pat Trueman are currently lobbying ICANN’s public comment forums with messages that make them look a little like the pornographers themselves:

The .XXX sponsor, ICM, never satisfied the sponsorship requirements and criteria for a sponsored Top Level Domain. The ICANN Board denied ICM’s application for the .XXX sTLD on the merits in an open and transparent forum.

The copy-paste letter paraphrases text from ICANN’s process options report in much the same way as the pro-porn Free Speech Coalition’s Diane Duke did.

Trueman’s previous effort centered on the charge that pornography is intrinsically harmful, a subject well outside ICANN’s remit.

The fact that the new campaign is orchestrated by Trueman is revealed by Trueman himself and this comment from a supporter.

So… a vehemently anti-porn group is demanding ICANN rejects .xxx on the basis that it is not supported by the porn industry?

You’ve got to admire the chutzpah.

UPDATE: Another Christian group, the American Family Association, has opened the anti-.xxx floodgates, adding hundreds of new comments to ICANN’s forums in the last couple of hours.

The American Family Association is an unabashed “champion of Christian activism” whose mantra is “We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.”

Not really the kind of people you’d want to be stuck in an elevator with, never mind dictating internet policy.

Comment Tagged: , , , , , ,

Slots.com bidding starts at $4 million

Kevin Murphy, May 6, 2010, Domain Sales

The week-long auction of slots.com is underway, and the two first bidders have already pushed the price over $4 million.

It was announced yesterday that SnapNames had grabbed the rights to auction the domain. A reserve price of more than $5 million has been set.

Given that online gambling is basically a license to print money, it’s no surprise that many of the biggest domain sales every have been in this market.

Casino.com reported sold for $5.5 million, while Poker.org went for $1 million last year, the highest-ever price for a .org domain name.

The slots.com auction has a little over six days left on the clock.

Comment Tagged: , , , ,

Did Michael Dell just back ICANN’s DNS-CERT?

Kevin Murphy, May 5, 2010, Domain Policy

Michael Dell may have just backed ICANN’s call for a global DNS Computer Emergency Response Center, in a speech at a security conference.

Techworld is reporting that Dell and/or his CIO, Jim Stikeleather, referred to ICANN’s role in security during an address at the EastWest Institute Worldwide Cybersecurity Summit.

It’s not entirely clear whether the following quote is attributable to Stikeleather or Dell himself; my guess is Stikeleather:

ICANN manages the assignment of domain names and IP addresses, headquartered in California, is heavily US centric. There is a need to have more global participation on domain management as well as the future planning and next generation infrastructure needed to address the changes that will affect the Internet usage in years to come.

On the surface, it looks like a criticism of ICANN, but it could quite easily be interpreted as backing ICANN chief Rod Beckstrom’s recent call for the establishment of a global DNS-CERT to coordinate threats to the domain name system.

The quote immediately preceding it in the Techworld article is starkly reminiscent of Hot Rod’s controversial comments at the Governmental Advisory Committee at the Nairobi meeting in March.

“There is a preponderance of evidence that indicates cybercriminals could inflict major outages to portions of our critical infrastructure with minimal effort,” Jim Stikeleather reportedly said.

He was speaking at a session entitled “How do we build international cybersecurity consensus?”, which is a question Beckstrom has been asking in relation to the DNS-CERT idea.

A public comment forum on the DNS-CERT business case ICANN had presented ended a couple of weeks ago.

If I were to go out on a limb, I would say that a rough consensus emerged that such an entity was probably a good idea, and that ICANN could play a role, but that other bodies, such as DNS-OARC, might do a better job of coordinating it.

Comment Tagged: , , , , ,

The internet is polyglot as full IDNs go live

Click this: http://وزارة-الأتصالات.مصر/

It’s the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, owner of one of the world’s first fully non-ASCII internet domain names.

If you hover over the link, you might see the Punycode translation appear in your browser’s bottom bar, even though the href itself is in Arabic script.

Thanks to ICANN, from today the Latin script no longer has a stranglehold on the domain name system.

I’m afraid I won’t be able to tell you what the three newly created internationalized domain name ccTLDs are, because none of the software on my machine wants to let me use them in a sentence without switching my cursor to right-to-left editing mid-way through the word or changing the characters entirely, and after ten minutes of beating my head against the keyboard I gave up.

Anyway, the new domains represent Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

They were all recently approved by ICANN as part of its “fast-track” IDN ccTLD process, which promises to give countries the equivalent of their ASCII ccTLD in their native script.

After 25 years, the English language no longer has exclusive rights on the DNS. Not what I’d call a “fast” track, but we got there eventually.

ICANN has more here.

1 Comment Tagged: , , , ,

SnapNames lawsuit: “halvarez” was chasing $1.5 million bonus

Howard Nelson Brady, the former SnapNames VP and alleged shill-bidder known as “halvarez”, was chasing a $1.5 million performance-related bonus, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday.

SnapNames and its parent, Oversee.net, have sued Brady for $33 million, claiming he used the pseudonym “Hank Alvarez” and his privileged access to SnapNames’ auction platform to artificially inflate the sale prices of auctioned domain names.

According to the complaint, Brady started his alleged shill-bidding in order to boost SnapNames’ revenues and boost his potential “earn-out” from the June 2007 acquisition of SnapNames by Oversee.

“The purchase of the SnapNames business was based almost entirely on projections extrapolated from past revenues of SnapNames, which had been artificially inflated by Defendant Brady’s shill-bidding,” the complaint says.

Oversee further claims that, following the acquisition, Brady set about embezzling money from the company by buying domains using his “halvarez” account and then refunding himself some of the purchase price.

The company alleges he made $175,000 that way, before suspicious activity was noticed on his account.

“Hank Alvarez” had a mail drop, a Paypal account, and sometimes sent emails to Brady, which were then forwarded to other members of staff, the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit is seeking a mountain of cash. Clearly, Oversee and SnapNames are not pulling any punches when it comes to attempting to restore their reputation.

The bulk of the $33 million is made up of punitive damages, but Oversee also wants Brady’s entire salary and other compensation for the period while the alleged activities were taking place.

You can read the complaint in PDF format here.

2 Comments Tagged: , , ,

Bido going, going, gone

Kevin Murphy, May 4, 2010, Domain Sales

Budget domain name auction house Bido has said it will close its doors tomorrow.

“Bido is ceasing operation as of May 5, 2010. All transactions and accounts will be gracefully finalized and closed,” the company tweeted.

The FAQ on the company’s web site carries the same message.

There’s no word yet on why it’s closing down, but my bet would be it is a cashflow issue.

COO Jarred Cohen just emailed to say that “The reason is nothing beyond obvious, the volume wasn’t sufficient to warrant operation.”

Bido raised its minimum price from $28 to $38 a few days ago, suggesting that it wasn’t really happy with its revenue performance.

According to Bido sales I’ve been looking at recently, not much more than $50,000 a month was passing through its service.

Clearly Bido’s cut wasn’t enough to profitably sustain the company.

Comment Tagged:

Second-tier TLDs gain aftermarket traction

Kevin Murphy, May 4, 2010, Domain Sales

The average aftermarket selling price of domain names in second-tier TLDs is creeping up, according to the latest numbers from Sedo.

Sedo’s latest quarterly sales review shows that namespaces such as .biz, .info and .org are selling for far better money than they were a year ago.

In fact, the median selling price of .biz, .org, and .net domains is now higher than that of .com.

The price of .biz names, which only accounted for 1% of overall sales, has almost doubled in the last four quarters, up 97% at $537.

The .info namespace fared almost as well, recording a median price of $418, up 91% on the $219 recorded in the second quarter of 2009.

The long-established .org has also appreciated over the last 12 months. Its median price rose 45% to $550.

While there’s no doubt that .com is still where the high-end money is, the median price for a .com was only $510, a 24% increase over the same period.

Sedo has started reporting median prices because big one-off sales can have an impact on the mean averages it also reports.

Its full Q1 Domain Market Study report can be downloaded here.

Comment Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Iron Mountain gets into bed with CRS

Iron Mountain and Central Registry Solutions have made a deal to referrer prospective new gTLD applicants to each other’s services.

The companies said that Iron Mountain will refer wannabe registries to CRS for registry services and CRS will refer them to Iron Mountain for data escrow services.

It strikes me that the deal is probably better news for Iron Mountain, given that CRS is actively engaged in seeking out new TLD applicants to partner with whereas Iron Mountain, presumably, is not.

Iron Mountain already does a lot of work with registries and registrars that have to escrow their Whois information under the terms of their ICANN contracts.

Some of these contracts specify the company as the only escrow agent allowed, whereas the current Draft Applicant Guidebook for new gTLD applicants is less prescriptive.

CRS is a partnership of Network Solutions and CentralNIC, manager of the .la ccTLD and a handful of geographical second-level domains such as uk.com and us.com.

2 Comments Tagged: , , , , ,

China connection to Go Daddy WordPress attacks

Go Daddy’s hosting customers are under attack again, and this time it looks like it’s more serious.

Reports are surfacing that WordPress sites hosted at Go Daddy, and possibly also Joomla and plain PHP pages there, are being hacked to add drive-by malware downloads to them.

Go Daddy has acknowledged the attacks, blaming outdated WordPress installations and weak FTP passwords, and has put up a page with instructions for cleaning the infection.

Last week, I was told that the first round of attacks was very limited. Today, the attackers seem to have stepped it up a notch.

As a result, Go Daddy could find itself in a similar situation to Network Solutions, which had a couple of thousand customer sites hacked a few weeks back.

The attacks appear to be linked to a well-known crime gang with a Chinese connection.

According to Sucuri, when a Go Daddy-hosted WordPress page is hacked, JavaScript is injected that attempts to redirect surfers to a drive-by attack from the domain kdjkfjskdfjlskdjf.com (don’t go there).

This domain was registered with BizCN.com, an ICANN-accredited Chinese registrar, but its name servers appear to have been created purely for the attack.

The registrant’s email address is hilarykneber@yahoo.com. This connects the attack to the “Kneber” botnet, a successful criminal enterprise that has been operating since at least December 2009.

A Netwitness study revealed the network comprised at least 74,000 hacked computers, and that the bulk of Kneber’s command and control infrastructure is based in China.

Since Kneber is known to be operated by a financially motivated gang, and it’s by no means certain that they’re Chinese, it’s probably inaccurate to suggest there’s something political going on.

However, I will note that Go Daddy was quite vocal about its withdrawal from the .cn Chinese domain name registration market.

Network Solutions, while it was quieter, also stopped selling .cn domains around the same time as the Chinese government started enforcing strict registrant ID rules last December.

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

Twenty registrars canned in 2009

Kevin Murphy, April 30, 2010, Domain Registrars

ICANN shut down 20 domain name registrars in 2009, and is on course to do the same this year, according to numbers released today.

That’s up from seven de-accreditations in 2008, and twice as many as the previous record year, 2003.

ICANN can withdraw accreditation from a registrar, stopping its ability to register domains, if the registrar fails to escrow Whois information or pay its ICANN dues.

It looks like 2010 could well see a similar level of de-accreditations.

Five registrars were shuttered in the first quarter, and ICANN has sent warnings to five more this month.

2 Comments Tagged: , ,