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TLDH sells off domain portfolio, waits for new TLDs

Kevin Murphy, April 15, 2010, Domain Registries

Top Level Domain Holdings has reported blah revenue for its fiscal 2009, as it reorganized itself in preparation for ICANN’s forthcoming new gTLD round.

The company, which owns registry services firm Minds + Machines and has interests in dotNYC and DotEco, is listed on London’s low-cap AIM market.

It today reported revenue for the 12 months to October 31, 2009 of £315,000 ($487,000), up from £232,000 ($358,000) a year earlier, with an operating loss of £1.4 million, ($2.2 million) down from £1.5 million ($2.3 million).

TLDH also revealed that it sold off its entire parked domain name portfolio for $250,000 last November, after the end of its financial year, after it found parking revenue on the decline:

The Company’s domain name portfolio comprising mainly German and other European parked domain names that receive direct navigation and search traffic which can be monetized through search links to generate click-through advertising revenues generated a lower revenue in the period and were subsequently sold following the period end for US$250,000 in cash.

TLDH recorded an impairment charge of £154,000 ($238,000) for this transaction, suggesting the company sold its portfolio for approximately half of its previously reported paper value.

The firm says its strategy is “to build a portfolio of gTLD applicants and infrastructure technologies”, and believes ICANN’s recent Nairobi meeting decisions continued “a trend of increasing the barriers to application for non-experts”.

TLDH still looks like it has more than enough cash on hand to see it through to when ICANN begins officially accepting new TLD applications, barring further delays, with £4.3 million ($6.6 million) in the bank at the end of October.

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ICANN publishes Whois reform wish-list

Kevin Murphy, April 14, 2010, Domain Policy

ICANN’s latest stab at reforming Whois could lead to lots of useful new features, from more comprehensive search to more uniform privacy services.

The organization has released a staff report, “Inventory of WHOIS Service Requirements”, outlining 12 technical areas where Whois could be improved.

If the ideas were implemented, Whois records could one day contain your Twitter address or instant messaging screen name, as well as the current set of data.

The proposals could also lead to registrant search features in Whois as standard, allowing users to pull up a list of all the domains registered by any given individual.

That kind of service is only currently available at a premium price from the likes of DomainTools. The ICANN proposals could bake it into the spec.

The new paper, apparently released yesterday, was designed to outline technical requirements that might be needed to support future policies on Whois.

So while it’s not policy, it’s a good indicator of where ICANN thinks policy may head.

It concludes with a list of 12 “possible requirements” for the GNSO and other stakeholders to consider over the next couple of months before the Brussels meeting.

Here are the highlights: …continue reading

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WordPress founder criticizes NSI’s security

Kevin Murphy, April 13, 2010, Domain Registrars

WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg had a few harsh words for top-five domain registrar Network Solutions today, after a whole bunch of NSI-hosted blogs were hacked over the weekend.

It appears that NSI’s web hosting operation, which includes a one-click WordPress installation service, was failing to adequately secure database passwords on shared servers.

Or, as Mullenweg blogged: “A web host had a crappy server configuration that allowed people on the same box to read each others’ configuration files.”

WordPress, by necessity, stores its database passwords as plaintext in a script called wp-config.php, which is supposed to be readable only by the web server.

If the contents of that file are viewable by others, a malicious user could inject whatever content they like into the database – anything from correcting a typo in a blog post to deleting the entire site.

That appears to be what happened here: for some reason, the config files of WordPress blogs hosted at NSI gave read permissions to unauthorized people.

The cracker(s) who noticed this vulnerability chose to inject an HTML IFrame into the URL field of the WordPress database. This meant visitors to affected blogs were bounced to a malware site.

Mullenweg is evidently pissed that some news reports characterized the incident as a WordPress vulnerability, rather than an NSI vulnerability.

NSI appears to have corrected the problem, resetting its users’ database passwords as a precaution. Anybody making database calls in custom PHP, outside of the wp-config.php file, is going to have to go into their code to update their passwords manually.

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WIPO’s UDRP market share lead narrows

Kevin Murphy, April 13, 2010, Domain Policy

The number of UDRP cases filed with the National Arbitration Forum dipped slightly last year, according to NAF numbers released today.

The organization said it received 1,759 filings last year, compared to 1,770 in 2008. Only 1,333 of the cases were actually heard; the others were dropped or settled.

While that’s a decline for NAF, it’s not quite as steep as the almost 10% drop experienced by rival arbitrator WIPO over the same period.

That said, WIPO is still the primary choice of companies trying to enforce their trademarks in the domain name system, saying last month that it received 2,107 complaints in 2009.

It was also the year of big multi-domain cases for both outfits.

WIPO handed 1,542 domains to Inter-Continental Hotels in a single case, while NAF transferred a relatively modest 1,017 domains to ConsumerInfo.com.

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.xxx jumps on social media bandwagon

Kevin Murphy, April 12, 2010, Domain Registries

ICM Registry, the firm behind the proposed .xxx TLD, has belatedly joined the social media revolution, setting up a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account to expound the benefits of pornographic domain names.

I’d hazard a guess that this is in response to the deluge of negative opinion currently directed at it in ICANN’s public comment forum.

If you can wade through the Christian spam there, you’ll find only a handful of people backing ICM.

Some of these comments come from policy wonks, urging ICANN to show it can be as accountable as it says it is.

Others come from random individuals, suspiciously based in ICM’s home state of Florida.

If this woman, for example, is not British ICM president Stuart Lawley’s green card lawyer, I’ll eat my beanie.

Hat tip: @mneylon

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