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Want a premium .xxx domain? Now’s your chance

Kevin Murphy, December 14, 2010, Domain Registries

ICM Registry, despite suffering another setback at the Cartagena ICANN meeting last week, has set the wheels in motion for the launch of .xxx with the announcement of a Founders Program.

If you want to get your hands on a “premium” .xxx domain without having to pay a tonne at auction, this is your chance.

ICM said it will license premium domains to organizations willing to develop and market their sites for at least two years, raising awareness of the TLD.

.CO Internet did a similar thing with .co, issuing one-character names to the likes of Go Daddy and Twitter. Other registries have had founder programs for super-short domains.

The program will be open to newcomers, as well as those who own “matching” domains in other TLDs.

The .xxx application is currently on hold, pending ICANN’s consultation with its Governmental Advisory Committee in February, but ICANN has said that it “intends” to approve it.

It will be interesting to see how many members of the adult community currently opposed to .xxx, if any, will attempt to participate as a Founder.

(Hat tip: Michele Neylon)

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Go Daddy plans Premium DNS service

Kevin Murphy, December 13, 2010, Domain Tech

Go Daddy is to launch a Premium DNS service that will include managed DNSSEC security, the company revealed during sessions at the ICANN meeting in Cartagena last week.

Go Daddy customers can currently get a brief overview of the forthcoming service by logging into their domain manager and finding the Premium DNS “Coming Soon” link, or looking here.

During a session on DNSSEC in Colombia last week, Go Daddy’s James Bladel laid out more detail on the service in a presentation (PDF) which contains screenshots of the interface.

The company started supporting DNSSEC for free on certain TLDs in the summer – it currently supports .net, .biz, .eu, org and .us – but it requires users to manually generate and manage cryptographic keys.

That’s beyond the ken of most domain name owners, so the registrar is adding a premium “set it and forget it” service which will see Go Daddy manage the complexities of DNSSEC.

Bladel said of the service:

it’s as simple as having a DNSSEC on/off switch. So customers who have no particular interest in the behind- the-scenes technology of DNSSEC can simply flip that switch and then enjoy the benefits of a secured domain name.

The DNSSEC standard helps prevent domains being hijacked through cache poisoning attacks by signing each domain’s zone with a validatable cryptographic key. The technology will be available for .com domains early next year.

It’s by no means free or easy for registrars to implement, and there’s been little demand for the technology among registrants, so I’ve been wondering how registrars planned to monetize it.

Now we know how Go Daddy at least plans to do so – the Premium DNS service will have other benefits beyond DNSSEC, which could spur adoption through osmosis.

The service will also include DNS up-time guarantees of 99.999%, vanity name servers, log tracking, and several other perks.

The company has not officially announced the service to customers yet, so I expect we’ll find out more details in due course.

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Drunk domain blogger gets mugged in Cartagena

Kevin Murphy, December 10, 2010, It's Friday

ICANN people love defining things, and a few people at the meeting here in Cartagena have disputed whether this anecdote meets the strict definition of “mugging”.

Okay, I didn’t wind up with a knife in my ribs, they weren’t carrying firearms, and they didn’t get my wallet.

But they were going to beat me up (at the very least) if I didn’t give them what they wanted and it’s really just blind luck that I managed to blag my way out of it.

I often find that these kinds of stories are better related in first-person present tense.

So it’s 4am, and I’m blatantly flouting ICANN’s security advice by walking, rather than getting a taxi, back from .CO Internet’s rather nice afterparty to my considerably less-nice hotel.

But it’s only two or three short blocks, and I’m inside the walled city, so I reckon I’m safe.

Wrong.

Two thuggish-looking blokes quickly appear beside me and one of them starts mouthing off in unusually good English about how I owe him money for a coke deal I’m apparently somehow implicated in.

I’m not kidding.

I forget the details, but the gist of it is that I need to give them both an unspecified large amount of money for some drugs that I stole or something and that Bad Things will happen to my face if I refuse.

Unfortunately for the Escobar brothers, it turns out that at 4am, with half a bottle of Colombian fire-water in my belly, I’m invincible.

Or believe myself to be, anyway.

So I decide to play dumb, and just carry on walking. I figure I’ll pretend for as long as possible that I’m simple, or don’t speak English. My hotel is in sight by this point.

“Okay,” I say, confused look on my face, after he finishes his story.

“So you give us money?” he says.

“Okay,” I say, not giving him money.

“You give us money now.” he’s not asking this time.

“Okay,” I say. Walking a bit faster.

This goes on for two blocks. As dumb luck would have it, by the time he starts to loses his patience we’ve already reached my hotel.

Of course, at 4am, my two-star dive has its doors locked, and I have to ring the buzzer to get in.

Normally, the young girl on the desk buzzes me through two seconds later. Of course, normally I don’t show up in the dead of night accompanied by two burly Colombian guys yelling about drug money.

So she understandably doesn’t want to let me in.

Trying to buy time, and unsure whether this is a violent scam or a genuine case of mistaken identity, I tell the guy he can have his money in the morning. Just drop by, pick it up, no worries.

I buzz again, but she still doesn’t want to let me in.

“You give me money now.”

I usually carry a bunch of small-denomination bills in my pocket when I’m on unfamiliar turf, for precisely this kind of scenario, so I grab a wad of notes and stuff them into his hand.

“Okay, here’s your money.”

Buzz again. Still no response.

I’m trying not to notice that the money I’ve just given him amounts to about two US dollars, but he clearly has noticed and is quite angry.

I’m told I now owe him 57,000 pesos, which strikes me as unusually specific.

Fortunately, I never get to find out why he settled on that amount. The girl buzzes me through and, after a brief struggle, Scarface eats door.

End of anecdote.

To me, it sounds like a mugging. Drug guys threatened to beat me up and I gave them $2 – that fits the definition, right? It may be the lamest mugging in Colombian history, but it’s still a mugging.

Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Next time, I’ll try to get stabbed or something.

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ICANN new TLD launch delayed (again)

Kevin Murphy, December 10, 2010, Domain Registries

ICANN’s new top-level domains program has been delayed, likely for a few months at least, after governments submitted a laundry list of issues they believe are still unresolved.

The Governmental Advisory Committee is mainly bothered that the Applicant Guidebook fails to adequately protect trademark rights and that the cost of the program could outweigh the benefits.

The ICANN board resolved at its meeting here in Cartagena earlier today to meet with the GAC for an unprecedented consultation next February.

(The meeting will also discuss the .xxx application, which I’ve reported on for The Register).

The actual board resolution is hopelessly lengthy and confusing at first reading. Take this doublethink:

ICANN considers that the solutions developed to address the overarching issues of trademark protection, mitigating malicious conduct, and root-zone scaling substantially reflect the negotiated position of the ICANN community, but ICANN will take into account public comment including the advice of the GAC.

Some delegates here tell me they think this means the book has been closed on the portions of the guidebook dealing with IP protection mechanisms, for example.

(J Scott Evans, head of the IP constituency, stormed out of the room in a huff when this part of the resolution was read aloud.)

But the text of the resolution pretty clearly states that IP protections and the other overarching issues are still open for negotiation with the GAC and could be amended based on comments filed this week.

The resolution is open to interpretation with regards these three “overarching issues”.

It does, however, refer to other issues that are explicitly unresolved in ICANN’s view, namely the treatment of geographic names and the handling of “morality and public order” objections.

Both are singled out as needing more work before they can be finalized.

What does all this mean for the launch timetable? I think it means there isn’t one. Again.

[The ICANN board] Directs staff to synthesize the results of these consultations and comments, and to prepare revisions to the guidebook to enable the Board to make a decision on the launch of the new gTLD program as soon as possible.

“As soon as possible” is either meaningless or, taken literally, means the board’s next meeting. That’s likely to be late January, if previous years are any guide.

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Calls for “fast-track” for new TLDs

Kevin Murphy, December 9, 2010, Domain Registries

Some would-be top-level domain registries have started to call for ICANN to gradually phase in the launch of its new TLD program, so they can get their feet in the door early.

ECLID, a group of six “cultural and linguistic” TLD applicants, is among a number of organizations saying that ICANN could introduce a small number of non-controversial TLDs before opening the floodgates to hundreds of new extensions.

Judging that IP concerns may continue to hold up the first round of applications and that cybersquatting risks may not be as significant in domains such as .scot or .eus, ECLID’s Davie Hutchison wrote:

We ask that ICANN move forward at speed and with determination and prevent further delay causing damage to the clTLDs and other community TLDs that will enhance the richness and diversity of the Internet. Failing the courage or resolve to do that, we ask ICANN to create a fast-track process for the “safe” community TLDs which would be an excellent testing ground for the process before opening it up to the non-community based TLDs.

Calls for a “fast track” for non-controversial TLDs have also been made by members of ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee this week.

It’s been the GAC’s position for a few months now that “uncontroversial” community TLDs, including those with cultural and linguistic ties, should be dealt with first.

The idea doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense to me. A phased launch would require the development of a new objective process to categorize applicants into “controversial” and “non-controversial” buckets.

For the amount of time and effort that would take, ICANN may as well just sort out the problems with the Applicant Guidebook as a whole.

Kurt Pritz, ICANN’s veep in charge of the new TLD program, addressed the feasibility of a phased launch during a press conference here in Cartagena today, noting that “it’s very difficult to have a round in which just a certain type of TLD allowed to apply”.

ICANN tried to restrict TLDs to limited communities with the 2003 round of “sponsored” TLDs, causing problems and controversies that continue to be felt seven years on.

I think it’s fairly safe to say that any rulebook that limited what TLDs could be applied for or who could apply for them would be soundly gamed by the domain name industry (cf .jobs, .xxx, .travel, etc).

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