Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

Another ccTLD plays down the “com”

Kevin Murphy, September 15, 2017, Domain Registries

Another ccTLD operator has decided to allow registrants to register domains at the second level.

Following a trend that has swept the country-code world over the last few years, Malta’s NIC (Malta) said direct .mt registrations will become available December 1.

Previously, only third-level regs under .com.mt, .org.mt, .net.mt, .edu.mt and .gov.mt were possible.

NIC (Malta) said that existing .mt registrants will be able to claim their matching second-level names for free until the end of November 2020.

That’s a similar policy to the one adopted by Nominet in the UK, one of several ccTLDs to allow “direct” registrations in recent years. Others include New Zealand (.nz), Kenya (.ke) and, possibly but controversially, Australia (.au).

There are no residency requirements to register .mt names. Prices are usually around €20 to €30 per year, but NIC (Malta) said prices will be “halved” come December.

If you’re curious about the second-level policy change opening up new domain hacks, forget about it.

Apart from variations on “dreamt” (which doesn’t even pass a US English spell-check), there are bugger-all words ending in “mt”, according to the various Scrabble-cheating web sites I never use.

Five million Indian government workers to get IDN email

Kevin Murphy, August 30, 2017, Domain Registries

The Indian government has announced plans to issue fully Hindi-script email addresses to some five million civil servants.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology announced the move, which will see each government employee given an @सरकार.भारत email address, in a statement this week.

सरकार.भारत transliterates as “sarkar.bharat”, or “government.india”.

The first stage of the roll-out will see the five million employees given @gov.in addresses, which apparently most of them do not already have.

Expanding the use of local scripts seems to be a secondary motivator to the government’s desire to bring control of government employee email back within its borders in a centralized fashion.

“The primary trigger behind the policy was Government data which resides on servers outside India and on servers beyond the control of the Government of India,” the MEITY press release states.

India currently has the largest number of internationalized domain names, at the top level, of any country.

NIXI, the local ccTLD manager, is in control of no fewer than 16 different ccTLDs in various scripts, with ample room for possible expansion in future.

The registry has been offering free IDN domains alongside .in registrations for about a year, according to local reports.

There are about two million .in domains registered today, according to the NIXI web site.

auDA now looking to outsource .au registry

Australian ccTLD overseer auDA appears to have softened its approach to overhauling the management of .au.

The organization said today that it’s now planning to look for an “outsourced registry operation” that will come online in July 2018.

In recent months, the company had been looking for suppliers to help it build a dedicated, in-house, .au infrastructure, in addition to keeping its outsourcing options open.

Today, auDA said that its recent request for expressions of interest had concluded. It said:

The [Registry Transformation Project] team have been very pleased with the strength of responses received and recommended to the auDA Board that auDA should proceed to the next stage of the project. The auDA Board subsequently resolved to undertake a formal Request for Tender (RFT) process. The RFT will be restricted to the respondents of the REOI with a scope to deliver an outsourced registry operation, based on auDA’s updated specifications, by July 2018.

It looks like any registry providers that did not get their foot in the door with the REOI are now permanently shut out of the process.

Additionally, it appears as though auDA has settled on an outsourced, rather than in-house, solution. Given the fact that the majority of the industry is based on service-based registry solutions, that had always seemed like a strong possibility.

auDA now plans to post a draft technical spec for comment August 14 and a formal request for tenders August 28, with a view to picking a winner in October/November for a July 2018 launch.

The company currently uses Neustar as its back-end due to Neustar’s 2015 acquisition of 15-year incumbent AusRegistry.

The names of the companies responding to the REOI, and their number, have not been disclosed.

auDA is currently facing a member revolt, partly but by no means exclusively over its decision to build an in-house registry. The company’s chair finds out whether members want him fired or not on Monday.

Second-level .ke domains go on sale this month

Kenya has become the latest ccTLD to jump on the second-level domain bandwagon.

From this month, registrants will be able to purchase example.ke, rather than having to select from third-level domains such as example.co.ke or example.or.ke, according to the registry.

KeNIC becomes the latest ccTLD registry to give customers the SLD option after the UK, New Zealand and Australia, which all backpedaled historic 3LD-only policies in order to remain relevant in an increasingly crowded TLD market.

Unlike previous launches, existing 3LD .ke registrants do not appear to have first right of refusal for the matching SLD, judging by the new policy (pdf).

The launch will begin July 23 with a 30-day sunrise period for trademark owners. This will be followed by a landrush period of 30 days.

Currently, pricing for co.ke domains in Kenyan shillings is in the same ballpark as the US dollar cost of a .com domain.

There are reportedly around 62,000 .ke domains currently registered.

Domainers want the head of auDA’s chair

Disgruntled domainers have managed to arrange for a vote on whether auDA chair Stuart Benjamin should be fired.

auDA, the .au ccTLD administrator, has been under fire for many months from registrants who believe the organization is being managed in an increasingly erratic and secretive manner.

Now, a campaign and petition at Grumpy.com.au, run by Domainer.com.au publisher Ned O’Meara, has led to auDA calling a special meeting July 31 with a single resolution on the agenda:

That Stuart Benjamin be removed as a director of the Company with immediate effect.

Benjamin will therefore lose his job with simple majority votes of both classes of auDA members — “supply” class, meaning registrars, and “demand” class, meaning registrants.

O’Meara blogged yesterday that he believes there is “a slightly less than even chance” of the resolution being carried due to the possible lack of votes from supply class members.

But auDA rejected as legally “invalid” three additional resolutions that had been proposed.

Grumpy members had also wanted auDA to restore all of its board’s meeting minutes that were inexplicably deleted from the organization’s web site.

They’d wanted a recently instituted member code of conduct to be scrapped, rewritten, and then put to members for a vote.

The code of conduct bans “harassment” and “bullying” of auDA staff, but it also prevents members from talking to the media about auDA in disparaging terms.

Finally, they’d also wanted auDA to abandon its plan to build an in-house registry infrastructure (replacing current provider Neustar) without first putting the plan to a member vote.

But all of these resolutions have been taken off the table on the basis of unspecified “legal advice” provided to auDA.

According to O’Meara and others, dissatisfaction with the organization has been brewing for some time, ever since late 2015 when Benjamin was brought in as a “demand” class director and appointed chair, only to be quickly dismissed and immediately reinstated as an “independent” director and reappointed chair.

In March 2016, 16-year CEO Chris Disspain was fired and replaced by Cameron Boardman.

I’m told auDa has been hemorrhaging staff for months — 10 of its 13 employees have apparently left the organization this year.

India to have SIXTEEN ccTLDs

While most countries are content to operate using a single ccTLD, India is to up its count to an unprecedented 16.

It already has eight, but ICANN’s board of directors at the weekend approved the delegation of an additional eight.

The new ccTLDs, which have yet to hit the root, are .ಭಾರತ, .ഭാരതം, .ভাৰত, .ଭାରତ, .بارت, .भारतम्, .भारोत, and .ڀارت.

If Google Translate and Wikipedia can be trusted, these words all mean “India” in, respectively, Kannada, Malayalam, Bengali, Odia, Arabic, Nepali, Hindi and Sindhi.

They were all approved under ICANN’s IDN ccTLD Fast Track program and will not operate under ICANN contract.

India already has seven internationalized domain name versions of its ccTLD in seven other scripts, along with its vanilla ASCII .in.

National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) will be ccTLD manager for the whole lot.

India may have as many as 122 languages, according to Wikipedia, with 30 spoken by more than a million people.

InternetNZ wants to fire two of its three (!) CEOs

InternetNZ, the .nz ccTLD operator, is proposing a radical simplification of the organization in order to stay relevant in the age of new gTLDs.

A proposal put forward late last week would see the non-profit organization fold its two subsidiaries back into the parent and consolidate management under a single CEO.

Currently, InternetNZ owns Domain Name Commission Limited (DNCL), the .nz policy oversight body, and NZRS Limited, which actually runs the registry. Each of the three entities has its own CEO.

The new proposal describes the situation like this:

Our governance and management structures are cumbersome and a lack of single point of accountability makes it difficult to progress work across the group. The size of governance groups and management resource is out of proportion to the size of the organisation and the size of the issues it is dealing with. There are 20 governors, three chief executives and around 10 senior executives for the 35 FTE [Full Time Employees] across the three organisations.

The New Zealand organization needs to streamline, according to the working group that came up with the paper, in order to more effectively compete with the influx of new TLDs, which has seen ccTLDs see slowing growth.

.nz is one of the few ccTLDs that has a direct new gTLD competitor — .kiwi.

It also wants to diversify its revenue streams outside of domain registration fees, according to the paper, with a target of NZD 1 million ($720,000) from alternate sources by 2020.

As a member-based organization, InternetNZ has put the proposal out for public comment until June 30. It will make a decision in August.

Neustar’s .au deal in peril as Aussies look in-house

Australian ccTLD registry auDA is looking at bringing its back-end infrastructure in house, to the possible detriment of Neustar.

In a surprise move, auDA said late last month that several months of talks with AusRegistry, aimed at possibly extending its current back-end contract beyond 2018, had failed.

AusRegistry has operated .au for auDA since 2002, during which time the ccTLD has grown to 3.1 million domains.

The company was acquired by Neustar in 2015 as part of its $87 million acquisition of Bombora Technologies, parent to AusRegistry and ARI.

auDA said it has now launched an invitation-only “restricted tender exercise” to find advisers to help it build its own registry back-end.

AusRegistry will be among those invited to participate, auDA confirmed.

This week, the registry also announced that it has hired Bruce Tonkin, formerly of Melbourne IT and the ICANN board of directors, to be its “Registry Transformation Project Lead”.

It will also form an “Industry-led Advisory Panel” to give .au registrars a say in how the new registry is designed and built.

Belgium domains will be registered in Ireland after cloud move

Kevin Murphy, February 20, 2017, Domain Registries

DNS Belgium, operator of .be, has moved its shared registration systems to the cloud, the non-profit said last week.

The registry migrated from a self-hosted system to Amazon Web Services on February 11.

It’s an effort to cut costs, increase efficiency, and free up engineering time currently dedicated to non-core functions such as hardware maintenance, executives said.

“As AWS sees to the hardware, connectivity etc., DNS Belgium can focus on the layers above, such as the software,” general manager Philip Du Bois said in a press release.

Business development manager Lut Goedhuys said that while the system has been moved to the cloud, AWS allows customers to select the data centers where their applications will be stored.

DNS Belgium picked Ireland, she said.

Get ready for thousands of new two-letter domains

Kevin Murphy, November 9, 2016, Domain Policy

New gTLD registry operators have been given the right to start selling two-letter domains that match country codes.

Potentially thousands of names could start being released next year, resulting in a windfall for registries and possible opportunities for investors.

Some governments, however, appear to be unhappy with the move and how ICANN’s board of directors reached its decision.

The ICANN board yesterday passed a resolution that will unblock all two-letter domains that match country codes appearing on the ISO 3166 list, most of which are also ccTLDs.

While the resolution gives some protection to governments worried about abuse of “their” strings, it’s been watered down to virtually nothing.

In the first draft of the rules, published in July, ICANN said registries “must” offer an “Exclusive Availability Pre-registration Period” — a kind of mini-sunrise period limited to governments and ccTLD operators.

In the version approved by ICANN yesterday, the word “must” has been replaced by “may” and the word “voluntary” has been added.

In other words, registries won’t have to give any special privileges to governments when they start selling two-character names.

They will, however, have to get registrants to agree that they won’t pass themselves off as having affiliations with the relevant government. It looks like registries probably could get away with simply adding a paragraph to their terms of service to satisfy this requirement.

Registries will also have to “take reasonable steps to investigate and respond to any reports from governmental agencies and ccTLD operators of conduct that causes confusion with the corresponding country code in connection with the use of a letter/letter two-character ACSCII domain.”

This too is worded vaguely enough that it could wind up being worthless to governments, many of which are worried about domains matching their ccTLDs being passed off as government-approved.

The Governmental Advisory Committee is split on how worrisome this kind of thing is.

For examples, governments such as Spain and Italy have fought for the right to get to pre-approve the release of “es” and “it” domains, whereas the governments of the US and UK really could not care less.

The most-recent formal GAC advice on the subject, coming out of the July meeting in Helsinki, merely said ICANN should:

urge the relevant Registry or the Registrar to engage with the relevant GAC members when a risk is identified in order to come to an agreement on how to manage it or to have a third-party assessment of the situation if the name is already registered

“It is our belief that that our resolution is consistent with GAC advice,” outgoing ICANN board member Bruce Tonkin said yesterday, noting that nobody can claim exclusive rights over any string, regardless of length.

Before and after the resolution passed, the GAC expressed “serious concern” that the board had not formally responded to the Helsinki communique.

In its Hyderabad communique, issued after yesterday’s vote, the GAC advised the board to:

  • Clearly indicate whether the actions taken by the Board as referred to in the resolution adopted on 8 November 2016 are fully consistent with the GAC advice given in the Helsinki Communiqué.
  • Always communicate in future the position of the Board regarding GAC advice on any matter in due time before adopting any measure directly related to that advice.

ICANN staff are now tasked with coming up with a way to implement the two-character release.

My sense is that some kind of amendment to Registry Agreements might be required, so we’re probably looking at months before we start seeing two-letter domains being released.