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Verisign demands 24/7 domain hijacking support

Kevin Murphy, August 6, 2012, Domain Registrars

Verisign is causing a bit of a commotion among its registrar channel by demanding 24/7 support for customers whose .com domains have been hijacked.

The changes, we understand, are among a few being introduced into Verisign’s new registry-registrar agreement for .com, which coincides with the renewal of its registry agreement with ICANN.

New text in the RRA states that: “Registrar shall, consistent with ICANN policy, provide to Registered Name Holders emergency contact or 24/7 support information for critical situations such as domain name hijacking.”

From the perspective of registrants, this sounds like a pretty welcome move: who wouldn’t want 24/7 support?

While providing around the clock support might not be a problem for the Go Daddies of the world, some smaller registrars are annoyed.

For a registrar with a small headcount, perhaps servicing a single time zone, 24/7 support would probably mean needing to hire more staff.

Their annoyance has been magnified by the fact that Verisign seems to be asking for these new support commitments without a firm basis in ICANN policy, we hear.

The recently updated transfers policy calls for a 24/7 Transfer Emergency Action Contact — in many cases just a staff member who doesn’t mind being hassled about work at 2am — but that’s meant to be reserved for use by registrars, registries and ICANN.

Verisign reveals “dark” .com domains

Verisign has started publishing the daily count of .com and .net domain names that are registered but do not work.

On a new page on its site, the company is promising to break out how many domains are registered but do not currently show up in the zone files for its two main gTLDs.

These are sometimes referred to as “dark” domains.

As of yesterday, the number of registered and active .com domains stands at 103,960,994, and there are 145,980 more (about 0.14% of the total) that are registered but do not currently have DNS.

For .net, the numbers stand at 14,750,674 and 32,440 (0.22%).

Verisign CEO Jim Bidzos told analysts last night that the data is being released to “increase transparency” into the company’s performance.

Many tools available for tracking registration numbers in TLDs are skewed slightly by the fact that they rely on publicly available zone file data, which does not count dark domains.

Registry reports containing more accurate data are released monthly by ICANN, but they’re always three months old.

ICANN to get $8 million more from new .com deal

Verisign will pay ICANN roughly $8 million more per year in fees under its new .com registry agreement, CEO Jim Bidzos told financial analysts last night.

Under the new deal, approved by ICANN last month, the company pays ICANN a $0.25 fee for every .com registration-year, renewal or transfer, instead of the lump sums it paid previously.

That’s going to work out to about $25 million in 2013, Bidzos said on Verisign’s second-quarter earnings call last night, compared to about $17 million under the old arrangement.

The new agreement continues to give the company the right to increase its price by 7% a year in most years, of course, so it’s not all bad news for Verisign investors.

The deal is currently under review by the US Department of Commerce and Bidzos said he expects it to be approved before November 30, when the current contract expires.

ICANN gives Verisign’s .com contract the nod

ICANN’s board of directors has approved Verisign’s .com registry agreement for another six years.

In a closed meeting on Saturday, the results of which have just been published, the board decided against making any of the changes that had been suggested by the community.

There had been a small uproar over the fact that Verisign will retain the right to increase its .com registry fee by 7% in four out of the next seven years.

The new contract also rejiggers the fees Verisign pays ICANN to bring them more into line with other registry agreements. As a result, ICANN will net millions more in revenue.

Other parties had also asked for improved rights protection, such as a mandatory Uniform Rapid Suspension system, and for the current restrictions on single-character domain names to be lifted.

But the board decided that “no revisions to the proposed .COM renewal Registry Agreement are necessitated after taking into account the thoughtful and carefully considered comments received.”

The agreement will now be forward to the US government for approval. Unlike most registry contracts, the Department of Commerce has the right to review the .com deal.

The current contract expires November 30.

ICANN may renew Verisign’s .com deal this weekend

ICANN’s board of directors is set to vote on Verisign’s .com registry agreement at a meeting in Prague this Saturday.

The meeting is scheduled for June 23, the day before ICANN 44 officially kicks off. Read the agenda here.

The contract has been controversial because it will continue to allow Verisign to raise prices by 7% in four out of the six years of its duration.

Opportunistic intellectual property interests have also called for Verisign to be obliged to follow new rights protection mechanisms such as the Uniform Rapid Suspension policy.

But I’m not predicting any big changes from the draft version of the agreement that was published in March.

If and when the ICANN board approves the contract, it will be sent off to the US Department of Commerce for, I believe, another round of public comment and eventual ratification.

If Verisign is to run into any problems with renewal, it’s in Washington DC where it’s most likely to happen.