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Go Daddy’s new billion-dollar business?

Kevin Murphy, January 25, 2011, Domain Tech

Go Daddy has officially unveiled its Premium DNS service, which will enable its customers to buy and use managed DNSSEC services for the first time.

The price is $2.99 per month, which works out to $35.88 a year.

For the money, buyers also get a bunch of other tools, such as reports and audits, off-site DNS functionality and backup name servers.

There’s also a “Vanity Nameserver” option, which appears to let customers set their domain’s name servers to display as something like brand.domaincontrol.com, rather than ns1.domaincontrol.com.

It also appears that users of Go Daddy’s standard service will now be limited to 100 forwarded sub-domains, with Premium DNS users getting an unlimited number.

But the big deal as I see it is the addition of managed DNSSEC.

DNSSEC is a new security protocol that substantially mitigates the risk of falling prey to a DNS hijacking using, say, a cache poisoning attack.

Remember the Kaminsky Bug? DNSSEC prevents that kind of thing from happening again.

The problem with DNSSEC is that it’s massively complex and quite hard work to manage, requiring frequent key generation and rollover.

Go Daddy users can already manage their own DNSSEC records if they choose, but that’s only really an option if you’re a hard-core DNS geek.

Paying a few bucks a month to have somebody else manage it for you is an absolute bargain, if you care enough about your domain’s security.

I suggest that this could be a lucrative business for Go Daddy primarily because proponents of DNSSEC hope that one day it will be ubiquitous. Every domain will use it.

Go Daddy has over 45 million domains under management today. If customers representing only 1% of its domains choose to upgrade, that’s an extra $16 million into company coffers annually.

If they all do (which is not going to happen) we’re talking about a $1.6 billion business.

I don’t think the new service is going to lead to a massive uptick in the number of signed domains, but it will certainly get the ball rolling. For enterprises, it’s good value.

But individuals and large domain portfolio holders will not flock to return to 1999 .com prices just in order to implement a protocol they’ve been doing just fine without.

The future of broad DNSSEC adoption is more likely to be in open-source and freeware tools and services that can be easily understood by geeks and non-geeks alike.

Vixie takes on ISC chief scientist role

Kevin Murphy, January 7, 2011, Domain Tech

Internet Systems Consortium president Paul Vixie plans to address a “perfect storm” of internet addressing “crises” by becoming the organization’s chairman and chief scientist.

Vixie founded the not-for-profit ISC, which provides BIND – the software that runs most of the domain name system – in 1994. He will be replaced as president by Barry Greene.

Not known for mincing words, Vixie said in brief ISC statement today:

There are two huge technical crises arising simultaneously. The Internet is running out of address space and at the same time the level of criminal activity is increasing sharply. It’s the perfect storm. We need to deploy IPv6 and DNSSEC more or less simultaneously, and we need to develop and deploy, quickly, new technologies and new methodologies to measure and understand what is happening out there. I need to turn my full attention to these pressing and difficult problems, and I know that ISC will be in good hands with Barry as president.

VeriSign takes over .gov

Kevin Murphy, December 22, 2010, Domain Tech

VeriSign has taken over registry functions at .gov, the top-level domain for the US government.

IANA records show that VeriSign Global Registry Services was named technical contact for .gov possibly as recently as this Monday.

The TLD is still administratively delegated to the US General Services Administration. Google’s cache of the IANA site shows the GSA was the technical contact for .gov as recently as October 29.

VeriSign certainly kept this contract win quiet.

At least, the first I heard about it was tonight, in an email VeriSign sent to the dns-ops mailing list, asking DNS administrators to reconfigure their DNSSEC set-up to reflect the change.

A KSK [Key Signing Key] roll for the .gov zone will occur at the end of January, 2011. This key change is necessitated by a registry operator transition: VeriSign has been selected by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to operate the domain name registry for .gov.

The email expresses the urgency of making the changes, which are apparently needed in part because .gov was signed with DNSSEC before the root zone was signed, and some resolvers may be configured to use .gov as a “trust anchor” instead of the root.

The .gov TLD is reserved for the exclusive use of US federal and state government departments and agencies.

It’s certainly a prestige contract for VeriSign.

This appears to be the GSA page awarding the contract to VeriSign, in September, following an RFP. It’s valued at $3,325,000.

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.

VeriSign launches free cloud domain security service

Kevin Murphy, December 2, 2010, Domain Tech

VeriSign is to offer registrars a hosted DNSSEC signing service that will be free for names in .com and the company’s other top-level domains.

The inventively named VeriSign DNSSEC Signing Service offloads the tasks associated with managing signed domains and is being offered for an “evaluation period” that runs until the end of 2011.

DNSSEC is an extension to DNS that allows domains to be cryptographically signed and validated. It was designed to prevent cache poisoning attacks such as the Kaminsky Bug.

It’s also quite complex, requiring ongoing secure key management and rollover, so I expect the VeriSign service, and competing services, will be quite popular among registrars reluctant to plough money into the technology.

While some gTLDs, including .org, and dozens of ccTLDs, are already DNSSEC-enabled, VeriSign doesn’t plan on bringing the technology online in .com and .net until early next year.

The ultimate industry plan is for all domain names to use DNSSEC before too many years.

One question I’ve never been entirely clear on was whether the added costs of implementing DNSSEC would translate into premium-priced services or price increases at the registrar checkout.

A VeriSign spokesperson told me:

The evaluation period is free for VeriSign-managed TLDs and other TLDs. After that period, the VeriSign-managed TLDs will remain free, but other TLDs will have $2 per zone annual fee.

In other words, registrars will not have to pay to sign their customers’ .com, .net, .tv etc domains, but they will have to pay if they choose to use the VeriSign service to sign domains in .biz, .info or any other TLD.