dotFree settles Microsoft botnet lawsuit

Kevin Murphy, October 28, 2011, Domain Registries

One of the companies that plans to apply for the .free top-level domain next year has settled a lawsuit filed by Microsoft over claims it was involved in running the Kelihos botnet.

The suit, filed in late September, had alleged that Czech-based dotFree Group and its CEO, Dominique Piatti, were behind dozens of domains used to spread malware.

dotFree already runs the free .cz.cc subdomain service, which isn’t what you’d call a trustworthy namespace. The whole .cz.cc zone appears to be currently banned from Google’s index.

This week, Microsoft has dropped its claims against the company and Piatti, saying it will instead work with the company to try to help clean up the free .cz.cc space.

Microsoft said on its official blog:

Since the Kelihos takedown, we have been in talks with Mr. Piatti and dotFREE Group s.r.o. and, after reviewing the evidence voluntarily provided by Mr. Piatti, we believe that neither he nor his business were involved in controlling the subdomains used to host the Kelihos botnet. Rather, the controllers of the Kelihos botnet leveraged the subdomain services offered by Mr. Piatti’s cz.cc domain.

As part of the settlement, Mr. Piatti has agreed to delete or transfer all the subdomains used to either operate the Kelihos botnet, or used for other illegitimate purposes, to Microsoft. Additionally, Mr. Piatti and dotFREE Group have agreed to work with us to create and implement best practices to prevent abuse of free subdomains and, ultimately, apply these same best practices to establish a secure free Top Level Domain as they expand their business going forward.

Expect this issue to be raised if and when .free becomes a contested gTLD application.

dotFree reports 15,000 .free preregistrations

Kevin Murphy, November 3, 2010, Domain Registries

The dotFree Group, which intends to apply for the .free top-level domain, says it has taken almost 15,000 preregistrations in its first 48 hours.

Dominique Piatti, chief executive of the Czech-based company, tells me the domain count at the two-day mark was 14,831, preregistered by 2,787 users, an average of five domains each.

About 4,000 of those came in the first hour.

Considering that it’s not possible to preregister tens of thousands of “premium” strings – dotFree plans to auction those – that strikes me as a not-bad start.

As I discovered on Monday, the company has also banned the preregistration of any string ending in the number 4, presumably due to the “for.free” pun.

If dotFree’s .free ever gets approved – which is of course by no means certain – it would be at least 18 months from now before any of these preregistrations convert into actual usable domain names

DotFree starts taking .free domain preregistrations

Kevin Murphy, November 1, 2010, Domain Registries

The DotFree Group, which plans to apply to ICANN to run .free as a top-level domain, has become one of the first would-be registries to open its doors for preregistrations.

From noon UTC today, the Czech company has made a tool available on its web site enabling users to reserve their desired strings by handing over their contact information.

Of course, there’s no guarantee any preregistration will actually turn into a .free domain – ICANN may turn down DotFree’s application or award the string to another bidder.

While the plan is to offer some .free domains free of charge, DotFree intends to hold tens (or hundreds) of thousands of “premium” strings for auction or paid-for registrations.

In other words, if you try to register any really juicy strings today, you’re out of luck.

DotFree is one of only a few unapproved TLD registries to accept preregistrations.

ICM Registry started taking .xxx preregs a few years ago, but only after it had already received ICANN’s approval (which was, of course, later revoked).

Another wannabe TLD operator, the MLS Domains Association, is charging “multiple listing service” real estate brokers many hundreds of dollars for the opportunity to own their own .mls domain name.

UPDATE: Messing around with the preregistration tool, I’ve noticed that it appears to ban any string that ends with the number 4. Presumably these will be “premium”, due to the “for” pun.

dotFree’s “free” domain names explained

Kevin Murphy, August 12, 2010, Domain Registries

As I reported a couple of days ago, a Czech company called The dotFree Group wants to apply to ICANN for a .free top-level domain, and will offer domain names for free.

Now for the small print – not all .free domain names will be free, and there will be strict limitations on how many free domains any given individual is able to register.

Here is an email interview I conducted with dotFree chief executive Dominique Piatti, which I think covers the basics of the business model and contains a few surprises.

I’ve corrected a few typos, but other than that it’s unedited.

DI: Applying for a new TLD will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and running it over the longer term will cost more. How does dotFree plan to cover the cost of running a free TLD?

Piatti: We are working with Venture Capital companies together from Eastern Europe and have an estimated turnover of EUR 1.25 million for 2011. In addition to this we are generating substantial revenue with our current projects www.cz.cc (which is a free second-level domain name registry) and with the Domain Registrar Script which is currently in version 1.3.5 (www.registrar-script.cz.cc).

DI: .free could be a desirable TLD for domain investors. Will there be any limitations on how many .free domains an individual is allowed to register? What would prevent a single person registering hundreds of thousands of .free domains?

Piatti: Yes, currently we plan that each individual is allow to have 1 .free domain at no costs within their account. If a user plans to have more domain names he can upgrade to VIP status (eg. $5/year and you can hold up to 20 domains in your account) similar like we have it successfully tested with www.cz.cc over the past 12 months. We have an advanced fraud detection tool developed which identifies double accounts owned by the same person.

DI: Do you anticipate a .free aftermarket? Would somebody be able to register, for example, “poker.free” for free and then sell it to somebody else for hundreds of thousands of dollars?

Piatti: Yes, we launch .free the same way as any other TLD in the market with the difference that every individual can have a .free domain at no costs. We will launch similar to the most recent TLD’s like .co and .me with premium domains, auctions etc. Also, aftermarket sales are possible therefore.

DI: Would “premium” domains also be free, or would you charge for them like you do with premium .cz.cc names?

Piatti: All our premium domains will cost around $5/year and will not be free. There are around 200,000 premium domains planned.

DI: Do you anticipate selling .free domains via registrars like Go Daddy and eNom, or would you expect to sell direct to the end user?

Piatti: Both. In our business plan we have the ICANN accredited registrars as distribution channels listed but we will also distribute those .free domain names directly over our own website.

DI: Would there be a “landrush” period? Would you auction premium names or would it be first-come-first-served?

Piatti: The launch will be very similar to .co and .me with everything it takes to make .free a highly successful gTLD.

DotFree wants to give away .free domains

Kevin Murphy, August 10, 2010, Domain Registries

A Czech company has become the latest to say it will apply for a new top-level domain, but it’s got a unique twist – domain registration will be free.

The dotFree Group, based near Prague, says it will apply for .free and offer the domains free of charge.

.FREE is going to be a generic Top Level Domain, which is going to be available for free, as the name itself says. Individuals, companies, organizations, groups, etc. are going to be able to register their .FREE website under a desirable name.

Can: open. Worms: everywhere.

  • How many registrars will actually want to carry this TLD?
  • How will dotFree fund its ICANN application fee and ongoing running costs?
  • Will there be a landrush? How will that work?
  • Will there be an after-market? With a no-risk investment, .free would be a domainer’s paradise.
  • How will the registry prevent rampant abuse by spammers?
  • Are these guys serious?

I’ve got a call in, so maybe we’ll find out more soon.

The dotFree Group already offers free domain names at the third level under cz.cc, and sells a pricey script so anyone can become a “registrar”.

The company sounds like it already has the infrastructure to support a small TLD.There are apparently 50,000 .cz.cc domains registered today, which already makes it bigger than some gTLDs.

(Hat tip: @dotRadio)