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Chinese registrar goes AWOL, gets terminated

Chinese registrar name2host.com has had its accreditation terminated by ICANN for failing to comply with an audit.

According to the compliance notice (pdf), ICANN has been chasing the company since March but has encountered only disconnected phones and unanswered emails.

It seems name2host.com’s principals were all using Hotmail or Yahoo email accounts; not exactly the kind of thing you want to see from a domain name registrar.

The registrar had fewer than 5,000 gTLD domains on its books in March, all in .com and .net.

ICANN will initiate a bulk transfer to a new registrar using its usual process.

There are now over 1,000 top-level domains

The number of top-level domains on the internet has topped 1,000 for the first time.

The delegation of seven new gTLDs today — .studio, .live, .jprs, .game, .bcn, .barcelona and .airtel — took the total number of TLDs in the DNS root zone to 1,002.

The DI database breaks the count down like this:

  • 693 are new gTLDs from the 2012 application round.
  • 286 are ccTLDs.
  • 15 are gTLDs delegated by ICANN in earlier rounds.
  • Eight are the original gTLDs created in the 1980s.

The vast majority of the TLDs are in Latin script. Just 91, a mixture of ccTLDs and gTLDs, are internationalized domain names.

It’s been 623 days since the first 2012-round new gTLD was delegated, meaning the root is growing by an average of 1.1 TLDs per day.

Afilias wants to buy your failed gTLD

Afilias is on an overt campaign to snap up struggling new gTLDs at bargain basement prices.

“In the neighborhood of a dozen” gTLD operators responded seriously to Afilias’ booth at last month’s ICANN meeting in Buenos Aries, (pictured), Afilias chief marketing officer Roland LaPlante told DI in an interview today.

The company could potentially buy up tens of gTLDs over the coming year, LaPlante said.

“If all of these 500 strings with less than 5,000 names in them start looking for a new owner, it’s going to be a pretty active marketplace,” he said.

Afilias

“There are entrants in the market who either have found the market is not as they expected, or results are not what they need, or for whatever other reason they’re coming to the conclusion this isn’t the business they should be in and they’re looking for options,” LaPlante said.

“There’s been a cold splash of water in the face for a lot of people who didn’t expect it, they’re struggling with relatively low revenues compared to what they might have expected,” he said. “They’re likely to be looking for options.”

Afilias would be happy to take these contracts off their current owners’ hands, for the right price.

“Frankly, we’re not going to be paying huge prices for them,” LaPlante.

“We’ve run into a number of folks who still have fairly inflated opinions of what their string is worth,” he said. “Some of these strings are attractive, but they’re going to need a lot more time to mature.”

Afilias believes that the economies of scale it already has in place would enable it to turn a profit at a much lower registration volume, perhaps under 50,000 names, and that it has the patience and financial strength to wait for its acquisitions to hit those volumes.

“We’re very conservative in our volume estimates,” LaPlante said.

Afilias currently has 26 new gTLDs as back-end and 13 as contracted registry operator.

The company is basically looking for acquisitions where the seller’s looming alternative might be the Emergency Back-End Registry Operator, and where the fees associated with an auction might be a bit too rich.

While LaPlante jokingly compared the proposition to the “We Buy Any Car” business model, he admitted that some registries are less attractive than others.

gTLDs with a lot of restrictions or monitoring would be treated with much more caution — Afilias was not interested in .hiv, which failed to sell at auction recently, for example — and would be skeptical about registries that have given away large numbers of free domains.

“We’d like to pick up strings that have good potential for a profitable amount of volume,” he said.

Afilias quietly sold .meet to Google earlier this year, but LaPlante denied that Afilias is in the business of flipping gTLDs. While he could not get into details, he said the .meet deal was a “special case”.

As we discovered last week, at least eight new gTLDs have changed ownership since signing their registry contracts. A few others have been acquired pre-contracting.

Whois privacy supporters to top 20,000

Over 20,000 people have put their names to statements slamming proposals that would ban some commercial web sites from using Whois privacy on their domains.

ICANN’s public comment period on a working group’s Whois privacy reform proposals closes today after two months, with roughly 11,000 individual comments — the vast majority against changes that would weaken privacy rights — already filed.

Separately, Michele Neylon of Blacknight Solutions, which hosts SaveDomainPrivacy.org, tells DI that a petition signed by more than 9,000 people will be submitted to ICANN tonight.

If we count the signatories as commenters, that would make this the largest ICANN comment period to date, outstripping the 14,000 comments received when religious groups objected to the approval of .xxx in 2010.

SaveDomainPrivacy.org and RespectOurPrivacy.org, separate registrar-led initiatives, are responsible for the large majority of comments.

While registrars no doubt have business reasons for objecting to the muddling the Whois privacy market, their letter-writing outreach has been based on their claims that they could be forced to unmask the Whois of vulnerable home-business owners and such.

The Privacy & Proxy Services Accreditation Issues Working Group (PPSAI) report, published in May, sketches out a framework that could allow intellectual property owners to have privacy removed from domains they suspect of hosting infringing content.

A minority position appended to the report by MarkMonitor, Facebook, LegitScript and supported by members of the Intellectual Property and Business Constituencies, would put a blanket ban on using privacy on domains used to commercially transact.

ICANN dragged into Gamergate as Whois reform cast as misogynist threat

Kevin Murphy, July 2, 2015, Domain Policy

What do ICANN’s current Whois privacy reform proposals have to do with the “Gamergate” controversy?

Quite a lot, according to the latest group to slam the proposals as an enabler for “doxing… harassment… swatting… stalking… rape and death threats.”

The Online Abuse Prevention Initiative was formed in March by female software developers in the wake of a sexism slash online abuse scandal that continues to divide the video game community.

Led by Randi Harper, OAPI’s first public move was to today write to ICANN to complain about the GNSO Privacy & Proxy Services Accreditation Issues (PPSAI) Working Group Initial Report.

The report, as previously reported, contains a minority opinion that would ban transactional e-commerce sites from using Whois privacy services.

OAPI said today that this posed a risk of “doxing” — the practice of publishing the home address and other personal information about someone with the aim to encourage harassment — and “swatting”, where people call up America’s notoriously trigger-happy cops to report violent crimes at their intended victim’s home address.

Harper, who was one of the targets of the Gamergate movement (Google her for examples of the vitriol) claims to have been a victim of both. The OAPI letter says she “was swatted based on information obtained from the WHOIS record for her domain.”

The letter, which is signed by groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the National Council of Women’s Organizations, and dozens of noted digital rights voices, says:

We strongly oppose the Working Group’s proposal, which will physically endanger many domain owners and disproportionately impact those who come from marginalized communities. People perceived to be women, nonwhite, or LGBTQ are often targeted for harassment, and such harassment inflicts significant harm

Even the most limited definition of a “website handling online financial transactions for commercial purpose” will encompass a wide population that could be severely harmed by doxing, such as:

  • women indie game developers who sell products through their own online stores
  • freelance journalists and authors who market their work online
  • small business owners who run stores or businesses from their homes
  • activists who take donations to fund their work, especially those living under totalitarian regimes
  • people who share personal stories online to crowdfund medical procedures

To make things worse, the proposed definition of what constitutes “commercial purpose” could be expanded to include other types of activity such as running ads or posting affiliate links.

The letter does not directly refer to Gamergate, but some of the signatories are its most prominent victims and the allusions are clearly there.

Gamergate is described somewhere in its 9,000-word Wikipedia article as “part of a long-running culture war against efforts to diversify the traditionally male video gaming community, particularly targeting outspoken women.”

At its benign end, it was a movement for stronger ethics in video game journalism. At its malignant end, it involved quite a lot of male gamers sending abuse and violent threats to female players and developers.

The PPSAI report is open for comment until July 7. It has so far attracted over 10,000 emails, most of them rustled up by registrar letter-writing campaigns here and here.