Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

.sexy may be blocked in Iran

Kevin Murphy, September 16, 2015, Domain Tech

Some networks in Iran appear to be systematically blocking Uniregistry’s .sexy gTLD.

That’s one of the conclusions of a slightly odd experiment commissioned by ICANN.

The newly published An Analysis of New gTLD Universal Acceptance was conducted by APNIC Labs. The idea was to figure out whether there are any issues with new gTLDs on the internet’s DNS infrastructure.

It concluded that there is not — new gTLDs work just fine on the internet’s plumbing.

However, the survey — which comprised over 100 million DNS resolution attempts — showed “One country, Iran, shows some evidence of a piecemeal block of Web names within the .sexy gTLD.”

The sample size for Iranian attempts to access .sexy was just 30 attempts. In most cases, users were able to resolve the names with DNS, but HTTP responses appeared to be blocked.

The survey did not test .porn or .adult names, but it might be safe to assume similar behavior in those gTLDs.

APNIC also concluded that Israel’s .il ccTLD, included in the report as a known example of TLD blocking at the national level, is indeed blocked in Iran and Syria.

The study also found that there may be issues with Adobe’s Flash software, when used in Internet Explorer, when it comes to resolving internationalized domain names.

That conclusion seems to have been reached largely because the test’s methodology saw a Flash advertisement discretely fetching URLs in the background of web pages using Google Ads.

When the experimenters used HTML 5 to run their scripts instead, there was no problem resolving the names.

The study did not look at some of the perhaps more pressing UA issues, such as the ability for registrants and others to use new gTLD domain names in web applications.

Sunrise accounts for under 1% of new gTLD regs

Kevin Murphy, September 16, 2015, Domain Registries

New gTLD registries can expect just 125 sunrise registrations on average, according to statistics just released by ICANN.

The new data, current as of May 2015, also shows that there have been just 44,077 sunrise registrations in total, over 417 new gTLDs.

That’s less than 1% of the total number of new gTLD domain registrations to that date.

The numbers were published in a revised version of ICANN’s Revised Report on Rights Protections Mechanisms, a discussion paper on mechanisms such as sunrise, Trademark Claims and URS.

It also contains the first authoritative breakdown of sunrise regs by TLD, though it’s limited to the 20 largest.


Many of these numbers match closely what DI has previously reported, but .porn and .adult are substantially lower because ICM Registry only revealed consolidated numbers that took account of its unique non-TMCH sunrise periods.

None of the ICANN figures include .sucks, which hit sunrise after the numbers were compiled in May.

ICANN throws lifeline to flopping new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, September 16, 2015, Domain Registries

New gTLD registries with lower than expected sales will now be able to reduce the amount of their “failure bond”.

ICANN has introduced a new Continued Operations Instrument Amendment Service, which will enable registries to raise or lower the amount of their COI depending on how business is going.

A COI is a letter of credit or cash in escrow that registries must secure in order to fund three years of emergency operations in the event that their businesses fail.

The amount of the COI is calculated from sales projection and ranges from $18,000 (for under 10,000 names) to $300,000 (over 250,000 names).

Let’s face it, at the moment the amendment service must surely be targeted largely at companies that over-estimated their future sales and secured a COI much larger than they needed.

If they’ve escrowed cash, the new service will allow some of that money to be freed up to spend on more useful activities.

ICANN said that if it determines that a registry has under-projected its sales, it will be able to refer it to the new service in order for the COI to be increased.

Currently, only four new gTLDs have over 250,000 names under management, judging by zone files.

ICANN just gave a company a new gTLD for free

Kevin Murphy, September 10, 2015, Domain Policy

The Tor Project Inc, a Massachusetts non-profit software maker, just got a new gTLD reserved for its own exclusive use, by ICANN, for free.

Tor did this without engaging in the ICANN new gTLD program, paying any ICANN application fees, or following any of the rules in the ICANN Applicant Guidebook.

It basically circumvented the entire ICANN process, and it only took six months from asking.

Neat trick, right?

Tor develops the software that creates the Tor “anonymity network” used by people who wish to obfuscate their internet usage (legal or otherwise) by routing their traffic via a series of proxies or relays.

The free software, which plugs into browsers, uses meaningless, hashed “.onion” domains because the routing method is known as “onion routing”.

IANA, an ICANN department, last night placed .onion on its list of Special Use Domains, meaning it cannot be delegated to the DNS.

If anyone were to apply for it today — assuming that were possible — they’d be out of luck. It seems .onion now has the same protected status as .example and .localhost.

The reservation was made at the instruction of the Internet Engineering Task Force, which published a new Internet Draft reserving the .onion gTLD for use with Tor.

An Internet Draft is a “work in progress” standards track document with a six-month shelf life, not yet a finalized Request For Comments (RFC).

This one was written by engineers from Tor and Facebook.

The Internet Engineering Steering Group, the IETF’s coordinating body, approved the draft last week.

Of the 13 IESG members who voted on the document, the first draft of which was published six months ago, five voted “Yes”, seven offered “No Objection” and only one abstained.

The abstainer, Barry Leiba, standards guru at Huawei Technologies, wrote:

I believe the IETF shouldn’t be involved with registering special-use TLDs for things that were used outside of IETF protocols, and should not be wading into territory that belongs to ICANN. I know there are a bunch of other such TLDs that people/organizations would have us snag for them, and I very much want to avoid doing a batch of others.

That said, I well understand the deployed code involved and the importance of keeping things working in this case, and I don’t want to stand in the way. So I’m standing aside with an “Abstain” ballot.

The logic behind the reservation is that if ICANN were to delegate .onion to somebody else (for example, The Onion) there would be a risk that the improved privacy offered by Tor would be compromised.

Voting in favor of the draft, Cisco engineer Alissa Cooper wrote:

Registering this name seems warranted in light of the potential security impact. We need to make our processes work for the Internet, not vice versa.

Another affirmative vote came from Oracle engineer Ben Campbell. He wrote:

This one took some soul searching. But I think the arguments have been made, and that on the whole this registration does more good than harm.

A number of IESG members suggested that the IETF should revisit and possibly amend the RFC in which it originally granted itself the power to reserve gTLDs.

That’s RFC6761, entitled “Special-Use Domain Names”, which dates to February 2013.

RFC6761 lays out a seven-point test that a string must pass before it can be considered “special use” and thereby reserved.

The tests cover whether humans, applications and various types of DNS software are expected to handle the string differently to a regular TLD.

The RFC also notes:

The IETF has responsibility for specifying how the DNS protocol works, and ICANN is responsible for allocating the names made possible by that DNS protocol… Reservation of a Special-Use Domain Name is not a mechanism for circumventing normal domain name registration processes.

I think reasonable people could disagree on whether that’s what has just happened in the case of .onion.

Indeed, there was some discussion on the IETF’s “dnsop” working group mailing list about whether Tor was “squatting” .onion, and whether it was appropriate to reserve its chosen TLD string.

I wonder what kind of precedent this could set.

The Tor Project Inc is a Massachusetts non-profit company. It’s primarily funded by US government grants, according to its 2013 financial statements, the most recent available. It doesn’t sell .onion domains — they’re auto-generated by the software.

Part of the argument in favor of allowing the new Internet Draft is that .onion substantially pre-dates the creation of RFC6761 — it’s not an attempt to game the RFC.

Why wouldn’t that same argument apply to, for example, alternate root operator Name.Space, which has been offering hundreds of pseudo-gTLDs since 1996?

Name.Space could argue that its strings pre-date .onion by eight years, and that the security of its registrants and users could be compromised if ICANN were to delegate them to the DNS.

What about NameCoin, another alternate root provider? It also pre-dates RFC6761 and, like Tor, uses browser software to work around the DNS.

I don’t know enough about the IETF’s processes, to be honest, to say whether it would be forced to apply its .onion logic to these other namespaces. But it’s an interesting question.

And as somebody who has spent the last five years immersed in the minutiae of the rules ICANN has created to govern the allocation of words, it’s jarring to see those rules circumnavigated so completely.

Who wants ICANN’s $60m gTLD windfall?

Kevin Murphy, September 9, 2015, Domain Policy

ICANN has opened a formal public comment period to move forward discussions on how it should spend the almost $60 million it has so far received in new gTLD auction proceeds.

It’s not yet looking for concrete suggestions on how to spend the money — this is a pre-consultation consultation — it’s only looking for comments on the principles that should be considered when discussions take place.

ICANN has so far raised $58.8 million from “last resort” new gTLD auctions. With 27 contention sets remaining, that number could go up if one or more applicants refuse to participate in private auctions.

The GNSO Council has been moving to create a Cross-Community Working Group to discuss how the money should be spent, but clashed briefly with the ICANN board, which has said it will make the ultimate decision, earlier this year.

The new paper (get it here) basically asks questions along the lines of: who should decide where the money goes? How should conflicts of interest be handled? How much third-party expert opinion should be solicited? How much say should the board have? How much outreach should there be?

Underpinning it all is the implicit problem that the longer, more detailed and more convoluted the process, the less money there will be to actually distribute at the end.

Knowing the ICANN community’s propensity for convolution, I wouldn’t be surprised if it managed to spunk the whole lot on expert advice, working group travel, lawsuits and coffee.

(Okay, I would actually be surprised, but you get my point).

The paper also includes links to about 20 spending suggestions that have been made in various public fora over the last couple of years.

Some ideas include: giving it back to the applicants, funding open source DNS software, reducing the new gTLD application fee, marketing new gTLDs to registrants, and donating it to charity.

It does not appear to be true that ICANN slipped in one of its own management’s suggestions in an attempt to funnel off new gTLD money into the unpopular NetMundial initiative, as has been alleged elsewhere today. The NetMundial suggestion referred to in the paper actually came from Danny Aerts of Swedish ccTLD manager IIS.