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CentralNic gets 680,000 AlpNames domains for free, kinda

CentralNic has emerged as the gaining registrar for AlpNames’ entire portfolio of gTLD domains.

The company announced late last week that three registrars in its stable — Moniker, Key-Systems LLC and Key-Systems GmbH — will take over roughly 680,000 domains that were left stranded when AlpNames management went AWOL.

US-based Key-Systems LLC appears to be the biggest gainer. It will be taking over domains in every gTLD except .biz, .com, .info, .net, .org, which are going to Moniker, and .pro, which are going to the German Key-Systems division.

While most registrars see their domains under management concentrated in these legacy gTLDs, by volume AlpNames had far more registrations in new 2012-round gTLDs.

It had just 19,000 .com DUM at the last count, compared to hundreds of thousands in new gTLDs such as .top and .gdn.

CentralNic said in a press release that ICANN selected its registrars after a competitive bidding process, which I’ve previously outlined here, but that it did not pay for the names. So AlpNames, presumably, won’t be getting the payday it could have received under the rules.

The transfer won’t be entirely cost-free, of course. CentralNic is going to have to provide support to its incoming customers — who will all be emailed with the details of their new Moniker accounts — for starters.

There’s also the issue of abuse. AlpNames was notorious as a haven for spammers and the like, due to its cheap prices and bulk-registration tools, so CentralNic may find itself having to deal with this legacy.

But CentralNic said it expects these incidental costs to be “minimal”.

The transfers are a big boost for CentralNic’s registrar volume, at least in the short term. The three selected registrars had a combined total of roughly two million gTLD domains at the last count. CentralNic says it acts as registrar for over seven million domains across its 13 accreditations.

For every AlpNames domain that gets renewed, CentralNic gets paid. But if AlpNames’ own track record is any guide, I suspect there’s going to be a lot of drops over the coming year.

CentralNic and KeyDrive in merger talks

Kevin Murphy, March 14, 2018, Domain Registries

CentralNic and KeyDrive, two major European domain firms, are in merger talks, CentralNic confirmed this morning.

CentralNic said that the transaction, should it close, would be a “reverse takeover” of itself by KeyDrive.

That’s where a private company, in this case KeyDrive, reverses into a public one, in this case AIM-listed CentralNic.

Luxembourg-based KeyDrive is the holding company for brands including the registrars Key-Systems, Moniker and BrandShelter and the registries OpenRegistry and KSRegistry.

London-based CentralNic is a registry provider for the likes of .xyz, recent acquirer of Slovakian TLD .sk, and owner of registrars Internet.bs and Instra.

CentralNic said: “CentralNic and KeyDrive Group believe that the combination of the two businesses would have strong strategic logic and economies of scale, and would represent an opportunity to create a group with advanced technology platforms delivering significant recurring revenues for every major customer type within the industry.”

If a deal should be struck, it would happen in the second quarter, the company said.

The announcement was made today after news of the talks leaked.

Trading in CentralNic shares has been temporarily suspended.

NCC sells Open Registry at huge discount

Kevin Murphy, January 6, 2017, Domain Registries

NCC Group has followed through on its promise to divest parts of its domain business, selling the Open Registry collection of companies at a huge discount to the original purchase price.

KeyDrive and a mysterious entity called Terrain.com SA have together acquired the companies for €3.75 million ($3.97 million).

That’s compared to the minimum of £7.9 million ($12 million) NCC originally paid just two years ago.

NCC said in a statement that the sold companies are:

  • Open Registry SA, a registry back-end provider with a handful of new gTLD clients.
  • ClearingHouse for Intellectual Property SA, aka CHIP, which provides software and billing support for the Trademark Clearinghouse.
  • Nexperteam CVBA, a tiny registrar.
  • Sensirius CVBA, the original Open Registry company, a new gTLD consultancy.

Missing from that list is Artemis, the new gTLD registry for .trust, which NCC separately acquired from Deutsche Post for an undisclosed sum in February 2014.

NCC is also keeping hold of its data escrow business, which is widely used by gTLD registries to comply with ICANN rules.

It’s not clear how the sold companies are being divided up between the two buyers.

KeyDrive is the Luxembourg-based holding company for the registrars Key-Systems and Moniker and other domain firms.

Terrain.com appears to belong to EuroDNS chair Xavier Buck, who was chair of Open Registry until NCC bought it, but the domain itself doesn’t seem to resolve right now.

NCC said that €2 million will be paid up front and €1.75 million will be deferred for 18 months.

Free .shop domains until Christmas

Kevin Murphy, December 13, 2016, Domain Registrars

The new .shop gTLD is likely to see growth over the coming week or so, as registrars begin to offer them for free.

Two retail registrars in the Key-Systems stable — Moniker and domaindiscount24 — said today they will offer a free .shop to each of their customers until December 23.

The offer is limited to one domain per account, so we’re unlikely to see the same level of growth, speculation and abuse we’ve seen in other TLDs that have offered free registrations.

Other popular registrars are currently selling first-year .shop names for $8 to $10, a discount on the usual retail price of between $25 and $30.

Interestingly and perhaps surprisingly, Key-Systems’ native Germany already has the most .shop registrations to date, with over a quarter of the 100,000 or so names registered so far to registrants in that country.

You have to go to number four in its geographic breakdown league to even get to the first Anglophone nation (the US).

Freenom suspended for cybersquatting rival registrars

Freenom, the company behind .tk and other freebie ccTLDs, has had its ICANN registrar accreditation suspended for cybersquatting competing registrars including Go Daddy and Key-Systems.

OpenTLD, its registrar business, has been told it cannot accept new registrations or inbound transfers from July 8 to October 6 or until it provides ICANN with a full list of the names it squatted.

I believe it’s the first time ICANN has suspended a registrar for this reason.

The suspension notice states:

ICANN has found that OpenTLD has engaged in a pattern and practice of trafficking in or use of domain names identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark of a third party in which the Registered Name Holder has no rights or legitimate interest

That’s a long-winded way of saying “massive cybersquatting”.

ICANN is basing its claims on two UDRP cases that Freenom and its CEO, Joost Zuurbier, lost.

According to WIPO panelists in Key-Systems GmbH v. Joost Zuurbier, OpenTLD B.V. and NetEarth Group, Inc. v. Stichting OpenTLD WHOIS Proxy, the company squatted at least seven of its rivals’ trademarks.

The domains were netearthone.biz, rrpproxy.me, key-systems.cc, resellerclub.tk, resellbiz.biz, godaddy.cf and resello.ws.

According to the UDRP decisions, Freenom used the domains to try to entice resellers of the other registrars over to OpenTLD.

It bought the competing registrars’ trademarks as search keywords on Google’s advertising platform, a WIPO panelist found. If you searched Google for Key-Systems trademark “RRPproxy”, for example, you’d get an ad linking to rrpproxy.me.

In some cases the names were registered behind Freenom’s in-house privacy service. In others, Zuurbier and OpenTLD were listed plainly as the registrants.

The WIPO panelists also found that Freenon shirked its duties under the UDRP as registrar, deleting the squatted domains rather than locking them, which essentially amounted to “cyberflight”.

It all looks pretty bad for Freenom, which only gained its accreditation two years ago.

To avoid termination, it has to provide ICANN with a list of all of its trademark infringing names, agree to transfer them to the mark owners or delete them, and bunch of other stuff.

Here’s the letter.

US-based Moniker gets Euro data retention waiver

Kevin Murphy, September 11, 2014, Domain Registrars

ICANN has approved Moniker’s request for a partial waiver of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement based on European privacy law, despite the fact that the registrar is based in the US.

The data retention waiver for Moniker was one of a few granted to members of the KeyDrive group of registrars that were approved by ICANN yesterday.

KeyDrive is based in Luxembourg, but the waiver request was granted because complying with the 2013 RAA could violate German privacy law and Moniker’s data is stored in Germany.

ICANN said:

Registrar’s technical backend services provider as well as data storage and collection occur on servers hosted and operated in Germany, and is subject to German law. Accordingly, ICANN has determined that it is appropriate to grant Registrar a data retention waiver

Group members Key-Systems AG (a German company) Key-Systems LLC (an American company) also received waivers yesterday.

InternetX, part of Germany-based United Internet, and http.net Internet also had their requests approved.

The waiver process was introduced because the 2013 RAA requires registrars to store customer data long after their domains expire, which registrars’ lawyers say forces them to break local laws.

An EU directive implemented in many European countries says that companies cannot store personal data for longer than it is needed for the purpose for which is was collected.

Moniker gets a new CEO

Kevin Murphy, February 21, 2014, Domain Registrars

KeyDrive has appointed Bonnie Wittenburg, Key-System USA executive vice president, as the new CEO of sister registrar Moniker.

She replaces Craig Snyder, who was CEO of Moniker and SnapNames and remains CEO of SnapNames. Wittenburg keeps her EVP roles at Key-Systems.

“Through her expanded role she will drive cooperation and develop a synergistic relationship between the KeyDrive members,” the company said in a statement.

The KeyDrive stable also includes Key-Systems, NameDrive and KS Registry.

Wittenberg is a 15-year veteran of the domain name industry, with previous stints at Network Solutions and Iron Mountain.

Key-Systems to take a loss on .hiv domains

Key-Systems said yesterday that it plans to make .hiv domain names available at “below net cost price”, in solidarity with would-be new gTLD registry dotHIV.

The registrar said it will also offer free .hiv names at launch to organizations involving in fighting the virus via its Moniker and domaindiscount24.com retail registrars.

dotHIV, also a German company, plans to donate all of its profits to HIV/AIDs charities.

Its application is uncontested and has already passed Initial Evaluation, but is the target of Governmental Advisory Committee advice, which has put its bid on hold.

Despite this uncertainty, Key-Systems said it expects the Sunrise phase for .hiv to start in December.

KSRegistry takes over .gd but questions remain about two other hijacked ccTLDs

KSRegistry has been appointed the new registry operator for Grenada’s ccTLD after bad management at the previous operator led to the whole TLD being hijacked.

But the fate of two other hijacked ccTLDs — .tc and .vg — appears to be less certain, with significant confusion over who’s in charge at both.

One of them, at least, may still be “hijacked”.

But KSRegistry, part of the KeyDrive group, said today that it took over the technical management of .gd from AdamsNames (Amaryllis Investments Ltd) on May 1.

While a press release describes the change as a “redelegation” by ICANN’s IANA function, in fact it’s just a change of technical contact in the IANA database.

Grenada’s National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission remains the official, delegated manager of the TLD.

The hasty switch-over follows the alleged wholesale hijacking of the ccTLD by a disgruntled former employee of AdamsNames, who temporarily relocated it from the UK to Turkey.

The TLD, along with .tc and .vg, went AWOL in March after one Ertan Ulutas apparently took over the domain AdamsNames.net, the web site which was used by registrants to manage their names.

For a couple of weeks the site remained in the hands of the alleged hijacker, and all the while the AdamsNames.net site presented itself as the official registry manager.

KSRegistry was at the time the appointed back-end provider, appointed last year, for AdamsNames.

Due to the period of confusion, KSRegistry said today that the integrity of registration data in .gd may have been compromised, and that the zone will be “frozen” until May 21.

KSRegistry said in a statement:

While the .GD zone is frozen, no registrations, modifications, transfers, deletions or renewals can be made until the zone file has been fully reviewed and confirmed as valid and complete. Expired domains which are still in the zone can explicit be set to be either deleted or renewed prior to the reactivation of automated domain deletion function on May 21. Contact and nameserver updates can be done by each registrar for the domain names in its portfolio once the ServerUpdateProhibited status is removed. The NTRC and the KSregistry GmbH intend to resolve the discrepancies in the registration data with the .GD accredited registrars until May 21, 2013.

Getting rid of AdamsNames seems like a smart move by Grenada.

While AdamsNames has not been accused of any wrongdoing, allowing its TLDs to get hijacked, putting many thousands of domains at risk, certainly smacks of incompetence.

And the current status of .tc and .vg is unclear enough that I’d advise extreme caution when doing business with either TLD until further notice.

According to IANA records, .vg (British Virgin Islands) still has AdamsNames listed as the technical manager, but there have been significant, dodgy-looking changes at .tc recently.

Notably, references to AdamsNames as technical contact and official registration site for the ccTLD have been removed and replaced with those for a couple of new companies.

TLD AS (based in Turkey) and Meridian TLD (based in the British Virgin Islands) have been named as technical contact and registration site for .tc respectively.

Also, a name server for .tc that was operated by RIPE (a respectable organization), was also removed and replaced with one from zone.tc, a domain controlled by Meridian TLD, in early April.

All the name servers for .tc, and all but one of the name servers for .vg, are now on domains controlled by Meridian.

On the face of it, it looks almost legit. Meridian’s web site even states that its representatives were at the ICANN meeting in Beijing a month ago.

But according to AdamsNames, Meridian is actually run by Ulutas (the alleged hijacker) and at least two other people, and the two other people showed up in Beijing pretending to represent AdamsNames.

AdamsNames said on its web site:

We have to state frank and clear that neither Ayse Ergen nor her companion are authorised to represent or to act on behalf of AdamsNames Limited. By posing as employees of AdamsNames, the group of criminals around Ertan Ulutas, newly also known as “Meridian TLD Corp.”, continues its efforts to hijack the business of AdamsNames (run since 1999) by underhand means.

ICANN/IANA, according to AdamsNames, was aware of its complaints about Meridian from late March, which was before it made the changes that gave Meridian effective control over .tc.

Right now, it looks disturbingly like the alleged “hijacker” has actually managed to not only take over operations for at least one entire ccTLD but also to make it official.

Confusion reigns over three “hijacked” ccTLDs

Kevin Murphy, March 12, 2013, Domain Registries

Control over three ccTLDs is currently up in the air due to the alleged hijacking of one of the registry operator’s domain names.

The TLDs for the Turks and Caicos Islands (.tc), the British Virgin Islands (.vg) and Grenada (.gd) are all nominally managed by a UK-based company called AdamsNames.

Last October, AdamsNames outsourced the back-end technical functions of the registry to KSRegistry, the registry sister company to German registrar Key-Systems.

But this week, it’s difficult to say who’s in charge any more.

KSRegistry, in an official statement, said yesterday that an unspecified “third party” had managed to take over the registry’s domain name, AdamsNames.net, and was operating a “shadow registry” there.

Today, the KSregistry GmbH, a hundred percent subsidiary of the Key-Systems GmbH, has learned that a third party has executed a transfer of the domain name adamsnames.net and now operates a shadow registry under this domain. According to the CEO of AdamsNames Ltd., Mr. Carsten Pauli, this transfer was not authorized by the registry operator.

Whois records show that the domain was transferred away from Key-Systems to Hexonet last week, and that the administrative contact changed from an address in London to an address in Istanbul.

The name on the records was Ertan Ulutas before and after the transfer.

So has Ulutas, by taking control over what is in effect the official registry web site, hijacked all three registries?

Statements appearing on AdamsNames.net this week tell a different story.

Whoever’s in control of the domain — presumably Ulutas — claims that the outfit is “currently experiencing a high level Corporate hijack from the minority shareholder Carsten Pauli and Key Systems GmbH.”

A statement today reads:

As you are all aware AdamsNames Ltd has been run by us for a while. Key Systems is our former Registry Backend provider. We recently noticed, the adamsnames.com domain, for which Key Systems was the Registrar had been illegally transferred into another account without any notice or authorisation from us.

Upon realising this we transferred our other gTLD domains to another Registrar. Due to this matter we lost trust in Key Systems GmbH and decided to run it ourselves. Please be aware that our Registry is fully operational.

All domains can be registered, renewed and updated as usual. We could not trust a company with three ccTLD’s if we could not trust them with one domain!

Whois records show that Pauli recently became the owner of AdamsNames.com. Ulutas was the previous owner. The domain is registered via Key-Systems.

KSRegistry, which has declined to comment beyond its prepared statement yesterday, said:

KSregistry GmbH still provides the technical back-end services for the ccTLDs .TC, .GD and .VG authorized by AdamsNames Ltd., but this is currently hampered by the actions of the third party.

In order to not endanger the integrity of the zone after addressing the issues, the Key-Systems GmbH as registrar has decided to not permit current modifications to domains under .TC, .GD and .VG. The resolution and renewal of the domains are not affected.

What seems to be happening here is that Pauli and Ulutas have had some kind of dispute, and that as a result the registrants and the reputation of three countries’ ccTLDs have been harmed.

Very amateurish.

UPDATE: Key-Systems founder and CEO Alexander Siffrin has issued the following updated statement in response to the latest claims on Adamsnames.net:

Key-Systems GmbH has at no time hijacked a domain name from Adamsnames Ltd. It has in the incident referred to by the party currently claiming to represent Adamsnames acted upon a request of the director of Adamsnames Ltd. who is also the signatory of the agreement outsourcing the technical backend of the registry to KSregistry GmbH.

On the other hand the transfer of the domain name adamsnames.net and with that the ability to change the management of the zone has to our knowledge been initiated without permission of Adamsnames Ltd.

It is noteworthy that at this time the domain names listed by the current technical operator do not list Adamsnames Ltd. as registrant:

ADAMSNAMES.NET
adamsnames.org
adamsnames.eu

You may draw your own conclusions.