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In major snub, Verisign refuses to let ICANN audit .net

Kevin Murphy, January 11, 2013, Domain Registries

Verisign has delivered a significant blow to ICANN’s authority by refusing to take part in its contractual compliance audit program.

The snub runs a risk of scuppering ICANN’s plans to make compliance a cornerstone of its new management’s strategy.

In a letter to ICANN’s compliance department this week, Verisign senior vice president Pat Kane said that the company has no obligation to submit to an audit of .net under its ICANN contract.

Kane wrote:

Verisign has no contractual obligations under its .net Registry Agreement with ICANN to comply with the proposed audit. Absent such express contractual obligations, Verisign will not submit itself to an audit by or at the direction of ICANN of its books and records.

The company is basically refusing to take part in ICANN’s Contractual Compliance Audit Program, a proactive three-year plan to make sure all gTLD registries and accredited registrars are sticking to their contracts.

For registries, the plan calls for ICANN to look at things like compliance with Whois, zone file access, data escrow, monthly reporting, and other policies outlined in the registry agreements.

Verisign isn’t necessarily admitting that it thinks it would not pass the .net audit, but it is sending a strong signal that it believes ICANN’s authority over it has limits.

In the program’s FAQ, ICANN admits that it does not have explicit audit rights over all contracted parties, stating:

What’s the basis for including all contracted parties, when the ‘Right to Audit’ clause isn’t present in 2001 RAA and Registry Agreements?

One of ICANN’s responsibilities is to conduct audits of its agreements in order to ensure that all contracted parties are in compliance with those agreements.

If Verisign is refusing to participate, other registries may decide they don’t want to cooperate either. That wouldn’t look good for ICANN, which has made compliance a key strategic priority.

When Fadi Chehade started as CEO last September, one of his first moves was to promote compliance boss Maguy Serad to vice president, reporting directly to him.

He told DI that he would be “bringing a lot more weight and a lot more independent management from my office to the compliance function”.

At his inaugural address to the community in Prague last June, he spoke of how he planned to bring IBM-style contract management prowess to ICANN.

Compliance is also a frequently raised concern of the Governmental Advisory Committee (though generally geared toward rogue registrars rather than registries).

Surprise! Verisign to increase .net fees

Kevin Murphy, December 19, 2012, Domain Registries

Verisign has just announced that it will increase its .net registry fee by 10% next year.

The changes, which will become effective July 1, 2013, see the charge for a one-year registration increase from $5.11 to $5.62.

The increase, which is permitted under Verisign’s contract with ICANN, was inevitable given the fact that the company has just lost the right to increase .com prices.

US Department of Commerce intervention in .com means that prices there are frozen for the next six years, so Verisign can be relied upon to seize every alternative growth opportunity available to it.

The last time .net’s fee was increased was January 2012, when it went up by 10% to the current $5.11.

Verisign’s IDN gTLDs “could increase phishing” say Asian registries

Kevin Murphy, November 30, 2012, Domain Policy

It’s a bad day for Verisign.

As the company pins its growth hopes partially on its applications for IDN gTLDs — in the wake of losing its price-raising powers over .com — ccTLD registries from Asia-Pacific have raised serious concerns about its bids.

The Asia Pacific Top Level Domain Association says that many of its members reckon the proposed IDN transliterations of .com “could give rise to an increased risk of phishing and other malicious abuses”.

Verisign has applied for a dozen transliterations of .com and .net in scripts such as Hebrew, Cyrillic and Arabic. The strings themselves are meaningless, but they sound like “com” and “net”.

It’s for this reason that APTLD reckons they could cause problems. In an October 1 letter to ICANN, published today, the organization said:

In addition to the potential for user confusion, some [Working Group] members also noted that the creation of transliterated TLDs, without the development of adequate registration and eligibility polices and procedures, could give rise to an increased risk of phishing and other malicious abuses of the new spaces.

The WG notes that this potential problem manifests itself at the second level, and is not unique to tranlisterated TLDs, but would argue that the very nature of these TLDs, and their close similarity to existing TLDs, makes them particularly high-risk targets.

The letter does not single out Verisign, and does not represent a consensus APTLD view.

There are also worries among APTLD members about the application for .thai in Latin script, which could clash with Thailand’s IDN ccTLD, and various translations of “.site”.

APTLD notes that the new gTLD evaluation process only contains checks for visual similarity between TLDs.

The only way to block an application based on phonetic confusion is to file a String Confusion Objection, but the only entity eligible to object to Verisign’s applications is Verisign itself.

Worldwide domains up to 240 million

Kevin Murphy, October 2, 2012, Domain Registries

There are now more than 240 million registered domain names on the internet, according to Verisign.

Its latest Domain Name Industry Brief reports that a net of 7.3 million names were added across all TLDs in the second quarter, a 3.1% sequential increase, up 11.9% on Q2 2011.

Verisign’s own .com and .net hit 118.5 million domains by the end of June, up 1.6% sequentially and 7.8% year-over-year. Renewals were at 72.9%, down from 73.9% in Q1.

The company reported that new .com and .net registrations in the period totaled 8.4 million.

Verisign reveals “dark” .com domains

Verisign has started publishing the daily count of .com and .net domain names that are registered but do not work.

On a new page on its site, the company is promising to break out how many domains are registered but do not currently show up in the zone files for its two main gTLDs.

These are sometimes referred to as “dark” domains.

As of yesterday, the number of registered and active .com domains stands at 103,960,994, and there are 145,980 more (about 0.14% of the total) that are registered but do not currently have DNS.

For .net, the numbers stand at 14,750,674 and 32,440 (0.22%).

Verisign CEO Jim Bidzos told analysts last night that the data is being released to “increase transparency” into the company’s performance.

Many tools available for tracking registration numbers in TLDs are skewed slightly by the fact that they rely on publicly available zone file data, which does not count dark domains.

Registry reports containing more accurate data are released monthly by ICANN, but they’re always three months old.