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TLDH opens up list of 70,000 premium names for all new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, January 14, 2014, Domain Services

Top Level Domain Holdings has ramped up its new gTLD pre-registration effort with a new database service that enables registries to automatically collate and price their premium names.

The new OpenDB.co service builds on the Online Priority Enhanced Names system we reported on during the ICANN meeting in Buenos Aires a couple months ago.

TLDH chairman Fred Krueger told DI today that new gTLD registry operators will be able to automatically generate a list of up to 70,000 premium names — with associated prices — for their TLD(s).

It works using a proprietary taxonomy of strings in 500 categories, put together by about 30 people working for TLDH, and baseline .com pricing estimates calculated by various online tools such as Estibot.

If you’re the registry for .web, for example, you might decide that all premium .web domains are worth 50% of the .com price, and you could create your premium names list accordingly with just a few clicks.

But if you’re the registry for a narrower, niche gTLD, you might want to assign values by category, subcategory or individual name.

If you’re .poker, you might decide that names in the OpenDB “gambling” category are worth 300% of .com, due to the affinity between the TLD and the second level, and that “sports” names are worth 50%, but everything else is worth just 1% of the corresponding .com name.

A possible drawback of the system might be that the algorithmic .com price estimates underlying it are just that — estimates, based on factors such as Google search volume and Adwords cost-per-click.

Online tools that do this kind of price estimation are quite often criticized or mocked for under- or over-pricing names in existing TLDs.

Another drawback might be that while 70,000 is certainly a lot of strings, it might not dive deeply enough into the potential premium pool for very niche gTLDs.

If the service catches on, I expect it will wind up competing with consultancies that offer expertise-based pricing, such as Right Of The Dot, and brokerage platforms such as Sedo.

So far only PeopleBrowsr (.ceo, .best) has openly committed to use the system.

TLDH says that it will start offering any names in OpenDB via its affiliated Minds + Machines registrar, with a 20% markup.

There’s also an OpenDB API that registrars can use to add these premium names to their own storefronts, Krueger said.

You snooze, you lose new gTLD sunrise coming soon

Kevin Murphy, January 10, 2014, Domain Registries

Trademark attorneys and brand management executives take note: January 21 will see the launch of the first first-come, first-served sunrise period we’ve seen in a new TLD in a long time.

FCFS means that domain names will be allocated to participants immediately, rather than at the end of the sunrise period.

For those responsible for acquiring domain names for mark owners — many of whom are accustomed to waiting to the last minute before submitting sunrise applications — this is a change of pace.

You snooze, you lose.

To date only Regiodot’s German geographic gTLD, .ruhr, has officially confirmed (pdf) that it intends to use a FCFS policy during its mandatory sunrise period.

That’s due to kick off on January 21.

The precise time that the sunrise will begin — important when you’re looking at a FCFS policy — does not appear to have been published yet.

UPDATE: the time has been published (see comments below this post) and it’s 1000 UTC.

Under ICANN rules, to use FCFS registries need a “Start Date” sunrise, which runs for 30 days but requires a 30-day notice period before it begins. Regiodot told ICANN about its sunrise dates December 18.

The alternative “End Date” sunrises run for 60 days, have no notice period, and domains are only allocated to mark owners — usually using auctions to settle contention — after the 60 days are over.

Other than .ruhr, only PeopleBrowsr’s .ceo has said it wants to run a Start Date sunrise. However, PeopleBrowsr will not run its sunrise on a FCFS basis, preferring the end-date allocation/auction method instead.

Controlled interruption as a means to prevent name collisions [Guest Post]

Jeff Schmidt, January 8, 2014, Domain Tech

This is a guest post written by Jeff Schmidt, CEO of JAS Global Advisors LLC. JAS is currently authoring a “Name Collision Occurrence Management Framework” for the new gTLD program under contract with ICANN.

One of JAS’ commitments during this process was to “float” ideas and solicit feedback. This set of thoughts poses an alternative to the “trial delegation” proposals in SAC062. The idea springs from past DNS-related experiences and has an effect we have named “controlled interruption.”

Learning from the Expired Registration Recovery Policy

Many are familiar with the infamous Microsoft Hotmail domain expiration in 1999. In short, a Microsoft registration for passport.com (Microsoft’s then-unified identity service) expired Christmas Eve 1999, denying millions of users access to the Hotmail email service (and several other Microsoft services) for roughly 20 hours.

Fortunately, a well-intended technology consultant recognized the problem and renewed the registration on Microsoft’s behalf, yielding a nice “thank you” from Microsoft and Network Solutions. Had a bad actor realized the situation, the outcome could have been far different.

The Microsoft Hotmail case and others like it lead to the current Expired Registration Recovery Policy.

More recently, Regions Bank made news when its domains expired, and countless others go unreported. In the case of Regions Bank, the Expired Registration Recovery Policy seemed to work exactly as intended – the interruption inspired immediate action and the problem was solved, resulting in only a bit of embarrassment.

Importantly, there was no opportunity for malicious activity.

For the most part, the Expired Registration Recovery Policy is effective at preventing unintended expirations. Why? We call it the application of “controlled interruption.”

The Expired Registration Recovery Policy calls for extensive notification before the expiration, then a period when “the existing DNS resolution path specified by the Registrant at Expiration (“RAE”) must be interrupted” – as a last-ditch effort to inspire the registrant to take action.

Nothing inspires urgent action more effectively than service interruption.

But critically, in the case of the Expired Registration Recovery Policy, the interruption is immediately corrected if the registrant takes the required action — renewing the registration.

It’s nothing more than another notification attempt – just a more aggressive round after all of the passive notifications failed. In the case of a registration in active use, the interruption will be recognized immediately, inspiring urgent action. Problem solved.

What does this have to do with collisions?

A Trial Delegation Implementing Controlled Interruption

There has been a lot of talk about various “trial delegations” as a technical mechanism to gather additional data regarding collisions and/or attempt to notify offending parties and provide self-help information. SAC062 touched on the technical models for trial delegations and the related issues.

Ideally, the approach should achieve these objectives:

  • Notifies systems administrators of possible improper use of the global DNS;
  • Protects these systems from malicious actors during a “cure period”;
  • Doesn’t direct potentially sensitive traffic to Registries, Registrars, or other third parties;
  • Inspires urgent remediation action; and
  • Is easy to implement and deterministic for all parties.

Like unintended expirations, collisions are largely a notification problem. The offending system administrator must be notified and take action to preserve the security and stability of their system.

One approach to consider as an alternative trial delegation concept would be an application of controlled interruption to help solve this notification problem. The approach draws on the effectiveness of the Expired Registration Recovery Policy with the implementation looking like a modified “Application and Service Testing and Notification (Type II)” trial delegation as proposed in SAC62.

But instead of responding with pointers to application layer listeners, the authoritative nameserver would respond with an address inside 127/8 — the range reserved for localhost. This approach could be applied to A queries directly and MX queries via an intermediary A record (the vast majority of collision behavior observed in DITL data stems from A and MX queries).

Responding with an address inside 127/8 will likely break any application depending on a NXDOMAIN or some other response, but importantly also prevents traffic from leaving the requestor’s network and blocks a malicious actor’s ability to intercede.

In the same way as the Expired Registration Recovery Policy calls for “the existing DNS resolution path specified by the RAE [to] be interrupted”, responding with localhost will hopefully inspire immediate action by the offending party while not exposing them to new malicious activity.

If legacy/unintended use of a DNS name is present, one could think of controlled interruption as a “buffer” prior to use by a legitimate new registrant. This is similar to the CA Revocation Period as proposed in the New gTLD Collision Occurrence Management Plan which “buffers” the legacy use of certificates in internal namespaces from new use in the global DNS. Like the CA Revocation Period approach, a set period of controlled interruption is deterministic for all parties.

Moreover, instead of using the typical 127.0.0.1 address for localhost, we could use a “flag” IP like 127.0.53.53.

Why? While troubleshooting the problem, the administrator will likely at some point notice the strange IP address and search the Internet for assistance. Making it known that new TLDs may behave in this fashion and publicizing the “flag” IP (along with self-help materials) may help administrators isolate the problem more quickly than just using the common 127.0.0.1.

We could also suggest that systems administrators proactively search their logs for this flag IP as a possible indicator of problems.

Why the repeated 53? Preserving the 127.0/16 seems prudent to make sure the IP is treated as localhost by a wide range of systems; the repeated 53 will hopefully draw attention to the IP and provide another hint that the issue is DNS related.

Two controlled interruption periods could even be used — one phase returning 127.0.53.53 for some period of time, and a second slightly more aggressive phase returning 127.0.0.1. Such an approach may cover more failure modes of a wide variety of requestors while still providing helpful hints for troubleshooting.

A period of controlled interruption could be implemented before individual registrations are activated, or for an entire TLD zone using a wildcard. In the case of the latter, this could occur simultaneously with the CA Revocation Period as described in the New gTLD Collision Occurrence Management Plan.

The ability to “schedule” the controlled interruption would further mitigate possible effects.

One concern in dealing with collisions is the reality that a potentially harmful collision may not be identified until months or years after a TLD goes live — when a particular second level string is registered.

A key advantage to applying controlled interruption to all second level strings in a given TLD in advance and at once via wildcard is that most failure modes will be identified during a scheduled time and before a registration takes place.

This has many positive features, including easier troubleshooting and the ability to execute a far less intrusive rollback if a problem does occur. From a practical perspective, avoiding a complex string-by-string approach is also valuable.

If there were to be a catastrophic impact, a rollback could be implemented relatively quickly, easily, and with low risk while the impacted parties worked on a long-term solution. A new registrant and associated new dependencies would likely not be adding complexity at this point.

Request for Feedback

As stated above, one of JAS’ commitments during this process was to “float” ideas and solicit feedback early in the process. Please consider these questions:

  • What unintended consequences may surface if localhost IPs are served in this fashion?
  • Will serving localhost IPs cause the kind of visibility required to inspire action?
  • What are the pros and cons of a “TLD-at-once” wildcard approach running simultaneously with the CA Revocation Period?
  • Is there a better IP (or set of IPs) to use?
  • Should the controlled interruption plan described here be included as part of the mitigation plan? Why or why not?
  • To what extent would this methodology effectively address the perceived problem?
  • Other feedback?

We anxiously await your feedback — in comments to this blog, on the DNS-OARC Collisions list, or directly. Thank you and Happy New Year!

NamesCon will be biggest new gTLD show yet

Kevin Murphy, January 8, 2014, Domain Services

The inaugural NamesCon new gTLDs conference, set to run for three days in Las Vegas next week, has attracted roughly 525 registrations, making it the largest such event to date.

Organizers are speculating that the final tally of attendees could pass 600, despite the fact that early bird pricing ended last night and tickets went up $200 to $599.

All of the previous new gTLD conferences I’m aware of — .nxt, gTLD World Congress, newdomains.org and a handful of smaller ones — have struggled to get half that number of delegates.

I suspect that the relatively low cost of tickets, hotel rooms and flights will have something to do with the relatively high participation for an as-yet unproven event.

According to organizers, there are about 100 speakers/panelists and 30 sessions over the two full days of the conference.

With just 45 minutes scheduled for most sessions, and five speakers on many of the panels, moderators will have their work cut out making sure discussions are balanced yet focused.

I will be on two panels, “Meet the industry Press” and “Important Tools of the Industry”, both of which are on Wednesday afternoon.

New gTLD launches: registrar coverage at less than 40% of the market

Kevin Murphy, January 7, 2014, Domain Registrars

Registrars representing less than 40% of the gTLD market are ready to offer new gTLDs during their launch phases, according to the latest stats from ICANN.

ICANN released yesterday a list (pdf) of the just 21 registrars that have signed the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement and have been certified by IBM to use the Trademark Clearinghouse database.

Signing the 2013 RAA is a requirement for registrars that want to sell new gTLDs. Almost 150 registrars are currently on the new contract.

But being certified for the TMCH is also a requirement to sell names during the first 90 days of each new gTLD’s general availability, when the Trademark Claims service is running.

Together, the 21 registrars that have done both accounted for 59 million registered gTLD domain names (using August’s official numbers), which translated to 39.5% of the gTLD market.

It’s a high percentage due to the presence of Go Daddy, with its 48.2 million gTLD names. The only other top-10 registrar on the list is 1&1.

Twelve of the 21 registrars on the list had fewer than 40,000 names under management. A couple have fewer than 100.

Only one new gTLD, dotShabaka Registry’s شبكة., is currently in its Trademark Claims period.

The second batch, comprising Donuts’ first seven launches, isn’t due to hit until January 27, giving just a few weeks for the certified list to swell.

There’ll be 33 new gTLD in Claims by the end of February.

The rate at which new registrars are being certified by IBM is not especially encouraging either. Only four have been added in the last month.

Some registrars may of course choose to work via other registrars, as a reseller, rather than getting certified and doing the TMCH integration work themselves.