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.tel’s second-biggest registrar gets canned

Kevin Murphy, August 31, 2018, Domain Registrars

A Chinese registrar that focused exclusively on selling .tel domain names has been shut down by ICANN.

Tong Ji Ming Lian (Beijing) Technology Corporation Ltd, which did business as Trename, had its registrar contract terminated last week.

ICANN claims the company had failed to pay its accreditation fees and failed to escrow its registration data.

The organization had been sending breach notices since June, but got no responses. Trename’s web site domain currently resolves to a web server error, for me at least.

Trename is a rare example of a single-TLD registrar, accredited only to sell .tel domains. It didn’t even sell .com.

It is Telnames’ second-largest registrar after Name.com, accounting for about 6,000 names at the last count. At its peak, it had about 55,000.

Its share seems to be primarily as a result of a deal the registry made with a Chinese e-commerce company way back in 2011.

I’m a bit fuzzy on the details of that deal, but it saw Trename add 50,000 .tel names pretty much all at once.

Back then, .tel still had its original business model of hosting all the domains it sold and publishing web sites containing the registrant’s contact information.

Since June 2017, .tel has been available as a general, anything-goes gTLD, after ICANN agreed to liberalize its contract.

That liberalization doesn’t seem to have done much to stave off .tel’s general decline in numbers, however. It currently stands at about 75,000 names, from an early 2011 peak of over 305,000.

ICANN told Trename that its contract will end September 19, and that it’s looking for another registrar to take over its domains.

With escrow apparently an issue, it may not be a smooth transition.

ITU says numeric .tel domains “may be confusing”

Kevin Murphy, October 14, 2013, Domain Registries

The International Telecommunication Union has warned ICANN that numeric .tel domain names, due to be released by Telnic tomorrow, “may confuse customers or cause undue conflicts”.

In a letter to ICANN, Malcolm Johnson, director of the ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, said that there’s a risk that numbers-only .tel name could be confused with the E.164 numbering plan.

Johnson asked ICANN to explain how these numbers will be allocated and used:

ITU must express its concern about TELNIC’s recent announcement launching an “all numeric .tel domains” service from 15 October 2013. This raises a number of policy, legal, and practical implications on the potential usage of all-digit strings, not only under .TEL domain, but also under any future telephony-related new gTLDs

We are seeking this clarification as the digit strings appear similar to telephone numbers and could be used in a manner similar to telephone numbers, which may confuse customers or cause undue conflicts arising from their use.

E.164 is the standard for phone numbers worldwide. The ITU has been angsty about the potential for clashes ever since .tel was first proposed back in 2000.

Indeed, Telnic promised when it applied in 2003 not to allow numbers in .tel, precisely in order to calm these fears.

But when it asked for this self-imposed ban to be lifted in 2010, the ITU didn’t have anything to say (at least, it did not respond to ICANN’s public comment period).

Read Johnson’s letter here (pdf).

Coming soon: phone numbers in .tel

Kevin Murphy, September 17, 2013, Domain Registries

Will companies defensively register their phone numbers? Telnic is to start selling long numeric .tel domain names for the first time, so we’re about to find out.

The company plans to lift the longstanding restriction on numeric domains of eight characters or longer on October 15, according to a press release (pdf) this morning:

Registrants wishing to register strings such as 00442074676450.tel or 0207-467-6450.tel will be able to do so through ICANN-accredited Registrars from 15:00 GMT on Tuesday 15th October.

“Registrants now have an increased choice of registering a .tel name or a .tel number under which they can publish all types of contact information online,” said Khashayar Mahdavi, CEO of Telnic. “This means that if the customer knows either the business name or telephone number for a business, it can be reached online quickly in a mobile-friendly way.”

Telnic expects numeric .tel domains to cost the same as regular .tel domains, which varies by registrar but can be as low as about $15. There’s not going to be any special sunrise period.

Telnic has had the ability to do this since early 2011, when ICANN approved its Registry Services Evaluation Process request to lift its original ban on numeric-only second-level domains.

The RSEP was not without controversy. Telnic, remember, was one of two applicants for .tel back in 2003, and it won partly because its application committed the company to avoiding numerals.

There had been concern expressed by the International Telecommunications Union and others that phone number .tel domains might interfere with ENUM-based numbering schemes.

Those concerns had largely dried up by the time Telnic submitted its RSEP in 2010, when the only complaint came, weirdly, from Go Daddy.

Report names and shames most-abused TLDs

Kevin Murphy, July 11, 2013, Domain Services

Newish gTLDs .tel and .xxx are among the most secure top-level domains, while .cn and .pw are the most risky.

That’s according to new gTLD services provider Architelos, which today published a report analyzing the prevalence of abuse in each TLD.

Assigning an “abuse per million domains” score to each TLD, the company found .tel the safest with 0 and .cn the riskiest, with a score of 30,406.

Recently relaunched .pw, which has had serious problems with spammers, came in just behind .cn, with a score of 30,151.

Generally, the results seem to confirm that the more tightly controlled the registration process and the more expensive the domain, the less likely it is to see abuse.

Norway’s .no and ICM Registry’s .xxx scored 17 and 27, for example.

Surprisingly, the free ccTLD for Tokelau, .tk, which is now the second-largest TLD in the world, had only 224 abusive domains per million under management, according to the report..

Today’s report ranked TLDs with over 100,000 names under management. Over 90% of the abusive domains used to calculate the scores were related to spam, rather than anything more nefarious.

The data was compiled from Architelos’ NameSentry service, which aggregates abusive URLs from numerous third-party sources and tallies up the number of times each TLD appears.

The methodology is very similar to the one DI PRO uses in TLD Health Check, but Architelos uses more data sources. NameSentry is also designed to automate the remediation workflow for registries.

Another .tel-only registrar accredited

Kevin Murphy, January 19, 2012, Domain Registries

A Chinese firm has become the second company to emerge as a seemingly pure-play .tel registrar.

Unlike most registrars, Beijing Tong Guan Xin Tian Technology Ltd is not approved to sell .com domains. According to ICANN’s records it’s only been accredited in .tel so far.

The company, which does business as Novaltel, even has a .tel domain listed as its official site in ICANN’s registrar directory, which is a first.

Its customer-facing site, at novaltel.com, which I don’t think is fully live yet, is heavy on the .tel branding.

This all makes me wonder whether Telnic, the .tel registry, has another big deal in the works.

At the moment, the reason .tel is a gTLD of roughly 270,000 domains rather than 220,000 is that another pure-play .tel registrar distributed about 50,000 names in one big batch in January 2011.

Unusual as it is, Novaltel is not the first Chinese registrar to devote itself entirely to .tel.

The other is Tong Ji Ming Lian Technology Corporation Ltd, also based in Beijing, which does business as Trename.

Trename is currently responsible for 20% of .tel’s total domains under management, about 55,000 names, according to the most recent official registry reports.

Those domains were registered a year ago as part of a deal Telnic announced with HC International, a business-to-business e-commerce firm also based in China.

That deal is basically the reason that .tel’s overall volumes have not been affected so badly by two years of speculators dropping post-landrush registrations following its 2009 launch.

So does .tel have another spike on the cards?

Short .tel domains available tomorrow

Telnic has announced that two-letter and numeric-only .tel domain names will becomes available from tomorrow at 2pm UTC.

You’ll be able to register any two-letter .tel domain that has not already been claimed in a two-week landrush period, which ends today, with the exception of combinations that match ccTLDs.

Numeric-only and numeric/hyphen domains are restricted to seven characters and under, in order to avoid clashes with telephone numbers.

The release of numeric .tel domains was the subject of a minor controversy when Telnic first made the request to ICANN last year.

Telnic said pricing is expected to be the same as regular .tel registrations – usually about the same price as a .com domain name.

A list of participating registrars can be found here.

Short .tel domains coming June 1

Kevin Murphy, March 31, 2011, Domain Registries

Telnic, the .tel registry, is to start selling short and numeric .tel domain names from June 1.

The company announced today that two-character and numeric-only .tel domains will first be subject to a premium-price landrush, followed by general availability from June 14.

It’s the first time you’ll be able to register domains containing only numerals, but you won’t be able to register anything with more than seven digits, including hyphens.

This would presumably rule out phone numbers including area codes in most if not all places.

All two-letter strings that correspond to existing country-code top-level domains are also reserved, as are all one-letter strings, whether they be numeric or alphabetic.

The release follows Telnic’s moderately controversial request to ICANN to liberalize its registration policies, which I previously covered here and here.

Go Daddy objects to numeric .tel domains

Kevin Murphy, November 19, 2010, Domain Registries

Go Daddy has objected to Telnic’s plan to start selling numeric .tel domain names, saying that it, among other things, “smells a lot like gaming”.

Telnic applied to ICANN last month to revise its registry contract to enable it to start selling domains containing numbers and hyphens.

I speculated a month ago that the International Telecommunications Union might object to the proposal, for reasons I explained in some depth.

(Briefly, Telnic won the .tel sponsored TLD partly because it promised for years not to enable domains that could look like phone numbers.)

But the ITU had nothing to say, at least in terms of the ICANN public comment period.

Go Daddy’s Tim Ruiz did object last Saturday on related grounds, telling ICANN:

We believe that this request cannot be granted without requiring the rebidding of the .tel sTLD itself. It is unfair to other applicants and potential applicants to allow an sTLD to change its purpose after the fact.

Since community, purpose, and use were such important aspects of the sTLD allocation decisions it seems inappropriate, fundamentally unfair, and even smells a lot like gaming, to allow an sTLD to change those aspects without an opportunity for others to bid competitively.

In response to Ruiz’s letter, Telnic chief executive Khashayar Mahdavi wrote to ICANN:

The restriction on all-numeric strings has nothing to do with the nature of .tel and was instead a measure put in place to address initial concerns about potential conflicts with ENUM… We believe time and the growing understanding of the .tel technology have proven such a conflict does not exist.

ENUM is a protocol for addressing voice services using the DNS. It uses dots between each individual digit of a phone number, which would be specifically disallowed under Telnic’s plans.

Mahdavi also expressed confusion as to why Go Daddy bothered to object – it is not currently a registry, it does not carry .tel domains and it will presumably not be affected by the relaxation of the .tel rules.

Is it possible the registrar is taking a principled stance?

Ruiz also noted:

We believe that certain other recent requests under the guise of the RSEP [Registry Services Evaluation Process] by sTLDs were also likely inappropriate for similar reasons

He didn’t specify which sTLDs he was talking about. Without wishing to put words into his mouth, I can think of at least one that fits the description.

The Telnic proposal has already passed ICANN’s staff evaluation. I expect it could come before the board next month at its Cartagena meeting.

In separate news, Telnic’s less-controversial proposal to start selling one and two-character .tel domains has now passed its ICANN evaluation (pdf).

Will ITU object to phone number .tel domains?

Kevin Murphy, October 15, 2010, Domain Registries

Should Telnic be allowed to let people register their phone numbers as .tel domain names?

That’s the question ICANN is currently posing to the internet-using public, after it determined that allowing numeric-only .tel domains does not pose a security and stability threat.

If you can register a phone number in almost every other gTLD (except VeriSign’s .name), then why not in .tel? On the face of it, it’s a no-brainer.

But Telnic’s request represents a huge U-turn, reversing a position it has held for 10 years, that runs the risk of drawing the attention of the International Telecommunications Union.

Telnic originally applied for .tel during ICANN’s very first new gTLD round, back in 2000.

The third-party evaluator ICANN hired to review the new TLD applications clearly assumed that .tel domains would be mainly text-based, noting that Telnic, unlike other .tel bids:

does not make use of phone numbers in the sub-domain name, but instead uses names to designate the intended destination of VoIP calls… the Telnic application appears to have the least impact on PSTN numbering.

The report added, parenthetically: “It should be noted that Telnic’s application does not explicitly renounce the future use of numbers”.

That all changed after November 2000, when the ITU wrote to ICANN to express concerns about the four proposed telephony-related TLDs:

it is the view of ITU that it would be premature for ICANN to grant any E.164-related TLD application as this may jeopardize these cooperative activities or prejudice future DNS IP Telephony addressing requirements.

E.164 is the international telephone numbering plan, which the ITU oversees. It also forms the basis of the ENUM protocol, which stores phone numbers in the DNS under e164.arpa.

ICANN’s board of directors used the ITU letter to reject all four telephony TLDs, which irked Telnic. The would-be registry filed a Reconsideration Request in an attempt to get the decision reversed.

In it, Telnic attempted to persuade ICANN that the ITU had nothing to worry about with its “text-based” and strictly non-numeric TLD. The company wrote (my emphasis):

* All-digit strings will be permanently embargoed.

* Broad terms and conditions and safeguards will be implemented covering any abuses that could possibly lead to any PSTN confusion, conflict or similarity.

* Measured use of numbers might be permissible where there is no direct, marginal, implied or similar confusions/conflicts with PSTN codes or numbers – and where digits form an incidental part of a text string (e.g. johnsmith11.tel).

ICANN’s reconsideration committee denied the request.

In 2004, when ICANN’s sponsored TLD round opened up, Telnic applied for .tel again. This time, it was careful to avoid upsetting the ITU from the very outset.

Indeed, the second paragraph of its application stated clearly:

Digits are to be restricted to maintain the integrity of a letters/words based top-level domain and to avoid interference with established or future national and international telephone numbering plans.

The application referred to the namespace as “text-based” throughout, and even used the need for policies regulating the use of digits to justify the sponsoring organization it intended to create.

The application stated:

The .Tel will not:

Allow numeric-only domains to be registered, and therefore will not conflict with any national or international telephone numbering plan.

It also said:

Domain name strings containing only digits with or without a dash (e.g. 08001234567, 0-800-1234567) will be restricted and reserved to maintain the integrity as a letters/words based top-level domain

Despite these assurances, it was obvious that the ITU’s concerns about numeric .tel domains continued to bother ICANN right up until it finally approved .tel in 2006.

During the board meeting at which Telnic’s contract was approved, director Raimundo Beca pressed for the inclusion of language that addressed the constraints on numeric domains and chair Vint Cerf asked general counsel John Jeffrey to amend the resolution accordingly.

While that amendment appears to have never been made, it was clearly envisaged at the moment of the board vote that .tel was to steer clear of numeric-only domains.

Telnic’s contract now specifically excludes such registrations.

Given all this history, one might now argue that Telnic’s request to lift these restrictions is kind of a Big Deal.

A Telnic spokesperson tells me that, among other things, the current restrictions unfairly exclude companies that brand themselves with their phone numbers, such as 118-118 in the UK.

He added that Telnic request has been made now in part because VeriSign has requested the lifting of similar restrictions in .name, which ICANN has also concluded is not a stability problem.

However, as far as I can tell .name was not subject to the same kinds of ITU-related concerns as .tel when it was approved in 2000.

Telnic proposes one safeguard against conflict with E.164, in that it will not allow the registration of single-digit domains, reducing the potential for confusion with ENUM strings, which separate each digit with a dot.

If the ITU does rear its head in response to the current .tel public comment period, it will come at a awkward time, politically. Some ITU members have said recently they want the ITU to form a committee that would have veto power over ICANN’s decisions.

But Telnic says, in its proposal, that it does not know of anybody who is likely to object to its request.

Perhaps it is correct.

Telnic wants to sell numeric domain names

Kevin Murphy, October 4, 2010, Domain Registries

Telnic, the .tel registry, wants ICANN to allow it to start taking registrations of purely numeric domain names.

While the company has not submitted a formal request, Telnic CEO Khashayar Mahdavi has asked for numbers-only domains in a separate public comment period.

VeriSign has asked ICANN for the ability to start accepting hyphens and numbers in domain names in the .name TLD, including purely numeric strings such as phone numbers.

Mahdavi, who apparently views .name as a key competitor, wrote in a comment submitted on the VeriSign request:

If ICANN decides to remove this restriction from .name then this change in policy should apply to .tel as well. Approving the release of this restriction on one TLD and leaving it in place for another provides the first with a substantial commercial advantage.

In order to avoid such an unjust result, we respectfully request that, if ICANN decides to approve VeriSign’s request to allow all-numeric strings (and strings with combinations of numbers and hyphens) to be registered as domain names in .name, it simultaneously allow Telnic to do the same in .tel.

Telnic’s charter, part of its ICANN registry contract, currently states “The .tel registry will not allow numeric-only domains to be registered at the registry level.”

I believe the restriction was conceived in order to avoid clashes with the international telephone numbering authorities and the ENUM protocol. Mahdavi wrote:

Telnic believes it is important to avoid conflict with ENUM , so it will continue to forbid the registration of single digit domain names in .tel. Such domain names would be necessary for creating an ENUM tree under .tel, so forbidding them makes a .tel-based ENUM system impossible.

When Telnic originally applied for .tel in 2000, one of the reasons it was rejected was the fact that the International Telecommunications Union wasn’t happy with the idea of phone numbers in domain names.

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