Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

Prince Charles first to get a second-level .uk name

Kevin Murphy, December 16, 2013, Domain Registries

The household of Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, has become one of the first bodies to receive a second-level .uk domain name, Nominet announced this morning.

The name princeofwales.uk was among four delegated to organizations that have previously used third-level .gov.uk names but which are actually independent of the UK government. Nominet said:

Nominet has delegated the new second-level .uk domain names royal.uk, princeofwales.uk, supremecourt.uk and jcpc.uk to the Royal Household, the Household of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Supreme Court, and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council respectively.

These were among 69 second-level names requested by the British government for special treatment in advance of the broader Direct.uk initiative, which is due to kick of mid-2014.

The full list of government names will be published in February, Nominet said.

Under Direct.uk, registrants of .co.uk names will get five years to decide whether they want to register the matching .uk name.

Nominet approves direct second-level .uk domains

Kevin Murphy, November 20, 2013, Domain Registries

Get ready for a backlash — Nominet has committed to start offering second-level domain names under .uk for the first time.

Starting next year, you’ll be able to register example.uk, rather than only third-level names such as example.co.uk and example.org.uk.

The announcement today comes after at least two consultation periods over the last year or so, which provoked a strong negative reaction from many in the .uk domain investor community.

Concerns were raised that allowing .uk would allow names to fall into the hands of the wrong people, and that the cost to UK business would be prohibitively high.

“We all want shorter, snappier names,” CEO Lesley Cowley said. “But we appreciate that not everyone shares that view so as a board we had to very carefully consider what’s in the best interest of the public.”

Nominet has introduced a few new ideas that seem to be designed to address these criticisms.

First, every owner of a .co.uk domain name will be given a free five-year reservation on the matching .uk SLD. If you own example.co.uk, you’ll have five years to decide whether to pay for the .uk version.

Cowley told DI that Nominet’s market research suggested that UK businesses repaint their trucks and get new stationery every five years anyway, so the pressure to rebrand around a new domain would be alleviated.

“There was some concern that businesses would feel forced to register a .uk,” she said. “We would not want that to be the case. We want people to consider in their own time whether they want to move.”

In cases where matching .co.uk and .org.uk (or .me.uk etc) domains are owned by different people, the .co.uk gets the free reservation and the .org.uk is locked out for five years.

Where there’s a .org.uk with no matching .co.uk, the .org.uk registrant gets the free reservation, Cowley said.

Domains registered prior to October 28 2013 — when the Nominet board voted on the proposal — will qualify for the free reservation, as will domains registered after that date when there are no colliding third-level domains.

The price for a .uk SLD is to be set at £3.50 for a one-year reg and £2.50 for one year of a multi-year registration. That’s the same as .uk wholesale prices today.

Why do it at all?

While Cowley admitted that .uk registration growth has been slowing recently, something being experienced by many ccTLDs and gTLDs, she said the main reason for the SLD change was demand.

Nominet has done some market research showing only 2% of UK businesses do not want the SLD option in .uk, compared to 72% that do, according to the company.

“People have been saying for some years that it would be good to drop the ‘co’ in .uk,” said Cowley. “It’s clunky. The French and Germans manage to have direct in .fr and .de, so why can’t we do that as well?”

Nominet under fire for lack of transparency

Kevin Murphy, September 16, 2013, Domain Policy

Nominet has raised the ire of critics of its Direct.uk proposal for refusing to engage with them, including forcibly ejecting one of their number from a .uk policy meeting.

Opponents of Direct.uk, which would open .uk’s second-level for the first time, have cataloged a number of instances of Nominet apparently failing to act in a transparent manner over the last few weeks.

Most notably, domainer Stephen Wilde of Really Useful Domains, author of a paper critical of Direct.uk, was “escorted” by hotel security staff from a recent policy discussion co-hosted by Nominet.

Domain lawyer Paul Keating was also refused entry and left without an escort.

The event was jointly hosted with the British Computer Society and the Digital Policy Alliance and was restricted to BCS members.

Wilde said that he had joined BCS specifically in order to attend the meeting and had then spent four hours on a train to get there. He said that there were plenty of empty seats in the venue.

Nominet spokesperson Elaine Quinn told DI that Nominet’s goal is to get as diverse a range of views as possible.

Wilde had already attended multiple previous meetings on the same topic and had been quite vocal at those, it seems. Nominet was worried that he might prevent other voices from being heard at the BCS event.

Quinn posted a statement to Nominet’s members-only forums, which was provided to DI, which read in part:

Two individuals who had been informed that they would not be able to attend in advance nonetheless turned up. Both initial requests to join were polite and were met in turn with a polite response. When the decision to deny entry was repeated, one person continued to remonstrate with our staff. He was then asked to leave the private area (not the hotel) by the hotel security. Upon refusal, the hotel security guard escorted the individual out of the area.

Colleagues at the event felt that the behaviour exhibited was unacceptable and that steps to protect our staff and to allow the event to proceed as planned were, unfortunately, necessary.

The BCS meeting was the latest in a series of controversies that have been raised by Direct.uk’s opponents and cataloged on the pseduonymous blog NominetWatch.com, which claims Nominet is trying to “silence dissenting voices”.

Another of its posts relates to the UK Network Operators Forum, an event on Friday in London.

A Nominet executive had been scheduled to speak at the event and others were due to attend, but all withdrew after the company discovered that Emily Taylor, its former head of policy and now one of its fiercest critics, was also speaking.

Taylor’s presentation (pdf) criticized Nominet’s lack of transparency, comparing it to ICANN’s relatively open culture.

Quinn confirmed that Nominet’s would-be attendees withdrew from the event, but said that this was because they were technical staff not qualified to speak to Taylor’s governance-focused criticisms.

NominetWatch also recently blogged about the fact that Nominet recently closed the comments on a blog post about Direct.uk, suggesting it was intended to stifle debate.

Quinn confirmed that comments were closed, but said it was a temporary measure while Nominet, which had staff on vacation, sifted through some of the many defamatory comments that had been submitted.

Comments have since been reopened and a backlog, many of which are critical of Nominet, have been published.

Government forces Nominet into ludicrous porn review

Kevin Murphy, September 9, 2013, Domain Policy

Should Nominet ban dirty words from the .uk namespace?

Obviously not, but that’s nevertheless the subject of a formal policy review announced by Nominet today, forced by pressure from the British government and the Murdoch press.

Nominet said it has hired Ken MacDonald, former director of public prosecutions, to carry out the review.

He’s tasked with recommending whether certain “offensive” words and phrases should be banned from the .uk zone.

According to Nominet, MacDonald’s qualifications include his role as a trustee of the pro-free-speech Index on Censorship and a human rights audit he carried out for the Internet Watch Foundation, the UK’s child abuse material watchdog.

Nominet said:

Lord Macdonald will work with Nominet’s policy team to conduct a series of meetings with key stakeholders, and to review and assess wider contributions from the internet community, which should be received by 4 November 2013. The goal is to deliver a report to Nominet’s board in December of this year, which will be published shortly thereafter.

You can contribute here.

The review was promised by Nominet in early August following an article in the Sunday Times, subsequently cribbed quite shamelessly by the Daily Mail, which highlighted the fact that Nominet’s policies do not ban strings suggesting extreme or illegal pornography.

You may recall a rant-and-a-half DI published at the time.

While my rant was written without the benefit of any input from Nominet — I didn’t speak to anyone there before publishing it — it appears that Nominet already had exactly the same concerns as me.

The company has published a set of lightly redacted correspondence (pdf) between itself and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport which makes for extremely illuminating reading.

In a July 23 letter to DCMS minister Ed Vaizey, Nominet CEO Lesley Cowley uses many of the same arguments — even giving the same examples — as I did a week later. She was much more polite, of course.

She points out that as a matter of principle it probably should not be left to a private company such as Nominet to determine what is and isn’t acceptable content, and that it’s difficult to tell what the content of a site will be at the point the domain is registered anyway.

In relation to the questions of practicality, the permutations of offensive words and phrases that can be created in the 63 characters of a domain name are almost limitless, so the creation of some kind of exclusion list would ultimately not prevent offensive phrases being registered as domain names. Were we to have a set of words or phrases that could not be registered, we would likely end up restricting many legitimate registrations. A good example is Scunthorpe.co.uk, which contains an offensive term within the domain name, or therapist.co.uk which could be read in more than one way.

She also points out that domains such as “childabuse.co.uk”, which may on the face of it cause concern, actually just redirect to the NSPCC, the UK’s main child abuse prevention charity.

The real eye-opening correspondence discusses the Sunday Times article that first compelled Vaizey to lean on Nominet.

As I discussed in my rant, it was based on the musings of just one guy, a purported expert in internet safety called John Carr, who once worked for the IWF and now apparently advises the government.

The examples of “offensive” domains he had supplied the Sunday Times with, I discovered, were either unregistered or contained no illegal content whatsoever.

Nominet’s correspondence contains several more .uk domains that Carr had given the newspaper, and they’re even less “offensive” than the “rape”-oriented ones it eventually published.

The domains are teens‐adult‐sex‐chat.co.uk, teendirtychat.co.uk, teens.demandadult.co.uk, teenfuckbook.co.uk and ukteencamgirls.co.uk, all of which Nominet found contained legal over-18s pornography.

One of them is even owned by Playboy.

Carr, it seems, didn’t even provide the Sunday Times or Nominet privately with any domains that suggest illegal content in the string and actually contain it in the site.

Judging by the emails between Nominet’s PR people (which, admittedly, may not be the best place to obtain an objective viewpoint) the Sunday Times reporter was “not interested in the complexity of the issue” and:

has taken a very hostile stance and is broadly of the view that the internet industry is not doing enough to stop offensive (legal) content.

The Sunday Times’ downmarket sister publication, The Sun, is famous primarily for printing topless photographs of 18-year-old women (in the 1980s it was 16-year-old girls) on Page 3 every day.

The Sun, the UK’s best-selling daily, is currently resisting a valiant effort by British feminists, which I wholeheartedly support, to have Page 3 scrapped.

In other words, the level of media hypocrisy, government idiocy and registry cowardice that came together to create the MacDonald review is quite outstanding.

Still, Nominet in recent years has proven itself pretty good at making sure its independent reviews turn out the way it wants them to, so it’s looking fairly promising that this one is likely to conclude that banning rude words would be impractical and pointless.

The UK is going nuts about porn and Go Daddy and Nominet are helping

Kevin Murphy, August 9, 2013, Domain Policy

In recent months the unhinged right of the British press has been steadily cajoling the UK government into “doing something about internet porn”, and the government has been responding.

I’ve been itching to write about the sheer level of badly informed claptrap being aired in the media and halls of power, but until recently the story wasn’t really in my beat.

Then, this week, the domain name industry got targeted. To its shame, it responded too.

Go Daddy has started banning certain domains from its registration path and Nominet is launching a policy consultation to determine whether it should ban some strings outright from its .uk registry.

It’s my beat now. I can rant.

For avoidance of doubt, you’re reading an op-ed, written with a whisky glass in one hand and the other being used to periodically wipe flecks of foam from the corner of my mouth.

It also uses terminology DI’s more sensitive readers may not wish to read. Best click away now if that’s you.

The current political flap surrounding internet regulation seems emerged from the confluence of a few high-profile sexually motivated murders and a sudden awareness by the mainstream media — now beyond the point of dipping their toes in the murky social media waters of Twitter — of trolls.

(“Troll” is the term, rightly or wrongly, the mainstream media has co-opted for its headlines. Basically, they’re referring to the kind of obnoxious assholes who relentlessly bully others, sometimes vulnerable individuals and sometimes to the point of suicide, online.)

In May, a guy called Mark Bridger was convicted of abducting and murdering a five-year-old girl called April Jones. It was broadly believed — including by the judge — that the abduction was sexually motivated.

It was widely reported that Bridger had spent the hours leading up to the murder looking at child abuse imagery online.

It was also reported — though far less frequently — that during the same period he had watched a loop of a rape scene from the 2009 cinematic-release horror movie Last House On The Left

He’d recorded the scene on a VHS tape when it was shown on free-to-air British TV last year.

Of the two technologies he used to get his rocks off before committing his appalling crime, which do you think the media zeroed in on: the amusingly obsolete VHS or the golly-it’s-all-so-new-and-confusing internet?

Around about the same time, another consumer of child abuse material named Stuart Hazell was convicted of the murder of 12-year-old Tia Sharp. Again it was believed that the motive was sexual.

While the government had been talking about a porn crackdown since 2011, it wasn’t until last month that the prime minister, David Cameron, sensed the time was right to announce a two-pronged attack.

First, Cameron said he wants to make it harder for people to access child abuse imagery online. A noble objective.

His speech is worth reading in full, as it contains some pretty decent ideas about helping law enforcement catch abusers and producers of abuse material that weren’t well-reported.

But it also contained a call for search engines such as Bing and Google to maintain a black-list of CAM-related search terms. People search for these terms will never get results, but they might get a police warning.

This has been roundly criticized as unworkable and amounting to censorship. If the government’s other initiatives are any guide, it’s likely to produce false positives more often than not.

Second, Cameron said he wants to make internet porn opt-in in the UK. When you sign up for a broadband account, you’ll have to check a box confirming that you want to have access to legal pornography.

This is about “protecting the children” in the other sense — helping to make sure young minds are not corrupted by exposure to complex sexual ideas they’re almost certainly not ready for.

The Open Rights Group has established that the opt-in process will look a little like this:

Notice how there are 10 categories and only one of them is related to pornography? As someone who writes about ICANN on a daily basis, I’m pretty worried about “esoteric materials” being blocked.

As a related part of this move, the government has already arranged with the six largest Wi-Fi hot-spot operators in the country to have porn filters turned on by default.

I haven’t personally tested these networks, but they’re apparently using the kind of lazy keyword filters that are already blocking access to newspaper reports about Cameron’s speech.

Censorship, in the name of “protecting the children” is already happening here in the UK.

Which brings me to Nominet and Go Daddy

Last Sunday, a guy called John Carr wrote a blog post about internet porn in the UK.

I can’t pretend I’ve ever heard of Carr, and he seems to have done a remarkably good job of staying out of Google, but apparently he’s a former board member of the commendable CAM-takedown charity the Internet Watch Foundation and a government adviser on online child safety.

He’d been given a preview of some headline-grabbing research conducted by MetaCert — a web content categorization company best known before now for working with .xxx operator ICM Registry — breaking down internet porn by the countries it is hosted in.

Because the British rank was surprisingly high, the data was widely reported in the British press on Monday. The Daily Mail — a right-wing “quality” tabloid whose bread and butter is bikini shots of D-list teenage celebrities — on Monday quoted Carr as saying:

Nominet should have a policy that websites registered under the national domain name do not contain depraved or disgusting words. People should not be able to register websites that bring disgrace to this country under the national domain name.

Now, assuming you’re a regular DI reader and have more than a passing interest in the domain name industry, you already know how ludicrous a thing to say this is.

Network Solutions, when it had a monopoly on .com domains, had a “seven dirty words” ban for a long time, until growers of shitake mushrooms and Scunthorpe Council pointed out that it was stupid.

You don’t even need to be a domain name aficionado to have been forwarded the hilarious “penisland.net” and “therapistfinder.com” memes — they’re as old as the hills, in internet terms.

Assuming he was not misquoted, a purported long-time expert in internet filtering such as Carr should be profoundly, deeply embarrassed to have made such a pronouncement to a national newspaper.

If he really is a government adviser on matters related to the internet, he’s self-evidently the wrong man for the job.

Nevertheless, other newspapers picked up the quotes and the story and ran with it, and now Ed Vaizey, the UK’s minister for culture, communications and creative industries, is “taking it seriously”.

Vaizey is the minister most directly responsible for pretending to understand the domain name system. As a result, he has quite a bit of pull with Nominet, the .uk registry.

Because Vaizey for some reason believes Carr is to be taken seriously, Nominet, which already has an uncomfortably cozy relationship with the government, has decided to “review our approach to registrations”.

It’s going to launch “an independently-chaired policy review” next month, which will invite contributions from “stakeholders”.

The move is explicitly in response to “concerns” about its open-doors registration policy “raised by an internet safety commentator and subsequently reported in the media.”

Carr’s blog post, in other words.

Nominet — whose staff are not stupid — already knows that what Carr is asking for is pointless and unworkable. It said:

It is important to take into account that the majority of concerns related to illegality online are related to a website’s content – something that is not known at the point of registration of a domain name.

But the company is playing along anyway, allowing a badly informed blogger and a credulous politician to waste its and its community’s time with a policy review that will end in either nothing or censorship.

What makes the claims of Carr and the Sunday Times all the more extraordinary is that the example domain names put forward to prove their points are utterly stupid.

Carr published on his blog a screenshot of Go Daddy’s storefront informing him that the domain rapeher.co.uk is available for registration, and wrote:

www.rapeher.co.uk is a theoretical possibility, as are the other ones shown. However, I checked. Nominet did not dispute that I could have completed the sale and used that domain.

Why has it not occurred to Nominet to disallow names of that sort? Nominet needs to institute an urgent review of its naming policies

To be clear, rapeher.co.uk did not exist at the time Carr wrote his blog. He’s complaining about an unregistered domain name.

A look-up reveals that kill-all-jews.co.uk isn’t registered either. Does that mean Nominet has an anti-Semitic registration policy?

As a vegetarian, I’m shocked and appalled to discovered that vegetarians-smell-of-cabbage.co.uk is unregistered too. Something must be done!

Since Carr’s post was published and the Sunday Times and Daily Mail in turn reported its availability, five days ago, nobody has registered rapeher.co.uk, despite the potential traffic the publicity could garner.

Nobody is interested in rapeher.co.uk except John Carr, the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail. Not even a domainer with a skewed moral compass.

And yet Go Daddy has took it upon itself, apparently in response to a call from the Sunday Times, to preemptively ban rapeher.co.uk, telling the newspaper:

We are withdrawing the name while we carry out a review. We have not done this before.

This is what you see if you try to buy rapeher.co.uk today:

Is that all it takes to get a domain name censored from the market-leading registrar? A call from a journalist?

If so, then I demand the immediate “withdrawal” of rapehim.co.uk, which is this morning available for registration.

Does Go Daddy not take male rape seriously? Is Go Daddy institutionally sexist? Is Go Daddy actively encouraging male rape?

These would apparently be legitimate questions, if I was a clueless government adviser or right-leaning tabloid hack under orders to stir the shit in Middle England.

Of the other two domains cited by the Sunday Times — it’s not clear if they were suggested by Carr or MetaCert or neither — one of them isn’t even a .co.uk domain name, it’s the fourth-level subdomain incestrape.neuken.co.uk.

There’s absolutely nothing Nominet, Go Daddy, or anyone else could do, at the point of sale, to stop that domain name being created. They don’t sell fourth-level registrations.

The page itself is a link farm, probably auto-generated, written in Dutch, containing a single 200×150-pixel pornographic image — one picture! — that does not overtly imply either incest or rape.

The links themselves all lead to .com or .nl web sites that, while certainly pornographic, do not appear on cursory review to contain any obviously illegal content.

The other domain cited by the Daily Mail is asian-rape.co.uk. Judging by searches on several Whois services, Google and Archive.org, it’s never been registered. Not ever. Not even after the Mail’s article was published.

It seems that the parasitic Daily Mail really, really doesn’t understand domain names and thought it wouldn’t make a difference if it added a hyphen to the domain that the Sunday Times originally reported, which was asianrape.co.uk.

I can report that asianrape.co.uk is in fact registered, but it’s been parked at Sedo for a long time and contains no pornographic content whatsoever, legal or otherwise.

It’s possible that these are just idiotic examples picked by a clueless reporter, and Carr did allude in his post to the existence of .uk “rape” domains that are registered, so I decided to go looking for them.

First, I undertook a series of “rape”-related Google searches that will probably be enough to get me arrested in a few years’ time, if the people apparently guiding policy right now get their way.

I couldn’t find any porn sites using .uk domain names containing the string “rape” in the first 200 results, no matter how tightly I refined my query.

So I domain-dipped for a while, testing out a couple dozen “rape”-suggestive .co.uk domains conjured up by my own diseased mind. All I found were unregistered names and parked pages.

I Googled up some rape-themed porn sites that use .com addresses — these appear to exist in abundance, though few appear to contain the offending string in the domain itself — and couldn’t find any that have bothered to even defensively register their matching .co.uk.

So I turned to Alexa’s list of the top one million most-popular domains. Parsing that (.csv), I counted 277 containing the string “rape”, only 32 of which (11%) could be loosely said to be using it in the sense of a sexual assault.

Whether those 32 sites contain legal or illegal pornographic content, I couldn’t say. I didn’t check. None of them were .uk addresses anyway.

Most of the non-rapey ones were about grapes.

I’m not going to pretend that my research was scientific, neither am I saying that there are no rape-themed .co.uk porn sites out there, I’m just saying that I tried for a few hours to find one and I couldn’t.

What I did find were dozens of legitimate uses of the string.

So if Nominet bans the word “rape” from domain name registrations under .uk — which is what Carr seems to want to happen — what happens to rapecrisis.org.uk?

Does the Post Office have to give up grapevine.co.uk, which it uses to help prevent crime? Does the eBay tools provider Terapeak have to drop its UK presence? Are “skyscrapers” too phallic now? Is the Donald Draper Fan Club doomed?

And what about the fine fellows at yorkshirerapeseedoil.co.uk or chilterncoldpressedrapeseedoil.co.uk?

If these examples don’t convince you that a policy of preemptive censorship would be damaging and futile, allow me to put the question in terms the Daily Mail might understand: why does Ed Vaizey hate farmers?

Nominet brings back second-level .uk proposal

Nominet has resurrected Direct.uk, its plan to allow people to register domain names directly under .uk.

But the proposal, which was killed off in February, has been significantly revised in response to complaints from domain investors and others.

The idea is one of a collection being announced by Nominet this afternoon.

It’s also proposing to shake up how it accredits .uk registrars and, borrowing a page from the current ICANN playbook, how .uk registrant Whois information is verified.

Second-level domains make a comeback

If the Direct.uk proposal is approved and you own a .co.uk, .me.uk or .org.uk domain name, you’ll get rights to the matching .uk name, according to Nominet COO Eleanor Bradley.

“The registrant of oldest current domain name at the third level will have first right of refusal to register that name at the second level,” she said.

When a .uk is contested by, for example, the owners of matching .co.uk and .org.uk domains, the older registration would win the name.

The clock on registration period is reset to the date of the current registration if the domain has ever dropped before, but not if it’s been transferred between registrants, she said.

This change may settle some of the concerns emerging from the domain investor community, which was outraged by Nominet’s original plan to give trademark holders first rights to .uk names.

Giving the .uk and .co.uk to different people would stand to confuse internet users, they said, not to mention devaluing their portfolios.

It wasn’t just domainers that stood to lose out under the old plan, however.

British domainer Edwin Hayward compiled a some examples of big brands that have invested in generic .co.uk domains but do not own matching trademarks, meaning they would not necessary get the second-level.

Barclays owns bank.co.uk and Kellogg owns breakfast.co.uk, for examples. Under the new Nominet proposal, it looks like these companies would get first dibs on the matching .uk addresses.

“We feel we’re responding to the feedback we heard, but it’s also our strong view that registrations at the second level are really important for what we do to maintain the relevance of .uk going forward,” Bradley said.

Plans to ramp up Whois verification

The revamped plan will also see Nominet drop its demands for mandatory extra security features under second-level .uk names.

Some critics had said that this would ghettoize .co.uk by suggesting it’s not secure.

Instead, the company is proposing blanket Whois verification for the whole of .uk — second and third-level — and a suite of optional security services to be provided in-house and via partners.

The Whois checks will take the form of email verification, in much the same way as ICANN has proposed for gTLDs in its new Registrar Accreditation agreement.

Nominet also plans to check physical mailing addresses against public databases to make sure they’re genuine. This apparently already happens to an extent.

Three tiers of registrar

The company today also unveiled plans for three types of registrar: Self-Managed, Channel Partner and Accredited Channel Partner.

Self-Managed would be domainers and big corporate users that manage their own portfolios. Channel Partners would be the vanilla registrars we know today, and Accredited would have been certified as having a certain level of security and Whois quality, among other things.

Existing registrars could do nothing and become Channel Partners, or migrate to one of the other two tiers, Bradley said.

Those in the Self-Managed and Accredited tiers would get free inter-registrant transfers, she said. Accredited registrars would also be trusted to handle their own Whois verification.

The proposals are still currently proposals, but it sounds like Nominet is determined to get it right this time.

The Direct.uk consultation is not expected to be over until November, so we’re not likely to see any movement until next year.

Nominet to revise second-level .uk proposal after domainer outrage

Kevin Murphy, February 28, 2013, Domain Registries

Nominet has temporarily killed off its plan to allow people to register second-level .uk domain names, after vocal opposition from domain investors.

The non-profit registry said yesterday it is “not proceeding with our original proposal on ‘direct.uk’”, but may revise the concept to give more rights to existing .uk domain name owners.

Nominet had been running a community consultation since October on the idea. It said yesterday:

It was clear from the feedback that there was not a consensus of support for the direct.uk proposals as presented, with some concerns cutting across different stakeholder groups. Although shorter domains (e.g. nominet.uk rather than nominet.org.uk) were considered desirable, many respondents felt that the release mechanism did not give enough weighting to existing registrants, and could lead to confusion if they could not obtain the corresponding domain.

UK domainers had been the most prominent opponents of the plan, complaining loudly that trademark owners were to be given the right to take .uk names where they do not already own the corresponding .co.uk or .org.uk names.

This would not only harm domainers, but also big companies that own generic .co.uk domains without matching trademarks, they said, and would lead to consumer confusion.

Nominet now plans to see if it can revise the proposal to come up with a “phased release mechanism based largely on the prior registrations of domains in existing third levels within .uk”.

Nominet chair rebuts “skewed and inaccurate” whistleblower claims

Kevin Murphy, October 11, 2012, Domain Registries

Nominet chair Baroness Rennie Fritchie has apologized for “embarrassment” caused by leaked emails that suggested Nominet and UK officials tried to avoid freedom of information laws.

But she has rebutted allegations that Nominet executives conspired to orchestrate a government takeover of the .uk namespace during a fractious board dispute back in 2008.

In a statement to Nominet members today, Fritchie said she has conducted a “fact-finding review” of the allegations and had “concluded that Nominet did not manufacture Government concern.”

As we reported a month ago, former policy director Emily Taylor made a number of claims about Nominet’s actions in 2008, when executives perceived a threat to control of the board by certain vocal domainers.

In order to ensure a friendlier board, Nominet approached the UK government for help, according to Taylor.

This led to an independent review, a restructuring of Nominet’s board, and powers for the government to take over the running of .uk being included in the Digital Economy Act of 2010.

Nominet has maintained, and Fritchie now says she has confirmed, that the concerns originated with the government, BT and the Confederation of British Industry, and not the other way around.

Fritchie wrote:

we have been extremely disappointed to see that correspondence from a troubled time in Nominet’s history has led to a skewed and inaccurate interpretation of events.

Having personally considered all available evidence, I have concluded that Nominet did not manufacture Government concern. There were longstanding issues, and the failure to win support for the proposed improvements in our governance at the AGM in 2008 was the catalyst that put Nominet’s problems firmly in the spotlight.

I have also been reassured that the concerns raised by CBI and BT representatives immediately following the 2008 AGM were not concocted by Nominet.

It also emerged last month that UK government officials and Nominet executives had been communicating via private email accounts, apparently in order to avoid Freedom of Information Act requirements.

One Nominet email from 2008 provided to DI signed off with “It feels wonderful to work free from fear of FOI !!”

It is for this email that Fritchie appears to be apologizing. She wrote:

We would however like to apologise for the embarrassment caused to members by an inappropriate suggestion, made in an email from a Nominet employee, that information could or should be deleted by officials to avoid an anticipated Freedom of Information request. This was a misguided attempt to ensure that open and honest conversations about how to secure the membership model of Nominet could take place, without being inappropriately influenced by those with vested interests. I would like to assure members that this was the result of troubled times, and is not at all representative of the way that Nominet operates.

The message was posted to Nominet’s members-only forum this afternoon.

The story may not be over yet, however.

Last month, Andrew Smith, Member of Parliament for Nominet’s home town of Oxford, told DI that he had referred Taylor’s freedom of information claims to Head of the Home Civil Service and the Chair of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.

“These are very serious matters and it is important they are properly investigated,” he said.

Goodbye to .co? Nominet ponders releasing second-level .uk domains

Kevin Murphy, October 1, 2012, Domain Registries

Nominet wants to let UK companies register domain names directly under .uk for the first time.

The company today launched a major consultation, seeking industry and internet users’ input on a plan to open up the second level to verified British businesses.

Today’s it’s only possible to register .uk domains at the third level — .co.uk and .org.uk are the most popular suffixes. But if Nominet gets positive feedback, you’d be able to register example.uk instead.

Second-level domains would come with a few catches, however. Nominet says it wants to create a higher-security zone.

They’d be more expensive: £20 per year instead of £2.50.

Registrants would have to be based in the UK, with verifiable contact information, and domains would only start resolving post-verification.

DNSSEC might also be mandatory.

It’s expected that registrants would be prohibited from selling third-level domains in their zones. There could be large numbers of reserved names, such as the names of towns.

There might even be restrictions on which registrars can sell the names.

There are obviously no plans to get rid of .co.uk and the other public suffixes, but over time I can see a movement in that direction.

The exact rules will depend to an extent on the results of the consultation, which can be downloaded here. The deadline for responses is January 7.

Nominet caught using Google Translate on Welsh gTLD site

Kevin Murphy, October 1, 2012, Domain Registries

Welsh internet users have accused Nominet of using Google to translate its .wales and .cymru gTLD sites into Welsh.

According to a Welsh-speaking reader, the majority of the Welsh version Domain For Wales makes “no linguistic sense”.

The site “looks like it has been initially translated using Google Translate, and amended by someone who isn’t that proficient in the language”, the reader said.

While I do not read Welsh, the Nominet site does bear some of the giveaway hallmarks of Google Translate.

If you regularly use Google to translate domain name industry web sites, you’ll know that the software has problems with TLDs, misinterpreting the dot as a period and therefore breaking up sentences.

That seems to be what happened here:

Nid yw eto’n bosibl i gofrestru. Cymru neu. Enw parth cymru gan fod y ceisiadau yn cael eu hystyried gan ICANN.

On the English site, the text is:

It is not yet possible to register a .cymru or .wales domain name as the applications are under consideration by ICANN.

Running a few other English pages through Google Translate also produces the same text as Nominet is using on the Welsh version of the same pages.

Welsh language tech blogger Carl Morris first spotted the errors.

Nominet has applied to ICANN for .wales and .cymru with the blessing of the Welsh and UK governments.

Its selection was initially criticized by some in Wales because Nominet is based in England and has no Welsh presence.

The company has committed to open an office in Wales, hiring Welsh-speaking staff, however.