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Hostway wants non-existent domain patent

Kevin Murphy, April 29, 2010, Domain Tech

Hostway, the large web hosting company, has applied for a US patent on a system of intercepting and redirecting requests for non-existent domains names.

The application describes “A system and method for controlling internet traffic controls internet traffic directed to a non-existing domain in a centralized manner.”

It appears to cover a service that could be offered to local ISPs, enabling them to show their users monetized search pages rather than domain-not-found error messages.

Under the system, ISPs would intercept NXDOMAIN responses to their users’ DNS lookups.

Instead of passing the error on to the browser, the ISP would consult a centralized controller for the IP address of a context-appropriate landing page to redirect the user to.

It’s not at all clear to me whether Hostway is using the technology or has plans to do so. The application was filed in October 2008.

ISPs using NXDOMAIN substitution to monetize error traffic is widespread but controversial.

ICANN president Rod Beckstrom strongly complained about the practice, which also has security implications, during a rant at the Nairobi meeting last month.

VeriSign’s Site Finder, and later Cameroon’s .cm, both controversially did similar things when they “wildcarded” non-existent domains at the TLD registry level.

Other interesting US patent applications published today include:

20100106650 – covering Go Daddy’s auction services.

20100106793 and 20100106794 – covering email forwarding under Go Daddy’s private registration services.

20100106731 – assigned to VeriSign, covering a method of offering alternative domain names for registration when a buyer’s first choice is unavailable.

AusRegistry scores Japanese .brand deal

Kevin Murphy, April 28, 2010, Domain Registries

AusRegistry, the .au registry, has inked a deal with Brights Consulting, a company offering .brand domain services to the Japanese corporate market.

The company said the deal will mean AusRegistry will provide the technical back-end for any successful new gTLD applications that Brights manages to secure.

Other companies competing for new gTLD business include old hands VeriSign, Neustar and Afilias, as well as hungry newcomers such as Minds + Machines.

AusRegistry currently manages Australia’s .au, .qa for Qatar and .ae for the United Arab Emirates.

Brights is a corporate, rather than retail, ICANN registrar. I may be wrong, but it looks like the company counts Sony among its clients.

Could there be a .sony on the horizon?

ICANN publishes Whois reform wish-list

Kevin Murphy, April 14, 2010, Domain Policy

ICANN’s latest stab at reforming Whois could lead to lots of useful new features, from more comprehensive search to more uniform privacy services.

The organization has released a staff report, “Inventory of WHOIS Service Requirements”, outlining 12 technical areas where Whois could be improved.

If the ideas were implemented, Whois records could one day contain your Twitter address or instant messaging screen name, as well as the current set of data.

The proposals could also lead to registrant search features in Whois as standard, allowing users to pull up a list of all the domains registered by any given individual.

That kind of service is only currently available at a premium price from the likes of DomainTools. The ICANN proposals could bake it into the spec.

The new paper, apparently released yesterday, was designed to outline technical requirements that might be needed to support future policies on Whois.

So while it’s not policy, it’s a good indicator of where ICANN thinks policy may head.

It concludes with a list of 12 “possible requirements” for the GNSO and other stakeholders to consider over the next couple of months before the Brussels meeting.

Here are the highlights: (continue reading)

VeriSign plans domain tasting service

VeriSign plans to offer a service that would allow domain names to be registered for as short a period as a month, possibly creating a system of legitimised domain tasting.

The company has asked ICANN (pdf) if it can launch a Domain Name Exchange service, whereby registrars could cash in unused names, transferring the remaining time on the registration to a new domain.

The service, according to VeriSign’s filing, is designed for registrars that offer domain registration as part of bundled hosting packages paid for on a monthly subscription basis.

Currently, those registrars have to register the domain for a full year with VeriSign, even if the customer stops paying for it after a month or two, the company said.

Under Domain Name Exchange, registrars would (continue reading)

Dynadot sorry for .tv snafu

Kevin Murphy, March 21, 2010, Domain Registrars

Dynadot has apologised to customers for glitches during last week’s .tv landrush that allowed people to register premium domain names at well below market prices.

On Thursday, VeriSign slashed the first-year prices of “premium” .tv names and set the renewal fees to a standard lower registry rate.

While prices were lower, they were still premium, but some domainers discovered they could register domains previously priced in the tens of thousands of dollars for the standard fee at some registrars, Dynadot included.

Dynadot said this weekend that this was because “we were given an incomplete list of the Premium .TV Domain Names… So, any Premium .TV Domain Names that weren’t on the list were displayed at the normal .TV registration price.”

The company further apologised for giving registrants store credit, rather than a cash refund, after it discovered its mistake and deleted the registrations, which was “probably not the best way to handle the situation”. This policy has been reversed, and registrants can now get a “no questions asked” refund.

Demand during the .tv land-rush was evidently so high that Dynadot’s float at VeriSign was quickly drained.

The company said: “We had a problem with the central registry and ran out of funds. This meant we could not process any COM/NET/TV/CC domain registrations, domain transfers, and domain renewals.”