Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

Did I find a murder weapon in a zone file?

Kevin Murphy, December 4, 2023, Domain Policy

Registrars are usually very reluctant to police the content of web sites by taking down domains they manage, but they quite often make an exception when the web site in question calls for violence. But what if the site itself attempts to physically harm visitors through their screens?

It sounds a bit mad, but I think I’ve found such a site.

I recently randomly came across a domain name that caught my eye while scrolling through a zone file. I’m not going to reveal the domain here, but it consisted of three words across the dot and could be taken as an instruction to “murder” a specific, but unnamed, individual.

Expecting humor, I visited the domain out of curiosity and was confronted by a blank page that rapidly flashed between two background colors, creating a strobe effect. There was no other content.

My first impression was that the site had been created in order to trigger seizures in photosensitive epileptics. The CSS seemed to confirm that the strobe effect fell within the frequency range that the charity Epilepsy Action says can cause such seizures.

This raised an interesting question: could this be considered “DNS abuse”?

The DNS Abuse Institute’s definition (pdf) says DNS Abuse consists of “malware, botnets, phishing, pharming, and spam (when it serves as a delivery mechanism for the other forms of DNS Abuse)”.

DNSAI says registries and registrars “must” act on these five categories of abuse, but it adds that there are some categories of web content where registrars “should” take action. Its Framework to Address Abuse, which has been endorsed by dozens of registries and registrars, states:

Specifically, even without a court order, we believe a registry or registrar should act to disrupt the following forms of Website Content Abuse: (1) child sexual abuse materials (“CSAM”); (2) illegal distribution of opioids online; (3) human trafficking; and (4) specific and credible incitements to violence. Underlying these Website Content Abuses is the physical and often irreversible threat to human life.

Epileptic seizures can be fatal. A school friend of mine did not make it out of his teens due to one. Even when non-fatal, they are dangerous and clearly unpleasant.

So if a site encouraging physical violence “should” be taken down, what about a site that seems designed to actively physically attack individuals, no incitement required? That’s a reasonable question, right?

I filed an abuse report with the registrar managing the domain and was told it did not violate its acceptable use policies.

Attacking epileptics with flashing images sent online has been a criminal offence in the UK since October 26, when the controversial Online Safety Act 2023 was enacted.

A component of the Act is named Zach’s Law, after an eight-year-old boy who in 2020 was attacked with flashing images by internet wankers after he carried out a sponsored walk for the Epilepsy Society.

The Act makes it illegal to send a flashing image to somebody you know is epileptic with the intent to harm them. You can get up to five years imprisonment and a fine.

2 Comments Tagged:

ICANN drops the “man” from Ombudsman

Kevin Murphy, December 1, 2023, Domain Policy

ICANN is looking for a new “Ombuds”, having quietly dropped the “man” from Ombudsman following the resignation of Herb Waye.

The Org said it has hired a recruitment consultant and put out a call for expressions of interest in the role last night.

The Ombuds’ job is to handle complaints independently of ICANN Org and board and be an “objective advocate for fairness”. It’s one of ICANN’s bylaws-mandated accountability mechanisms.

The Org seems to have officially made the switch from “Ombudsman” to “Ombuds” at the start of October when Krista Papac took on the job on an interim basis. The old URL now forwards to

Like many middle-aged men, I often roll my eyes at this kind of terminology change, despite my impeccable woke credentials.

I have always assumed that “Ombudsman” was etymologically a gender-neutral term, given its Scandinavian roots, but I’ve read around the topic today and it seems that that assumption is open to debate.

I’ve concluded that it doesn’t matter either way — nobody’s getting hurt by the change, so fuck it, “Ombuds” it is.

4 Comments Tagged: ,

Have your say on police domain takedown powers

Kevin Murphy, November 30, 2023, Domain Policy

The UK Parliament wants your input on a new proposed law that would give the police powers to take down domain names and IP addresses.

The broad-ranging Criminal Justice Bill 2023 (pdf) would give police the ability to obtain court orders requiring registries and registrars to suspend domains believed to be used in criminal activity.

Accompanying explanatory notes say that these court orders could be applied internationally against domain companies in other countries via various means.

The clock is ticking for submissions — the Public Bill Committee of Parliament is due to sit to consider evidence from December 12 and issue its report with suggested amendments by January 30.

The committee advises submitting evidence as soon as possible to maximize the time spent considering it.

Comment Tagged: , , ,

Most registrars are shunning ICANN’s new Whois system

Kevin Murphy, November 30, 2023, Domain Policy

Most of the largest domain registrars are not currently participating in ICANN’s new Registration Data Request Service, according to my research.

I used the RDRS tool to check domains managed by every accredited registrar that has over a million domains under management and discovered that at least 25 out of these 40 registrars do not currently support the service.

The number may be 26, but RDRS did not recognize any domains managed by Chinese registrar Ali Baba as valid, giving instead a “domain does not exist” error message, even for itself.

In total, the 25 registrars coming up blank look after over 63 million gTLD domains, about 28% of the total.

Some very recognizable brands are not in the system.

Squarespace Domains II, the new name for the old Google Domains, the fourth-largest registrar, is the largest company not participating. Together with its original accreditation, Squarespace Domains, they have over 10 million domains under management.

TurnCommerce, GMO, IONOS, NameSilo, PDR, Gname, Dynadot, Wix, OVH,, FastDomain,,, Hostinger,, Xin Net,, Cronon, Domain Robot, Automattic, DNSPod, and Cloudflare are also not in the system.

Oh, and neither is Markmonitor.

While I only checked 40 registrars, not the full 2,702 that were active in the July registry transaction reports, I would expect the level of support to decline the lower down the list you get, particularly as hundreds of accreditations have a trivial number of domains or are merely aliases for companies already known to not support RDRS.

It’s quite possible some of the registrars I’ve named here are planning to sign up and have just been slow to do so, but they’ve had plenty of time — ICANN has been onboarding registrars since September 20.

The level of support from the registrar industry will be critical to judging whether the RDRS project is deemed a success.

In a recent letter to the GNSO Council discussing “success criteria” for the program, ICANN chair Tripti Sinha wrote (pdf):

The Board agrees that the participation of a sufficient number of registrars with a sufficient number of domain name registrations under management will be important with respect to gathering data.

On the bright side, GoDaddy, Tucows and Namecheap are on board, and that represents about 90 million domains. GoDaddy alone accounts for 65 million, slightly more than the combined total of the 25 large registrars that are not participating.

RDRS is a system designed to simplify the process of requesting non-public Whois data by passing all such requests to the relevant registrars through a central hub.

Of course, it’s only useful if the registrars are actually in the system.

3 Comments Tagged: , , , ,

Nominet to take over

Kevin Murphy, November 29, 2023, Domain Registries

Nominet says it has won a competitive tender process with the UK government and will take over the registry for early next year.

The registry was previously being managed by Jisc, which runs Nominet was already running its DNS.

The deal refers to the domains in, not to, which is a government services portal site.

The space is a bit of a strange one as far as government domains go — rather than a sole source, it has over 180 accredited registrars government agencies can choose from.

Nominet says it plans to take a more visible role in managing and modernizing the namespace.

Comment Tagged: , ,

ICANN picks Istanbul for 2024 meeting

Kevin Murphy, November 29, 2023, Domain Policy

The ICANN community will head to Türkiye for the Org’s 2024 Annual General Meeting, it has been confirmed.

The board of directors picked Istanbul for ICANN 81, which will kick off November 9 next year, according to a just-published resolution.

While the precise venue has not been revealed, you’d have to assume the Istanbul Congress Center is a prime candidate.

While it’s conveniently on the doorstep of Europe, Türkiye counts as Asia-Pacific under ICANN’s rules mandating meetings rotate through the world’s five geographic regions.

ICANN maintains an office in Istanbul, so it can presumably save a bit of money not having to pay for travel and lodgings for local staff who would usually travel.

Next year’s meetings also see the community travel to San Juan, Puerto Rico in March and Kigali, Rwanda in June. The first meeting of 2025 will be held in Seattle, Washington.

4 Comments Tagged: , ,

ICANN’s private Whois data request service goes live

Kevin Murphy, November 28, 2023, Domain Registrars

ICANN has this evening gone live with its service that enables anyone to request private Whois data on any gTLD domain.

The Registration Data Request Service lets people request contact information on registrants that would otherwise be redacted in the public Whois due to laws such as the GDPR.

The press release announcing the launch seems to have come out an hour or two before the service actually became accessible, but it’s definitely live now and I’ve tried it out.

The system is defined largely by what it isn’t. It isn’t an automated way to get access to private data. It isn’t guaranteed to result in private data being released. It isn’t an easy workaround to post-GDPR privacy restrictions.

It is a way to request an unredacted Whois record knowing only the domain and not having to faff around figuring out who the registrar is and what their mechanisms and policies are for requesting the data.

After scaling back the extremely complex and expensive original community recommendations for a post-GDPR Whois service, ICANN based the RDRS on its now decade-old Centralized Zone Data Service, which acts as an intermediary between registries and people like myself who enjoy sniffing around in zone files.

The RDRS merely connects Whois data requestors — the default settings in the interface suggest that ICANN thinks they’ll mostly be people with court orders — with the registrars in charge of the domains they are interested in.

Anyone who has used CZDS will recognize the interface, but the requesting process is longer, more complex, and requires accepting more disclaimers and Ts&Cs. That said, it’s not particularly confusing.

At first glance, it looks fine. Slick, even. I’ve used it to submit a test request with GoDaddy for my own Whois data, specifying that whoever deals with the request is free to ignore it. Let’s see what happens.

Comment Tagged: , , , , ,

.au regs slide on 2LD anniversary

Kevin Murphy, November 28, 2023, Domain Registries

Australia’s ccTLD has taken a rare turn for the worse recently in terms of domains under management, around the anniversary of a major name release.

.au had 4,227,033 domains today according to the registry’s web site. That’s down about 36,000 from the 4,263,106 names it was reporting on September 21.

September 21 was the one-year anniversary of registry auDA releasing millions of previously reserved second-level domains into the available pool, the last stage of its liberalization of the registration rules.

The registry took over 100,000 registrations in just a couple of days upon that release.

The released names were all those that had been held back as “priority” reservations for six months to give the owners of the matching third-level or domains first refusal.

While auDA does not daily break down its 2LD versus 3LD numbers, it seems likely the recent declines can be attributable to the predictable first-anniversary junk drop.

Before the 2LD service became available in March 2022, .au had 3.4 million domains under management, so the program has still boosted numbers overall.

Comment Tagged: , ,

ICANN accused of power grab over $271 million auction fund

Kevin Murphy, November 28, 2023, Domain Policy

ICANN has acted outside of its powers by ignoring community policy recommendations and leaving its $271 million gTLD auction windfall open to being frittered away on lawyers, according to community members.

The Intellectual Property Constituency of the GNSO has filed a formal Request for Reconsideration over a board resolution passed at ICANN 78 last month in Hamburg, and other constituencies may add their names to it shortly.

The row concerns the huge cash pile ICANN was left sitting on following the auction of 17 new gTLD contracts between 2014 and 2016, which raised $240 million (as of July, around $271 million after investment returns and ICANN helping itself to a portion to fund its operations reserve).

It was decided that the money should be used to fund a grant program for worthy causes, with organizations able to apply for up to $500,000 during discrete rounds, the first of which is due to open next year with a $10 million pot. Around $220 million is believed to be earmarked for the grant program over its lifetime.

But the Cross Community Working Group for Auction Proceeds (CCWG-AP) that came up with the rules of the program was concerned that unsuccessful applicants, or others chagrined by ICANN’s grant allocations, might challenge decisions using ICANN’s accountability mechanisms.

This would cause money earmarked for worthy causes to be spaffed away on lawyers, which the CCWG-AP wanted to avoid, so it recommended that ICANN modify its fundamental bylaws to exclude the grant program from mechanisms such as the Independent Review Process, which usually incurs high six-figure or seven-figure legal fees.

ICANN seemed to accept this recommendation — formally approving it in June last year — until ICANN 78, when the board approved a surprise U-turn on this so-called Recommendation 7.

The board said it was changing its mind because it had found “alternative ways” to achieve the same objective, “including ways that do not require modification to ICANN’s core Bylaws on accountability”. The resolution stated:

As a result, the Board is updating its action on Recommendation 7 to reflect that ICANN org should implement this Recommendation 7 directly through the use of applicant terms and conditions rather than through a change to ICANN’s Fundamental Bylaws.

This left some community members — and at least one ICANN director — scratching their heads. Sure, you might be able to ban grant applicants from using the IRP in the program’s terms and conditions, but that wouldn’t stop third parties such as an applicant’s competitors from filing an IRP and causing legal spaffery.

The board was well aware of these concerns when it passed the resolution last month. Directors pointed out in Hamburg that ICANN is still pursuing the bylaws amendment route, but has removed it as a dependency for the first grant round going ahead.

This left some community members nonplussed — it wasn’t clear whether ICANN planned to go ahead with the program ignoring community recommendations, or not. The reassuring words of directors didn’t seem to tally with the language of the resolution.

So the IPC took the initiative and unironically invoked an accountability mechanism — the RfR — to get ICANN to change its mind again. I gather the request was filed as a precaution within the 30-day filing window due to the lack of clarity on ICANN’s direction.

The RfR states:

the impetus behind the Bylaws change was to prevent anyone from challenging grant decisions, including challenges from parties not in contractual privity with ICANN. The Board’s hasty solution would only prevent contracting grant applicants from challenging decisions; it would not in any way affect challenges by anyone else – including anyone who wished to challenge the award of a grant. The grant program could be tied in knots by disgruntled parties, competitive organizations or anyone else who wished to delay or prevent ICANN from carrying out any decision to grant funds. This is exactly what the CCWG-AP sought to prevent

The IPC says that by bypassing the bylaws amendment process, which involves community consent, the ICANN board is basically giving itself the unilateral right to turn off its bylaws-mandated accountability mechanisms when it sees fit. A power grab.

It wants the Hamburg resolution reversed.

Discussing the RfR a few days before it was filed, other members of the GNSO Council suggested that their constituencies might sign on as fellow complainants if and when it is amended.

RfRs are handled by ICANN’s Board Accountability Mechanisms Committee, which does not currently have a publicly scheduled upcoming meeting.

2 Comments Tagged: , , , , , , ,

A registrar is getting blamed for an Israeli war propaganda site

Kevin Murphy, November 27, 2023, Domain Registrars

Israel-based registrar Wix is being blamed for a gory anti-Hamas web site being promoted by Israeli government officials.

A number of recent media reports — notably including this one by usually reliable news wire UPI — have said that Wix is behind the incredibly NSFW web site at

The site is a dark parody of a Hamas fund-raising page, containing disturbing footage of the group’s October 7 atrocities — dead bodies, terrorists taking hostages, shooting dogs and burning homes.

So I imagine Wix would be disturbed to learn it is being credited as the creator of the site, apparently purely because the domain was registered via its registrar and hosted on its hosting service.

“The Israeli software company Wix has created a website to spread anti-Hamas propaganda amid the war in Gaza,” UPI reported, sourcing a GoDaddy Whois lookup that lists Wix as the registrar but shows no registrant information.

A Whois lookup on Wix itself, which should contain information beyond the registry record supplied by GoDaddy, does not reveal any additional information — not even redacted fields — about the registrant.

Hamas usually uses for its web site, but it’s currently down reportedly due to cyber-attacks by pro-Israel hacktivists. has been parked for years by what UPI uncharitably refers to as “cybersquatters”.

Comment Tagged: , , ,