Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

Verisign and PIR join new DNS abuse group

Kevin Murphy, February 9, 2022, Domain Policy

The domain name industry has just got its fourth (by my count) DNS abuse initiative, with plans for work on “trusted notifier” programs and Public Interest Registry and Verisign as members.

topDNS, which announced itself this week, is a project out of eco, the German internet industry association. It said its goals are:

the exchange of best practices, the standardisation of abuse reports, the development of a trusted notifier framework, and awareness campaigns towards policy makers, decision-makers and expert groups

eco’s Thomas Rickert told DI that members inside and outside the industry had asked for such an initiative to combat “the narrative that industry is not doing enough against an ever-increasing problem”.

He said there’s a “worrying trend” of the domain industry being increasingly seen as an easy bottleneck to get unwelcome content taken down, rather than going after the content or hosting provider.

“There is not an agreed-upon definition of what constitutes DNS abuse,” he said.

“There are groups interested in defining DNS abuse very broadly, because it’s more convenient for them I guess to go to a registrar or registry and ask for a domain takedown rather than trying to get content taken down with a hosting company,” he said.

topDNS has no plans to change the definition of “DNS abuse” that has already been broadly agreed upon by the legit end of the industry.

The DNS Abuse Framework, which was signed by 11 major registries and registrars (now, it’s up to 48 companies) in 2019 defines it as “malware, botnets, phishing, pharming, and spam (when it serves as a delivery mechanism for the other forms of DNS Abuse)”.

This is pretty much in line with their ICANN contractual obligations; ICANN itself shudders away from being seen as a content regulator.

The big asterisk next to “spam” perhaps delineates “domains” from “content”, but the Framework also recommends that registries and registrars should act against content when it comprises child sexual abuse material, illegal opioid sales, human trafficking, and “specific and credible” incitements to violence.

Rickert said the plan with topDNS is to help “operationalize” these definitions, providing the domain industry with things like best practice documents.

Of particular interest, and perhaps a point of friction with other parties in the ecosystem in future, is the plan to work on “the development of a trusted notifier framework”.

Trusted notifier systems are in place at a handful of gTLD and ccTLD registries already. They allow organizations — typically law enforcement or Big Content — a streamlined, structured path to get domains taken down when the content they lead to appears to be illegal.

The notifiers get a more reliable outcome, while the registries get some assurances that the notifiers won’t take the piss with overly broad or spammy takedown requests.

topDNS will work on templates for such arrangements, not on the arrangements themselves, Rickert said. Don’t expect the project to start endorsing certain notifiers.

Critics such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation find such programs bordering on censorship and therefore dangerous to free speech.

While the topDNS initiative only has six named members right now, it does have Verisign (.com and .net) and PIR (.org), which together look after about half of all extant domains across all TLDs. It also has CentralNic, a major registrar group and provider of back-end services for some of the largest new gTLDs.

“Verisign is pleased to support the new topDNS initiative, which will help bring together stakeholders with an interest in combating and mitigating DNS security threats,” a company spokesperson said.

Unlike CentralNic and PIR, Verisign is not currently one of the 48 signatories of the DNS Abuse Framework, but the spokesperson said topDNS is “largely consistent” with that effort.

Verisign has also expressed support for early-stage trusted notifier framework discussions being undertaken by ICANN’s registry and registrar stakeholder groups.

PIR also has its own separate project, the DNS Abuse Institute, which is working on similar stuff, along with some tools to support the paperwork.

DNSAI director Graeme Bunton said: “I see these efforts as complementary, not competing, and we are happy to support and participate in each of them.” He’s going to be on topDNS’s inaugural Advisory Council, he and Rickert said.

Rickert and Bunton both pointed out that topDNS is not going to be limited to DNS abuse issues alone — that’s simply the most pressing current matter.

Rickert said issues such as DNS over HTTP and blockchain naming systems could be of future interest.

2 Comments Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

auDA ramps up marketing for direct .au launch

Kevin Murphy, February 7, 2022, Domain Registries

Australian domain overseer auDA has started national advertising for its second-level .au registration launch next month.

The organization said today it has started running television, radio, outdoor and digital ads, and will continue to do so through to November.

Second-level .au domains become available March 24, on a first-come, first-served basis if there are not already matching third-level domains.

If there’s a matching .com.au or .net.au, registered before February 4, 2018, applications for the 2LDs will be handled via a priority allocation process that runs for six months.

auDA’s marketing campaign focuses on five keywords that have a general meaning in English and also a unique or somewhat distinctive meaning in Australian English: station, pavlova, gummy, stoked and stubby.

A “gummy” could mean a type of confectionery, but “gummy.au” could refer to a type of shark that stalks Aussie waters, for example.

Microsites have been launched for each keyword, but they’re not all resolving for me yet.

Comment Tagged: , , ,

Thousands of domains hit by downtime after DNSSEC error

Kevin Murphy, February 7, 2022, Domain Tech

Sweden saw thousands of domains go down for hours on Friday, after DNSSEC errors were introduced to the .se zone file.

Local ccTLD registry IIS said in a statement that around 8,000 domains had a “technical difficulty” that started around 1530 local time and lasted around seven hours:

On the afternoon of 4/2, a problem was discovered that concerned approximately 8,000 .se domains. The problem meant that services, such as email and web, that are linked to the affected domains in some cases could not be used or reached. In total, there are approximately 1.49 million .se domains, of which approximately 8,000 were affected.

During the afternoon and evening, a thorough work was done with the troubleshooting and the error could be fixed for the affected .se domains at approximately 22.25.

The problem is believed to have been caused by incorrect DNSSEC signatures being published in the .se zone file. Any machine using a DNSSEC-validating resolver would have seen the errors and flat-out refused to resolve the domain.

This is probably the key drawback of DNSSEC — typically resolvers will treat badly signed domains as if they do not exist, rather than fail over to an unsigned, but resolving, response.

Sweden is not a DNSSEC newbie — .se was the first TLD to deploy the technology, all the way back in 2005, with services for domain holders coming a couple of years later.

Comment Tagged: , , , ,

Is the .sucks mass-cybersquatting experiment over?

Kevin Murphy, February 4, 2022, Domain Registries

The Everything.sucks experiment is mass-cybersquatting .sucks domains may be over and done with.

Thousands of .sucks domains have been deleted in a huge junk drop, newly created domains at Everything.sucks’ registrar of choice have dried up, and there have been no new UDRP cases filed in months.

Everything.sucks, you may recall, is a wiki-style web site where thousands of famous brands and public figures have pages populated by content scraped from third-party sites discussing, on the rare occasion when the scraping works, how terrible they are.

When the site emerged in 2020, it was a redirect destination for around 2,000 .sucks domains that exactly matched those brands. You typed jackdaniels.sucks into your browser, you wound up at the Jack Daniels page at Everything.sucks.

Various attempts were made at monetizing these names by persuading the brand owners to purchase or transfer them for fees measured in the hundreds, or more usually thousands, of dollars.

The domains were registered to a Turks & Caicos company called Honey Salt and a likely fictitious individual named Pat Honeysalt or Pat Collins. The registrant has fought 21 UDRP cases, most of which it lost, since July 2020.

There hasn’t been a UDRP complaint filed against a .sucks domain since November 2021, and this may be because most of Honey Salt’s domains were only registered for one year and have since expired and dropped.

Registry transaction reports filed with ICANN by .sucks registry Vox Populi show the registrar Rebel.com — Vox’s sister company and Honey Salt’s registrar of choice — deleted 2,179 .sucks domains in September 2021.

That’s very close to the 2,184 one-year adds Rebel recorded in June 2020.

The most likely interpretation of this data, in my view, is that it’s Honey Salt’s first junk drop — the company let the domains go on expiry having failed to sell them to the brand owners and failed to convince UDRP panels that it wasn’t cybersquatting.

At least couple thousand more .sucks domains were registered via Rebel over the year to June 2021, most likely to Honey Salt, but since then the registrar has been selling no more than two or three new .sucks domains per month.

It looks like Honey Salt stopped buying .sucks domains in bulk several months ago.

And zone files show that the total number of active .sucks domains has continued to decline by the thousands since Vox’s last transaction report, from an August 2021 peak of over 13,000, to fewer than 9,000 today.

If these trends continue, it looks like the experiment in mass cybersquatting might be over by the third quarter, when Honey Salt’s last remaining .sucks domains drop.

UDRP panelists and yours truly have speculated that Vox/Rebel and Honey Salt are probably affiliated, because the registry/registrar are the only parties that stood to benefit from Everything.sucks’ monetization techniques, but Vox has denied a connection.

Comment Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

At ICANN, you can have any registrar you want, as long as it begins with A

Kevin Murphy, February 3, 2022, Domain Registrars

Want to find a registrar based in your home country, or in a friendlier foreign jurisdiction? Don’t rely on ICANN to help.

A recent outcome of the Org’s information transparency car crash is a registrar search engine that only returns filtered results where the registrar’s name begins with the letter A.

The search engine allows users to search for registrars by name, IANA number or the country/territory where the registrar is based. Results can also be filtered alphabetically.

But it’s broken.

If you’re looking for a local registrar, or an overseas registrar, perhaps because you’re concerned about the legal jurisdiction of the company before you register a domain, you might expect the handy drop-down countries menu to bear fruit.

Say you’re looking for an Irish registrar. You select “Ireland” from the drop-down:

ICANN screencap

And the results come back:

ICANN screencap

Oh. According to these results, there are no ICANN-accredited registrars based in Ireland.

But I notice the letter A is highlighted. Perhaps it’s only showing me the registrars beginning with A.

Are there any Irish registrars beginning with B? I’m sure I’ve heard of one, but the name escapes me. I click B:

ICANN screencap

Oh. It’s showing me registrars beginning with B, but they’re not all Irish. The search engine has cleared my original filter.

With B still selected, I filter again by country, and now I’m looking at an empty result set again. There are no Irish registrars beginning with A, ICANN is telling me again.

ICANN screencap

There also doesn’t appear to be a way to filter for registrars that begin with numerals or special symbols, so the likes of 123reg and 101domain appear to be fresh out of luck.

This search engine appears to have been live for about a year, replacing the old flat list, which appears to have been deleted, because that’s how ICANN rolls nowadays.

I don’t know whether it’s been broken the whole time it’s been live, nor whether ICANN knows it’s broken.

Perhaps nobody uses it. It does appear to be the only way to find accredited registrars by country on the ICANN or IANA web sites.

UPDATE Feb 4, 2022: within approximately seven hours, one of the major bugs reported in this post had been fixed. That’s what I call tech support!

3 Comments Tagged: , , ,

.eu grows in Q4 after silly growth in Portugal

Kevin Murphy, February 3, 2022, Domain Registries

The .eu ccTLD ended a lumpy 2021 with more domains than at the start, according to the registry’s latest quarterly report.

.eu ended December with 3,713,804 .eu, .ею and .ευ domains under management, up from 3,705,728 at the end of September and 3 684 984 at the end of 2020, according to EURid.

The growth was driven by a ludicrous 23.4% increase in the number of registrations coming from Portugal — .eu domains registered there increased by 30,553 during the quarter, 55,388 during the year, ending the year at 161,283 names.

Portugal had fewer than 50,000 .eu names at the end of 2019. It is believe the Portuguese surge has been driven by registrar pricing promotions and one wonders how sustainable the growth is.

Elsewhere, the number of regs coming from the UK — which is no longer eligible for .eu names due to Brexit — were 3,751, up from 3,714 in September.

The number of domains registered to EU citizens not resident in the EU was 19,591, up from 16,676 at the end of Q3.

Comment Tagged: ,

Turkish registrar on the naughty step over abuse

Kevin Murphy, February 3, 2022, Domain Registrars

ICANN has issued a public contract breach notice to a Turkish registrar over claims it’s not adequately responding to abuse reports.

Atak Teknoloji showed a “failure to take reasonable and prompt steps to investigate and respond appropriately to reports of abuse” and did not provide ICANN with evidence it responds to abuse reports, ICANN said.

These are violations of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement, the breach notice says.

The registrar is also not offering a port 43 Whois service as required by the RAA, ICANN claims.

Atak isn’t small. It has about 175,000 domains under management in gTLDs, according to registry reports.

It has until February 18 to come into compliance or risk suspension, and has already supplied ICANN with documentation that is now under review.

Comment Tagged: , , ,

Court denies .sucks trademark bid

Kevin Murphy, February 3, 2022, Domain Registries

Vox Populi Registry has lost its ballsy bid to have its .sucks brand trademarked in the US.

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit yesterday denied Vox’s latest appeal in its fight with the Patent and Trademark Office, which had rejected two .sucks trademark applications in 2018.

Vox had tried to register the string .sucks itself and also its stylized logo, in which “.SUCKS” appears pixelated. Both were rejected, but the registry appealed on the logo application.

It’s one of a great many trademark attempts by actual and wannabe gTLD registries to be rejected by the USPTO, which usually finds that the marks do not act as “source identifiers”.

The court instead found that people and companies, including registrars, “use .SUCKS to refer to a product being sold to the public rather than as an identifier for Vox’s services”.

In this case, Vox tried to show that it had crossed the line into service mark partly on the basis that its two leading registrars filed declarations swearing it is a distinctive service mark.

Showing that Vox’s chutzpah knows no depths, one of those registrars was its own sister company, Rebel, which is also owned by Momentous. The other was Uniregistrar, years prior to its acquisition by GoDaddy.

But the USPTO wasn’t buying it, and the Federal court agreed with its analysis.

The court also agreed that the stylized .sucks logo was not distinctive enough — too “ordinary” — to allow it to be trademarked.

The case has a layer of irony as .sucks’s biggest customer is a serial cybersquatter that some UDRP panels have speculated is connected to the registry itself.

Read the decision (pdf) here.

1 Comment Tagged: , , ,

ICANN hasn’t implemented a policy since 2016

Kevin Murphy, January 31, 2022, Domain Policy

It’s been over five years since ICANN last implemented a policy, and many of its ongoing projects are in limbo.

Beggars belief, doesn’t it?

The ongoing delays to new gTLD program policy and the push-back from ICANN on Whois policy recently got me thinking: when was the last time ICANN actually did anything in the policy arena apart from contemplate its own navel?

The Org’s raison d’être, or at least one of them, is to help the internet community build consensus policies about domain names and then implement them, but it turns out the last time it actually did that was in December 2016.

And the implementation projects that have come about since then are almost all frozen in states of uncertainty.

ICANN policies covering gTLD domains are usually initiated by the Generic Names Supporting Organizations. Sometimes, the ICANN board of directors asks the GNSO Council for a policy, but generally it’s a bottom-up, grass-roots process.

The GNSO Council kicks it off by starting a Policy Development Process, managed by working group stocked with volunteers from different and often divergent special interest groups.

After a few years of meetings and mailing list conversations, the working group produces a Final Report, which is submitted to the Council, and then the ICANN board, for approval. There may be one or more public comment periods along the way.

After the board gives the nod, the work is handed over to an Implementation Review Team, made up of ICANN staff and working group volunteers, which converts the policy into implementation, such as enforceable contract language.

The last time an IRT actually led to a GNSO policy coming into force, was on December 1, 2016. Two GNSO consensus policies became active that day, their IRTs having concluded earlier that year.

One was the Thick WHOIS Transition Policy, which was to force the .com, .net and .jobs registries to transition to a “thick” Whois model by February 2019.

This policy was never actually enforced, and may never be. The General Data Protection Regulation emerged, raising complex privacy questions, and the transition to thick Whois never happened. Verisign requested and obtain multiple deferrals and the board formally put the policy on hold in November 2019.

The other IRT to conclude that day was the Inter-Registrar Transfer Policy Part D, which tweaked the longstanding Transfer Dispute Resolution Policy and IRTP to streamline domain transfers.

That was the last time ICANN actually did anything in terms of enforceable, community-driven gTLD policy.

You may be thinking “So what? If the domain industry is ticking over nicely, who cares whether ICANN is making new policies or not?”, which would be a fair point.

But the ICANN community hasn’t stopped trying to make policy, its work just never seems to make the transition from recommendation to reality.

According to reports compiled by ICANN staff, there are 12 currently active PDP projects. Three are in the working group stage, five are awaiting board attention, one has just this month been approved by the board, and three are in the IRT phase.

Of the five PDPs awaiting board action, the average time these projects have been underway, counted since the start of the GNSO working group, is over 1,640 days (median: 2,191 days). That’s about four and a half years.

Counting since final policy approval by the GNSO Council, these five projects have been waiting an average of 825 days (median: 494 days) for final board action.

Of the five, two are considered “on hold”, meaning no board action is in sight. Two others are on a “revised schedule”. The one project considered “on schedule” was submitted to the board barely a month ago.

The three active projects that have made it past the board, as far as the IRT phase, have been there for an average of 1,770 days (median: 2,001 days), or almost five years, counted from the date of ICANN board approval.

So why the delays?

Five of the nine GNSO-completed PDPs, including all three at the IRT stage, relate to Whois policy, which was thrown into confusion by the introduction of the European Union’s introduction of the GDPR legislation in May 2018.

Two of them pre-date the introduction of GDPR in May 2018, and have been frozen by ICANN staff as a result of it, while three others came out of the Whois EPDP that was specifically designed to bring ICANN policy into line with GDPR.

All five appear to be intertwined and dependent on the outcome of the ICANN board’s consideration of the EPDP recommendations and the subsequent Operational Design Assessment.

As we’ve been reporting, these recommendations could take until 2028 to implement, by which time they’ll likely be obsolete, if indeed they get approved at all.

Unrelated to Whois, two PDPs relate to the protection of the names and acronyms of international governmental and non-governmental organizations (IGOs/INGOs).

Despite being almost 10 years old, these projects are on-hold because they ran into resistance from the Governmental Advisory Committee and ICANN board. A separate PDP has been created to try to untangle the problem that hopes to provide its final report to the board in June.

Finally, there’s the New gTLD Subsequent Procedures PDP, which is in its Operational Design Phase and is expected to come before the board early next year, some 2,500 days (almost seven years) after the PDP was initiated.

I’m not sure what conclusions to draw from all this, other than that ICANN has turned into a convoluted mess of bureaucracy and I thoroughly understand why some community volunteers believe their patience is being tested.

2 Comments Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Satirists register Joe Rogan domain to promote Covid vaccines

Kevin Murphy, January 31, 2022, Gossip

An Australian comedy troupe has registered podcaster Joe Rogan’s name as a domain as part of an anti-anti-vaccine prank.

The Chaser, which has published satire across print, radio, TV and the web for the last 20 years, picked up joerogan.com.au a few days ago and redirected it to the Aussie government’s vaccine-booking web site.

The domain was publicized in the latest edition of The Chaser’s podcast, which was rebranded “The Joe Rogan Experience” and spent most of its 20-minute runtime skewering the US comedian and martial arts commentator.

Rogan has attracted negative attention in the last week or so for his skeptical comments about Covid-19 vaccines on his podcast, which is the most-listened podcast on Spotify, the platform with which he has an exclusive $100 million distribution deal.

Musicians Neil Young and Joni Mitchell have pulled their work from Spotify in protest at Rogan’s words, which they said were dangerous.

Rogan has since tried to clarify his comments and editorial policy, and Spotify has said it will start to provide links to reliable Covid-19 information alongside podcasts that address the topic.

2 Comments Tagged: , , , , ,