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ICANN terminates these three deadbeat registrars

Registrars based in the US, Philippines and Bangladesh have lost their ICANN accreditations for non-payment of fees.

ICANN recently sent termination notices to Domainia, HOAPI, and Innovadeus, which the Org says have breached their contracts by not paying and in some cases failing to provide required information and services on their web sites.

It appears all three companies are no longer operational. Domainia’s domain resolves to a GoDaddy sales lander, HOAPI’s is NX’d, and Innovadeus’s site is riddled with WordPress errors.

Innovadeus and HOAPDI were first deemed “past due” on their fees in November 2020, according to ICANN. For Domainia, it was September 2020.

Fortunately, it seems few to no registrants will be affected by the terminations. HOAPI had one gTLD domain under management, its own. Domainia had none, and Innovadeus had a few hundred, which will be transferred to another registrar.

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.xyz kicks France out of the top 10 TLDs — Verisign

Verisign is reporting that the total number of registered domains worldwide topped 350 million in the first quarter, under its new reporting methodology.

The company’s latest Domain Name Industry Brief states that there were 350.5 million names across (almost) all TLDs, up by 8.8 million or 2.6% compared to the end of 2021 or 13.2 million (3.9%).

It’s sequential growth well beyond the 3.3 million increase reported in Q4, but the first quarter of any year is usually seasonally strong.

It’s the second DNIB that excludes Freenom’s collection of free TLDs, notably .tk, making comparisons beyond what Verisign itself calculates challenging.

Verisign’s own .com was up from 160 million to 161.3 million domains over the period, while .net was flat at 13.4 million.

Total ccTLD names were up 6 million or 4.7% sequentially to 133.4 million and up 3.1 million or 2.4% year over year.

The top 10 TLDs saw a new entry, with XYZ.com’s .xyz taking the tenth position with 4 million names, kicking out French ccTLD .fr, which has 3.9 million.

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ICANN puts blockchain on the agenda for good

Kevin Murphy, June 23, 2022, Domain Tech

ICANN’s board of directors is apparently worried about the rise of blockchain-based alt-roots.

Its Board Technical Committee voted in May to make blockchain a permanent agenda item going forward, according to just-published minutes.

“After discussion, the Committee decided to have a standing topic on the agenda to address Blockchain Names,” the minutes read.

The minutes don’t record the content of the discussion, but the alt-root topic has been addressed at every one of the committee’s meetings since last July and resulted in the CTO’s office putting together a briefing paper I blogged about last month.

Blockchain alt-roots include the likes of ENS, Handshake and Unstoppable. They are likely to present legal challenges and interoperability problems when ICANN finally opens up the next round of new gTLDs in a couple years.

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New gTLD in trouble as largest registrar gets suspended

The .gdn gTLD registry, Navigation-information systems, is facing more trouble from ICANN Compliance, but this time it’s because its largest registrar has got itself suspended for non-payment of fees.

ICANN has suspended the accreditation of Dubai-based registrar Intracom for failing to cure an April breach notice demanding money, not implementing an RDAP service, not escrowing its data, and generally giving Compliance staff the runaround for the last eight months.

Intracom is NIS’ biggest partner, responsible for over 10,000 of its 11,000 registered domain names. It doesn’t appear to have many domains in other gTLDs.

The company will not be allowed to sell gTLD domains or accept inbound transfers from July 6 to October 4.

NIS has been hit with its own breach notices twice in the last year, most recently the day after Intracom’s own notice, for failing to keep its Whois service up, but it cured the breaches before ICANN escalated.

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ICANN picks comms firm for new gTLDs outreach

Kevin Murphy, June 22, 2022, Domain Policy

The next round of new gTLDs is getting real.

ICANN has selected a communications firm to promote the next round ahead of its launch, and authorized a wedge of cash to pay for it, according to a resolution of the board of directors.

The resolution does not name the firm or the exact amount of money earmarked, because a deal has yet to be signed, but it is worth over $500,000.

In the 2012 round, I believe ICANN worked with long-time PR agency Edelman.

The agency will be responsible for planning the outreach campaign and then executing it over three months ahead of the application window opening, whenever that may be.

The resolution states that ICANN will contract the firm for 50 “instances”, where an instance is a country or industry.

The 2011/2012 outreach campaign came under criticism for not doing enough to entice applications from the global south and emerging economies, something which current ICANN management has said they hope to rectify next time around.

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Donuts goes with bland, forgettable, for new company name [rant]

What is it with domain name companies and their terrible brands?

Donuts is now Identity Digital Inc, the company said today, with the Donuts and Afilias brands being retired.

The new name was chosen “to reflect better the commitment to helping customers find, grow and protect their authentic digital identities” the company said in a press release. I also get the vibe that the company may be expanding further outside of domains in future. Blockchain stuff, maybe?

It appears that the company has adopted a practice-what-you-preach approach to branding — it’s advocating that businesses register domains with strong keywords to the left and right of the dot, so that’s what Identity Digital will also do.

That’s fair enough, I guess.

It’s using identity.digital as its new domain, which is just as well, because the company seems to have just made itself search-proof.

If you couldn’t tell already, I don’t like the name. It strikes me as the kind of name a company might pick if it wanted to keep a low profile.

It sounds like a two-man SEO startup operating in a room above a vape shop in a northern English market town.

The name “Donuts” had been picked when the company formed in 2010 to reflect the fact that the founders were nuts about domains. Afilias was named as such because it was a joint venture of over a dozen registrars.

These were great, memorable brands!

GoDaddy, Tucows, Porkbun… all examples of strong, colorful, novel brands in the domain space. When I read about these companies, I know immediately who I’m reading about, and they don’t have any keywords in their names.

Even after 12 years writing this blog, I still have to remind myself which registrar is Name.com and which is Domain.com. Now, I’m going to be constantly reminding myself which company used to be Endurance and which used to be Donuts. Meh.

Perhaps I’m just irritated that I’m going to have to spend the next year writing “Identity Digital, formerly Donuts”.

Still, at least it’s better than “TrueName”.

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Broker says it will sue after DNS abuse sting operation

Kevin Murphy, June 21, 2022, Domain Policy

The CEO of domain broker VPN.com is threatening to sue an online safety advocacy group after a report was published alleging the company trades in names that could be used for illegal activity.

Michael Gargiulo said he will take action against the Digital Citizens Alliance unless it removes a report that claimed one of the company’s brokers agreed to coordinate the $21,000 purchase of covidvaccinecardsforsale.com, even after being told it would be used for illegal purposes.

“[We] sadly have no choice but to sue the Digital Citizens Alliance, Executive Director Tom Galvin, their Managing Editor, and every John Doe that coordinated this fraud unless this content is removed within 48 hours from now,” Gargiulo said.

The DCA report, entitled “Peddling For Profit — How Website Retailers Enable Bad Actors to Become the Master of Illicit Domains” (pdf), is largely an attempt to highlight how domain registrars don’t vet domains for potentially illegal use before allowing them to be registered.

It’s mostly familiar nonsense, apparently written with a general audience and tabloid headlines, rather than the domain industry or tech industry, in mind.

There’s no attempt to explore the complexities of automatically determining a registrant’s intent at the point of sale and comparing it to the world’s hundreds of legal jurisdictions, it’s mainly just “Woah, GoDaddy let me register untraceablegunsforsale.com!”

Where the report differs from the norm is when it looks at the secondary market, where human beings work with buyer and seller to agree a price and transfer a domain.

With VPN, the DCA reporter posed as the potential buyer of covidvaccinecardsforsale.net and carried out an email conversation with a broker in which it was stated the domain would be used to sell “Covid cards” to “the unvaccinated”, from which one could certainly infer a nefarious purpose.

The VPN broker responded by trying to negotiate the sale of the matching .com for a higher price, the DCA report states. Later, the DCA reporter says he wants to “stay under the radar of the FTC” but VPN’s response, if any, is not reported.

Gargiulo told DI that DCA “posed as a legitimate Buyer on the original inquiry with fraudulent intent, which by their publication admission, is fraudulent and illegal in America.”

The broker in question is from outside the US and “did not understand their [DCA’s] illegal intent” he said.

“In many parts of the world including Europe, Covid cards are used for vaccinated and unvaccinated people,” he said, giving the Netherlands as an example.

“We take this matter very seriously as the characterization of our company is absolutely ridiculous in this document,” he said. “There was little-to-no journalistic integrity to verify the other side of this story by DCA and the transaction never even got remotely close to occurring.”

DCA also attempted to buy buystolencreditcards.com via broker Domain Agents, but after blatantly describing how the name would be used for crime, “the broker canceled the deal.”

DCA, as its name implies, is funded by undisclosed companies in Big Content, Big Pharma, internet security and consumer safety. It’s led by former Verisign PR man Tom Galvin.

“We will let the report speak for itself,” a DCA spokesperson said when asked for comment on the legal threat.

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Unstoppable targets another city gTLD with free domains

Kevin Murphy, June 21, 2022, Domain Tech

Alt-root provider Unstoppable Domains has inked another partnership with a city that already has its own gTLD in the authoritative root.

The blockchain domains company said it has linked up with the City of Miami’s Venture Miami project, which encourages tech investment in Miami, to offer $50 in Unstoppable’s alternative domains to anyone attending Miami Dade College or showing up at an event there over the weekend.

For nine out of 10 of Unstoppable’s extensions, that’s enough to buy at least one domain. The company does not charge renewal fees.

It’s the second city recently that Unstoppable has partnered with, following its offer of free domains to all female residents of Abu Dhabi a couple of weeks ago.

In both of these cases, the cities in question already have their own gTLD in the authoritative, functioning, ICANN root. Unstoppable’s extensions, which are largely themed around crytopcurrency, mostly do not function without browser plug-ins.

While .abudhabi has only about a thousand registered domains, .miami, which was acquired from MMX by GoDaddy last year and has the city as a partner, has been more popular, with close to 16,000 names in its zone file currently.

Whether this can be dismissed as more “web3” hype or alt-root snake oil or not, Unstoppable seems to have secured a couple of pretty interesting marketing coups, and it will be interesting to see which city gets targeted next.

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Dynadot takes down its own web site after apparent breach

Dynadot took the drastic move of turning off its own web site last week after noticing an apparent security breach.

The registrar also reset all of its customers’ passwords, acknowledging the pair of moves were “extremely inconvenient”.

It’s not clear from the company’s statement whether there really had been an attack or whether it overreacted

It said “our system noticed irregular activity” but later brought its site back up after staff “investigated and determined there was not a threat”.

The company said it has engaged “cyber security experts” to help it out in future.

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The slow crawl to closed generics at ICANN 74

Kevin Murphy, June 20, 2022, Domain Policy

Last Monday saw the 10th anniversary of Reveal Day, the event in London where ICANN officially revealed the 1,930 new gTLD applications submitted earlier in 2012 to a crowd of excited applicants and media.

Dozens of those applications were for closed generics — where the registry operator is the sole registrant, but the string isn’t a trademark — but now, a decade later, the ICANN community still hasn’t decided what to do about that type of gTLD.

At ICANN 74 last week, the Generic Names Supporting Organization and Governmental Advisory Committee inched closer to agreeing the rules of engagement for forthcoming talks on how closed generics should be regulated.

The GNSO’s working group on new gTLDs — known as SubPro — had failed to come to a consensus on whether closed generics should even be allowed, failing even to agree on whether the status quo was the thousand-year-old earlier GNSO policy recommendations that permitted them or the later GAC-influenced ICANN retconning that banned them.

But ever since SubPro delivered its final report, the GAC has been reminding ICANN of its 2013 Beijing communique advice, which stated: “For strings representing generic terms, exclusive registry access should serve a public interest goal.”

At the time, this amounted to an effective ban, but today it’s become an enabler.

ICANN has for the last several months been coaxing the GNSO and the GAC to the negotiating table to help bring the SubPro stalemate into line with the Beijing communique, and the rules of engagement pretty much guarantee that closed generics will be permitted, as least in principle, in the next application round.

GAC chair Manal Ismail told ICANN (pdf) back in April:

discussion should focus on a compromise to allow closed generics only if they serve a public interest goal and that the two “edge outcomes” (i.e. allowing closed generics without restrictions/limitations, and prohibiting closed generics under any circumstance) are unlikely to achieve consensus, and should therefore be considered out of scope for this dialogue.

Remarkably, the GNSO agreed to these terms with little complaint, essentially allowing the GAC to set at least the fundamentals of the policy.

Last week, talks centered on how these bilateral negotiations — or trilateral, as the At-Large Advisory Committee is now also getting a seat at the table — will be proceed.

The rules of engagement were framed by ICANN (pdf) back in March, with the idea that talks would begin before ICANN 74, a deadline that has clearly been missed.

The GNSO convened a small team of members to consider ICANN’s proposals and issued its report (pdf) last week, which now seems to have been agreed upon by the Council.

Both GNSO and GAC are keen that the talks will be facilitated by an independent, non-conflicted, knowledgeable expert, and have conceded that they may have to hire a professional facilitator from outside the community.

That person hasn’t been picked yet, and until he/she has taken their seat no talks are going to happen.

ICANN said a few months ago that it did not expect the closed generics issue to delay the SubPro Operational Design Phase, which is scheduled to wind up in October, but the longer the GAC, GNSO and ICANN dawdle, the more likely that becomes.

All that has to happen is for a group of 14-16 community members to agree on what “public interest” means, and that should be easy, right? Right?

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