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Alibaba off the naughty step

Chinese registrar Alibaba is no longer at risk of losing one of its ICANN accreditations, according to a notice on the Org’s web site.

Alibaba.com Singapore E-Commerce, one of Alibaba’s four registrars, failed to respond to abuse reports and missed ICANN payments, according to its March breach notice.

But the company has now provided ICANN with documents sufficient to bring it back into compliance with its contract, according to the notice.

Alibaba has over six million domains under management across its three active accreditations, making it one of the largest registrars to come under the scrutiny of ICANN Compliance.

Alibaba hit with ICANN breach notice

One of the companies in the Alibaba Group, China’s biggest registrar and one of the largest technology companies in the world, has been handed a breach notice, containing a long list of complaints including abuse failures and non-payment of fees, by ICANN Compliance.

Alibaba.com Singapore E-Commerce, one of Alibaba’s four accredited registrars, failed to respond to abuse reports and failed to respond to ICANN’s requests for information about its failure to respond to abuse reports, the notice claims.

The breach notice will likely to be the last to be sent out for claims under the current version of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement. In two days, April 5, stricter domain takedown rules approved earlier this year will become effective on all registrars.

The abuse claims seem to cover four domains in .com and .vip that look like typos that could have been used in phishing attacks.

ICANN Compliance says that Alibaba also hasn’t published the names of its officers or its redemption fees, as the RAA also requires. It says the registrar also owes it an unspecified amount of past-due fees.

The chronologies reported in the notice claim Alibaba has been giving Compliance the run-around, failing to respond to calls and emails, since early November.

All four registrars in the Alibaba Group have the same published email and phone details, but it’s not clear whether the same ones are listed in ICANN’s internal directory.

Alibaba.com Singapore is one of four accredited registrars owned by Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant. The parent is not short of a bob or two, reporting revenue equivalent to $126 billion last year. It can afford to pay its ICANN fees.

Of the three Alibaba registrars that have domains the “Singapore” one is the smallest, with about 660,000 domains under management. The other two have 3.2 million and 2.6 million domains to their accreditations.

The company has been told it has until April 17 to come back into compliance or risk getting terminated.

ICANN cans Freenom

Kevin Murphy, November 13, 2023, Domain Registrars

Controversial free-domains company Freenom has lost its ICANN accreditation, signalling the end of its life as a gTLD registrar.

Org said that as of November 25, Freenom (aka OpenTLD) will no longer be able to sell or renew any domains.

The termination follows the company’s failure to resolve or respond to three separate breach notices, covering dozens of infractions, that Compliance sent between September and October.

Real damage to registrants was caused — many could not rescue their expired domains or transfer names to another registrar.

The company has 16,521 gTLD domains under management at the end of July, according to the most-recent registry transaction reports. They will now be moved to a more-reliable registrar under ICANN’s De-Accredited Registrar Transition Procedure.

Freenom may have been a small fish in the gTLD space, but it gave away tens of millions of free domains in five ccTLDs it controlled, mostly to spammers and other ne’er-do-wells.

It was recently reported that it has lost or is losing its deals with these ccTLDs, notably .tk, after their governments became aghast at how badly they were being abused.

Freenom spanked for holding Olympics domain hostage

Kevin Murphy, October 17, 2023, Domain Registrars

Freenom has been hit by its third ICANN contract-breach notice in under a month, this time because the organizers of the 2024 Paris Olympics could not transfer a domain out to another registrar.

The registrar, formally OpenTLD, failed to take off the ClientTransferProhibited status from the domain club2024.tickets, preventing the registrant from transferring it, ICANN claims.

Digging through my database and Whois records, it looks like the organizing committee of Paris 2024 used Freenom to defensively register 10 .tickets domain names related to its Le Club Paris 2024 marketing initiative in July 2020.

They were the only .tickets domains Freenon has ever sold.

When they came up for renewal last year, the Paris committee instead transferred nine of them out to local registrar Gandi, where they remain. The 10th domain was not transferred for some reason.

ICANN says Freenom is in violation of the Transfer Policy by failing to unlock the domain without a good reason. Additionally, the domain doesn’t show up in Whois queries on Freenom’s web site, despite still being in the zone file.

Compliance has given the registrar until November 7 to come back into compliance or risk losing its accreditation.

Freenom is already working under two active breach notices, which ICANN said it has not yet responded to. The deadline on the earlier, September 20 notice has already passed, so ICANN could escalate any day.

Freenom gets yet another ICANN breach notice

Kevin Murphy, October 6, 2023, Domain Registrars

ICANN Compliance is really up in Freenom’s face now, filing yet another contract-breach notice against its registrar arm barely a week after the last one.

The September 29 notice adds three new tickets to the 12 in the September 20 notice I wrote about last month. It’s the sixth notice OpenTLD has received since 2015.

The cases are similar to those in the previous missive. ICANN wants proof that the registrar has been complying with the Transfer Policy and the Expired Registration Recovery Policy.

It seems some Freenom customers have had difficulty transferring their names out of the company’s control, and have been unable to restore their domains after accidentally allowing them to expire.

It still also owes ICANN past-due fees, the notice reiterates.

The notice covers complaints from June and July. The company has until October 20 to comply or risk losing its accreditation. The claims in the earlier notice give it until October 11.

Freenom is the company that runs a dwindling collection of free-to-register ccTLDs, notably .tk. It has not allowed registrations on its site all year, blaming technical issues. It’s also being sued by Facebook owner Meta over alleged cybersquatting.

Ancient registrar gets ICANN breach notice over UDRP

Kevin Murphy, September 25, 2023, Domain Registrars

A thirty-year-old registrar — practically prehistoric by internet standards — has been hit with an ICANN breach notice after apparently failing to transfer a domain lost in a UDRP and not paying its fees.

ICANN has told Texas-based GKG.net that it failed to implement a July UDRP decision (pdf) over the domain top-rx-market.com, which was won by generic pharmaceuticals firm TopRX.

That domain is using GKG’s Whois privacy service and suspended-domains.net as its name servers but still resolves to an active pharma storefront from where I’m sitting. The UDRP says the domain was registered to a Russian, who did not respond to the UDRP.

While the UDRP-related alleged breach is pretty recent, it looks like ICANN has been chasing GKG for a couple of years.

Compliance first notified the registrar that it was past due on its quarterly fees back in February 2022.

Since March, it also has been looking at alleged failures to handle abuse reports for pharma-related domains including canadianpharmstore.net, usapharmacymall.com, good-pills.com, and 1-pharm.com, which all resolve to the same discount medicines site.

ICANN says all of its attempts to call, email and fax GKG have fallen on deaf ears.

GKG isn’t tiny. It had over 83,000 gTLD domains under management in May, though it appears to have been shrinking by hundreds of domains per month for over a decade.

The company was accredited by ICANN with IANA number 93, which means it’s among the first wave of registrars accredited over two decades ago — it’s older than GoDaddy.

GKG has until October 13 to clean up its act or face suspension and termination.

Freenom hit by FIFTH ICANN action after litany of screw-ups

Kevin Murphy, September 21, 2023, Domain Registrars

Is time up for Freenom? After being sued by Facebook and losing its contracts to operate ccTLDs for at least two countries, now it also has ICANN Compliance to deal with.

Its registrar arm, Netherlands-based OpenTLD, has been hit with a lengthy ICANN breach notice that alleges the company failed to allow its customers to renew and/or transfer their domains, in violation of the registrar contract.

It’s the fifth time OpenTLD has been targeted by Compliance, following breach notices in 2020, 2017 and 2015 and a notice of suspension later in 2015. ICANN says this notice is for the same sorts of failures as in 2020 and 2017.

The latest notice covers a dozen separate cases, probably the largest number in a single breach notice to date. Some of them ICANN has been investigating as far back as January 2022.

The notice says that OpenTLD failed to allow some registrants of expired domains to recover their names under the Expired Registration Recovery Policy and that some registrants were not provided with the AuthInfo codes they need to transfer their domains to other registrars upon request, which registrars have to do under the Transfer Policy.

It goes on to describe a situation where the registrar habitually did not respond to Compliance’s calls, emails or faxes.

OpenTLD apparently has not filed its 2022 Compliance Certificate with ICANN either, which it was supposed to do before January 20 this year.

The company had almost 19,000 gTLD domain names under management at the end of May, down from a 2019 peak of almost 45,000, but it’s probably better known for being Freenom, the registry behind .ml, .ga, .cf, .gq and .tk.

Domains in these five ccTLDs — mostly representing West African nations suffering under military dictatorships or civil war — were offered for free and monetized by the registry upon expiration or suspension.

But Freenom has not offered new regs in these TLD since the start of the year. Its web site blames technical problems, but it’s widely believed to be a result of the cyberquatting lawsuit filed by Facebook owner Meta in late 2022.

Mali and Gabon, of .ml and .ga, have since severed ties with Freenom. It turned out .ga had seven million domains in its zone, most of which presumably belonged to the registry.

OpenTLD has until October 11 to give ICANN evidence that it followed policy with the renewals or transfers of dozens of names domains or risk losing its accreditation.

Registrar linked to defunct social network terminated

ICANN has terminated a registrar for not paying its fees and other infractions.

ICANN Compliance, in a termination notice effective August 10, said that US-based, Indian-operated Nimzo 98 had failed to provide a Whois service and escrow its registration data.

These secondary breaches seem to be side effects of the fact that the company is no longer operating. It’s been ghosting Compliance since December, according to the notice.

Nimzo, as I blogged in May, seems to have been the in-house registrar of a short-lived social network project name Houm, which offered users a domain name as part of the service bundle.

It peaked at about 21,000 names before it abruptly deleted them all, last October, registry transaction reports show.

At the last count, this March, it had just 270 names under management. ICANN will trigger its De-Accredited Registrar Transition Procedure to move whatever remains today into safer hands.

Epik is off the ICANN naughty step

Epik is no longer in breach of its ICANN registrar accreditation agreement, but it remains to be seen whether its anonymous new owners can take over the contract, ICANN has said.

The registrar has paid its past-due fees, explained why it delayed its customers’ renewal requests and promised to put in place measures to ensure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again, ICANN Compliance chief Jamie Hedlund blogged.

This means Epik has dodged a contract suspension and gets to continue with business as usual, for now, albeit with many distrustful customers.

Hedlund wrote that ICANN is now reviewing Epik’s request to transfer its accreditation from Epik Inc to new entity Epik LLC, whose owners have yet to reveal their identities.

ICANN has to do due diligence on the buyer before approving the transfer, but Hedlund said this case is “complex” and is expected to take “several months”.

The LLC bought the old registrar for almost $5 million last month after a tortuous few months for customers claiming to be owed hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Some have speculated that the LLC is a front for Epik founder and former CEO Rob Monster, the person arguably most responsible for Epik’s woes over the last 12 months, but court documents published as part of a customer lawsuit include emails from Monster that suggest he was not involved.

New gTLD registry gets second ICANN breach notice

A new gTLD registry has become the second to receive a second ICANN breach notice from ICANN.

Asia Green IT System, based in Turkey, hasn’t been paying its fees on four of its TLDs, ICANN says in its notice, and isn’t displaying Whois data in the required format.

The gTLDs concerned are .nowruz (Iranian New Year), .pars (refers to Persia/Iran), .shia (a branch of Islam), and .همراه (.xn--mgbt3dhd, appears to mean something like “comrade” in Persian).

ICANN has given the company until July 5 to pay up or risk having its contracts terminated.

No domains would be at risk if that were to happen — none of the four TLDs has launched. Each has a single domain in its zone file, despite being in the root for several years.

Asia Green was hit with a similar notice in 2019, which it ultimately resolved.