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Liberties group appeals NIXI’s “two domains rule” brush-off

Kevin Murphy, February 15, 2022, Domain Registries

The Internet Freedom Foundations, an Indian online rights group, says it is continuing to try to find out why local registry NIXI has implemented a highly weird “two domains” rule.

The rule, which appeared in late December, requires registrars to ask the personal permission of NIXI’s CEO if a registrant wants to register more than two .in domains.

As NIXI acts under the authority of the Indian government, IFF filed a request last month under the country’s Right To Information Act, asking under what authority the rule was imposed and how NIXI reached its decision to impose it.

The terse reply (pdf) simply refers the reader to a clause of the registry-registrar agreement stating that NIXI can roll out new rules at will.

Its February 10 response adds: “Above decision is taken with respect to National Security.”

That’s exactly what NIXI CEO Anil Kumar Jain told DI a month earlier.

Because three or four of IFF’s questions went unanswered, the group says it has appealed the response and requested more transparency.

“Repeating ‘national security’ as a mantra to defeat transparency, even when not probably emerging from the topic of policy formation, is a growing tendency in decision making,” IFF said.

“National security” cited as registry says you have to ask its CEO if you want to register more than TWO domains

Kevin Murphy, January 10, 2022, Domain Registries

India, a country with some 2.2 million ccTLD domains, has implemented perhaps the strangest and most Draconian restrictions on bulk registration of modern times.

The local registry, NIXI, informed its registrars all over the world in late December that they will have to seek formal written permission directly from the CEO if a customer wishes to register more than two .in domains.

Registrars breaking the rules face losing their accreditation, NIXI said.

A terse notice (pdf) published on the registry’s web site, signed by CEO Anil Kumar Jain, reads:

It is decided that a written approval of CEO, NIXI is required if an individual Registrant submit a request for registering more than two domains.

In case a registered accredited company try to book domains more than 100 than also a written approval of CEO, NIXI is required.

In case any Registrar is booking domains violating the above norms NIXI has right to disallow/disconnect the domains booking under that category. A process may be initiated for de-accreditation of such Registrar.

Approval will be given within 24 hours of a request, regardless of weekends or holidays, the notice reads.

Asked for clarification, Jain told DI in an email that the “new procedure is drawn after reviewing national security concerns” and that “NIXI registry is not stopping any domain registration.”

“An individual can book up to 2 domains and a company can book up to 100 domains without permissions,” he wrote. “Permission sought is given within 24 hrs.”

The new rule has registrars scratching their heads, with one describing it as “crazy”, “very vague” and very difficult to enforce.

NIXI uses GoDaddy Registry as its back-end, but GoDaddy does not appear to be playing a role in the implementation of the new policy. A spokesperson said in a statement:

At this time, the responsibilities are on the registrars and it’s a discussion between NIXI and them. As the back-end provider, we work closely with .in on any changes they would like to make at the registry level.

As Net4 goes dark, NIXI says customers won’t lose their expired domains

Kevin Murphy, March 29, 2021, Domain Registrars

Indian ccTLD registry NIXI has thrown a life vest to the owners of some 73,000 .in domain names, giving them a way to transfer out of slowly sinking registrar Net 4 India.

NIXI also said that it will not cancel expired domains that registrants have been unable to renew due to Net4’s ongoing problems.

“NIXI has decided not to discontinue the .IN Services for those .IN domain end users whose renewal is due,” the company said in a statement (pdf).

It sounds rather like registrants will be able to renew directly with the registry. They’ll also be able to transfer to a new registrar by emailing NIXI from the address in the Whois or mailing proof of company identity.

Why NIXI has chosen to act now, when Net4’s troubles have been known for almost year, is not clear.

“In the recent days, NIXI was informed that Net 4 India, who is one of the registrars of NIXI for Country code domain “.IN” has some issues in maintaining domains,” its statement says.

Net4’s web site isn’t resolving right now, at least for me, which probably has something to do with it.

The company has been in insolvency proceedings since 2017, a fact ICANN discovered when it started missing payments two years ago, but it was not until mid-2020 that Net4’s customers started complaining en masse about problems renewing and transferring their domains.

ICANN has processed thousands of complaints since then.

The registrar was told last month that ICANN was terminating its accreditation to sell gTLDs. Registrants of names in .com for example should be pretty safe, with their names automatically transferred to a new registrar, should ICANN follow through on its threat.

The termination was challenged in the insolvency court shortly before it would have become effective two weeks ago.

While ICANN does not believe it is subject to the court’s jurisdiction, it has decided to wait for an official ruling on the matter.

Free domains for .in registrants

Kevin Murphy, January 8, 2021, Domain Registries

Registrants of new .in domain names will be offered a free domain in a non-Latin script, the Indian government announced today.

The National Internet Exchange of India said it will offer one free internationalized domain name, along with a free email account in the same script, when they register a .in name before the end of the month.

India has over 100 spoken languages, and NIXI runs 15 IDNs ccTLDs that it says cover the 22 official Indian languages, such as Hindi, Bengali and Gujarati, by far the most IDNs of any nation.

The offer is also available to existing .in registrants who renew their names during January.

The deal is designed to “to stimulate the adoption of भारत (IDN) domain name and proliferation of local language content”, NIXI said.

In 2017, India issued five million Hindi email addresses to government workers.

GoDaddy, PorkBun and Endurance win domain “blocking” court fight

Kevin Murphy, June 17, 2020, Domain Policy

Three large registrar groups last week emerged mostly victorious from a court battle in which a $5.4 billion-a-year consumer goods giant sought to get domains being used in huge scam operations permanently blocked.

Hindustan Unilever, known as HUL, named Endurance, GoDaddy and PorkBun in a lawsuit against unknown scammers who were using cybersquatted domains to rip off Indians who thought they were signing up to become official distributors.

The .in ccTLD registry, NIXI, was also named in the suit. All of the domains in question were .in names.

Among other things, HUL wanted the registrars to “suspend and ensure the continued suspension of and block access to” the fraudulent domains in question, but the judge had a problem with this.

He’d had the domain name lifecycle explained to him and he decided in a June 12 order (pdf) that it was not technically possible for a registrar to permanently suspend a domain, taking into account that the registration will one day expire.

He also defined “block access to” rather narrowly to mean the way ISPs block access to sites at the network level, once again letting the registrar off the hook.

Judge GS Patel of the Bombay High Court wrote:

Any domain name Registrar can always suspend a domain that is registered. But the entire process of registration itself is entirely automated and machine-driven. No domain name registrar can put any domain names on a black list or a block list.

Where he seems to have messed up is by ignoring the role of the registry, where it’s perfectly possible for a domain name to be permanently blocked.

NIXI may not have its hands directly on the technology, but .in’s EPP registry is run by back-end Neustar (now owned by GoDaddy but not directly named in the suit), which like all gTLD registries already has many thousands of names permanently reserved under ICANN’s direction.

Patel also seems to assume that NIXI doesn’t get paid for the domain names its registrar sells. He wrote:

The relief against Defendants Nos. 14 and 15, the dot-IN registry and NIEI [NIXI] at least to the extent of asking that they be ordered to de-register or block access is misdirected. Neither of these is a registrar. Neither of these receives registration consideration. Neither of these registers any domain name. The reliefs against them cannot therefore be granted.

NIXI actually charges INR 350 ($4.60) per second-level .in name per year, of which a reported $0.70 goes to Neustar.

The judge also ruled that the registrars have to hand over contact information for each of the cybersquatters.

He also ordered several banks, apparently used by the scammers, to hand over information in the hope of bringing the culprits to justice.

Neustar completes .in migration

The transfer of India’s suite of ccTLDs from Afilias to Neustar is done.
NIXI, the .in registry, announced today: “The transition of .IN to its new Neustar-backed Registry platform is now complete.”
With 2.2 million names, not counting names in NIXI’s plethora of localized transliterations, .in is the third-largest TLD migration, behind the 3.1 million .au names that made the reverse journey from Neustar to Afilias last year and the 2.7 million .org names that went from Verisign to Afilias in 2003.
The .in migration started yesterday. NIXI had expected up to 48 hours downtime at the registry EPP level, with obviously no DNS downtime.
The name servers for .in and its IDN equivalents currently all simultaneously include Afilias-owned and Neustar-owned servers.
An Afilias lawsuit against the Indian government, which claimed Neustar lacked experience with Indian scripts and attempted to block the transition, appears to have been dropped last week.
Neustar is reportedly charging NIXI $0.70 per transaction, $0.40 less than Afilias had bid to renew its contract. It won the contract after an open bidding process last August.

Despite Afilias lawsuit, Neustar names date for Indian takeaway

Kevin Murphy, February 7, 2019, Domain Registries

Neustar has named the date for the transition of the .in registry away from incumbent Afilias..
It’s due to happen February 28, according to a new web site the company has set up to publicize the handover.
The registry will be down for up to 48 hours, starting from 1830 UTC, February 17, as a result.
There will be no new adds, and registrants won’t be able to update their domains, during the downtime. DNS will not be affected, so domains should still resolve.
Neustar won the back-end contract from .in manager NIXI last year, out from under Afilias, after reportedly undercutting Afilias’ $1.10 per-domain-per-year bid with a $0.70 bid of its own.
Given the 2.2 million domains in .in, that makes the contract worth about $7.7 million over its five-year duration.
The transition appears to be going ahead despite a lawsuit filed by Afilias against the Indian government last August, which sought to block the deal.
According to Neustar, the contract was awarded, regardless, last September.
But the lawsuit seems to be still active, judging by the latest filings published on the Delhi High Court web site, which show no judgement has yet been filed.

Afilias sues India to block $12 million Neustar back-end deal

Kevin Murphy, August 27, 2018, Domain Registries

Afilias has sued the Indian government to prevent it awarding the .in ccTLD back-end registry contract to fierce rival Neustar.
The news emerged in local reports over the weekend and appears to be corroborated by published court documents.
According to Moneycontrol, the National Internet Exchange of India plans to award the technical service provider contract to Neustar, after over a decade under Afilias, but Afilias wants the deal blocked.
The contract would also include some 15 current internationalized domain name ccTLDs, with another seven on the way, in addition to .in.
That’s something Afilias reckons Neustar is not technically capable of, according to reports.
Afilias’ lawsuit reportedly alleges that Neustar “has no experience or technical capability to manage and support IDNs in Indian languages and scripts and neither does it claim to have prior experience in Indian languages”.
Neustar runs plenty of IDN TLDs for its dot-brand customers, but none of them appear to be in Indian scripts.
NIXI’s February request for proposals (pdf) contains the requirement: “Support of IDN TLDs in all twenty two scheduled Indian languages and Indian scripts”.
I suppose it’s debatable what this means. Actual, hands-on, operational experience running Indian-script TLDs at scale would be a hell of a requirement to put in an RFP, essentially locking Afilias into the contract for years to come.
Only Verisign and Public Interest Registry currently run delegated gTLDs that use officially recognized Indian scripts, according to my database. And those TLDs — such as Verisign’s .कॉम (the Devanagari .com) — are basically unused.
Neither Neustar nor Afilias have responded to DI’s requests for comment today.
.in has over 2.2 million domains under management, according to NIXI.
Neustar’s Indian subsidiary undercut its rival with a $0.70 per-domain-year offer, $0.40 cheaper than Afilias’ $1.10, according to Moneycontrol.
That would make the deal worth north of $12 million over five years for Afilias and over $7.7 million for Neustar.
One can’t help but be reminded of the two companies’ battle over Australia’s .au, which Afilias sneaked out from under long-time incumbent Neustar late last year.
That handover, the largest in DNS history, was completed relatively smoothly a couple months ago.

Five million Indian government workers to get IDN email

Kevin Murphy, August 30, 2017, Domain Registries

The Indian government has announced plans to issue fully Hindi-script email addresses to some five million civil servants.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology announced the move, which will see each government employee given an @सरकार.भारत email address, in a statement this week.
सरकार.भारत transliterates as “sarkar.bharat”, or “government.india”.
The first stage of the roll-out will see the five million employees given @gov.in addresses, which apparently most of them do not already have.
Expanding the use of local scripts seems to be a secondary motivator to the government’s desire to bring control of government employee email back within its borders in a centralized fashion.
“The primary trigger behind the policy was Government data which resides on servers outside India and on servers beyond the control of the Government of India,” the MEITY press release states.
India currently has the largest number of internationalized domain names, at the top level, of any country.
NIXI, the local ccTLD manager, is in control of no fewer than 16 different ccTLDs in various scripts, with ample room for possible expansion in future.
The registry has been offering free IDN domains alongside .in registrations for about a year, according to local reports.
There are about two million .in domains registered today, according to the NIXI web site.

India to have SIXTEEN ccTLDs

While most countries are content to operate using a single ccTLD, India is to up its count to an unprecedented 16.
It already has eight, but ICANN’s board of directors at the weekend approved the delegation of an additional eight.
The new ccTLDs, which have yet to hit the root, are .ಭಾರತ, .ഭാരതം, .ভাৰত, .ଭାରତ, .بارت, .भारतम्, .भारोत, and .ڀارت.
If Google Translate and Wikipedia can be trusted, these words all mean “India” in, respectively, Kannada, Malayalam, Bengali, Odia, Arabic, Nepali, Hindi and Sindhi.
They were all approved under ICANN’s IDN ccTLD Fast Track program and will not operate under ICANN contract.
India already has seven internationalized domain name versions of its ccTLD in seven other scripts, along with its vanilla ASCII .in.
National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) will be ccTLD manager for the whole lot.
India may have as many as 122 languages, according to Wikipedia, with 30 spoken by more than a million people.