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WSJ reporting bogus Indian domain name market info?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that India “passed an Internet milestone of sorts” in the first quarter, when the number of .com domains registered in the country broke through 1 million.
Did it?
This is what the WSJ says:

[India] now has more than one million registered web sites using the suffixes .com or .net, according to data released today by VeriSign Inc., the U.S. company that tracks this sort of thing.
In its Domain Name Industry Brief, it reported that India now has a registered total of 1.037 million .com and .net domain names, up from about 800,000 in the same period the year before.

The number 1.037 million is terribly specific, considering that VeriSign’s Domain Name Industry Brief doesn’t say anything of the sort.
There’s nothing in the DNIB to suggest that anybody in India has ever registered a single .com domain.
The DNIB has never broken down .com registrations by location, and the Q1 report, released on Monday, doesn’t use the word “India” once.
If the WSJ numbers are accurate – the paper does appear to have interviewed a VeriSign India executive – I’m wondering how they were calculated.
It can’t be a case of tallying the number of .com domains managed by Indian registrars. Mumbai-based Directi alone has had more than a million .com names under its belt for a long time.
Could VeriSign be mining Whois records for location data?
It runs a thin registry, so it would have to reference Whois data acquired from its registrars in order to compute the numbers.
Or did the WSJ hit on unreliable sources? It seems possible.

Domain name industry growth slowed by China crackdown

The massive slump in Chinese domain name registrations appears to have hit the overall domain name market significantly in the first quarter 2010, slowing its growth.
According to the latest VeriSign Domain Name Industry Brief, only one million net new domains were registered across all TLDs in the period, a paltry 0.6% increase.
There were about 193 million domains active at the end of March, up from 192 million at the start of the year.
A million might seem like a lot, until you consider that the market grew by 11 million domains in the fourth quarter and by three million in the first quarter of 2009.
The slump is certainly due to the rapid decline in .cn domains.
China’s ccTLD had about 13.4 million names at the end of last year, and only 8.8 million at the end of March. April’s numbers show the decline continued, with 8.5 million names registered.
The China drag has been caused by a combination of pricing and the Draconian new identification requirements the communist government placed on the registry, CNNIC.
Chinese registrants now have to present photo ID before they can register a domain.
VeriSign’s own .com/.net business did a decent trade in the quarter, up 7% compared to the same quarter last and 2.7% on December to 99.3 million names in total.
With registrations growing by 2.7 million per month, this means VeriSign already has more than 100 million names in its com/net database.

VeriSign announces bizarre ‘.com 25’ award winners

Kevin Murphy, May 26, 2010, Gossip

As part of its 25th anniversary of .com celebrations, VeriSign has today announced the 25 winners of its “.com 25” award.
The award was given to “the 25 people and/or companies whose inspiring contributions were fundamental in shaping the Internet and, thereby, our worlds”, VeriSign said.
The winners all seem to deserve the recognition, even if one of them, craigslist, is technically a .org.
But looking at the 75 nominees the judging panel had to choose from, I’m scratching my head on at least half a dozen of them.
What is Zappos? What does Pandora do? Why is Muhammad Yunus on the list? What on earth is TheKnot.com?
And where are Jon Postel and Paul Mockapetris, who between them basically created the domain name system in the first place?
It’s a little disappointing that the only European with a gong appears to be web inventor Tim Berners-Lee. It’s even more disappointing that I can’t think of any other deserving Europeans.
The full list of winners can be found here.

Will VeriSign change its name?

VeriSign’s $1.3 billion sale of its SSL business to Symantec yesterday means not only that the company will be almost entirely focussed on domain names, but also that it will no longer “sign” anything.
The word “VeriSign” will cease to describe what the company does, so will it change its name?
The idea could make sense, given that the services Symantec bought are all about trusting the VeriSign brand, and Symantec has acquired certain rights to use that brand.
Under the deal, Symantec is allowed to use the VeriSign name in authentication services such as the VeriSign Trust Seal. The company plans to incorporate “VeriSign” into a new Symantec trust logo.
VeriSign boss Mark McLaughlin said on a conference call yesterday that Symantec is buying certain VeriSign trademarks, such as Thawte and GeoTrust, but that VeriSign will stay VeriSign.
Symantec will be able to use the VeriSign brand in its logos for a “transition period of time over a number of years”, McLaughlin said.
On the one hand, there’s a potential for a certain degree of confusion that might persuade VeriSign to brand itself afresh. On the other, corporate rebranding is not cheap.
I suppose, if it does choose to rename itself, it had better hope that its first choice of .com is available.

VeriSign poised to sell SSL business to Symantec

Reliable news sources including the Wall Street Journal and Reuters are reporting that VeriSign is on the verge of offloading its market-leading SSL certificate business to Symantec for over $1 billion.
The sale would be the latest in a series of spin-offs that started in 2007, highlighting the company’s renewed focus on domain names.
VeriSign spent many years acquiring a bunch of companies in tenuously related markets – deals that never really made any sense to me – and the last few years selling them off again.
But SSL is not really in the same category as VeriSign’s bizarre forays into, for example, the Crazy Frog ringtone company. It’s the business the company was founded on when it was spun out of RSA Security 15 years ago.
It’s called VeriSign for a reason.
But offloading the SSL business would make sense. One of the reasons VeriSign bought Network Solutions ten years ago was the obvious retail synergies between domain names and SSL certificates – customers could buy both at the same time.
That synergy was diluted when VeriSign spun the NSI registrar business out as a separate company three years later, creating the vertically separated domain name market we know today.
Symantec, with its fingers in the enterprise and home/small business pies, might be able to make a better crack at the SSL game.
So is this bad news for SSL’s current silver medal holder, Go Daddy?
Possibly. Symantec is a force to be reckoned with – only marketing prowess could explain why so many people use Norton.
Of course, these news stories could be nonsense.
But my guts say they’re probably based on the same kind of leaks that companies often float to the press, to see what the markets do, when they’re in the final stages of negotiations.

Root DNSSEC push delayed two weeks

Kevin Murphy, May 18, 2010, Domain Tech

The final rollout of DNSSEC to the internet’s root servers, a major security upgrade for the domain name system, has been pushed back two weeks to July 15.
ICANN’s DNS director Joe Abley said in an update on root-dnssec.org and in email to the dns-ops mailing list:

The schedule change is intended to allow ICANN and VeriSign an additional two weeks for further analysis of the DURZ rollout, to finalise testing and best ensure the secure, stable and resilient implementation of the root DNSSEC production processes and systems.

The Deliberately-Unvalidatable Root Zone is a way for the root operators to test how normal DNS resolution copes with fatter DNSSEC responses coming from the root, before worrying about issues concerning DNSSEC validation itself.
The DURZ has been cautiously rolled out over the last few months and has been operational across all 13 root servers since May 5.
The original plan called for the roots to become validatable following a key signing ceremony on July 1
The schedule change from ICANN also comes with a notice that the US government will be asking for public comment before the decision is made to properly sign the root.

Prior to 2010-07-15 the U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC) will issue a public notice announcing the publication of the joint ICANN-VeriSign testing and evaluation report as well as the intent to proceed with the final stage of DNSSEC deployment. As part of this notice the DoC will include a public review and comment period prior to taking any action.

I may be just a little forgetful, but I can’t remember hearing about this Commerce involvement before.
Still, DNSSEC is a big change, so there’s nothing wrong with more of the softly-softly approach.

Second-tier TLDs gain aftermarket traction

Kevin Murphy, May 4, 2010, Domain Sales

The average aftermarket selling price of domain names in second-tier TLDs is creeping up, according to the latest numbers from Sedo.
Sedo’s latest quarterly sales review shows that namespaces such as .biz, .info and .org are selling for far better money than they were a year ago.
In fact, the median selling price of .biz, .org, and .net domains is now higher than that of .com.
The price of .biz names, which only accounted for 1% of overall sales, has almost doubled in the last four quarters, up 97% at $537.
The .info namespace fared almost as well, recording a median price of $418, up 91% on the $219 recorded in the second quarter of 2009.
The long-established .org has also appreciated over the last 12 months. Its median price rose 45% to $550.
While there’s no doubt that .com is still where the high-end money is, the median price for a .com was only $510, a 24% increase over the same period.
Sedo has started reporting median prices because big one-off sales can have an impact on the mean averages it also reports.
Its full Q1 Domain Market Study report can be downloaded here.

Remember CFIT? Buy its domain for $250

Kevin Murphy, April 29, 2010, Domain Sales

Remember CFIT? The Coalition For ICANN Transparency is an ironically opaque organization created and backed by Momentous.ca, owner of Pool.com.
It emerged in 2005 to sue ICANN and VeriSign on antitrust grounds, around the same time as they were negotiating .com price increases.
I’d almost forgotten CFIT existed, until CEO Mark McLaughlin mentioned it on VeriSign’s Q1 earnings conference call last night.
The antitrust lawsuit is still pending, after CFIT won an appeal last June. Tenacious organization indeed.
Its domain name did not have the same longevity, however.
CFIT.info now belongs to a domainer, who appears to have picked it up last December. I offered him twenty bucks for it today and he countered with a $250 offer, which is a bit rich for me.
Whatever PageRank it accrued from all its press coverage appears to have dried up, and its parking page is not especially inspiring.
Any takers?

Hostway wants non-existent domain patent

Kevin Murphy, April 29, 2010, Domain Tech

Hostway, the large web hosting company, has applied for a US patent on a system of intercepting and redirecting requests for non-existent domains names.
The application describes “A system and method for controlling internet traffic controls internet traffic directed to a non-existing domain in a centralized manner.”
It appears to cover a service that could be offered to local ISPs, enabling them to show their users monetized search pages rather than domain-not-found error messages.
Under the system, ISPs would intercept NXDOMAIN responses to their users’ DNS lookups.
Instead of passing the error on to the browser, the ISP would consult a centralized controller for the IP address of a context-appropriate landing page to redirect the user to.
It’s not at all clear to me whether Hostway is using the technology or has plans to do so. The application was filed in October 2008.
ISPs using NXDOMAIN substitution to monetize error traffic is widespread but controversial.
ICANN president Rod Beckstrom strongly complained about the practice, which also has security implications, during a rant at the Nairobi meeting last month.
VeriSign’s Site Finder, and later Cameroon’s .cm, both controversially did similar things when they “wildcarded” non-existent domains at the TLD registry level.
Other interesting US patent applications published today include:
20100106650 – covering Go Daddy’s auction services.
20100106793 and 20100106794 – covering email forwarding under Go Daddy’s private registration services.
20100106731 – assigned to VeriSign, covering a method of offering alternative domain names for registration when a buyer’s first choice is unavailable.

AusRegistry scores Japanese .brand deal

Kevin Murphy, April 28, 2010, Domain Registries

AusRegistry, the .au registry, has inked a deal with Brights Consulting, a company offering .brand domain services to the Japanese corporate market.
The company said the deal will mean AusRegistry will provide the technical back-end for any successful new gTLD applications that Brights manages to secure.
Other companies competing for new gTLD business include old hands VeriSign, Neustar and Afilias, as well as hungry newcomers such as Minds + Machines.
AusRegistry currently manages Australia’s .au, .qa for Qatar and .ae for the United Arab Emirates.
Brights is a corporate, rather than retail, ICANN registrar. I may be wrong, but it looks like the company counts Sony among its clients.
Could there be a .sony on the horizon?