Good News from ICANN

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2007-05-18 Print this article Print

Opinion: A deal to resolve the Registerfly crisis, attention to important technical problems and an appearance in the United States are on tap for ICANN.

There has been a lot of action on the ICANN site and blog in the last couple of days. First, it was announced that a deal has been struck with Registerfly that will make all domains, even those protected by their anonymous registration service, available to registrants. Click here for some background on the problems with troubled registrar Registerfly. I must say Im confused, because if this is possible then Registerfly really has been stalling, perhaps for negotiating reasons, which is truly appalling. I had assumed that the data was simply lost. More outrage to come as details follow.

Sometimes its important, for security reasons, to take a domain down quickly, but the rules make it difficult. Click here to read an analysis of the situation.

In the finest ICANN bureaucratese, they have announced that research and a report will be issued on the subject of domain tasting, the practice by which some registrants and registrars register domain names, test their popularity for up to 5 days and then release them back to availability for a refund of the registry fee. Independent research indicates that a very large number of domains go through this process, and some of the registrants and registrars involved have a history of shady practices.

Following out of the Registerfly debacle, ICANN has also requested proposals for Registrar Data Escrow Services. This means an official service for holding domain registration information, in parallel with the registrar and registry, including the private information for privately-registered domains which isnt available to the registry, in the event that a registrar fails or is uncooperative. Had such a service been in place ICANN wouldnt have had to say pretty please to Registerfly and could just have transferred the domain information to one or more other registrars.

Finally, for the first time in many years, ICANN will be holding a meeting in the United States of America, specifically in Los Angeles. Since the last one, in Marina Del Rey in 2001, ICANN has met in Ghana, Romania, China, the Netherlands, Brazil, Canada (no, that doesnt count), Tunisia, Italy, Malaysia, South Africa, Argentina, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Morocco, Portugal and next month in Puerto Rico, which is also the U.S., I suppose. They can feel good about themselves for establishing their internationalist credentials, but the fact is that a whole lot of the interest groups they serve are U.S.-based and it would be convenient to meet here now and then.

I do have to say that I like a lot of what I see from ICANN in the last couple of months, starting with when they finally went after Registerfly. I hope they take these domain tasting and data escrow issues seriously. Theyre both important to registrants and not toady issues for the domain registrar/registry guild or trademark holders, who have their own legitimate interests, but have had them served by ICANN to the exclusion of the interests of registrants.

Stopping domain tasting in particular would show some serious good faith. Verisign has it in their power, under their .COM registry agreement with ICANN, to stop domain tasting by imposing a restocking fee for abusers, with the standard for abuse left to them. That they have not done so indicates that they think tasting is in their interest. The only way it will ever stop is if ICANN stops it.

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers blog Cheap Hack More from Larry Seltzer
Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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