But Wait, It Gets
Worse!"> I dont think Im overstating things when I say that its a .jungle out there. The domain business is a lawless world where, unless youre a large company with a trademark being violated, the system is set up to the advantage of fast-moving speculators with no sense of respect for the rights of others. For instance, I still dont know how theyre doing it, but I continue to hear stories from readers about domain speculators snapping up domain names after Whois searches have been made on them. The only explanations that Ive heard proffered are that the Web forms that front-end the Whois searches have been compromised or their owners are corruptly transferring the data.For advice on how to secure your network and applications, as well as the latest security news, visit Ziff Davis Internets Security IT Hub. So, whos in charge here? Whos going to save us from the disarray in which the world of domains names finds itself? That would have to be ICANN, the authority at the top of the domain pyramid. Of course, ICANN is famously uninterested in protecting the rights of ordinary people. And now it has shown a renewed interest in making things worse. ICANNs proposed new contracts for the .org, .biz and .info registries set the same standard fixed pricing for domains as in the current contract ($6 for .org, $5.30 for .biz, and $5.75 for .info). But it also allows the registries to change prices unilaterally with six months notice to the registrars (not to registrants like you and I). Click here to read about the controversy over the .xxx domain. John Levines on-the-nose analysis of the contract changes notes numerous problems with the contracts and the naiveté of Vint Cerf and, presumably, the others at ICANN who wrote these contracts. How would you like to spend years establishing presence with an Internet domain, like New Yorks Metropolitan Transportation Authority has with mta.info, only to hear that your renewal fee has gone from several dollars to $100,000? Dont count on registrars to look out for the interests of registrants. Why should they tell you that a big price hike is in the offing? As Levine points out: "It is telling that the proposed agreements, which include a long list of required provisions in all registry-registrar contracts, could easily say that registrars must pass along word of a price change, but they dont." Also legal under these contracts is differential pricing on an arbitrary basis. As George Kirikos points out on Circle ID, if a registry wants to charge $1 million for sex.biz it can, irrespective of what it charges for other domains. Whenever I write on these matters I get e-mail from people in these businesses who argue that theres nothing wrong with everyone charging what the market will bear, but I dont think this is right in this case, with ICANN and registries doling out a limited resource. They should be looking at domains as a means to promote the businesses that own them, not to promote the business of domains. Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. He can be reached at email@example.com. 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 eWEEK.com Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog.
And just recently the rollout of the new .eu TLD was poisoned when careless monitoring by its operator allowed hundreds of phony registrars to harvest domain names for resale. It will take a while to clear up that mess, assuming someone in authority is interested in clearing it up.