Good News from ICANN

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.

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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.

/zimages/4/28571.gifSometimes 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.

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