If the Internet was the Death Star, then the weak point hackers might be trying to aim at would be the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN (though I’d like to think the non-profit organization that administers and coordinates all the world’s Internet domain names wouldn’t be on the dark side [althouuugh the company logo does kind of look like a Death Star…]). As it turns out, ICANN says it was hacked — though there will be no space explosions because of it.
Does anyone actually own the internet? That might be the existential crisis of our age. We know companies own and operate websites, that other companies own the software that let us look at those sites, and that still other companies own and operate the physical infrastructure that allows us access to those sites. And when we stop to think about it, we know that there are registrars and regulations and standards in place that make specific parts of web addresses — the bits after the dot — work around the world. But does anyone own those? According to the organization that manages the names and numbers that make the whole system tick, the answer is a resounding no.
Recently the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), who are the guys who decide all sorts of things about how website addresses work, approved the creation of a new .xxx domain. It’s intended for the adult entertainment industry, but brands have only until October 28th to act before fleshpot slingers start using addresses like mcdonalds.xxx and johndeere.xxx to steal traffic.
Instead of just the regular .com and org addresses, the guys who run the internet have voted to allow the creation of .AnythingYouWantHere domain names. Just about any word in the English language, or any brand name, will be allowed to be turned into a top-level domain name under the program known as ” gTLD” or “Generic Top Level Domain.”
Back in 2007, the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers rejected the idea of creating a .xxx suffix for porn web sites. Today, ICANN overturned their own decision and is now seriously considering adding the suffix to the list of existing ones like .com and .org.
So what does today’s vote from ICANN mean to the regular person? Well, if Network Solutions honors its promise, it means the next time you search for an available domain through Network Solutions, they won’t immediately snatch it up and force you to register it through them at an increased fee. In theory, it may also mean that a lot of domains that were held in eternal limbo by domain tasters and front runners may soon be available, although we can’t be sure of this until it actually happens. And on a more idealistic note, that Saturday Night Live commercial—the one where the bank has the domain name www.clownpenis.fart—is now in the realm of the possible. Hooray!
This Thursday, ICANN will vote on next fiscal year’s budget, and included in that is a provision to charge 20 cents per registration for domain names that are deleted during the grace period. There will still be a refundable grace period, but if the “level of deletions exceeds 10 percent of a registrar’s net new registrations in that month,” the fee kicks in—in effect, making front running uneconomical. Network Solutions is urging ICANN to approve it, and has said that it will stop pre-registering domains if the provision is approved.
Earlier this year we noted that Network Solutions is “front running” domain names—that is, automatically purchasing domain names that customers search for and holding them for four days before releasing them again. During that period, the only way customers can buy the domain names is through Network Solutions for 3 to 5 times more than what you can pay elsewhere. Now “search engine expert” Chris McElroy has filed suit against them, named ICANN as a defendant, and is seeking class action status.
Godaddy really tipped the dildo cart over on this one.
The Chinese — weary of America’s control and insistence on Roman characters for domain names — have decided to set-up their own competitor to ICANN for domain names.