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2013 Domain Name Year in Review

Elisa Cooper

Well folks, it's that time of year again. It's time for our countdown of the top 10 biggest domain stories for 2013. And while my predictions from last year were accurate, in that we did see a record number of registry and registrar breaches, I had no idea that this year's biggest story would even appear on the list. So with that said, let's get started.

#10 – Registry Security Vulnerabilities Exposed

With 23 registry security breaches in this last year, the number of incidents reached an all-time high. Popular ccTLD registries such as .CN (China), .BE (Belgium) and .MY (Malaysia) were all impacted by issues arising from DDoS, Social Engineering and Brute Force attacks.

#9 – Overall Domain Market Growth Continues

According to Verisign's Domain Name Industry Brief, the third quarter of this year ended with 265 million domain names registered worldwide, representing an increase of 8% YOY. In particular, ccTLDs saw growth rates of 14% YOY.

#8 – DNSSEC Adoption Still Low

DNSSEC protects against Pharming by ensuring that caching servers are accurate and complete. Despite the fact that it is now widely available, recent reports show that less than 1% of US industry and 5% of US universities have deployed it.

#7 – Improvements to ICANN Compliance Apparent

As a result of additional resources and greater accountability within the organization, ICANN Compliance appears to be improving. In this last year, they found a top 10 registrar in violation of their Registrar Accreditation Agreement, identifying a number of issues including failure to maintain registration data.

#6 – Feds Continue to Pursue Seizures

According to a White House report in 2013, more than 1,700 domains have been seized over last 3 years, including domains that "illegally streamed sporting events; hawked counterfeit drugs, clothes and accessories like handbags; and unlawfully allowed the downloading of copyrighted movies and music."

#5 – Secondary Market Mixed

A number of domains sold for seven-figures this year and on the whole high-end purchases on the secondary market remained strong. While there was less interest in infringing domains this year, the domainer-to-domainer market appeared to have stabilized.

#4 – Future of Whois Uncertain

With the release of a report from ICANN's Expert Working Group on Directory Services, the future of Whois as we know it today remains somewhat uncertain. The group has made initial recommendations for a consolidated repository of ownership records with gated access for most, and unfettered access for brand owners and law enforcement.

#3 – Registrars Succumb to Outages and Hacks

This past year a number of high-profile registrars suffered outages and hacks which could have been avoided had the names been locked at the registry. In one case, a top retail registrar inadvertently updated nameservers resulting in website downtime for registrants. In another case, where well-known brands were impacted, a corporate registrar fell victim to a social engineering attack when domains were redirected to a politically motivated website.

#2 – New gTLDs Finally Launch

After numerous delays and years of waiting, the first new gTLDs are finally upon us. Brand owners are now faced with difficult decisions to determine what and where to register, block and police. As I mentioned in an earlier post this year, "the planned approaches are ranging from very minimal registration and blocking strategies for one or two core brands, all the way through to registrations of multiple brands in every single new gTLD registry."

#1 – ICANN to Focus on Internet Governance

Perhaps the perfect storm of Snowden revelations, pressure from world governments, and the desire for greater globalization led to the Montevideo Statement where ICANN along with the other technical Internet organizations identified the need for an ongoing effort to address Internet Governance challenges. Regardless of how of how it happened, here we are with the newly formed 1Net initiative which many believe was designed to be mechanism for ICANN to participate in Internet Governance. How things play out over the next year is anyone's guess.

So what will the coming year bring? I expect that as new gTLDs continue to launch, we will have a much more accurate measure of what it means to be a successful registry. I also expect to see a number of dotBrand registries launching and utilizing their TLDs in limited ways, with a few making major investments in their newly acquired registries.

I think that number of registrar and registry security breaches is likely to stay at the same levels, with a possible decrease as many are making concerted efforts to improve.

Whatever the case may be, after 12 years, I know now that with the domain industry — you should always expect the unexpected.

By Elisa Cooper, Director of Product Marketing at MarkMonitor. Elisa Cooper also contributes to the MarkMonitor weblog located here.

Related topics: Domain Names, Registry Services, ICANN, Internet Governance, Policy & Regulation, Top-Level Domains

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