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ICANN Terminates AlpNames

Michele Neylon

AlpNames has been sent a notice of termination by ICANN. Unlike many termination notices that specify a future date, the one they were sent has an immediate effect.

As reported in multiple fora over the last few days AlpNames had gone offline, and at time of writing still is. They've also become unresponsive. It's on the basis of this that ICANN decided to terminate their contract straight away.

What this means is that AlpNames has lost their "license" to sell domains from ICANN. The existing domains will have to be moved to another registrar, though it's unclear who will take over the domain portfolio. The registrar's back-office operations are with LogicBoxes, so it's fairly safe to assume that the data has been escrowed and will be available to the new registrar.

So what happened?

The Gibraltar based registrar was sent multiple notices by ICANN since the beginning of March but did not respond. Also, they owe ICANN fees.

As a registrar, their track record with abuse was far from stellar. Spamhaus has been listing them as one of the worst registrars for DNS abuse on the planet for a long time. ICANN's report on "competition, consumer trust and consumer choice" calls out AlpNames:

Alpnames Ltd., based in Gibraltar, was associated with a high volume of abuse from the .science and .top domain names. The Study notes that this registrar used price promotions that offered domain name registrations for USD $1 or sometimes even free. Moreover, Alpnames permitted registrants to randomly generate and register 2,000 domain names in 27 new gTLDs in a single registration process. Registering domain names in bulk using domain generation algorithms are commonly associated with cybercrime. However, there is currently no contractual prohibition or safeguard against the bulk registration of domains.

Historically AlpNames was linked to Famous Four Media, which changed ownership in the last few months.

AlpNames has about 700 thousand names in new gTLDs. I'm not sure how big they were in legacy gTLDs or if there were any ccTLD domains under management.

By Michele Neylon, MD of Blacknight Solutions
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Share your comments

Can't wait to see John Levine  –  Mar 18, 2019 7:37 AM PDT

who takes over their name portfolio. Who'd want it?

JohnI suspect it's going to be a Michele Neylon  –  Mar 18, 2019 8:53 AM PDT

John
I suspect it's going to be a challenge to find a registrar who will be interested in taking them on. There's a lot of work in taking over domains based solely on the escrow data and I'd wonder how many of them are legit etc.,
Speaking on behalf of my own company I know we have zero interest in it.
Michele

Indeed. I remember the time with EstDomains. Derek  –  Mar 18, 2019 11:18 AM PDT

Indeed. I remember the time with EstDomains. It was a nightmare separating the the ham from the spam (pun intended), also other nastiness, with the gaining registrar reaching out to the anti-abuse community in the cleanup. Any gaining registrar now has three times as big a problem and will need a very jacked support team.

What happens next ? Phil Buckingham  –  Mar 18, 2019 4:58 PM PDT

Michele,

I assume that AlpNames Ltd will be placed (is)in liquidation or a receiver has been appointed. Does that mean another registrar should approach the liquidator to acquire/pay for the "good" names. Then the liquidator/receiver might be able to at least pay back some creditors ( including ICANN) OR does ICANN appoint/trigger an EBERO in the event that other registrars don't want to take on a massive headache of sorting out an abuse fuelled failed registrar. What of the registrants rights ?

PhilAs John pointed out ICANN will use Michele Neylon  –  Mar 18, 2019 8:16 PM PDT

Phil

As John pointed out ICANN will use its process for moving the domains to another registrar. But it's always more challenging to find someone to take on the names when the failed registrar has a less than stellar track record with abuse etc.,
In the past ICANN has tried to pursue overdue fees from failed registrars, though I'm not sure how much success they've had.
Michele

Where did they go? John Levine  –  Mar 18, 2019 7:04 PM PDT

As far as I can tell, Alpnames just disappeared, no bankruptcy, no receiver, no nothing, and it doesn't help that Gibraltar's company records are opaque. EBERO is for registries, and this is a registrar.
See this for what does happen: https://www.icann.org/en/system/files/files/dartp-11jul13-en.pdf
ICANN picks a new registrar that gets the dead registrar's portfolio. In the past I think there has always been someone willing to take the names, but if there isn't this time, ICANN has a bunch of not very appealing options, including paying someone to take them, running the registrar itself, or winding it down, telling registrants they can't renew unless they transfer out first. I'd guess the last of these is most likely.

JohnThe general way this pans out in Michele Neylon  –  Mar 18, 2019 8:20 PM PDT

John
The general way this pans out in terms of options is:
1 - Find a registrar to take the names at zero fee
2 - Pay a registrar to take them (I'm not sure if this has ever happened)
I don't think ICANN has the ability to run the registrar itself. Apart from anything else I'm not sure how they'd get access to anything beyond the escrowed data.
As for registrants needing to transfer out before renewal, that also isn't going to be easy as there'd be no sane way for them to access EPP codes etc.,
The registrar in question was using a 3rd party backend service which apparently is still accessible directly, though whether it will be for much longer is anyone's guess
Michele

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