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IE Namespace: We Need Personal Domains!

Michele Neylon

In my day job I run one of the largest registrars / resellers of IE domains (the IE ccTLD is the domain name for Ireland). In the course of doing that I have spent quite a lot of time becoming accustomed to the rules and regulations that govern both the naming and general registration criteria of IE domains.

In some cases I can understand why rules are the way they are, whereas in others I am completely baffled.

I've written about matters affecting the various stakeholders in the IE namespace on several occassions in the past, but I don't feel that I have really tackled the personal domain issue in quite some time.

Over a year ago I wrote a short "howto" on registering IE domains as an individual. While that article was not exhaustive it did attempt to cover some of the more salient points.

Several months previously I had broached the subject of the personal IE domains.

At the time I was focussed more on a separate 2nd level domain for this purpose, similar to the way New Zealand has geek.nz or the UK has me.uk.

When I revisit the topic 18 months later my views have changed a small bit, but not that much.

I still think that there should be a couple of second level domains available within the IE namespace.

Why?

Well, to put it simply, if there were a couple of separate "spaces" then the perception of "privilege" could be diluted without damaging the namespace's main root.

If we work on the premise that a managed registry has several advantages for stakeholders (namely IE registrants and those of us involved in the industry) then being able to cater for the growing demand for personal, or vanity, domain names could be catered for without there being any conflict.

The concept of the managed registry becomes increasingly important when you take into consideration the upsurge in online fraud and phishing which has become a serious headache over the last couple of years.  By validating each and every application for a .ie domain, be that at the registrar/reseller level or within the registry itself stakeholders and the public at large can be afforded a higher level of security. Putting it more colloquially, an e-commerce site that trades using a .ie should be able to give you the "warm fuzzies", as you, the consumer, will have some assurances that the domain belongs to a real person or business. With .com it is possible to register thousands of domains while providing completely bogus registrant information.

While the IEDR whois output can be problematic at times (it causes confusion for novices) they have made several improvements over the last couple of years, including the addition of a domain status field, which can show you at a glance whether a domain is "active" or "suspended". The "locked" status is a messy one, and is beyond the scope of this piece.

Under the current rules only a select group of people may register their own name. If you are a published author, politician, public figure or sole trader (trading as yourself) you may be able to register yourfullname.ie

However, if you are "Joe Public" or, as is increasingly the case, "Joe Blogger", you cannot normally register your name unless you play with the rules.
Once people start playing with the rules a domain name space may run into issues and its perceived value could be reduced significantly in the eyes of both the general public and stakeholders (there's enough material on that kind of carry on for several articles!).

If, on the other hand, a special space, such as me.ie were created with much looser rules it could help solve a lot of issues.

When I last mentioned the subject I had a shortlist of pre-requisites that I felt needed to be addressed for a move of this kind to be viable:

  • Automation
  • Separation
  • Price

Let's look at each one in turn:

Automation

In the latter half of 2006 the IEDR technical team led by Billy Glynn and working hand in hand with the staff of resellers implemented an API.
It is now possible to send registration requests directly to the IEDR using an approved API.
As the larger resellers adopt the new API they should see a reduction in their manual workload in processing IE registration requests in general.
It also means that if you have done your coding in a sane and functional manner extending your implementation of the API to include a new second level domain would not involve excessive development time or costs.

Separation

By keeping the personal space (or any others that are created) separate from the top level it should be relatively easy to build up a public perception of the overall namespace's value and relevance. Afnic, for example, went to great lengths to encourage the wider adoption of .fr domains by private citizens last year. While their experience was not without its hiccups they managed to increase overall registration figures dramatically and with it the public's interest in the domain. (We are AFNIC members)

Price

While I don't like "race to the bottom" style pricing automated registrations would mean little or no manual intervention, so the costs to both the registry and the reseller/registrar should be minimal. If that was the case then the saving should be passed on directly to the public without any pre-conditions. This strategy would also allow companies that like to target a "premium" market to maintain their higher prices for the "higher value" product, namely the .ie at root level.

It is my opinion that the combination of these three elements could lead to a veritable explosion of IE registrations if handled correctly.

I may, of course, be completely mistaken, but I'd love to see the IEDR "give it a go", as I for one would give it my full support.

By Michele Neylon, MD of Blacknight Solutions. More blog posts from Michele Neylon can also be read here.

Related topics: DNS, Domain Names, Policy & Regulation, Security, Spam, Top-Level Domains, Whois

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Comments

Re: IE Namespace: We Need Personal Domains! Jothan Frakes  –  Jan 26, 2007 8:31 AM PST

Michele-

It sounds like it must be very frustrating to be a registrar in the .IE name space, if the expectation is a programmatic-compatible TLD.

Many of the ccTLD operators are more focused on quality of service versus quantity of registrations served.  This might hopefully be the case here.

The sliver lining to their approach may be that IEDR's "Organic" rule set is preserving the integrity of the .IE name space.  I'd suspect, at least, that this would be the justification for it's existence (or to justify a couple people's jobs).

I've certainly seen my share of ccTLDs that have really made amazing technical advances in the past decade with regard to both the registration and resolution side of registry operation. 

Streamlining into an automation-friendly set of business rules and leveraging the registrar channel are great ways to grow both the adoption and popularity of a given ccTLD.

Many of the ccTLD operators opt to leverage market availability while preserving their quality experience for the registrants.  There are quite a few ccTLDs (and GTLDs for that matter) that have opted to work with larger registry providers like Afilias, AUDA, Centralnic, COCCA, CORE, DENIC, ICB, Neustar or VeriSign.

CIRA, CNNIC, DENIC, JPRs and Nominet (and there are more, sorry for not mentioning) are some great examples of ccTLD registries that have directly operated their NICs and preserved integrity and values as part of big growth, so there are some real world examples of where it is possible.

That said, there are ccTLDs out there where you need to fax a registration to the NIC and wait 45 days or more before registrations (or even acknowledgment of receipt of the fax).  Jokingly, I've heard some people reference that you have to knock coconuts together in morse code to register or show up with a 'silver suitcase' in some smaller ccTLDs that are absent any automation.

So, how bad is it really?

Re: IE Namespace: We Need Personal Domains! Simon Waters  –  Jan 26, 2007 10:48 AM PST

Can you quote the current prices of .IE domain registration, as I'm sure some readers won't know. Last we looked it was unusually expensive.

Re: IE Namespace: We Need Personal Domains! Michele Neylon  –  Jan 26, 2007 10:53 AM PST

Jothan

Compared to some of the ccTLDs I've had to deal with over the last couple of years the IEDR is not the worst by a long shot :)

They have given us access to an API to submit applications in close to realtime, though each application request is still manually checked and verified.

The problem, as you point out, is getting the balance right between volumes and integrity.

In some respects the IEDR still suffers from legacy issues, where people are convinced that getting a .ie domain is more difficult than it actually is.

The problem with the "personal" or "vanity" domains, however, is growing, as more and more bloggers get tired of their $username.blogspot.com type URLs and want to get a domain that is both personal and reflects their regional identity. AFNIC, for example, took a very radical approach to this, while still maintaining a high level of integrity (the number of suspensions from suspect registrars being a good indication of this).

I suppose a starting point for the IEDR would be some form of policy advisory board with industry / stakeholder representation.

Thanks for your inciteful comments

Michele

Re: IE Namespace: We Need Personal Domains! Michele Neylon  –  Jan 26, 2007 10:58 AM PST

Simon

The wholesale prices have dropped by 50% over the past 4 years, so you will find IE domains retailing from as low as EUR30 to as high as EUR120, while the registry themselves sell the domains for EUR69 (see http://www.iedr.ie/RegFees.php )

One other thing worth mentioning is that recognised charities can get as many .ie domains as they want at zero cost.

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