Is Simplifying IE Domain Rules a Bad Thing?

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As we mentioned yesterday there is an ongoing public consultation on simplifying the IE domain name registration policy.

We think this is a very positive move and are supportive of it.

However some people have contacted us to express their concerns.

The proposed changes are fairly dramatic, though they’re not out of line with the policies in place with many other domain name registries, both global and country specific. The co.uk domain registry, Nominet, has a fully automated and unrestricted policy and UK based people and businesses trust co.uk as much as Irish businesses trust .ie domains.

So what are people worried about?

  • Security
  • Phishing
  • Fraud
  • Intellectual property infringement
  • Speculation

Let’s look at each one of those arguments against liberalisation and see how it holds up.

The proposed changes to the IE domain name registration policy are aimed at reducing unnecessary bureaucracy from the process and make it easier for Irish businesses, individuals and organisations to register a .ie domain name.

Security

Under the current rules each and every registration request is vetted.

But what is vetted exactly? All that’s really happening is that the registrant is verified to a certain level and their claimed future use of the domain name is examined.

Under the new policy the registrant will still be validated as they’ll have to show a “connection” to Ireland. Under the current policies that involves photo ID or utility bills for individuals and company / business details for businesses. That isn’t likely to change in the future.

Phishing

If you read the Anti-Phishing Working Group reports you can see how people abuse domain names. In reality there are two “buckets” of abuse:

  1. domains registered solely to abuse via phishing or some other form of scam
  2. websites that are compromised

The second category impacts all domain extensions equally. A compromised CMS install can easily lead to a phishing site being setup that targets a financial institution or other online service where people login and the criminals can abuse them to collect login credentials.

The 1st category isn’t going to be a major concern for ccTLD like IE due to the registrant validation. Of course there might be some cases of people registering a .ie domain name solely to phish a well known brand, but it’s far easier and cheaper to use a domain extension where the registrant details aren’t verified and the price of the domain is way lower.

Fraud

As per the above, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see a major uptick in abusive registrations and usage with a relaxation of the rules.

Intellectual property infringement

With the removal of the “claim” aspect to registrations it will be easier for people to register domain names that infringe on intellectual property rights, as domain registration will become closer to the standard “first come, first served” that you find in most other domain extensions. At the moment .ie domains are registered on a first come, first served basis but there is a “gating” mechanism which is handled by the IEDR’s staff. With the removal of the “gate” with respect to the chosen domain registrations should be faster and easier. So in theory there could be a higher incidence of trademark abuse in registrations, however there is already a dispute policy governing .ie domain names that deals with this.

Speculation

In many respects domain names are a lot like online property. If a namespace is healthy, like a good neighbourhood, then people will invest in it and trade in properties therein. While that can mean that the pool of available domains can be reduced it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Under the current policies there is nothing to stop people speculating in domain names. While domain speculation in .ie might not be very high profile it has been going on for years and there’s nothing wrong with it.

Overall we don’t think that there is any major downside for the IE namespace by opening it up. In fact we’d be comfortable arguing that by removing the restrictions more Irish businesses and individuals would end up using a .ie domain name as a part of their online identity.

At the moment it’s far quicker and easier to register a .com domain name than a .ie domain name.

If you want a .com you just register it and a few minutes later you can start using it, while with a .ie domain name you have to go through a much longer and costly process to get the domain you want.

We don’t think this is a positive experience for the average small business that simply wants to “get online”.

 

 

 

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