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The Northern Spy
October 2007

The Domain Domain

Rick Sutcliffe

Price increases are in store

for the most common Internet domain names, as registries VeriSign, Afilias, Neulevel and Public Interest Registry have received approval to increase the wholesale price to registrars by $0.50. Registrars in turn are expected to pass these increases on to their resellers and customers on or after October 14, 2007.

[Lesson can be skipped if the student has already taken Domains 101.] These registries run the databases with the whois information for the domain names under their jurisdiction, providing the infrastructure for tracking and maintaining domain ownership. On the next level of the feeding chain, registrars are approved wholesalers, usually for several registries, and they in turn maintain DNS servers based on registry information, providing the Internet plumbing connecting domain names to machine addresses. Approved registrars handle the mechanics of domain registration, transfer, and renewal. However, most woman-on-the-street domain transactions are with retailers who resell for one or more registrars, as do the Spy's companies.

The latest price increase affects .com, .net, .org, .info, .biz, .us, and .name, the most commonly used international domains, but not to the two-letter or country domains such as .ca, .us, .tv, .ws, and so on, each of which is separately managed (and usually costs more to begin with).

Customers who buy from resellers with a high pricing structure ($16 or more) may see the reseller eat the increase, as their margin is already high. Those who buy from high volume, low-margin resellers such as the Spy's own nameman.net and WebNameSource.net will see the entire fifty cent increase reflected in their prices.

A trivial change? Not when you multiply it by the many millions of domain names out there. Had the contracts for operating these registries been put out to public tender as they ought, it's more likely the price would have gone down rather than up, the collapse of the once mighty YankeeBuck notwithstanding.

Of course, for high flying currencies like the $CDN, which has gone from $.62US a few years ago to parity or above today, the cost of exporting has increased while that of imports ought to have dropped. In the domain domain, most .ca names are owned by Canadian residents anyway, so the currency fluctuations mean nothing when paying in $CDN.

Of course, expats who are paid in local zlotneys and have to buy in CanuckBucks will feel the sting. Now if the makers of books, magazines, clothing, cameras, igloo doors, and computers would only drop the RO (RipOff) factor from their pricing and allow currency changes to take effect, import prices here in the frozen north would become what they now ought to be--the same numbers as $US. But no, many items are still tagged as if the rates were unchanged over the years, so to get the value out of $CDN, one often has to shop across the bump at the forty-ninth parallel or buy online. Brickbats to greedy importers.

Most Governments Contract out Registry operation

for a cut of the action to a commercial enterprise that can handle the technical details. These in turn take various approaches to marketing the brand. For instance, .ws (Western Samoa) is marketed as though it meant "WebSite" and the .tv (Tuvalu) folk pretend theirs has something to do with television. Others like .to (Tonga) and .in (India) have an intrinsic appeal for some people. Many countries allow anyone to buy names in their national domains, and in some cases, the revenues, like those from the gaudy postage stamps we used to call "wallpaper", form an appreciable fraction of government income.

Other countries maintain the country designation for people with a substantial connection to the nation in question, and try to give it both quality and a national distinctive. Some, such as .ie (Ireland) require a rigorous and well-documented process before allowing a customer to purchase a name. Others, such as .ca (Canada) have rules, and do ask customers to agree to them, but don't check. If a complaint surfaces, however, the customer would lose the domain, just as she would if she violated other rules, such as registering someone else's trade name.

It's worth noting that if one doesn't mind the perceived obscurity and marginalization of some of these TLDs, a very short or otherwise unavailable (via .com) domain name may be purchasable. The Spy, for instance, owns g8.to, which is a rather nice property.

But Speaking of .ca

CIRA (the Canadian Internet Registration Authority that runs .ca as registrar) is a member policy-driven organization (at least in theory). Domain owners vote for most of the board of directors and have a degree of control over the brand. However, in recent times, CIRA has gone to a "verified member" system to ensure each person gets but one vote, rather than allow the possibility of one for each domain. After all, some own hundreds. A good idea in theory, but by the time a person responded to the spring 2007 eMail, went to the CIRA site, agreed to register as a new-style member, waited for mail verification, went back to the site to complete registration, and waited for the registration card to arrive in snail mail, the board election was upon them. If they threw out the paper to which the membership card was attached, they also discarded their voting token, and couldn't participate in the election.

If they did everything right, and got their token in time, and read up on the candidates at the .ca site, and possibly participated in the forum, and voted, and got the confirmation of that, they had their say. Well, it was pretty clumsy for a first time effort at the new system, but it's a better input opportunity than most other domains registries offer. May the CIRA tribe increase, but may it also get better, continuing to fulfil its promise as a premium top level domain whose policies get copied worldwide. Meanwhile, the procedure can serve as an example of a good idea getting lost in the implementation details.

Oh, by the way. Of the four board members elected this time, two were continuing, one was a previous member who'd taken a year off, and the fourth was...ahem... yours truly, the Northern Spy, (alias Rick Sutcliffe)--in this instance wearing his Arjay Web Services hat. Can one person make a difference? We'll see. Congratulations/condolences or suggestions are welcome, of course.

Meanwhile, in the slimy underdomain

the scam artists are alive and well in the guise this time of something calling itself by the ponderous monicker of "International Domain Name Registry" or "IDN Inc." The sell is the usual solicitation in the guise of a slightly disclaimered fake invoice to renew and transfer one's domain at supposedly discounted but actually a far higher than average price--asking $24 for what normally goes for under $10. These things were around for a long time in snail and eMail form from a thing that called itself "Domain Registry of xyz" (usually xyz = "Canada" or "America"), though the Spy seems to recall the courts putting an oar in that one (or is this the same outfit operating from yet another fleabag hotel room?) The latest scam is in the form of an unsolicited FAX--something the Spy thought the law had dealt with long ago.

Even if such solicitations were fairly priced and sent legally, they make use of the registry database to capture the name, owner, and contact information, contrary to registry terms of use, which explicitly forbid the practice of mining for solicitations. Enough already. Let's get these foul barnacles of the information sea scraped off our hulls--deliver them to the ignominy suffered by SCO when it went into well-deserved bankruptcy proceedings and got a September 27 delisting notice from NASDAQ (sound of one hand clapping).

Some registrars, like the giant Enom (for whom the Spy resells) already provide privacy cloaking for their customers, but registries themselves may have to cloak the personal and contact information to protect people from those with more ingenuity for wickedness than social conscience. CIRA/.ca may well become one of the first to go this route. Whatever happened to the polite and trusting days of the old net?

New Versions Department

In other news, Nisus (word processor) has cranked its pro version to 1.01 and the express version to 3.0 on a few minor changes and bug fixes. Still no word on invisible styles or mail merge so the Spy can't yet stop using Classic and NisusWriter 6.5. Meanwhile, system utility Cocktail is at 3.8.2 with a few new automator actions. (Want your product mentioned here? Convince me of its merits.)

What's up Bugs?

The Spy has been developing a new and dynamic-acting (even if pedestrian-looking) Web Site for his hosting company, and has now gone live with this thing at http://www.webNameHost.com. He could have employed purchased or open source scripts for the menus, rounded corners, equal-cell-without-tables effects, and Ajax loading, but wanted to learn ECMAScript (JavaScript) and not be beholden to others' work (proof of concept, classroom examples to fix, etc.). Welcome, old boy, to the world of browser incompatibilities.

Once the code was done a month or so ago, and tested on every browser running on the Mac (all but iCab and ie 5.2 worked fine) he cranked up a W*nd*ws box and tried out ie7, then ie6. Over the span of his half dozen scripts, he had to find workarounds for twice that many ie bugs and missing standard features (some in one, some in the other, some in both). It would be a lot simpler for developers if everyone just scrapped these dysfunctional browsers in favour of FireFox, Camino, another Mozilla product, Safari, Opera, or Omniweb. He's gotten to pronouncing it ayyyyeee (clenched teeth needed for full effect). C'mon, Redmond. Make standards work. Everyone else makes the effort.

In news from watchers of iSteve's growing behemoth

sales appear to be outstripping all previous estimates for the quarter. Watch for bigger than ever profits and market share coming to Cupertino. The snowball is starting to roll downhill.

Keep an eye out also for a subnotebook product to add momentum to the market swing. The announcement must come soon to be in time for the Christmas buying season. Of more importance, such a product would begin the process of convergence with the small consumer products (iPod, iPhone), pave the way for computers/readers/players in the six to nine inch screen range, and result in a seamless product line from towers to nanos.

Books received

Steve Souders' High Performance web Sites arrived today from O'Reilly. It looks interesting, and may keep me off the streets the next while. More detail next month, when the Spy may weigh in with a few ideas of his own on the subject.

--The Northern Spy

Rick Sutcliffe, (a.k.a. The Northern Spy) is professor of Computing Science and Mathematics at Trinity Western University. He's written two textbooks and several novels, one named best ePublished SF novel for 2003. His columns have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers, and he's a regular speaker at churches, schools, academic meetings, and conferences. He and his wife Joyce have lived in the Aldergrove/Bradner area of BC since 1972.

Want to discuss this and other Northern Spy columns? Surf on over to ArjayBB.com. Participate and you could win free web hosting from the WebNameHost.net subsidiary of Arjay Web Services. Rick Sutcliffe's fiction can be purchased in various eBook formats from Fictionwise, and in dead tree form from Bowker's Booksurge.


The Northern Spy Home Page: http://www.TheNorthernSpy.com

The Spy's Laws collected: http://www.thenorthernspy.com/spyslaws.htm

The Spy's Shareware download site: http://downloads.thenorthernspy.com/

WebNameHost : http://www.WebNameHost.net

WebNameSource : http://www.WebNameSource.net

nameman : http://nameman.net

opundo : http://opundo.com

Sheaves Christian Resources : http://sheaves.org

Arjay Books: http://www.ArjayBooks.com

Booksurge: http://www.booksurge.com

Fictionwise: http://www.fictionwise.com

CIRA Election results: http://www.cira.ca/news-releases/210.html

Cocktail: http://www.maintain.se/cocktail/index.php

Nisus: http://www.nisus.com/

This Arjay Enterprises page is Copyright 1983-2007.
The Northern Spy is registered at WebNameSource.com and is hosted by WebnameHost.net.
Last Updated: 2007 10 01