Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Registrar sponsored domain name pollution?

Yesterday morning I woke up to an email from Dotster. Thank you for registering your domain name with Dotster! it read. The strange thing was.. I hadn't used Dotster to register a domain name any time recently.

Upon logging in to my Dotster account, I noticed two new .info domains that were similar (identical, save the tld) to .com and .org domains I had registered through Dotster in the past. So, being the paranoid individual that I am (with all the recent media hype on identity theft, would you blame me?), I sent off an email to Dotster.

I wrote:

My Dotster username is: [SNIP]

This morning I received the email below, thanking me for registering a new domain. I hadn't registered any new domain, yet upon logging into, I found 2 new domain names under my account:

[SNIP].INFO Add/Modify 01/10/2005 12/24/2005
[SNIP].INFO Add/Modify 01/10/2005 12/24/2005

I did not register these domains, and am concerned that someone somehow obtained unauthorized access to my account. Could you please investigate the creation of these 2 domain names and contact me ASAP? If I do not hear back by this afternoon, I will follow up with a phone call.

The answer I received from Dotster blew my mind!

.INFO registry was recently offering free .info domain registrations. We took this opportunity to register the .info verison of your .com domain for you, free of charge or obligation. This domain will not be set to auto renewal. If you wish to keep this domain name you can use it free of charge for 1 year after that it will expire. If you wish to continue using it you will have to renew it.

If you do not wish to use this domain please respond and we can delete it for you.

Thank you.

Five hours later, I received official emails announcing the deal. I imagine they received quite a few emails like mine from other concerned customers and figured it'd probably be a good idea to let them know what was up. Better late that never, I suppose.

In any event, I'm pretty appalled by the situation for two reasons.

First, it's a prime example of polluting the domain name space. What is the point of offering a range of top level domains like .com, .net, .org, .info, .biz, etc if the norm becomes to register them all? I'll concede that it makes sense for large corporations to assume the associated cost in order to prevent confusion. But the majority of my domains are used for personal and project purposes, and I don't mind sharing! So-called Cybersquatters are one thing, but if the registrars and TLD sponsors are going to start supporting this type of behavior, I'd call for less, not more, top level domains.

Second, the benefits of this offer will be reaped by Dotster and Afilias (the .info sponsor) -- not the general public or their customers. Similarly to the way in which a very small percentage of people respond to spam, a very small percentage of people will re-register these domains at the end of 2005. Afilias and Dotster bet it will be enough to make the effort profitable and worthwhile. Additionally, Dotster gains the opportunity to push its paid add-on services like hosting.

Third, my name and contact information is attached to these domains, and published in the registry. I'm put in the line of fire. It's an unlikely scenario that anything would come of it, but nonetheless, I'm being appointed the point of contact for a domain I never registered.

Ah well.. I certainly plan on doing my part and having Dotster release my domains. I'd like to be able to say "I appreciate the thought, but next time ask first". But they were never thinking of me, now were they?

No comments: