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17 Mar 2007
ICANN's website headlines Termination of RegisterFly.com Registrar Accreditation Agreement. While it is high time that ICANN dealt with this long-standing problem, simply cutting them off may just make it worse.
Some domains have "thick" registries, notably .ORG, .INFO, and .BIZ. A thick registry keeps all of WHOIS information about each domain. When a user registers a domain or updates its information, the registrar copies that info to the registry, so the registry always has an up to date picture of who its registrants are.
Other registries, notably .COM and .NET are "thin" registries. They keep only the name of the registrar, the dates that the domain was registered and when it expires, and a few bits about whether the domain is locked. All of the information about the registrant's identity is kept by the registrar, and is supposed to be available from the registrar's WHOIS server.
ICANN's registrar contracts all require that registrars regularly deposit copies of the registrant information in escroe. But, as I noted last week, ICANN never got around to setting up that escrow. That means the only place there is any record of who is the owner of the Registerfly domains in thin registries is Registerfly itself. ICANN's letter says that as soon as Registerfly is decertified, they'll bulk transfer all the domains to another registrar, and the letter encourages them to transfer them sooner. What incentive does Registerfly have to do that? At this point, if I were Registerfly, I would tell ICANN to stuff it. A bulk transfer can't transfer all the registrant info for thin registries unless Registerfly provides it, which seems rather unlikely at this point.
For the people with .COM and .NET domains at Registerfly, I sure hope they kept copies of their registration receipts. If they didn't, they lose.
Update: A reader points out that ICANN said Registerfly provided a putative copy of the registrant info last week. If they really did (ICANN said they were looking at it), that does indeed lessen the predicament of the thin registry domain owners. But ICANN hasn't yet said whether the info was adequate, and knowing ICANN, I wouldn't make any assumptions, no matter how reasoanble they might seem.
Mildly ironic observation: Registerfly themselves are in no danger of losing their own domain, because registerfly.com is safely located at Tucows.
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