interesting tidbits about domain names
perm url with updates: http://xahlee.org/js/domain_names.html
Domain Names, Cybersquatting, Resell Market
Xah Lee, 2010-01-22
Some interestig tidbits about domains today.
Domain Name Registry vs Rigistrar
A domain name registry, is a database of all domain names registered in a top-level domain. A registry operator, also called a Network Information Center (NIC), is the part of the Domain Name System (DNS) of the Internet that keeps the database of domain names, and generates the zone files which convert domain names to IP addresses. Each NIC is an organisation that manages the registration of Domain names within the top-level domains for which it is responsible, controls the policies of domain name allocation, and technically operates its top-level domain. It is potentially distinct from a domain name registrar. 
A domain name registrar is an organization or commercial entity, accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) or by a national country code top-level domain (ccTLD) authority, to manage the reservation of Internet domain names in accordance with the guidelines of the designated domain name registries and offer such services to the public.
So, basically, the “registery” is a database (technical), and its operator is called Network Information Center (NIC). A “registrar” works with NIC, and basically are commercial busnesses. So, when you want to buy a domain, you go to a registrar. (actually, when you buy a domain name from web hosting companies, the web hosting companies are just resellers, they buy the domain name from a registrar for you.)
Also of interest: Independent Domain Registrars. They are basically independent entities that functions as both registry and registrar, but for particular second level names assigned to them (e.g. “uk.com”, “au.com”, “hk.com”).
Domain name registrar market share. Source
Domain Name Market
In the Dot-com days, a well known phenomenon is Cybersquatting. (i'm a dot-com-er, 1998-2002.) Today, the purchasing domains for actual use or for reselling, have become mostly legitimate, and the term cybersquatting mostly refer to those domain name buyers with devious intentions of resell at high prices.
There are few famous domain dispute cases cited from the article. Some i've read that are interesting to me are:
- Michael Urvan. “Michael Urvan (born 1973), was the first individual  to successfully defend against a domain name dispute brought against an individual by a famous celebrity.”
- Microsoft vs. MikeRoweSoft
- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. Doughney (someone registered PETA.org)
Also of interest: Drop registrar.
A drop registrar is a domain name registrar who registers expiring Internet domain names immediately after they expire and are deleted by the domain name registry. A drop registrar will typically use automated software to send up to 250 simultaneous domain name registration requests in an attempt to register the domain name first.
I'm particularly interested in this because, my domain name xahlee.org was going to expire on 2010-01-24, and i only realized it 4 days before. I tried to go to the website to renew the domain name but the site is down, for both days i tried. I tried to contact the company thru phone, but the phone lines are down too. I thought the company is out of business or there's some foul play. Then, finially, i sent email with urgent writings to the company's support, and unexpectedly, i got answer within a couple of hours and my domain name is renewed. I was quite panicked for 3 hours, because, according to web market sites, my domain name is worth some USD$30k. (see: XahLee.org Web Traffic Report)
Also interesting: Domain tasting. Basically, domain names registration has a 5-day grace period. If buyer doesn't want it within 5 days, he doesn't have to pay. (the free grace period problem has been fixed since 2009-04.) So, the abusers using automated software to buy hundreds or thousands domain names, and test them out for few days to see which actually generate traffic (from user's typos, etc).
In April 2006, out of 35 million registrations, only a little more than 2 million were permanent or actually purchased. By February 2007, the CEO of Go Daddy reported that of 55.1 million domain names registered, 51.5 million were canceled and refunded just before the 5 day grace period expired and only 3.6 million domain names were actually kept.
In January 2008, Network Solutions was publicly accused of this practice when the company began reserving all domain names searched on their website for five days., a practice known as Domain name front running.
The domain tasting finally ended. See: “Domain tasters” bitter as new fees put an end to their games (2009-08-13), by John Timmer. Source
Domain name speculation
The secondary market for domain names covers previously registered domain names that have not been renewed by registrants or are available for resale. Sometimes these dropped domain names can be more valuable due to their having had high-profile websites associated with them. They will have links from other websites and could still have users searching for the websites because of these links. Others can be valuable because of the generic nature of the domain name or the length of the domain name, with two and three character names being the most sought after.
The business of registering the domain names as they are deleted by the registries is known as drop catching. It is a highly competitive business. The main operators in this business typically set up a number of front companies as registrars. VeriSign, in the case of TLDs COM and NET, allows each registrar a slice of the resources that may be used to register dropped domains. VeriSign drops domains in a random order, giving registrars only a vague idea of the particular drop time of a particular domain. Sometimes a group of drop registrars often work in confederation to increase their possibility of registering a dropped domain immediately after it is deleted by the registry. If the domain is caught by a confederation of registrars attempting to fulfill a domain backorder, then whichever domain registrar caught the domain will register it to the entity who backordered the domain. If the newly reregistered domain is captured by a company that has no customers who backordered it, the domain may be auctioned to the highest bidder by the registrar who captured it or an auction intermediary. The time between a drop and a capture is often measured in seconds or fractions thereof.
Some registrars do not allow domains to drop in the normal fashion, instead introducing an intermediary (e.g., Snapnames and Namejet) that auction the domain prior to their deletion. If nobody buys the domain at auction, it will pass through the normal deletion process.
On the section “Domain name speculation and the rise of Pay per click websites”:
The latest statistics for domain name usage quoted in the Verisign Domain Brief for June 2009 states that of the 92 million COM and NET domain names, 24 % of these domains have one page websites, 64% have multipage websites and 12% have no associated websites.
From Domain name:
To date, and according to Guinness World Records and MSNBC, the most expensive domain name sales on record as of 2004 were:
- Business.com for $7.5 million in December 1999
- AsSeenOnTv.com for $5.1 million in January 2000
- Altavista.com for $3.3 million in August 1998
- Wine.com for $2.9 million in September 1999
- CreditCards.com for $2.75 million in July 2004
- Autos.com for $2.2 million in December 1999
Internationalized domain name. Allowing domain names in unicode. IDN turns out rather stupid. This scheme does not modify DNS's Domain name to broaden it beyond alphanumerics, but relies on application that translate the host name to real ascii based one, a scheme called Internationalizing Domain Names in Applications (IDNA). The consequence of IDNA is complex implementation in browser (in part using Punycode), does not work if a host name in Chinese is long, increases Homograph spoofing attack, creates unpredicability in browser's url field (because each browser opt different methods and display of url to prevent the proofing attack).
What it solves is to allow domain name in non-latin langs such as Chinese, Arabics, Russian to be used in host name. The latin alphabet in computing is rather popular and international and have been used throughout the history of the internet and widely used in every non-English speaking countries. Latin alphabet is simple too, and English is popular and considered a international language. The need for local lang in domain name is not that great, and the cost of introducing INDA's complexity outweight the benefits.
For some interesting read about what domain names are taken, see:
Interesting Facts About Domain Names (2006-03-29), by Dennis Forbes. Source