Adam Eisner Reports from ICANN
Tuesday was "Constituency Day", when ICANN's supporting organizations (like the Registrar Constituency and the Registry Constituency) each meet individually to discuss important policy developments and determine Constituency positions on key issues. As a member of the Registrar Constituency, Tucows was represented by myself and Elliot Noss, our President and CEO. We spent the day discussing a wide range of issues with our fellow Registrars, including topics like domain name tasting and domain transfers. The Constituency also met with key members of ICANN to discuss recent developments in areas like budgets and compliance.
Today was what I like to call "meeting day" — now that I'm registered, settled in, and with the all-day Registrar Constituency meeting overwith, it was time to meet with some of our suppliers. These days can get quite busy, as we offer Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) and Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) from many different suppliers. This can lead to a lot of meetings! In most of these meetings we discuss the newest developments at Tucows, learn about new products and services at each Registry, and try to get a good feel for where each product, as well as the market in general, is headed. While a litany of meetings may sound boring, they're actually a great opportunity to gather data which will have an important impact on product and marketing strategies.
There are more meetings in store tomorrow, as well as some interesting ICANN sessions. I'm particularly interested in attending a session on the changing gTLD environment, which will cover important topics like the evolving Registrar-Registry relationship structure, Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), and new gTLDs set to enter the market in the next couple of years.
As a reminder, even if you aren’t in New Delhi for ICANN, you can still take part in the Meeting thanks to online streaming of many of the sessions. Check the full schedule for links to sessions and webcasts.
On the Ground in New Delhi
Editors note: Adam Eisner, Product Manager, Domains made it safe and sound to India and he’s already checked in with some early thoughts as ICANN’s 31st Meeting gets underway.
I'm in New Delhi this week, attending the 31st Public Meeting of ICANN. As James mentioned in his previous post, we are an active participant in ICANN meetings and events, as the policies set forth by ICANN have a big impact on both Tucows and on you and your customers.
As Product Manager for our domain name business, ICANN events are an extraordinary opportunity to meet with important vendors, registries, policy decision makers and counterparts from other registrars all in one place. Over the next several days, I will meet many of our registries and suppliers, learn about new domain name opportunities, gather important market data, and attend ICANN-led sessions on policy development. I will also participate in a meeting of the ICANN Registrars Constituency, of which Tucows is a member. The Constituency will discuss a wide range of issues important to policy, including the Add Grace Period (AGP), which has been a hot topic of late in light of recent developments around domain tasting.
In short, much of the data gathered from meetings and sessions at an ICANN conference are applied in ways that have a direct impact. It also allows us to relay thoughts and opinions back to registries and ICANN, which play an important part in the decisions they make. Stay tuned for updates as the conference takes shape.
Tucows Heads to India for ICANN
The 31st International Public Meeting of ICANN gets underway in two days. Both Elliot Noss, our President and CEO, and Adam Eisner our Product Manager for Domains are making the long trip to New Dehli this weekend for the meeting.
Tucows continues to actively participate in ICANN as we have since 1998 when ICANN was formed. That participation gives our Resellers a voice in policy discussions and represents just one way in which Tucows works to help people unlock the power of the Internet.
In a release, ICANN said that it is fitting that the meeting is held in India as both India, and the Asian continent are at what Peter Dengate Thrush, ICANN Board Chairman, describes as, “the heart of the Internet’s future.” Dengate Thrush points to the huge population of India and notes that Internet penetration the the country is only about five percent, but growing fast. That potential growth is illustrated by the fact that a single percentage point increase represents 11 million people.
We’ll provide as much coverage as we can of the ICANN Meeting right here on the Tucows Blog. If the stars and planets align just right, we hope to do some audio reports from India as well.
Full details, including links to live video and audio webcasts, session schedules, and more can be found at the ICANN website.
Tucows Reports Financial Results for the Fourth Quarter and Year Ended Fiscal 2007
All the details, including a news release and financial statements can be found in our Investors area. We'll be hosting a live conference call beginning at 5:00 P.M. ET today (Thursday, Feb. 7th, 2008). As usual, we'll record the call and post an archived MP3 within a few hours.
Update: the MP3 recording has been posted.
Beware of Fake Domain Name Renewal Notices
Domain name renewal schemes are nothing new – we’ve been dealing with them for years – but we figured it wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring them to your attention once again. A quick Google search brings up thousands of examples.
The usual tactic, known as domain slamming, is fairly basic – unethical companies mine WHOIS records for Registrant information and domain expiry dates. Then, months in advance, they contact the Registrant either by mail or email with a very official looking and sounding document or message that tells them to protect their valuable name by renewing early. A Google Images search brings up a couple of scanned examples.
Of course, when the Registrant sends the cheque or pays by credit card, thinking they are doing the right thing, what actually happens is that a Registrar transfer is initiated. The Registrant will then blindly go through the steps to complete the transfer, again thinking they are doing the right thing to protect their valuable domain name.
Combatting this is really fairly simple. I spoke with Paul Karkas, our Compliance Manager, who has been dealing with this kind of thing for years and has a few recommendations for resellers:
- WHOIS Privacy. This is the absolute best protection. It stops the practice dead in its tracks as there is no way for to contact the Registrant directly. Encourage your customers to take advantage of WHOIS Privacy and the protection it offers. Tucows includes WHOIS Privacy for free as part of our domains package.
- Domain locking. A locked domain can’t be transferred, again, preventing the domain slam. The transfer attempt may generate a support call by the Registrant to remove the lock, in which case you have the perfect opportunity to make sure the transfer is legitimate.
- Communication. Let your customers know about this practice and ensure that your customers know who you are and who their Registrar is. Clearly spell out your communication policies surrounding renewals (i.e. “We never send mail invoices reminding you to renew.”) before the scammers have a chance to spread their mis-information.
The Registrant is only one of the victims in domain slamming. When your customers get taken by fake notices like these, you lose their domain business. But if you take the time to educate your customers, you reap the benefits of a better relationship in which the customer knows that you are on their side, looking out for their interests.
Spam Filtering That Just Works
Today, spam filtering is a must, not an option. By some estimates, as much as 90% of mail sent is spam. The filtering that’s included in the Tucows Email Service provides effective protection for users against spam and viruses.
Starting today resellers can provision what we call “filter only” accounts inside the Tucows Email Service. Cutting to the chase, the net result is that email is sent through our filtering system, spam is redirected to a quarantine, and only the legitimate mail is then directed on to our customer’s email server.
Last fall at ISPCON in San Jose, CA, I had the opportunity to give a presentation about our experiences running Tucows Email Service. I called it “Email Nightmares: Tales from the Edge” and in that talk I showed some of the pain points that email providers run into when managing messaging services. One of the most challenging aspects I called out was managing spam.
That’s all well and good, but some email providers aren’t ready, or don’t want to move to a fully-hosted email service right now. So we came up with an alternative that allows us to provide that same level of spam and virus protection, while allowing providers to continue to use their own email infrastructure.
The benefits are threefold:
- You’ll sleep better at night: you can focus on running your email servers, without having to worry about things like spam filters, or blacklists.
- Your servers will thank you: nine out of ten messages is spam, and we’re taking care of that before you have to. As a result, your server loads drop significantly.
- We’ve got your back: Tucows has a dedicated Abuse Team that is actively engaged in the battle against spam. We have experience managing abuse and we’ve forged strong relationships in the industry through organizations like the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG).
Our Tucows Email Service is built for ISPs and hosting companies. The goal with this filtering only option was to provide effective filtering for our customers that ‘just works’. Resellers have the option to provide a web-based spam quarantine where users can review email flagged as spam, and manage safe- and blocked sender lists.
ICANN Proposed Tasting Fee a Good First Step
Earlier this week, the ICANN Board recommended making the ICANN fee of $0.20 per domain year non-refundable. Previously, that fee was refundable if the domain was deleted within the five day Add Grace Period (AGP).
Around the same time, Google announced it would drop names consistently added and deleted during the AGP from its AdSense program, making it far more difficult to profit from ads served on those domain names.
We think ICANN’s resolution to introduce a fee is a good first step, but we don’t believe it goes far enough; some tasters will look at a nominal $0.20 fee as a cost of doing business. Add Grace Period abuse could be further diminished or eliminated by substantially shortening the AGP period to 12 hours or less. This would let registrants correct ‘true’ mistakes like spelling errors (which is what the AGP was originally intended for), while significantly curbing the practice of tasting at the same time.
For those of you who aren't aware of what tasting is, here's a quick overview: Generic Top Level Domains (also known as ‚ÄògTLDs') support what is known as an ‚ÄòAdd Grace Period' (AGP). Originally designed to correct domain name registration errors like typos and such, the AGP allows registrars to delete any names they register within five days, and receive a full refund.
Over the past several years the AGP has been used largely for profit instead of correcting mistakes. Some registrars register names en masse, display ads on them, measure their traffic, and then see which ones might be profitable to keep. The rest are deleted before the end of the grace period. How many names are deleted? According to an ICANN report, 94% of all .com registrations in January 2007 were deleted. Some registrars even re-register and delete the names over and over, allowing them to essentially keep the names for free.
The result of this practice is short-term trademark infringement, consumer confusion as sites disappear/re-appear (and point to advertising), and a great deal of unnecessary (and potentially dangerous) operational load.
Domain tasting will be one of many issues up for discussion at ICANN’s 31st International Public Meeting, will take place between February 10 and 15. I’ll be heading to India in two weeks and I’ll provide coverage of the meetings here on the Tucows blog.
Tucows fourth quarter investment community conference call is Thursday, February 7, 2008 at 5:00 P.M. (ET)
TORONTO, Jan. 30 /CNW/ – Tucows Inc. (TSX: TC, AMEX: TCX) plans to report its fourth quarter fiscal 2007 financial results via news release on Thursday, February 7, 2008 at approximately 4:00 p.m. (ET). Company management will host a conference call the same day at 5:00 p.m. (ET) to discuss the results and the outlook for the company.
Calling Girl Geeks
Tomorrow is the night for the Toronto Girl Geek Dinner. As of this writing, there were seven spots left. If you’re into networking with a bunch of women who are passionate about technology, head on over to the wiki and sign up. I’m looking forward to seeing some of my girl geek buddies for the first time this year and hearing about what they’re up to so far in 2008. The featured speaker tomorrow night is Malgosia Green, co-founder of Savvica, an online teaching and learning company. Malgosia will share her perspective on entrepreneurship and using web tools to further goals in education and training.
Tucows Email Service Winter Release
The team’s efforts to enhance and improve the Tucows Email Service continue to accelerate as more and more customers make the move from our older platforms onto the new service. As that happens, we’re learning a lot about how Tucows Email Service handles the load in the real world (really well, as expected) and we’re also taking in feedback and comments from users, through resellers like you (thanks!).
As a result, we’re continually tuning hardware and software for even better performance, and the technical delivery team continues to work to make things like the webmail interface better and easier to use.
Tomorrow we’re rolling out what we call the “Email Winter Release” - a bunch of enhancements and upgrades that make the service even better. A full list of those changes was sent out to customers on Tucows Email Service last week. If you want a sneak peek at how things are progressing, the upgrade has already been rolled into our Test environment. We’ve also released updated Tucows Email Service documentation that includes the latest changes and all the details you’ll need. A detailed summary of the changes can also be viewed in the release notes.
The enhancements encompass everything from minor user interface improvements inside webmail, to the creation of a new user account level within the MAC. Here’s a brief list of what’s changing Tuesday broken down into three main categories:
- Domain Aliases at the Company level are now available
- Company Administrators are now able to suspend accounts (and shortly will be able to do so through the APP)
- Mail Administrator account level has been created.
- Users are now able to sort on the Read/Unread column.
- POP mail accounts (if added by the user) are checked automatically during webmail check.
- Contacts can now be dragged into and out of groups.
- Users can choose between plain text and HTML email composition.
- The add contact group button in the contact area of the sidebar has been replaced by a pair of more intuitive icons.
WAP/Mobile Email Client:
- We now offer a WAP client for email access via mobile phone.
One of the neatest additions that comes along with this release is the WAP version of webmail. A recent survey by Webcredible, a UK-based web usability and accessibility consultancy, showed that 33% of mobile phone users said email was their most requested feature.
Our WAP-enabled webmail works on over 5,000 different phones (including the iPhone, although it has an IMAP email app that works great with Tucows Email). It lets user see their inbox and messages, send and receive mail, and even view contacts. All the information on how to access the WAP browser including how to set a CNAME to enable a custom URL (like wap.yourdomain.com) is in the email documentation.
The WAP browser is a standard feature of Tucows Email Service - just like IMAP, POP and our AJAX webmail application. It’s available today in the Test environment, and will be live for all users tomorrow.