Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Is there no limit to their messes?

While the world waits for news of the outcome of the Italian election (to say nothing of the Hungarian contest), it is worthwhile to take a moment to consider that other momentous event, the launch last Friday of open access to the .eu domain.

Once again, it seems, the hubris of the European Union players is not matched by their performance, with the EURid.eu registry site crashing under the burden of applications.

But what has since emerged is that the EU couldn't even get the so-called "landrush sale" right. From Bob Parsons, CEO of the web hosting company GoDaddy.com – summarised by Betanews - comes a report of how EURid allowed the domain sale to be turned into a huge scam involving hundreds of fake registrars.

The issue here is that, potentially, domain names are valuable property – some attracting price tags of many thousands of pounds - but the EU gives accredited registration companies (registrars) first bite at the cherry, allowing them – on a first come first served basis – to buy domain names at a fixed fee of $12.50 each. The registrars can then sell them on to clients, auctioning off the more valuable sites to make a considerable profit.

The way the sale was organised was that registrars had to join the queue and could then only buy one domain name, before dropping back to the end of the queue, to start all over again. That, at least, gave everybody a fair chance - in theory, except that the process was hijacked.

Although EURid required registrars to make a deposit of €10,000, it also seems to have been extraordinarily lax in checking their credentials and thus allowed an estimated 600 "phantom" registrars to sign up, owned by one (unnamed) company, backed by mega-millionaires in the United States.

That enabled the company to stake multiple positions in the queue and thus grab an unfair share of the market, potentially making a fortune out of the subsequent resales.

Parsons says his company tied to warn EURID of the potential for abuse, but its cries "fell on deaf ears." He adds that so many complaints have been filed EURid has simply stopped responding to them. Now, he believes EURid should freeze all registrations and make sure they are genuine. Those that are not should be deleted and a second landrush period held for those domains.

He is not optimistic. Unless some authority in the European Community steps up and forces EURid to do this, they will do nothing, he says.

Can't these people get anything right?

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