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Technical contact update for domain registrations

30 October 2010 11:18:35 +0000

All domains registered with NinerNet that have NinerNet listed as the technical contact were updated on 19 October to include a working phone number for the technical contact. Please note, however, that this phone number is not a point of contact for NinerNet clients. (Frankly, while it’s a working number and is monitored, its sole purpose it to avoid time-wasting telemarketers.) Actually, all of the contact information we use for domain registrations is not for the use of clients: Postal mail is not collected regularly, and email to the email address is heavily filtered to allow only email from certain domain registries and registrars through. Please refer to our contact page for contact information for clients.

Owners of dot-ca domains may notice that the name of the technical contact (where NinerNet is listed) is shown as “Domian Adnimistrator” [sic]. This intentional misspelling is because CIRA (as a result of a recent, but unannounced, policy change) doesn’t allow the “name” field to contain certain generic words. This doesn’t make sense, as people can come and go from a company, while positions generally remain the same. In fact, the “role account” has a long and distinguished history when it comes to domain registrations that dates back at least as far as the 1990s.

Phoney legal notice alert!

15 October 2010 05:19:54 +0000

“Domain Support Group” and “VeriSign”

6 June 2002 (original posting date on NinerNet website)

On Tuesday and Wednesday mornings we received faxes from a company calling itself “Domain Support Group”, located in New York, USA. These faxes are designed to look like legal notices, with much quoting of legal tracts and the dropping of legal phrases often quoted in the news these days such as “intellectual property”, “bad faith”, “dilution of trademark”, “Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy”, “complainant”, “false descriptions”, “in accordance with the United States legal code”, etc. They also contain an official-looking account number and the warning; “You are required to advise the notification processor of your intent to license this domain on or before the expiration of this notice.”

These notices are designed to scare you into registering a dot-us domain (at an unspecified price) that may be similar to a domain that you already own. We called these people in response to the faxes we received but, once they realised we were onto their game, they were not very forthcoming with information. Through other sources we have determined that they are trying to charge several hundred dollars for a domain (which makes sense considering the legalese in the notice), something you can buy from most domain registrars (including NinerNet) for about $25.

The first notice you may receive is titled “URGENT NOTICE OF DOMAIN EXTENSION”, and it gives you 24 hours to respond. The notice you will receive 24 hours later is titled “FINAL NOTICE”. Both notices are addressed to the attention of the “Business owner or manager”.

Please ignore both of these notices. If you do receive a notice from these people and you feel so inclined, you might consider reporting this to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States and/or your local authorities if you are not located in the US.

It has also come to our attention that the same company even cold calls domain owners, trying to get them to renew, register or transfer domains (in TLDs other than dot-us as well) — all you have to do is give them your credit card number!

This is yet another example of the sleazy practices that are being used to try and get people to register or transfer domains without full disclosure of the possible consequences. In January we warned you about the so-called Domain Registry of Canada — today we received yet another of their phony invoices. (You can refresh your memory about that scam on our site.)

Yet another example was stopped by the American courts recently, this one perpetrated by the company that wants you to trust them — VeriSign (formerly trading in the domain business as Network Solutions), whose slogan is “The Value of Trust”. They sent out some intimidating notices, even to their own existing clients, threatening them with dire consequences if they did not renew with or transfer their domain to VeriSign.

If you receive any notice via e-mail, fax or postal mail (or even smoke signal for that matter), no matter how official or legal it looks, please take a moment to review it to see if it is legitimate. If you have any doubt, we would be more than happy to look at it for you. In the confusing world of the competitive domain-registration business, it can be very easy to forget who you chose to handle the registration of your domain last year (or beyond). These companies are counting on you to forget.

To read this notice on our site and see copies of notices received from both VeriSign and the “Domain Support Group”, please see www.niner.net/dsg.html. As usual, thanks very much for your time.

Scanned images of “Domain Support Group” and VeriSign notices:

Phoney invoice alert!

14 October 2010 20:00:52 +0000

“Domain Registry of Canada” and “Internet Registry of Canada”

5 January 2002 (original posting date on NinerNet website)

Once again we find it necessary to issue a warning about realistic-looking “invoices” for domain renewals. We brought this up in July last year, and the same company is attempting the same thing under a different name. What was called the “Internet Registry of Canada” is now attempting to scare you into renewing your domains with them under the name of “Domain Registry of Canada” (noted on the “invoice” as “a registered business style of 1446513 Ontario Limited”).

When we brought this to your attention last year, one of the three major complaints levelled by the likes of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian government’s Competition Bureau was that the “invoices” looked too much like they were issued by a Canadian government department. The new “invoices” are almost identical, although the Canadian flag has been replaced with a bigger maple leaf. (See the end of this message for links to bulletins issued by the RCMP and the Competition Bureau, a link to scans of an “invoice”, and a textual description of the “invoice”.)

The second major complaint was, as implied above, that these solicitations looked too much like an official invoice from an existing supplier, and that an unsuspecting employee or even business owner might pay the “invoice” resulting in unintended consequences (including your Web site and e-mail going down). This has not changed — the solicitations still look like invoices.

Third was the strong language used, implying that you were in imminent jeopardy of losing your domain if you did not act immediately and send payment to the soliciting company. Again, this has not changed, although the language has been moderated slightly and, buried amongst the other promotional text, is a statement that the invoice-like solicitation “is not an invoice” but rather an “easy means of payment” should you be fooled. However, as with the previous scam, the “invoice” states that your “current domain name must be renewed” (emphasis is on the “invoice”).

As before, one of the goals of these “invoices” is to get you to transfer your domain from your current registrar to the “Domain Registry of Canada”. Another goal is to convince you to needlessly register numerous variations of your domain, potentially quadrupling your annual domain fees. Space is provided for your credit card number should you choose to actually send such sensitive information to a company with such questionable business practices.

Although this company is seeking to have you transfer your domain to them, the very fine print (requiring a magnifying glass and strong light to read) on the back of the “invoice” states that “you agree to provide written, signed authorization to DRoC for the transfer of the domain name to another registrar and agree to pay any and all fees that may be charged by DRoC to effect the transfer.” This policy is clearly designed to make it easy for you to transfer your domain to them from your current registrar, but very difficult to transfer back to your chosen registrar and away from “Domain Registry of Canada” once you realise that you have been scammed. Such a policy is known as “domain hijacking”, and there other examples of this unethical practice — please see the links at the bottom. This policy also goes against international agreements governed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), to which “Domain Registry of Canada” is either directly or indirectly a party.

A similar scheme was practised by some unscrupulous companies back when the long-distance telephone market was deregulated in both Canada and the United States. It had a very descriptive term — “slamming”. If I remember correctly, the process involved the victim endorsing a low-value cheque payable to the victim from the new long-distance company, with the fine print stating that you wished to switch from your current long-distance carrier to the new one. This practise was outlawed, but regulators have been playing catch-up with the Internet since day one.

So how do you know if an invoice you received is genuine, and how do you find out when your domain really expires? Because domains are renewed on an annual (or longer) basis and we are all used to receiving monthly invoices to remind us to pay for services, it’s easy to forget the answers to both of those questions. It has even happened to Microsoft, believe it or not, when they forgot to renew microsoft.com. The best way to find out is to go to a reputable domain registrar, or the site of the single registration authority (from which registrars get their authority) for your top-level domain (TLD). In the case of Register.com, just use the form on their home page to check your domain. Since your domain is “taken” (by you, of course), you can click on the link on the page displaying the results of your search, and you will see a new page detailing (among other things) who your current registrar is and when your domain expires. If your domain really is about to expire, you can then go to your registrar’s home page and use their Web site to renew your domain. If all else fails, please contact us if you are not sure and we will decisively determine when your domain expires, who your registrar is, and who you should be paying.

As an aside, NinerNet Communications recently started accepting domain registrations. While we still think that Register.com is one of the best registrars out there (and certainly far superior to the likes of Network Solutions / Verisign), we would be happy and honoured to accept new domain registrations, renewals and transfers. Since this is a new service, we don’t yet have an automated system in place. Please contact us for the details.

Finally, here is a description of an official-looking “invoice” sent out by the “Domain Registry of Canada”. It arrives in a #10, plain, brown window envelope with a red maple leaf in the top, left-hand corner and the words “Domain Registry of Canada” to the right of the maple leaf. A similar layout is reproduced at the top of the actual “invoice”, which is printed on white paper using black and red ink. It refers to a domain that is probably registered to you and warns you that you risk “loss of your online identity” and that your “current domain name must be renewed” (emphasis is on the “invoice”). It then suggests several possible renewal periods for your existing domain (up to five years) and then suggests several other similar domains that you should register. Payment is accepted by cheque or credit card and is requested to be sent to a post office box in Thornhill, Ontario, Canada. A white return envelope (requiring postage) is included, completing the invoice-like package.

Sorry this was so long, but we felt that this was important enough to warrant a full explanation. If you have any questions or concerns, please let us know.

Here are some links pertinent to this scam:

Scanned images of an “invoice” package:

Vital update for registrants of existing third- and fourth-level dot-ca domains!

12 October 2010 05:30:03 +0000

5 October 2010 (original posting date on NinerNet website)

Further to our email of 17 September regarding the upcoming changes that the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) is making to the dot-ca domain system, we have some new news that really is vital for you to know if the following conditions all apply to your dot-ca domain:

  • You own a third-level dot-ca domain (e.g., example.bc.ca) or a fourth-level dot-ca domain (e.g., example.vancouver.bc.ca), AND
  • The second level of your domain (e.g., example.ca) is not registered, AND
  • Nobody else has your name registered at another provincial level (e.g., you own example.bc.ca and someone else owns example.on.ca).

This email is being sent only to those clients we know meet all of the above three criteria.

Contrary to what we were told by CIRA last month, if you do not register your domain at the second level (e.g., example.ca) before 12 October, you will not be able to do so on or after 12 October. Your domain at the second level (e.g., example.ca) will be indefinitely blocked. You will still have the use of your third- or fourth-level domain unless or until you let it expire. In fact, the only way, after 12 October, for you to register your domain at the second level will be to allow any other domains you have at the third and fourth level to expire. Even then, there is no mechanism in place that gives you first dibs on your domain at the second level, so if someone is quicker on their mouse than you at the moment your third- or fourth-level domain expires (a moment that cannot be predicted with any certainty or guarantee), they might get it before you and you will completely lose your rights to your name.

With the above new information in mind, please contact us immediately (or at the very least on or before Monday, 11 October) if you want to register your dot-ca domain at the second level before you lose that ability permanently. We’ll be following up this email with personal phone calls today and tomorrow to ensure that you’re fully aware of the situation.

Dot-ca domain registry changes, 12 October 2010

11 October 2010 23:53:53 +0000

17 September 2010 (original posting date on NinerNet website)

Overview

In October, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) will be making sweeping changes to their system for registering dot-ca domains. However, they have done almost nothing to communicate details about these coming changes to dot-ca domain holders and the Canadian public at large — i.e., potential dot-ca domain registrants. We got wind of these changes last week, but it took until this week for us to be able to extract the details below from CIRA after a flurry of emails and a phone call this week.

In the middle of all of that, CIRA did finally send an extremely vague email to dot-ca domain registrants. We received our copy on 10 September; the subject of the email was “Information Regarding the New .CA Registry”. This held about as much detail — i.e., almost none — as the press release on the CIRA website and the FAQ buried so deep you could be forgiven for missing it. There is another page on the CIRA website with slightly more detail, but the only reason we know about that is because the address was given to us over the phone earlier this week.

An opportunity

But in all of this complaining about the lack of communication from CIRA, there’s actually a potential fun side to consider. It’s worth reading (or skipping) to the end, because this is a time-limited opportunity to own a rather unique — and potentially amusing — piece of Canadian Internet history. For example, consider the-canucks-rule-in.vancouver.bc.ca. Or how about this odd domain?: i-need-directions-to.toronto.bc.ca.

5 OCTOBER 2010: Vital update for registrants of existing third- and fourth-level dot-ca domains!

Further to our email of 17 September regarding the upcoming changes that the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) is making to the dot-ca domain system, we have some new news that really is vital for you to know if the following conditions all apply to your dot-ca domain:

  • You own a third-level dot-ca domain (e.g., example.bc.ca) or a fourth-level dot-ca domain (e.g., example.vancouver.bc.ca), AND
  • The second level of your domain (e.g., example.ca) is not registered, AND
  • Nobody else has your name registered at another provincial level (e.g., you own example.bc.ca and someone else owns example.on.ca).

This email is being sent only to those clients we know meet all of the above three criteria.

Contrary to what we were told by CIRA last month, if you do not register your domain at the second level (e.g., example.ca) before 12 October, you will not be able to do so on or after 12 October. Your domain at the second level (e.g., example.ca) will be indefinitely blocked. You will still have the use of your third- or fourth-level domain unless or until you let it expire. In fact, the only way, after 12 October, for you to register your domain at the second level will be to allow any other domains you have at the third and fourth level to expire. Even then, there is no mechanism in place that gives you first dibs on your domain at the second level, so if someone is quicker on their mouse than you at the moment your third- or fourth-level domain expires (a moment that cannot be predicted with any certainty or guarantee), they might get it before you and you will completely lose your rights to your name.

With the above new information in mind, please contact us immediately (or at the very least on or before Monday, 11 October) if you want to register your dot-ca domain at the second level before you lose that ability permanently. We’ll be following up this email with personal phone calls today and tomorrow to ensure that you’re fully aware of the situation.

But seriously …

But first the serious stuff. Unfortunately, the email from CIRA mentioned above leaves out some very important information that is nowhere to be found on the CIRA website. Even the important information that is available is buried, and it was only through a series of emails with CIRA (before they sent out the email on 10 September) and a twenty-minute phone call this week that we managed to extract the apparently top secret information below.

As of the date (see below for dates) of the overhaul of the dot-ca registry:

  • Third- and fourth-level dot-ca domains will no longer be allowed.
  • Domains will be automatically renewed.
  • Registrant profiles will cease to exist.

At the moment, despite our attempts to clarify the process of automatic renewal with CIRA, this aspect is still unclear. It should not mean that you are automatically charged for another year on your domain unless you opt out. Certainly, that’s not what it will mean if your dot-ca domain is registered with NinerNet, if we have any say in the matter. The last point on registrant profiles is actually a good thing; the old system of registrant profiles was a dog’s breakfast, to put it politely.

Third- and fourth-level domains?

The first point — on third- and fourth-level domains — is the one of interest to us, and will affect different people in different ways. The most important thing though is that, if you already own (or register before the cutover) a third- or fourth-level dot-ca domain, you will get to keep it. (Don’t ever let it expire though, or you will lose it forever.)

But what are third- and fourth-level domains anyway? Here are some examples:

  • Fourth-level domain: yourname.vancouver.bc.ca
  • Third-level domain: yourname.bc.ca
  • Second-level domain: yourname.ca

This is how the coming changes will affect people:

  • In the future you will only be able to register yourname.ca, not yourname.bc.ca or yourname.vancouver.bc.ca.
  • Even if you already own yourname.bc.ca and so have the right to register yourname.on.ca or yourname.winnipeg.mb.ca before anyone else, you will no longer be able to register anything but yourname.ca, assuming it’s available.
  • If, due to grandfathering, you own yourname.bc.ca and someone else owns yourname.sk.ca, there will still be a block on registering yourname.ca.
  • If you own yourname.bc.ca and nobody else owns yourname.ca or yourname.XX.ca (where XX is a provincial or territorial abbreviation), then you will still have a block on yourname.ca — i.e., nobody but you can register yourname.ca. THIS IS NO LONGER THE CASE! Please see the update in the pink box at the top of the page.

When does this go into effect?

When does all of this take place? The new system officially goes into effect at 6:00 am Pacific time on Tuesday 12 October, and the dot-ca registry will be offline during the transition until 6:00 am Pacific time on Wednesday 13 October. (CIRA has decreed that there be no overlap period, so it better work right the first time!) However, there is a lead-in period of one week before 12 October during which there will be a moratorium on certain activities. (To be on the safe side, consider 4 October to be your deadline to all intents and purposes.) All of these are activities that require you to log into the CIRA website to confirm your choices — which is most things outside of changing the technical contact for your domain. If you have any concerns about your dot-ca domain and what you might want to do with it between now and the middle of October, please contact NinerNet support for details, or see the CIRA website for details.

There are two notable exceptions, as far as we have been able determine:

  • There will be no interruption of the registration of new domains.
  • If you want to register a “Conflicting Domain Name”, you must do so by 27 September. For example, you own yourname.bc.ca and want to register yourname.ab.ca, but someone already owns yourname.nl.ca. This is considered a “Conflicting Domain Name” and you cannot register yourname.ab.ca without the express consent of the owner of yourname.nl.ca. Because you will not be able to register yourname.ab.ca at all after 12 October, if you have any designs on this type of domain you must take action before 27 September.

Why register a third- or fourth-level domain?

But besides all of the above, the next few weeks are your last chance to own a third- or fourth-level dot-ca domain. Thousands of them exist. Here are some:

Besides simply wanting to own a .XX.ca domain, there’s a good reason to own them if you’re an organisation or business with distinct units in multiple provinces and territories. Consider the fictitious XYZ Corporation. The head office website and email would be on the xyzcorp.ca domain, while the Yukon office would use the xyzcorp.yk.ca domain for their email and website. And so on. It sure beats xyzcorpcanada.com and xyzcorpcanadayukon.com.

Now for the fun stuff

Apart from the fact that third- and fourth-level dot-ca domains are going the way of the dodo bird, and so you might want to grab your own piece of Canadian Internet history while you can, how about having some fun with it? Consider domains like the following, with or without the hyphens:

  • Advertise where you live:
    • craig-lives-in.vancouver.bc.ca
  • Advertise what you’re looking for and where:
    • looking-for-a-good-time-in.fredericton.nb.ca
  • Say something political:
    • i-say-no-hst-in.bc.ca
    • say-no-to-hst-in.bc.ca
  • Show how much of a sports fan you are:
    • the-canucks-rule-in.vancouver.bc.ca
    • the-maple-leafs-suck-in.toronto.on.ca
  • Steal the prime minister’s identity:
    • stephenh.ottawa.on.ca

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this years ago, but there’s nothing to stop you from getting your provinces and cities confused. In a slap-myself-on-the-forehead moment (I should have used hyphens so it would be easier to read), I registered iamsolostin.toronto.bc.ca. Try it. It works! Think about these possibilities:

  • Heard the one about the Conservatives moving the capital to Alberta?:
    • stephenh.ottawa.ab.ca
  • More along the lines of being dazed and confused:
    • we-are-lost-in.winnipeg.sk.ca
    • where-am-i-now.toronto.bc.ca
    • confused-in.calgary.qc.ca

All of these and more are available (as of this writing) for registration.

Conclusion

Now you know more than most people about the extensive changes CIRA is planning to make to the dot-ca registry effective 12 October 2010. Of course, all of this is subject to the whims and rules of CIRA, so if and when they publish more detailed information you should defer to that.

If you have any questions or concerns, or need to register a new third- or fourth-level domain before it’s too late (or even a second-level dot-ca domain per the update at the top of this page), please contact NinerNet support.

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This is the corporate blog of NinerNet Communications. It's where we post announcements, inform and educate our clients, and discuss issues related to the Internet (web and email) hosting business and all that that entails. This includes such concomitant industries and activities such a domain registration, SSL certificates, online back-up, virtual private servers (VPS), cloud hosting, etc. Please visit our main website for more information about us.

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