China Puts Domain Registrars in Tough Spot, Again

CNNIC reverses role of registry and registrar, and communicates poorly to boot.

[Update 7/1: Go Daddy is sending out an email to its .cn customers today, which also links to CNNIC’s notice.] Imagine if VeriSign sent an email to the all .com registrants asking them to click a link to verify they have the correct email address.* If you didn’t respond within 15 days, your domain name was subject to deletion.

Sounds crazy, but this is the latest threat from China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), the registry for .cn. Its latest move to clean up the .cn domain space is also putting domain name registrars in a unique position, and reversing the usual roles of the registry-registrar relationship.

In the typical gTLD world, registries prefer not to communicate with registrants and depend on registrars to manage all communications. But CNNIC is communicating directly with registrants and, to a large degree, leaving registrars out of the loop.

I talked to Camille Ede, Director of Domain Services at GoDaddy, this afternoon. She confirmed that the registrar received a communication from CNNIC about the new verification campaign on Monday, but some of the company’s customers had already received the confirmation email from CNNIC.

“We didn’t necessarily see it coming but we were prepared for it,” said Ede. “We’re evaluating if we should send further notices to our customers. Our customer service representatives are fully equipped to answer any questions from our customers [about the notices].”

Go Daddy is going to try to track its customers’ response rate to CNNIC’s verification emails. But keep in mind that registrants are confirming with the registry, not the registrar. So it might be difficult for registrars to know how many of their customers are compliant.

When Go Daddy asked its .cn customers to provide new proof of identity earlier this year, only 20% responded. This does not bode well for a high percentage of customers responding to CNNIC’s emails — if they even find their way to their inboxes.

Will CNNIC actually delete domain registrations if the registrant doesn’t verify, or is this just a threat?

“We have to consider the worst case scenario, so we’re definitely looking out for our customers on this one.” Ede said.

Bluff or not, CNNIC’s handling of the entire situation doesn’t instill confidence. And to think, China is about to get two more country code top level domains.

*Yes, I realize VeriSign operates under a thin-whois model, and doesn’t actually retain registrant information. But you get the point.


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