Poor .info Domain Name Strategy, Afilias

Jul 21st

Afilias had submitted a proposal to ICANN for the .INFO gTLD that would allow them to shut down domain names at will if they consider them abusive. The proposal was approved.

The problem they have is not going to be solved by this strategy. The value of high end .info domains was just diminished because now the registry can take them away from you for anything that they consider abusive, and in this day and age it is easy for someone else to spam for you in order to make you look shady. Given that, who wants to invest $20,000 in buying and building out a premium .info name? Probably only the people who are unaware of what Afilias just did.

Meanwhile .info domain names are on sale at GoDaddy for $1.99 - $8 cheaper than any other extension. And it turns out spammers are less discriminating than most other business people. So spammers still buy .info and Google has to protect their search results. If Afilias wanted to fix the .info quality issue, simply increasing the price at the lower end would go a long way.

Published: July 21, 2008

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Comments

July 21, 2008 - 4:31pm

Reminds me of tasting... Funny how a lot of the controversial practices online are the result of cheap domains. Think G becoming a registrar has anything to do with that?

July 21, 2008 - 4:47pm

Congrats. They've killed the .info tld.
Yeah, there are some high quality domains on there. Don't get me wrong. But a HUGE percentage are spam. The demand is going to go in the crapper. But beyond that, competitors spamming the domain out(as you mentioned) is going to be a huge issue...Google bowling just added another dimension.

July 22, 2008 - 10:32pm

Dear Aaron,
The registry policy does not empower Afilias to take away names from registrants just because the registry considers them abusive. Instead, the registry has to demonstrate material deceit (fraud); over the past few months we have done exactly this to numerous registrars when asking them to remove .info domains that are being used for illegal purposes.

When I say illegal - I mean, for example, sites used in phishing, sites used to for malware and spyware, sites that promote child porn, sites that download software (drive-bys) onto unsuspecting users and steal identity -- the kind of stuff that results in jail time or at least heavy fines. We work with the cybercrime units of the FBI, the RCMP (Canada) and with several European agencies to reduce and remove criminal actors from the scene.

Simply increasing the price does not reduce spam. In our experience, most spammers themselves defraud and/or abuse registrars, providing stolen credit card numbers in order to register domain names. By the way, these spammers register more non-.info domain names (com is the most popular) than .info domain names for use in spam. Price does not stop them, since they are not really paying the bill in most cases. We see ccTLDs that cost upwards of $50 that are hit by spammers. If spammers actually pay for their names, your suggested approach might work, but in our experience, spammers don't really care about price as much as they care about whether the registry will take down illegal sites. We're already seeing some early positive results, but it's too early to declare any definitive results from deploying the policy.

Our analysis also shows that the majority of .info domain names in a live, dedicated status are used by countries, businesses and individuals for completely legitimate and useful purposes. For example, see webhosting.info, spain.info, fetchbook.info, mta.info (there are over a million more such useful and completely legitimate .info sites).

I believe that .info sites are a great value and are naturally intuitive - after all, info means information in 37 languages.

Regards,
Ram
EVP & CTO, Afilias

July 22, 2008 - 11:16pm

Hi Ram
Thanks for the comment.

The spammers I was talking about was not just the ones that are stealing credit cards and installing malware. That is probably a small fraction of the overall spammer pool.

I was talking about the general low barrier to entry of a price that is only 1/5th the price of other domains at GoDaddy. Consider the following 2 items:

#1 A quote from Matt Cutts (one of the top 4 Google engineers, and the head of Google's web spam team) about domain name prices and spam:

A top-level domain (TLD registry) will offer domains for under $4. The result will be another TLD blighted by spammy domain registrations.

From that quote we can see that Matt Cutts associates low priced TLDs with spam.

#2 Google purged many .info names from their index about 2 months ago...they would not have done that to .com or .org or .co.uk!

July 24, 2008 - 1:56am

I registered several .info domains a few years ago. Last year I started developing real projects on them, and they've done very well. Would they have done better in .com? I don't know, but I believe all of them will have #1 rankings for keywords that I want a year from now.

Most of my recent registrations, however, have been in .com.

There is one real problem with .info, and it's that many "valid email" and "valid url" filters still haven't been updated to think that .info is a real TLD. There are many web sites that won't accept comments from a .info address, or won't let you register with a .info address. I get the impression that mail delivery to and from .info addresses is worse than it is with .com's. I pity the poor people with .aero addresses (and other scam domains)

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