On March 16th, the International Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers (ICANN) publicly de-accredited the domain registrar RegisterFly.com for fundamental contractual breaches. BusinessWeek Online appropriately called the RegisterFly.com debacle a "Train wreck" and although this is not SEO-related I think StepForth SEO Blog readers should be kept in the know about this situation. Perhaps this post will help you protect your domain(s) and ultimately your livelihoods from future train wrecks. To that end, I have outlined some tips at the end of this post that will serve as a checklist to help protect you.
So What Happened at RegisterFly.com?
Near as I can tell it all began when the owners of the company began a power struggle that ultimately eroded customer support to appalling levels. As a result, customers were not able to transfer or renew their domains and in some cases personal information on their domains were even switched to reflect RegisterFly ownership.
Here is a comment from the BusinessWeek article that speaks volumes of the bad will well-earned by RegisterFly.com:
"This has been a travesty. The transfer system was designed to work between two trusted registrars and completely breaks down when one has gone bad. RegisterFly has held customers hostage by not providing the "auth codes," by arbitrarily locking domain names, by changing the "Whois" info, and by arbitrarily putting your domain into "ProtectFly", their service to protect your identity but also keeps you from transferring your name.
We have lost domains and, more importantly, production Web sites have just gone dead, heading to a RegisterFly parking page instead. Try explaining this to customers depending on these sites for their business. RegisterFly's debacle has ruined businesses and lives. And this could have all been avoided with a better process in place and more in-depth criteria for accreditation. This process must be improved before the Internet can truly be used for mission-critical applications."
What Has ICANN Done to Help?
The International Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers (ICANN) came under severe criticism as a result of RegisterFly.com's actions because affected domain owners were frustrated ICANN took so long to act. Unfortunately it appears that the domain registration system has some serious flaws because ICANN, which is the only authoritative body in charge of domains, had little power to wield. Here is a March 7th excerpt from the ICANN Ombudsman Blog that provides some insight into ICANN's efforts:
"ICANN is not a regulator. We rely mainly on contract law. We do not condone in any way whatsoever RegisterFly’s business practice and behaviour.
The options for customers to transfer their names to another registrar at this stage are limited. We will advise if we have more information on this point. Last Friday, ICANN convened a telephone conference among those needed to implement a plan that will help cease unintended deletions. This will prevent names from being deleted from the registry and becoming available for re-registration by others. RegisterFly has assured us (for what that is worth) that they will process such requests as soon as they are again technically operational. We will keep a close eye on this.
We do hope this information is helpful and provides some small level of comfort in what is clearly a stressful time for registrants and others affected by these events. Check in at both here and at our website www.icann.org where these issues (amongst others) are being discussed."
For what it is worth, ICANN's 16th of March posting announcing the de-accreditation of RegisterFly also indicated that "ICANN intends to hold a forum to discuss the reform of the Accreditation policy and process at its Lisbon meeting in a week's time." What will come of this meeting is uncertain but there is no doubt that ICANN needs a far larger stick to wield at future companies like RegisterFly.
Protecting Your Domains
Big thanks to jtara's post at WebmasterWorld for some of these points:
Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.
Ross Dunn is the CEO of StepForth Web Marketing Inc., a web marketing company founded in 1997 and based in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. StepForth provides cutting-edge search engine optimization services that provide highly successful, targeted results for its clientele. Ross Dunn is a Certified Internet Marketing and Business Strategist (CIMBS) with a background in web design and business management. His broad Internet experience in combination with a talented staff has made StepForth a name synonymous with top results.
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