IT managers with any of the 14 generic top level domains, such as .com, .org and .biz, in their portfolio risk losing them if they do not keep their registrar informed of their current contact details.
Under new proposals from The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which is responsible for worldwide domain name policy, every domain owner will be obliged to update their full contact details in ICann’s publicly available WHOIS database annually.
The proposal was passed by Icann’s board on 27 March and is expected to come into force by the end of May.
Icann wants to increase the accuracy of its records by forcing owners to keep their details updated, which would help it resolve possible disputes.
Although domain owners currently have to supply full details to the WHOIS database, many do not and the policy has not been widely enforced leading to occasional confusion about domain ownership.
‘[The change] is potentially quite serious,’ said Tim Brown, technical adviser at internet consultancy Demys.
‘It’s always been the case that businesses could lose their domains in this way, but the new emphasis on the rules means that losing a domain this way is much more of a risk now.’
Under the new rules, domains with incomplete or incorrect records will be suspended for 15 days and then deleted if the records are still not amended.
‘It’s similar to the number-plate on a car. The DVLA has to have contact details for each driver so that if you’re involved in an accident they can contact you,’ said Brown.”In the same way, if a domain is involved in spamming or cyber-squatting, the owners need to be contactable.” Brown added that businesses often do not have coherent domain policies, and could be caught out by the change.”It’s surprisingly common that a web designer or somebody else may have registered a domain for a company. Quite a lot of companies’ domains are all over the place and they don’t know enough to keep them well managed.”Icann’s efforts could be affected by the reluctance of owners to place their details on a public database, which can be ‘harvested’ and used by spammers and bulk mailers. While Icann also banned the use of its data for commercial purposes as part of the rule changes, market watchers question whether it is prepared to enforce the ban through the courts.