FreeParking plays by the rules

The boss of a new domain name registration service says his company decided to put aside its 'philosophical views' on the current DNS registry system and work with Domainz.

The boss of a new domain name registration service says his company decided to put aside its "philosophical views" on the current DNS registry system and work with Domainz.

The Taranaki-based hosting company WebFarm has signed the Domainz accredited registrar contract, a move some major ISPs have reportedly held off from, feeling that the contract is too onerous.

WebFarm's new FreeParking service takes advantage of Domainz' bulk-billing system for registrars to offer a price of $39.95 (ex GST) per year ($5 less than that for existing WebFarm customers) plus a one off Domainz "name-holder ID charge" of $21.

The company has developed a three-step Web interface that appears considerably simpler than that offered by Domainz, and which allows the registration of multiple domain names at one time. FreeParking also offers free name service (or "parking") for names not in use, and free URL redirection.

MD Richard Shearer says his company "consciously decided some time ago to work with the system at this point. We probably have some philosphical views on the registry system overall in New Zealand, but we feel it's best at this point to offer the service we can to customers."

FreeParking's automated name registration service is similar to that formerly available from Auckland's 2Day.com, which ceased operating as a billing agent early last year in protest at Domainz' terms and conditions, and this year stopped offering .nz name registration services at all, until a shared registry system system is introduced. The company allows its customers to set up name service for names they register with Domainz, but they are directed to register names themselves on the Domainz site.

2Day.com managing director Peter Mott says it "would be fair to say that we are concerned about losing business," to the new service. "Having said that, we think it's great that WebFarm has actually stepped in there and done something. There's always been a need for that kind of service. We offered it for a time and we strategically withdrew from offering it. They've decided they can live with the restrictions that we felt were untenable.

"We won't enter into a commercial relationship with Domainz whilst the chief executive is Patrick O'Brien - and that's not for personal reasons, it's for very strong commercial reasons. Our long-term plan is to enter the .nz market as a registrar competing with Domainz, which we hope the Hine review [the Isoczn working group whose report recommending a shared registry system presaged a major shake-up on the Isocnz council] will see through.

"In the short term we would probably re-enter as an agent, if O'Brien was not there and if billing was fully automated. But the offering that Domainz has doesn't allow us to fully automate," says Mott.

WebFarm's technical director Craig St George says that in exchange for a wholesale rate from Domainz, WebFarm has accepted the terms that Mott rejected; under which Domainz takes down any names that are not paid for by their anniversary date, putting pressure on registrars to collect before the due date. Domainz does not currently impose the same terms on its own retail activities.

"Peter objected very strongly to that, but that's his option," says St George.

"We find there are ways to control that risk and the most obvious one is that we work on the anniversary date of the renewal," says Shearer. "We try and cover our liability by the anniversary date. We also take pre-payment. There's a little bit of give and take there from Domainz. They've actually been quite good to work with.

Until such time as Isocnz introduces a shared registry system, where the registry is forbidden to deal with retail customers, the end-to-end contract customers of services like FreeParking have is with Domainz itself.

"There's a contract with us to pay the bill," says Shearer. "And for us to maintain their records so that we can send them renewals for the bill. The customer after all is still the nameholder and the name holder has the relationship with Domainz."

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