Domainz eyes the end – or a brand new start

Under the new domain name regime prices should be cheaper for those of you trying to buy and manage your domain names. You'll have registrars fighting over your name.

The end -- or an end, at least -- is in sight for Domainz.

Domainz is the registry company set up and owned by InternetNZ (formerly the Internet Society of New Zealand, ISOCNZ) to run the .nz name space. That shouldn't have been too tricky a job -- all you're doing basically is managing a database of names and reminding users to re-register when the time is right. However, Domainz was also the only company allowed to touch the register. Because of this -- or at least partly because of this -- it made a meal of its task, in several senses of the word.

A little more history, to remind those who lost interest some time ago. Domainz and InternetNZ have been involved in a number of major kerfuffles through the years including, but not limited to, the country's first online defamation case; the introduction of a domain name system (the DRS) that didn't work, ran late, cost hundreds of thousands of dollars more than it should and was to be sold to overseas' registry companies on the reputation of the system it replaced; and more resignations, secret meetings, infighting, back biting and general unpleasantness than I care to recall.

Of late things have been much better, fortunately. InternetNZ seems to be a calmer and more tranquil place. They've appointed a domain name commissioner. Domainz, meanwhile, has a chief executive and a solid team of staff members all able and willing to be professional about matters, even when things don't quite go according to plan. The rollout of the new second level domain, .maori.nz, was not without its hassles but things seem to be generally ticking along quite nicely.

Which makes it ironic, really, because the new shared registry system (SRS) regime kicked into effect last month and Domainz is on the way out.

SRS replaces the DRS in more ways than one. While the DRS was simply Domainz's technical solution to managing the register, SRS is a whole new way of thinking.

The old system, with Domainz as monopoly access provider to the register, meant everyone who wanted to register a name had to deal with Domainz. So far, so what, right? Well, Domainz would also offer registrar services to end users, so in effect was competing with all the other registrars. Things came to a head when Domainz introduced the new DRS system, which failed miserably to live up to its hype and Domainz blamed everyone else for the problems. While that's all ancient history now, it's worth noting that the replacement of DRS with the SRS system went by with hardly a ripple (plenty of consultation, open source base, worked on launch).

Under the new regime every registry company will have access to the register, which will be run by a non-profit technical company that will do nothing but look after the database. There is talk in InternetNZ at the moment about what it will do with Domainz. InternetNZ doesn't want to own a registrar in the SRS environment. One option is to wind up the company, but I think that would be a shame. My two cents: let Domainz compete with the other registrars and sell it off as a going concern.

So what will it mean for those of you trying to buy and manage your domain names? For a starter it should mean cheaper prices. The company that will manage the register won't need to charge half as much as has been the case previously. You'll have registrars fighting over your name and so should be able to get a good deal on support and management of your names, if that's what you want. Or you can opt for a lower price, lower service offering if you want to do it all yourself.

Finally, we should be able say a resounding goodnight to the various machinations and ructions that make up the domain name industry. Now all we've got to do is stop those ratbag fly-by-night registrars from operating and we'll be set.

Brislen is IDGNet’s reporter. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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