Domainz off the rails

The launch of the new Domainz Registry System is in disarray. Last night, nearly a week after the changeover from the old registry database began, .nz still did not have a working registry.

The launch of the new Domainz Registry System is in disarray.

Nearly a week after the changeover from the old registry database at Waikato University began, the .nz country code domain does not have a reliable domain name registry.

The DRS was due to come online on Monday and eventually arrived on Wednesday afternoon but since then it has suffered a string of technical, operation and - in some eyes - philosophical problems.

Last night, the Web-based part of the new registry system, which has been developed on a Microsoft platform by the Advantage Group-owned Glazier Systems, was still offline.

Names can still be registered using new automated email templates, but there seems to be some confusion about these. ISPs are understood to have been co-operating on workarounds for domains that need to be moved between them, rather than trying to change details in the registry.

In a posting to the Isocnz-l mailing list, Mike Bennett, technical director of Wairarapa Internet services company Silicon Blue, said he had been unable to obtain the new email templates, despite requesting them from Domainz three times.

Bennett said he had been invited to one of the confidential registrar briefings held by Domainz, where documentation on the new system was provided, but "since I don't live in one of the main centres where these conferences were held and would incur significant cost in time and money to attend, I asked on two occasions for some indication of what sort of information would be presented and what level of customer it would be pitched at.

"The reply was essentially: 'It is confidential. Turn up and find out.'"

Since the site went live on Wednesday, some name holders have been unable to log in to the new registry, either immediately after entering their old authorisation keys or when prompted by an automatic email to return and alter their passwords. Such attempts today have been met with the message "Microsoft VBScript runtime error '800a01a8'".

Domainz' Maria Arnott says that if those affected cannot log in within the 48-hour deadline for new passwords to be specified, passwords can be reset.

Later yesterday afternoon, the site began reporting SQL Server timeout errors, apparently because of overloading, and then went off air altogether.

The process of exchanging old keys for new IDs has thrown up another, potentially serious, issue. The DRS assigns the title of "registrar" to companies providing name service - fulfilling the standard technical requirement to list the name on at least two Internet domain name servers.

Where the old system provided an authorisation key unique to each name, which was required to alter domain details, the DRS provides global logins that give each registrar global access to all the names for which it provides service - whether or not it had authority to administer the domain under the old system.

To further muddy the waters, Domainz appears to have assigned domain name holders to certain registrars without checking with the holders themselves. Independent consultant Joe Abley cites his own domain as an example:

"I run it off my name servers, yet Domainz assigned it to Clear Net, which means ClearNet could go in and change details on my domain without my being consulted," he says.

Abley says Domainz changed the listing as soon as he pointed it out to them - but changed the information without checking his identity.

Domainz also yesterday removed a feature which saw anyone who used the new site to check whether a name was available presented with a long list of "registrars" including many companies - such as Fletcher Challenge and IDG Communications - that have no interest in registering domain names for third parties. Schools, councils and individuals were also listed.

In place of the list the page now says: "If you are interested in registering the domain name your current Internet Service Provider should be able to assist."

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