The war of words over the new Domainz registration system has escalated with an alternative system being mooted that would remove Domainz' monopoly.
"The basic problem I'm trying to address is that Domainz acts as both registrar and registry," says domain name services consultant Joe Abley. He believes Domainz competes with its own customers by maintaining a commercial relationship with the end user, or registrant, as well as with the ISPs that on-sell services to the end users - and that his proposed model is far closer to that devised by ICANN for the global management of domain name registration. ICANN is the US-based non-profit organisation charged with maintaining the international IP address space.
Domainz CEO Patrick O'Brien says the company is trying to distance itself from the role of registrar and will instead concentrate on its role as controller of the register itself. That would, however, still require Domainz to deal directly with the end users, says O'Brien.
"There are some, probably no more than five percent, who would choose to deal with us directly." These clients would be the highly technical users who would choose to manage their own details as much as possible.
O'Brien says Domainz will continue to work with those customers and will also maintain a commercial relationship with all other customers through the ISPs - an arrangement with which some large ISPs are known to be unhappy. The ISPs, as registrars, will handle the daily management of the relationship, but it will be Domainz that sets the terms and conditions of that relationship.
"The .nz register is a technical monopoly - there's only one database. Whoever registers names in New Zealand are purchasing names from the same place," says O'Brien.
Abley, who has worked with Clear Communications and 2Day, has proposed a system that will allow any number of companies to operate as registrar - the position Domainz occupies at the moment. He sees no reason why numerous registrars couldn't operate with one register or list.
"The areas of responsibility would be split up - there would be a list of domain names; a registry, that would administer the list and a number of registrars, that could sell domain names to anyone who wanted them."
Abley would like to see Domainz act only in one role or the other - either as keeper of the registry on which all domain names are listed, or as a reseller of services to those name holders, but not both.
A Brief Glossary
Isocnz: Internet Society of New Zealand "Isocnz is a non-profit society established in 1995 to foster coordinated and cooperative development of the Internet in New Zealand. We also work to safeguard the Internet's philosophy of open and uncensored exchange of information."
Domainz: - The Internet Registry, charged with "management of the .nz domain space".
Register (or Registry Database): The list of domain names registered in the .nz space. Currently run by University of Waikato on behalf of Domainz but soon to pass to a system designed by Glazier Systems.
Registry: The company charged with managing the Register. In practical terms, there can one Registry per top level domain - which in .nz is Domainz. Under the ICANN model, a Registry cannot itself conduct the business of registration, as Domainz does.
Registrar: Domainz regards "Registrars", who are typically ISPs, as "agents for the nameholder" in dealings with Domainz, which itself solely conducts the business of registration. Under Domainz' proposed new system, Domainz would remain the only party able to make changes to the Registry database. Under the ICANN model, the Registrar is whoever the nameholder has a contract with. Registrars are the entities which can action requests for changes to the Registry and behalf of the Registrant.
Registrant: - anyone who owns a domain name. They manage their ownership either through a Registrar or - in the Domainz case - directly with the Registry.