Forget the year 2000 — for the moment. Hundreds of New Zealand organisations are one week away from having their precious Internet domain names marked for cancellation.
Cancellation of a domain name immediately renders all Internet services associated with it inoperable.
Companies as large as Blue Star Group, two political parties and a welter of government agencies — including the Companies Office — were facing such a fate as Computerworld went to press, having failed to convert their “pre-July” names to fully registered domains under the Internet Society (ISOCNZ) Registry.
The full list of 1400 names includes: companies.govt.nz, maf.govt.nz, defence.govt.nz, compaq.co.nz, faxmail.co.nz, teramedia.co.nz, honeywell.co.nz, continuum.co.nz, honda.co.nz, kmart.co.nz, nzfirst.org.nz (which its owners arguably will not need after the next election), ngaitahu.iwi.nz, alliedliquor.co.nz, aklib.govt.nz, corso.org.nz, isambard.co.nz, nrha.govt.nz — and no fewer than 18 names registered to the Blue Star Group.
The names were all first registered before July 22, 1996, when ISOCNZ, having taken over the management of the New Zealand DNS from Waikato University, introduced a new fee structure requiring a $50 annual maintenance fee for each name. ISOCNZ said it would start charging existing domains, on the anniversary of their first registration, from December.
In January, the Registry announced its drive to bring the old names into full registration. In March, it tried to contact 5110 name holders by letter, email and fax. ISPs were contacted in April and in May a list of pre-July names at each name server was emailed to every host. The remaining unconverted names represent about a quarter of the original group.
A list of “names for automatic cancellation” will be determined on June 30, with cancellation on July 14, following final attempts to contact holders.
So why are so many names still unconverted? Some are simply not worth maintaining or are unneeded (costclub.co.nz), and others have fallen victim to outdated contact information — such as faxmail.co.nz, whose founder Bruce Simpson seems to have forgotten to tell Faxmail’s current owner, Eagle Technology, of the need to update. (“Put it down to overwork,” says Faxmail’s Russell Ferrier.)
Colin Jackson of the IT Policy Unit says many government agencies were slow to be contacted because registration passed from Victoria to Waikato universities during the notification process, “and there was also really no doubt the government would pay up. A lot of names are being converted at the moment — and I’ve been virtually spamming government employees with the list of outstanding ones.”
At Blue Star, DNS responsibility appears to have fallen through the cracks of last year’s restructuring. The employee listed as a contact for the 18 names (which were all registered at once last year) is no longer with the group and it took half a dozen calls before Computerworld found someone who thought they might have responsibility. The employee was unaware of and somewhat shocked by the prospect of the deadline, thanking us for the news.
Blue Star’s domains are hosted by Netbyte Internet, whose spokesperson Penny Clapham says letters have been sent to Blue Star and “we’ve been waiting for somebody to make a decision. We are aware of all the names and we have actually been ringing our clients.”
Clapham insists all the names will be updated in time “but it is a bone of contention for me. When ISOCNZ said they were going to start charging for domains, they said that anything reserved prior to a certain date was not going to be affected by this. Now they’ve decided they want to update them and charge us for it.”
The list does appear to contain several anomalies — a legacy of the poor quality of the old DNS information. For instance, the name kcbbs.gen.nz appears, but the company’s owner David Dix is emphatic it is fully registered. Dix says the approaching deadline will be providing ISPs with some interesting situations — especially where they still have speculative or generic names on their books.
Speculators will not, however, be able to grab cancelled names on July 15. They will be subject to a 60-day period of grace, during which the original holder can reclaim them at a re-registration cost of $96.75.