RealTime IT News

.Info Racks Up Half-Million Customers

Faster than the .com global top level domain (gTLD) ever did, .info has accumulated its first 500,000 customers in 90 days, officials announced Tuesday.

The claim by Afilias, an organization of 18 registrars from around the world who successfully bid to manage the gTLD earlier this year, is a trifle overblown, since many people didn't know what the Internet, much less .com, meant back in the early 1990s.

But the half-million mark is a good start for a registry that's been dogged by critics and customers alike for its problems, both on the technical and policy side of the house.

Since the beginning, .info has been beset by problems ranging from technical difficulties to just plain lack of preparation, problems officials say are in the past.

Critics and analysts have blasted the new gTLDs as a "second-class" citizen to .com in the hearts and minds of Internet users worldwide, a TLD with more than 20 million registrants. Many consider .com (and .net, and .org) the only true TLDs and expect .info to fail.

Afilias officials said the domain space's success is the result of global, not particularly U.S., demand since it opened the doors July 25. Most of its criticism, they say, comes from the U.S., which owns the lion's share of .com registrations.

Roland LaPlante, Afilias vice president and chief marketing officer, said the response has been particularly hearty in the many European countries that came late to the Internet party and missed much of the .com craze.

"European countries weren't really on the cutting edge of the .com era, when that was introduced 15 years ago or so," LaPlante said. "As a result, most of the domains, something like 70 percent, are owned by U.S. registrants, so the rest of the world never really got a chance to get into .com."

The company has a right to be happy: Despite several serious flaws in the way its rolled out the worldwide service, the company has still been able to convince corporations and would-be domain owners to take a chance on .info, one of several new TLDs approved by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

The company garnered more than 50,000 .info domain names in its sunrise period July 25 through mid-August, a time set aside by Afilias for copyright owners to reserve their particular domain. Serious flaws in the system immediately surfaced.

An unknown woman in London was able to grab AOL.info from media giant AOL Time Warner, the largest Internet service provider (ISP) in the world. While that in itself is not illegal, since she was able to beat AOL to the punch, the woman doesn't have a registered copyright and claims only to run an organization called "activities online."

Afilias has set up a domain dispute resolution process with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to resolve these issues and will even use a computer program of its own devising to challenge pre-registration generic domain names, but won't start on resolution until early 2002.

What's more, a report by a University of Minnesota professor found that as many as 25 percent of these 50,000-plus sunrise registrations were from bogus companies or people trying to get a head start on popular generic domains. One enterprising U.K. firm was able to register several including business.info, sports.info and wallstreet.info during the sunrise period.

Meanwhile, Afilias opened up its network to real-time registrations Oct. 1 and was immediately swamped, causing the entire network to go down. The problem wasn't fixed until Oct. 4.

The Dublin, Ireland-based registry admits to its gaffes, but said they were now in the past. The technical glitches, LaPlante said, was the result of not anticipating the level of demand for .info. Since then, he said, the network has been beefed up and won't likely happen again.

As for its sunrise challenge Afilias is conducting, LaPlante said it will release the names it will challenge sometime in February or March 2002.