Many Moving Parts: Running a Registry
July 28, 2014
So you want to be a registry.
Each of the 650 applicants for new top-level domains (TLDs) took on daunting, new responsibilities when they decided to invest in the next big Internet thing. But their multi-year application process – jumping through high hoops, adjusting to the untried and unknown, and enduring multiple rule changes – may seem like duck soup compared to the challenges of running a registry.
The first thing to keep in mind is that it takes a village to raise a registry. New TLD registries will be faced with everything from the sublime to the ridiculous, from tedious tasks to complex hurdles. You and your team cannot and should not tackle the responsibility alone. Internally, successful registry operators will rely on a variety of people and departments – IT, legal, marketing, business strategy, and more – not only for their expertise but to ensure accountability for the many moving parts. Externally, registry operators will have to work with multiple vendors for technical and administrative needs.
FairWinds Partners breaks down the major responsibilities:
Administrative Services – At the top of this list, perhaps, is the job of ensuring the registry remains in compliance with ICANN regulations, which as most applicants know are subject to change. There will be monthly reports to file; fees will have to be paid; the registry’s credit worthiness must be kept up to date; and name collision issues will have to be tracked. These duties span a variety of professional disciplines that should be handled by the appropriate departments, or may, in some cases, be outsourced.
Coordination of Technical Partners – The registry operator must file new registrations on a weekly basis with a data escrow provider that will ensure the integrity of the TLD if the registry fails. While the back-end provider – the technical operator of the registry – creates the report, the registry operator must actually convey it to the escrow provider. The registry’s Whois information, Domain Name Service look-up, and reserved names list also will have to be maintained accurately, as will the DNS and EPP standards. Maintaining these standards will be the responsibility of the registry back-end provider. Finally, the registry operator must identify a point of contact and a process for dealing with any malicious activity that occurs within the registry’s websites.
Registration Strategy and Procedure – These should reflect your organization’s existing domain name strategy. Your registration strategy will be based on your Registry/Registrar Agreement and will help define your relationship with your registrars, and foster an understanding of their pricing, registration policies, reserved names, and audits. To a closed .BRAND registry, many of these tasks may seem unnecessary. They’re not. Each task will help registry operators articulate a clear purpose and mandate for their registries: Who may register? Which names are reserved for the registry? What are the costs of registration? And what sort of registration guidelines should be imposed?
Rights Protection Mechanisms – A number of processes are available to protect trademark holders and the general community, and registries must be familiar with each one in the event their practices are challenged. The Trademark Clearinghouse is the most fundamental rights protection mechanism, and comes into play for every registry during TLD sunrise periods, when trademark holders get the first shot at registrations. Other protection mechanisms include the registry-restriction dispute resolution procedure, the trademark post-delegation dispute resolution procedure, Public Interest Commitment dispute resolution procedure, and Uniform Rapid Suspension. Each of these procedures has its own set of guidelines and requirements that registries must learn in case a dispute arises.
Running a registry is a big job, and while many of these responsibilities can be outsourced, a registry operator will need on-staff employees to direct, oversee, or assist in the running of the registry. At a minimum a registry needs its own legal, IT, and digital strategy teams involved at some level.
Operating their own registries may be an unnerving experience for many owners of new top-level domains. That’s why it’s important to involve other departments and colleagues. There is safety – and value – in numbers.