Sunday, November 1, 2009

DNC Consultation: Second Level Domains Policy Review

Some top level domains (.com, .tv) allow people to register a name immediately before the top level domain. Other top level domains provide a restricted number of names immediately to the left of the top level domain such as,, and allow registration only at the third level. These limited number of second level names are known as second level domain names. Some registration schemes, such as the Chinese .cn registry allow a hybrid system.

Currently New Zealand's .nz registry allows only 12 second level domains;,,,,,, and are "unmoderated" meaning anyone can register a name in these second level domains while,,,, and are "moderated" so that only those meeting the requirements of the second level domain can register the name.

There is a published set of rules "policy" for creating and managing these second level domains and the NZ Domain Name Commission is currently conducting a review of this policy. This review will remain open until 27 January 2010.

I'll probably put in a response at some point (And hopefully I'll remember to do it well ahead of the closing date this time), but I think something more than changing the rules for creating second level domains needs to be done. I'm planning on refining my thoughts over the next 3 or 4 weeks with my submission going in around the start of December.

As I recall, back in the 1990s all second level domains except were moderated to one level or another with for companies, for domains related to keeping the Internet going in New Zealand, etc with for everything that didn't fit in anywhere else. Just about everyone abided by these rules with a few anomalies, for example Actrix, my first ISP was for obscure historical reasons There's still around 1,200 domains registered (about 0.3%) slightly more than the 1,000 odd names.

At some point this changed and anyone was allowed to register in any of what are now the unmoderated second level domains. At that point all the unmoderated names except started to become meaningless as people started to register in by default.

Examining September 2009 statistics published by the Domain Name Commission shows roughly 86% of all registered domains are with another 5% in each of and giving 97% in these three levels. Another 1% is shared between the nominally educational and with the rest being pretty much at the level of background noise.

I've already said elsewhere for people registering domains "You must have the most common extension for your target market, the one that your customers are used to typing. Use .com, not .biz;, not Once you've got that you can also register variations, when it makes sense." I'd be very interested in knowing how many of the 5% and 5% names are held by the same registrant as the Except for a few specialist applications, is where the type-in is, where the customers go and where businesses should be. With their ".nz is our home" campaign, the Domain Name Commission is currently promoting the other variations, but realistically the 86% market penetration of is going to make this very difficult.

The moderated names could be useful if they are promoted properly. Their strength is that they go a long way to avoiding phishing attacks; when you go to a site, you know it is an official government site, if the banker's association could convince its members to play ball and promote it, you'd know when you went to a site that you were dealing with a registered bank. I like the British and wish we had a moderated, etc so there was a guarantee that you really were connecting to the organisation you wanted. Rather than passively waiting for interested groups to propose new moderated second level domains, I'd like to see them actively promoting the creation of second level domains to suitable moderators -- for example what if when you registered a company the companies office could also issue you with a domain name?

I'd also like to see some of the existing unmoderated extensions become moderated. Wouldn't it be great if when you went to a name you knew that you were on the website of an NZQA accredited degree level institution?

I'm sure that some would believe that, except for the existing second level names, we should allow domain names to be registered directly at the .nz level (e.g. instead of, similar to the way that was created as a second level domain mainly to allow the website to function. I'm not convinced that this is a good idea, as once this is done the good names will be snapped up in a frenzy and the creation of new, moderated, second level domains with meaningful extensions will become very difficult.

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