Europe's domain registry being hijacked, GoDaddy says

The registry for the new .eu domain has booked 1.4 million Web addresses since Friday morning — but one registrar has accused the group that runs it of inept organization, allowing companies to cheat the system by setting up bogus registrars to work on their behalf.

“What happens when you match an inept registry with crafty businessmen? The answer is a really large scam,” Bob Parsons, chief executive officer of domain name registrar GoDaddy.com Inc., wrote in his weblog.

Eurid vzw, which runs the registry, required registrars to apply for accreditation before the “landrush” phase of registrations began. Would-be registrars had only to declare that they are an individual business applying for a single accreditation, agree to offer registrations to all their customers on an equal basis, and make a deposit of at least €10,000 (US$12,100).

Eurid’s registry system is designed to give each registrar equal access to the database, and equal chances to register unclaimed names. They registrars effectively “line up” to make a request for a .eu domain name, Parsons wrote. If the name is available, the registrar gets it for its customer. If it’s not, the registrar goes to the back of the line to wait for another turn.

Parsons claims that some companies spotted a loophole in the system: by creating additional registrars and applying for accreditation for them, they were able to multiply their chances of successfully making registrations.

“These new phantom registrars were created to hijack the .eu landrush,” Parsons wrote in his blog.

There were 1,556 registrars accredited by Eurid on Monday morning. Some of them had similar names and identical addresses and telephone numbers. For example, there are 10 registrars named after flowers or plants that share an address and telephone number in Starnberg, Germany.

Parsons called on Eurid to freeze domain name registrations until the phantom registrars can be identified, and then to put the names they registered back on the market.

Eurid’s rules say it will only deal with accredited registrars, and they must deal directly with the domain name purchaser. No other intermediaries or agents are allowed, according to a notice to accredited registrars published last August.

A spokesman for Eurid dismissed Parsons’ allegations.

“There’s no such thing as a fake registrar. Either you are a registrar, or you’re not. Some registrars do have the same owner. There are European registrars that have offices in different countries, and each subsidiary is a registrar,” said Patrik Lindén, communications manager for Eurid.

As long as registrars are legally incorporated entities that meet the letter of the Eurid regulations, they will be accepted, he said.

“If we start trying to interpret the spirit [of the regulations], it becomes difficult for people to predict how we will react. If we start to do it any other way, it starts to become a beauty contest for registrars. Then what do you look for?” he said.

Updated 4:05 PM April 11, 2006: Added comments from Eurid spokesman.

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