Starting December 1, 2016, the organization that oversees the domain name system (known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers or ICANN for short) is implementing some new rules that will change how updating certain WHOIS contacts on your domain names will work.
In short, ICANN is creating a new “trade” system that will come into effect whenever either a registrant, or someone acting on their behalf, makes a change to the name, organization or email address for the owner contact of a generic top-level domain like .com, .net, .photography or .xyz. Some country-code domains like .uk already have a similar trade concept in place but this new ICANN policy only applies to generic top-level domains.
Is it a trade, or not a trade?
ICANN considers any change of the owner contact name, organization or email address to be a trade, or transfer of the ownership of the domain between the two parties. That means that it is a “trade” in ICANN’s eyes even if the change doesn’t actually cause the domain to change hands.
For example, if you update the spelling of your first name (i.e. change from Kate to Kathryn) or change your owner contact email from one email address you use to another (i.e. from email@example.com to a new custom domain email address like firstname.lastname@example.org), ICANN sees that as a trade between two people even though they are both you.
Of course, if you actually change ownership of the domain via a contact change, the trade rule also applies. Changing the name from Larry Smith to Sarah Jones or the email contact from email@example.com to firstname.lastname@example.org is clearly a trade of the domain between two parties and would trigger the policy.
More Security, and a Little Bit More Complexity
At its core, the goal of this update to ICANN’s Inter-Registrar Transfer Policy (IRTP), is to add an additional level of security to domain name ownership and also to provide more information to domain registrants around contact updates.
We’ve been tracking the progress of ICANN’s Transfer Policy Change Working Group as they’ve developed the new policy over last couple of years (seriously…it takes that long). As you would expect from Hover, we’re going to take that policy and implement it fully, and in a way that is as registrant-friendly as possible.
In other words, we’re attempting to maximize the positive benefits of the policy while keeping the added complexity to a minimum.
Emails and Transfer Locks
In terms of the impact on our customers, it boils down to a couple of things:
- The policy requires us to provide some additional communication, via email, when the owner contact is changed. Specifically, it says we need to tell both the old and the new contact that the change has been made. There is no provision that would allow either party to opt-out of getting that communication and both contacts will get an email, even if that’s two emails sent to the same person.
- The policy allows for (but does not require) the application of a 60-day transfer lock on a domain where the owner contact is updated. That 60-day transfer lock is the same one that is applied when a domain is transferred between registrars (like from from Go Daddy to Hover) and it prevents a domain from bouncing from one registrar to another, to another in a short period of time. It’s not the same as the lock you can toggle on your domain within the Hover control panel and the policy says it’s up to the registrant to say they don’t want the domain locked if that’s their preference.
We generally like the idea of the emails. Sending an email out to the old contact and also the new contact to let them know a change is being made represents a nice bit of additional security that could alert a domain registrant in the unlikely event that someone makes a change without their approval. It does mean that registrants will get a couple more emails that they can’t opt out of, but over all, we think it’s a positive addition.
The 60-day lock also seems like a decent idea at first glance. But we also know from our experience in helping tens of thousands of registrants transfer domains in and out of Hover over the years that a lot of registrants update one or more of those contacts just prior to starting a transfer of their domain from one registrar to another. While some registrars will (and in some cases already do) see the addition of that 60-day transfer lock as a good opportunity to “save” their customer from transferring away, the policy allows registrants the option to skip the lock if they wish and so we’ll put full control of whether that optional lock is applied in the hands of the registrant where it belongs.
We’ll provide more information on exactly what the IRTP policy will mean to you as it relates to managing your domains at Hover in the coming weeks.