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Tiny Web Host Claims Big ICANN Registrars Block Domain Transfers

A Calif. Web hosting service claims large Internet domain name registrars are blocking customers from transferring domain names; the big guys say the supposed roadblocks are to prevent fraud.

Berkeley, Calif. Web hosting service Tiger Technologies has accused several big Internet domain name registrars of unjustifiably blocking customers who want to transfer domain names from one registrar to another.

The policies are set by ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, and lay out a set of rules under which the holders of domain names can change registrars if they choose.

However, Robert Mathews of Tiger Technologies cites a number of cases in which customers who want to transfer domain names to Tiger from Register.com or GoDaddy.com or Network Solutions have run into problems.

Register.com customers may be required to pay first to renew, he said. Register.com could not be reached for comment. Other registrars may block transfers temporarily because the contact information has changed or there is "suspicious activity" on the account.

Some of this blocking is intended to prevent fraud, according to Network Solutions. "We don't believe in forcing our customers to stay with us," said spokesman Shashi Bellamkonda. "We implement a transfer lock when the account in question has exhibited the traits of other accounts that have been compromised. This evidence of fraud is an acceptable reason to lock a domain name under ICANN policy."

"In addition, customers who encounter a transfer lock can contact our Customer Support. . . A dedicated security team investigates their account and, upon determining that the request is legitimate, helps complete the transfer without undue delay," Bellamkonda said. "We also work cooperatively with many ICANN-accredited registrars to clarify both inbound and outbound transfer requests making it a smooth process for our customers."

Mathews claims that dedicated thieves can circumvent security precautions. "We've complained again and again to ICANN" about arbitrary rejections of domain name transfers, he wrote on Tiger's blog, "but they don't seem interested."

ICANN's Generic Names Supporting Organization is working on the issue, but it's one of several domain name problems on the table. That's because the number of top-level domain names will likely explode in the next year or so as ICANN permits new types of vanity names -- .company, .personal name, and so on -- which in turn may raise new opportunities for trademark violations and fraud.

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