IP Views

What's in a Domain Name?

May 27, 2008

by: Au Hipol

Domain Names

Each computer on the Internet has a unique Internet Protocol Address or IP Address. It is a set of numbers that is borne by every computer, and no two IP addresses are alike. The IP address is the means by which one computer may be accessed or reached by other computers on the Internet. For example, I want to access a website carried by one computer and the IP address for that computer is 216.239.51.99. I can type that IP address on my web browser and my browser will contact the said computer and display the website. Since IP addresses are difficult to recall, the Domain Name System or DNS was created in order to assign words or names to IP addresses. Thus, instead of typing 216.239.51.99 on my browser, I can simply type www.google.com and my browser will display the site I intended to visit. By assigning domain names to websites, the DNS made Internet networking more convenient.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers or ICANN is an organization that plays a major role in domain name registration. The ICANN manages the DNS, and ensures that domain names are unique and that they correspond to a legitimate IP address in order to harmonize the Internet and to make computer networking possible. It is also the accrediting body for companies that seek to become domain name registrars. Persons and associations register or buy domain names from ICANN-accredited registrars all over the world.

Domain name registration is no longer made directly with the ICANN. The ICANN made the registration process accessible and convenient by accrediting companies all over the world to become domain name registrars. The list of ICANN-accredited registrars, numbering hundreds, is available at http://www.internic.net/alpha.html. Based on the list that was last updated on May 15, 2008, the Philippines has one ICANN-accredited domain registrar, i.e. Absystems, Inc. The ICANN is responsible for coordinating and organizing all the domain names and addresses that are coursed through the ICANN-accredited registrars, to ensure that each domain name and address is unique.

The ICANN serves as the top management over the registration of general top level domains or gTLD’s, e.g. .com, .net and .org. Rules enforced by ICANN-accredited registrars on gTLD registration are regulated by the ICANN. The registrars are also obliged to abide by the policies issued by the ICANN. Hence, if I wanted to register the domain name bengzonnegreuntalan.com, I can register it with my local ICANN-accredited registrar. The local registrar shall then submit my registration to the Registry Operator responsible for the .com top level domain. Registry Operators exercise control in behalf of ICANN over the top level domains assigned to them. Hence, in the hierarchy of agencies in domain name registration, the ICANN has ultimate supervision over all gTLD names.

On the other hand, the ICANN does not have the same authority over country code top level domains or ccTLD’s, e.g. .ph for the Philippines, .au for Australia and .uk for the United Kingdom. These top level domain names are assigned by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority or the IANA to countries. The IANA is operated by the ICANN. The ccTLD for the Philippines is .ph and it is being managed by the PH Domain Foundation. The ICANN has no power to accredit ccTLD names registrars and it has no control over ccTLD names registration. The respective countries, through their designated country code managers, are the ones who govern the rules and policies governing the registration of ccTLD names. Countries may impose special requirements in ccTLD names registration, like the citizenship of the registrant, and the ICANN has no authority over particular rules to a certain ccTLD. Thus, registration of domain names like iplaw.ph are beyond the management of the ICANN.

WHOIS

The ICANN maintains the WHOIS service. The WHOIS is a publicly accessible online database relating to domain name registration. It is available at http://www.internic.net/whois.html. The WHOIS contains information on a registered domain name and the name and contact information of its registrant. It comprises of information gathered from all ICANN-accredited registrars across the world. The WHOIS was created to foster accountability in domain name registration. It allows for the enforcement of trademark and other laws that may have been impinged by the registration of domain names.

The UDRP

To further fulfill its function, the ICANN adopted the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy or UDRP to resolve conflicts relating to domain name registration. A domain name registrant of an ICANN-accredited registrar must agree to be bound by the UDRP. The UDRP provides certain remedies by which issues concerning domain names may be resolved. Domain name disputes may be resolved by agreement of the parties, arbitration, administrative proceeding or court action. The most noteworthy of the remedies is the mandatory administrative proceeding, because the UDRP directly provides for the process of this dispute-resolution mechanism.

Recent Developments

Since 1995, the ICANN has been facing the issue of reforming the WHOIS database. Because the names and contact information of domain name registrants are publicly available on WHOIS, it became a reference for spamming, identity theft and other similar abuses on the Internet. Advocates for its reform want to increase privacy and security in the WHOIS. However, such a move will affect, if not totally render inoperative, the purpose of the database, which is to identify registrants of domain name and to hold them accountable in cases of law violations. This is a delicate balance that ICANN is striving to achieve. As of the last quarter of 2007, the ICANN decided to maintain the status quo to conduct further studies on the matter.

On a more technical note, the Philippines recently hosted the summit on the Internet Protocol version 6 or IPv6 summit which sought to accelerate the adoption of a 128-bit IP address from the current 32 bits of IPv4. Because of the Internet’s exponential growth in the recent years, the 32-bit IPv4 is fast running out of space for addresses or domain names and other Internet applications. The IPv6 summit hopes to address this concern, to make the Internet more secure and reliable.

Office Address

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Contact

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E-mail: bnu@iplaw.ph
URL: www.iplaw.ph