Sipence Grabs 1 Million .info Domains, Sparking Controversy

Domain owners are protesting a move by domain registrar eNom to register the .info equivalents of nearly a million .com domains owned by eNom customers. Domain name statistics show that eNom registered 950,000 domain names between Sept. 27 and Oct. 4.

The domains were registered through Sipence, which has the same address as eNom in an office suite in Bellevue, Wash. The domains were reportedly registered with the name and contact details of the owner of the .com domain. Inquirers to Sipence and eNom say they are being told that the .info domains were registered "on their behalf" and will soon appear in their eNom accounts. Several report being told via email that the .info domains would "be available to you for a small fee if you choose to use them." Other customers say they've been told there will be no charge for the domains.

Some eNom customers are asserting that Sipence/eNom has effectively acted as a cybersquatter, registering domains associated with their brands. But the scenario is somewhat different from traditional cybersquatting, since the .com owner is the listed registrant. Nom has not yet responded to a request for comment.

The registrations by Sipence were tied to an Afilias promotion offering .info names to registrars at promotional rates. Afilias' Heather Carle said the terms of the promotion were confidential, and would not say whether the domains were offered at no cost to the registrars. NameSecure, Dotster and Hostway are also offering .info names for free, while DomainSite is not far behind at 99 cents for .info names.

"We looked at this promotion as a way to focus attention on .info," said Carle. "We haven't had this kind of aggressive promotion of .info by registrars before."

Afilias, which maintains the .info top-level domain, processed 1 million .info domains in a 36-hour period, a thousand times the average daily load on its system, according to Carle. About 1.5 million .info domains were registered in the first three years of the TLD's availability.

The huge volume may have temporarily slowed the deployment of some .info names, but only because the DNS system places restrictions of the number of simultaneous submissions from a registrar. "With a million requests over 36 hours, they were queued," said Carle, so that although Afilias handled the volume, "it might have taken longer for some of the registrations to go through."