Should be easy to win the rights to .tv when you're name-checked in the contract's tech reqs – right, Afilias?

Funny how this has happened again

References to Afilias have been spotted in the technical requirements for the contract to run the trendy top-level domain .tv, suggesting the process is strongly stacked in the internet registry operator's favor.

If you're having déjà vu, it's because we blew the lid off the exact same thing in the battle over Colombia's .co.

In a story last Thursday, we reported that the tiny island nation of Tuvalu, which owns .tv, has invited companies to bid on the right to sell .tv domains.

Crucially, we revealed the unusual and illogical prerequisites to win this lucrative contract. For instance, despite there being only 500,000 .tv domain names, the government of Tuvalu said whoever wanted to run the top-level domain needed to have carried out "at least 3 transitions of TLDs over 1 million domain names." Not only that but the successful bidder also has to have transitioned "at least 5 TLDs, and at least 5 ccTLDs."

We have now been able to confirm that in the exact same way Colombia's technical requirements for .co were seemingly tailored for Afilias, language in the .tv fine-print also directly references the registry operator.

Tuvalu's .tv registry has been run for the past 20 years by Verisign, yet under the criteria published by the Tuvalu government, the dot-com giant would not be eligible to continue operating it.

Nor would GoDaddy Registry, which recently bought registry operations from Neustar, and says it owns, manages, or operates more than 240 top-level domains. And nor would Centralnic, which runs at least 50 top-level-domain backends.

In each case, these competitors to Afilias fail to meet one aspect of .tv's requirements, giving Tuvalu's government a simple way to hand the contract over to Afilias without having to address the bids on other criteria such as price, technical standards, and service levels. The bidding process is also being held in secret, behind closed doors.

We understand that another invited bidder for .tv is auDA, the company that runs Australia's .au top-level domain. But auDA itself uses the Afilias platform so it is effectively the same.

Not in the public interest

In the case of Colombia's .co rebid last year, the formal requirements for the TLD repeatedly cited Public Interest Registry, or PIR, the company that runs .org and whose technical backend is provided by Afilias. It appeared someone tuned the .co criteria to align them with Afilias's capabilities, clearing the way for it to bag the .co contract.

There was no reason why .org's PIR would feature in technical requirements for a completely different top-level domain, and its inclusion was seen as a clumsy attempt to award the gig to a specific applicant by stealth. It also didn't help that Afilias CTO Ram Mohan was pictured sitting next to Colombia's IT minister Sylvia Constaín at a round-table in Bogota months earlier.


Ever wanted to own a piece of the internet? Now you can: $1 for a whole gTLD... or $2.8m if you want a decent one


A spokesperson for Afilias denied anything untoward happened, telling us at the time last year: “We have not met with the technology minister or the technology ministry in private to provide advice or documents regarding the .co tender.” Constaín also said everything was above board, and resigned for a job in the private sector.

We have yet to see any pictures of Afilias bosses getting cozy with Tuvalu government officials, and we have asked the company to state if there have been any meetings or discussions with the island nation regarding its top-level domain. In the meantime, would you believe it? Afilias shows up again in the .tv files.

Included in the technical requirements is a reference to abuse protection service NameSentry – complete with its service-mark symbol.

Most of the largest registry operators offer some kind of abuse protection but only one offers NameSentry: Afilias acquired the service when it sued another domain security company, Architelos, into bankruptcy in 2016. As a result, NameSentry is inextricably linked to Afilias.

There is no reason why NameSentry would be identified specifically in technical documentation produced by the Tuvalu government.

What a coincidence

Taken together, Afilias – which is owned by domains giant Donuts since December – has, again, found itself name-checked in the requirements to run a TLD that its rivals have been ostensibly invited to bid on. Afilias has ignored our requests for comment and our offer to let it tell its side of this story.

Last time around, amid media pressure on the Colombian government to explain itself, Afilias withdrew its bid for .co and the contract for operating the top-level domain went back to its incumbent operator, Neustar.

As a far smaller country, with just over 10,000 inhabitants (as opposed to Colombia's 50 million), Tuvalu doesn't have much of an independent, free press. There is a digital publication, run by the government, and a single private newspaper, run by the Justice minister Dr Kitiona Tausi.

If Tuvaluans want to get the best deal from their most valuable digital asset, they would do well to take a closer look at the .tv rebid. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • 381,000-plus Kubernetes API servers 'exposed to internet'
    Firewall isn't a made-up word from the Hackers movie, people

    A large number of servers running the Kubernetes API have been left exposed to the internet, which is not great: they're potentially vulnerable to abuse.

    Nonprofit security organization The Shadowserver Foundation recently scanned 454,729 systems hosting the popular open-source platform for managing and orchestrating containers, finding that more than 381,645 – or about 84 percent – are accessible via the internet to varying degrees thus providing a cracked door into a corporate network.

    "While this does not mean that these instances are fully open or vulnerable to an attack, it is likely that this level of access was not intended and these instances are an unnecessarily exposed attack surface," Shadowserver's team stressed in a write-up. "They also allow for information leakage on version and build."

    Continue reading
  • A peek into Gigabyte's GPU Arm for AI, HPC shops
    High-performance platform choices are going beyond the ubiquitous x86 standard

    Arm-based servers continue to gain momentum with Gigabyte Technology introducing a system based on Ampere's Altra processors paired with Nvidia A100 GPUs, aimed at demanding workloads such as AI training and high-performance compute (HPC) applications.

    The G492-PD0 runs either an Ampere Altra or Altra Max processor, the latter delivering 128 64-bit cores that are compatible with the Armv8.2 architecture.

    It supports 16 DDR4 DIMM slots, which would be enough space for up to 4TB of memory if all slots were filled with 256GB memory modules. The chassis also has space for no fewer than eight Nvidia A100 GPUs, which would make for a costly but very powerful system for those workloads that benefit from GPU acceleration.

    Continue reading
  • GitLab version 15 goes big on visibility and observability
    GitOps fans can take a spin on the free tier for pull-based deployment

    One-stop DevOps shop GitLab has announced version 15 of its platform, hot on the heels of pull-based GitOps turning up on the platform's free tier.

    Version 15.0 marks the arrival of GitLab's next major iteration and attention this time around has turned to visibility and observability – hardly surprising considering the acquisition of OpsTrace as 2021 drew to a close, as well as workflow automation, security and compliance.

    GitLab puts out monthly releases –  hitting 15.1 on June 22 –  and we spoke to the company's senior director of Product, Kenny Johnston, at the recent Kubecon EU event, about what will be added to version 15 as time goes by. During a chat with the company's senior director of Product, Kenny Johnston, at the recent Kubecon EU event, The Register was told that this was more where dollars were being invested into the product.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022