Domains are an essential part of branding, which is why premium domains command a price. But with issues arising from dotPH’s management of the PH registry, should administration be re-assigned?
Time and again, issues arise regarding the Philippine domain registry, dotPH, particularly whether its current administrator is handling the domain registry and registrar in a viable manner. Simply put, administrator Joel Disini says he was given the mandate to govern the PH registry by the IANA in the early 1990′s, and he will continue to do so until the same body deems him ineligible.
Critics, notably PHNet (which handles the .edu.ph namespace and previously .gov.ph) and the proponents of the Philippine Domain Name Authority Convenors (PhilDAC) among others, say dotPH engages in monopolistic practices, which has contributed to a slow growth in the PH domain industry.
To illustrate, PH domains cost US$35 annually apiece, which is the same price as it was in 2000. In contrast, generic top-level domains like .COM, .NET and .ORG now sell for as low as $8 per year, and can even go lower with promo codes.
theBobbery has made an excellent compilation of the issue, asking whether dotPH can handle the registry in a competent manner. Some issues were put to highlight in Franky Branckaute’s post, which includes a list of relevant media coverage:
- dotPH runs both the PH registry and as operates a registrar itself, thereby competing with its own registrars and resellers.
- dotPH runs its own ISP, which results in a conflict of interest.
- dotPH can price PH domains at will because it does not have anyone to compete with in the registry space.
As a disclosure, I worked with Joel during a very brief stint as a product manager and internal auditor at dotPH in 2005. Back then, the issues were still the same. The company’s stance against critics was that dotPH was given technical and administrative oversight of the registry, and that the Philippine government did not have any control over the same. On pricing, dotPH maintains that it offers bulk pricing to its resellers, who can then price domains accordingly. dotPH did not want to compete with its own resellers, and hence could not reduce the $35 price on direct purchases.
In my mind, this comes with both pros and cons.
The “pros” are a bit limited, but here’s what I think:
- Higher barrier to entry discourages domain squatting.
- Companies and brands are encouraged to think about their branding strategy more carefully (rather than do the shotgun approach of buying a lot of cheap .COM domains, intending to choose only one). Interesting plays on “PH” come to mind, like technogra.ph and anything that ends with “ph”.
Meanwhile, the cons are more numerous, and have a direct effect on how online businesses can thrive locally using the PH namespace:
- A more expensive PH domain nam means local companies have to spend more (about PhP 1,400 annually) to maintain their domain names, as opposed to using a generic domain, which costs about PhP 300 per year.
- A more expensive domain has forced some website owners to use “ph” variations, instead, such as xxxxPH.com. A site I used to co-edit, PinoyAutoBlog.com opted to use the slang term for Filipinos, “Pinoy” instead of use the Philippine domain identifier.
- Domain owners often find the need to buy both the COM.PH and .PH domains, to prevent their domain name from being squatted on.
- Resellers and distributors are hard-pressed to earn from reselling PH domains, except if they can sell in bulk, or if they have ex-deals with dotPH.
The author (R) with dotPH CEO Joel Disini (L) at WordCamp Manila in 2008.
Is dotPH competent enough to handle domain administration?
But there is one thing that has brought dotPH to the limelight again in the recent days. e-Commerce startup Sulit.com.ph has seen some downtime over the weekend. According to Sulit CEO RJ David, the site was brought down due to a vulnerability within dotPH’s systems.
dotPH says they are still looking into the matter, and has addressed the Sulit issue temporarily by locking down domain changes. The speculation is that the exploit was done through DNS poisoning, which re-routes web traffic by changing the actual physical server that the domain name points toward. In this case, going to “sulit.com.ph” redirected users to a third-party landing page.
I sought dotPH out for a comment, and CEO Joel stressed their use of a “domain lock” as a temporary solution.
“We’re studying the issue, but haven’t found a security problem on our end. Will update you once we have a definitive answer. There is a domain lock option for users who don’t want their DNS modified. A signed letter is necessary for any change to take place. Even in the event of a security breach, the domain cannot be modified.”
For now, issues still remain, namely:
- Whether the ICANN should re-delegate administrative control of the PH ccTLD to another party, given that dotPH’s commercial interests might be in conflict with the administration of a registry.
- There are precedents in other countries, in which their registries had been re-delegated to ensure better competition and management.
- There is still the question of dotPH adequately addressing the potential security vulnerability.
Can dotPH pivot?
Domains have been the bread and butter for dotPH. The company has also serviced enterprise communication needs through its sister company the Email Company (EMC), which offers ISP services and email to corporate clients. However, in the past years, the company has tried to offer different online, web and mobile services, that in my opinion were ahead of their time.
For instance, there was the dotPhone effort. “PH” can be considered to represent “phone” and Joel and co thought it would be a good way to set-up a unified point of contact, with your PH domain eventually replacing your phone number. Critics were vocal against dotPhone, as it would dilute the sovereign value of the PH as a Philippine-specific TLD.
Then there was i.PH, which started out as a blogging service, and eventually pivoted to a social network aggregation service. The service was unable to compete with the likes of WordPress.com, and then eventually social networks like Facebook and microblogs like Twitter.
Joel also mulled developing a location-based service, where we would input GIS information onto satellite imagery. Businesses and individuals could then use the service to navigate and look for local establishments and businesses. Instead of spending millions to acquire data, Joel wisely decided that Google would eventually take over the space once Google Maps gets Philippine data — and it did!
The question here is whether dotPH can innovate? If we take out control of the registry — and dotPH remains a registrar — will the company still thrive amid competition? I would think so. Joel is no stranger to the startup culture, having bootstrapped the dotPH business after his stint as a developer at the Valley in the ’80s. But perhaps with the status quo, dotPH has not truly found a need to innovate. Will a re-assignment be the catalyst?
Why this is important
In the case of Sulit, it’s a matter of their being unable to render their services because dotPH’s own services supposedly failed. Being an e-commerce site — and the #1 Philippine website as per Alexa — I can only imagine how much revenue was lost in the one to two days the site was offline, from the point of view of sellers. The site also earns from ads, and downtime would have an effect on its own revenue stream, and that of advertisers.
For the rest of us, the standing concern here whether it is viable to get a PH domain for your company or web service, given the potential security flaws. I can name a few startups and publications that have chosen to go for a PH domain, such as Tripid and Webgeek. Even torrent search site KAT.PH has chosen to go the PH route (although the reason behind this can possibly be explained in another post).
Sure, you can go for a .COM domain instead. But if .PH were cheaper and more secure, would you go for a PH domain?
The post Should dotPH keep control of the PH domain registry? appeared first on e27.
Link to full article