An organisation whose operations are usually invisible to us registrars, is CENTR, the Council of European National Top Level Domain Registries. This non-profit organisation is dedicated to supporting the interest of country code TLD managers and promotes the development of high standards and best practices among ccTLD Registries. Its 52 members, mainly European ccTLD operators, are responsible for over 80% of all worldwide ccTLD registrations.
So what is a blog about CENTR doing so prominently on the website of a registrar? The answer is simple: CENTR has started to reveal itself a little bit more to registrars. Starting in 2014, registrars are invited to join one of CENTR’s annual meetings. This year’s edition was in the first week of October in Brussels.
We grabbed this opportunity with both hands: where else can we get in touch with so many different registries face-to-face at a mutually interesting event?
Don’t get me wrong: we are in touch with many registries on a very personal level. I am a regular attendee of the registrar meetings of our most important registries SIDN, EURid, DENIC, AFNIC amongst others. More general events like the ICANN meetings are always packed with scheduled and unscheduled talks with registries worldwide. Unfortunately there are some registries that are not very visible. NIC IT and DNS PT, just to name two examples of registries where we nevertheless have a significant number of domains. Such CENTR meetings are ideal to meet ‘the man behind the scene’ and exchange thoughts.
Then there are the many smaller registries that do not regularly attend other meetings. Take a look at the participants list of this CENTR meeting and you’ll see registries that you might not even have heard of before: Estonia, Guernsey, Croatia, … All of them potentially interesting for our growing European presence.
The official agenda
Of course there was an official agenda listing an interesting mix of CENTR information, current developments and a panel discussion.
CENTR itself is an organisation that is certainly a front-runner in the worldwide TLD landscape, especially taking into account the few non-European registries that are involved, like Canada (.ca) and Australia (.au). As mentioned before, these members together have 80% of all domains worldwide under management; 16 of them have a zone size bigger than 1 million domains. Still, 80% acts as a non-profit organisation.
Many registries (41%) have relations with the local governments. In our experience, this is often a blocking factor for policy changes – while overall processes tend to become more standardized, heavily regulated registries still struggle with the right way to handle for example owner changes (as those who have ever performed a .dk or .es trade will certainly remember).
Half of the registries still offer direct registrations to end-users. In my opinion this is something that must stop – the registry should be concerned about the quality and stability of their zone and not spend resources in acting with end-users: registrars are better equipped for that job!
An important task of CENTR is analysis of the market and try to use that knowledge to aim for further harmonization. This analysis covers very diverse topics such as personal data processing, national legislation, security or openness of data. Results of it include better pricing, abuse rates and DNSSEC adoption compared to the rest of the world.
CENTR is not the place for rapid development. Many projects, including the ones mentioned above, are ongoing and will result in slow uptake by the various registries. One of the projects which was put in the spotlight is the harmonization of domain statuses. Can we define one common term, for example, to use for a domain that has been deleted but is still restorable, instead of using the current mix of redemptionPeriod, quarantine, cooldown and many others?
The panel discussing the future of domain names and ccTLDs consisted of three registry operators and one registrar, all more or less involved in both ccTLDs and new gTLDs. As we have seen often these past few years, it’s hard to do any real predictions. The recent developments, most important of course being the new gTLDs, are too young to deliver representative numbers. However, everybody agrees that there will be an impact, and not only that: the changes will be positive for the ccTLDs. With 300 million domains registered on 7 billion world citizens, there’s a lot to win and any exposure and awareness is more than welcome.
It is clear that although every registry keeps safeguarding its principles (either on own initiative or driven by their governments), many are open for harmonization and sharing their experiences amongst each other. For those interested in the slides accompanying the presentations: they are available at CENTR’s website.
Maybe the question arises why Openprovider is so active in these kinds of events? First of all, it’s the first place where new developments, registry changes or promotion and marketing opportunities are announced. We also meet suppliers, customers and potential customers that we would not have met at other occasions.
The interest of our customers, however, always comes in the first place. Openprovider runs a pretty unique business model without end-users, with only resellers. This means that the wishes of our customers are different from the wishes of most other registrar’s customers. Our input and our discussions with the registries lead to more balanced developments. We fight for openness, uniformity and realistic registry pricing and policies. That’s a hard fight sometimes, but luckily we’re not the only ones. We certainly see changes in the world of domains, although a bit slow, which will benefit us all!