ICANN Policy Changes and Your Website

Did you know that domain names are like fingerprints? They are all unique, as they must be, so that only one website can be housed at that digital location. There is one entity in charge of keeping track of all domain names and to whom they belong in order to ensure that there are no duplicates—ICANN: Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Recently ICANN enacted changes to some of their policies in an effort to improve security and prevent fraudulent domain trades and transfers. We’ll break that down for you…

Domain Name Basics

Before you can understand the policy changes, you need to be familiar with a few of the terms:

  • Domain: the virtual address where a website may be located—it’s the part of the URL after “www” and may end with .com, .edu, .gov, .net, .us, etc.
  • Registrar: the party with whom a domain name is registered—companies like GoDaddy and Network Solutions are registrars. Registration of a domain name usually involves paying an annual fee, giving you exclusive ownership of that domain (through the paid term).
  • Registrant: the individual who registers the domain name with the registrar.
  • Trade: the change of registrant contact information from one party to another (even if the parties may be the same)
  • Transfer: the movement of a domain registration from one registrar to another.

What makes domains a bit tricky is that most registrations are temporary. If you allow your registration to lapse (i.e. you do not pay the annual registration fee on time), the domain name becomes available to the public, so someone else could register it. Domain names can also be transferred or traded, sometimes through an auction in which the current registrant transfers domain name ownership to the highest bidder.

About those ICANN Changes

The most significant changes ICANN has made affect their Inter-Registrar Transfer Policy (IRTP). Here’s the short version—any change to the registrant’s first name, last name, organization name and/or email address is now considered a domain registration transfer.

So, if ABCorp.com was initially registered by Joe Smith (jsmith@hotmail.com), updating contact information to Joseph R. Smith and/or jrs123@abcorp.com would “trigger” the new policy. The new policy will, of course, also apply to actual domain trades as in the case of XYZinc.com from Mary Daly (md111@yahoo.com) to Richard Bismarc (rbiz@gmail.com).

Two things happen when ICANN detects a domain registration transfer:

  • Both the old and new registrant will receive an email from the registrar notifying them of the change. The email requires response from both email addresses (even if they belong to the same individual) to approve the trade.
  • Because trades are now considered domain transfers, upon completion of the change/ update of registrant information, the domain is automatically locked for 60 days, which means that no further changes to the registrant information can be done.

Because many registrant trades occur before a registrar transfer, as often happens when businesses change management or ownership, it is important to make sure that correct individual and contact information is entered for the new registrant since no further changes will be allowed for the next two months.

What ICANN’s Changes Mean for You

ICANN’s policy changes do not affect website hosting or your website’s performance. They only affect domain registrants and registrars. If SonicSEO.com manages your domain registration or you have no need to trade or transfer your domain, then you likely will not notice any change at all. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.