ICANN Committee rejects dotless domain names, won’t “pursue any additional studies”

As you may recall from prior posts on this blog, there has been significant interest in the new gTLDs (e.g., and proposals from Google to allow one of their gTLD applications (.search) to function as a dotless domain (e.g. http//search). This ask was in sharp contrast to the report from ICANN’s own Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC), that said dotless was a bad idea.

Microsoft and many others in the industry (including Yahoo, Verisign) expressed concerns in allowing dotless domains on the Internet. The Internet Architecture Board (IAB) published a public statement, noting the relevant standards published by the IETF RFCs and supporting ICANN SSAC’s report SAC053 as

“a reasonable summary of the technical problems that arise from the implementation of dotless domains.” 

And a further study directed by ICANN (from Carve Systems here) arrived at the same conclusions as the SSAC. In it, Carve supported SSAC 053 that dotless domains would not be universally reachable, and serious security vulnerabilities exist and would be enabled by allowing such use. It concluded the

“inherent trust in dotless names, by users and software, may lead to confusion when handling new Internet facing dotless domains. This confusion can result in unexpected behavior and a misappropriation of trust, ultimately degrading the stability and security of the Internet.”

The “broad theme” of dotless domain names is accurate, and significant issues exist with current and legacy software and services that follow the tradition of using dotless names exclusive in the intranet space. Dotless domains are used as a core part of many intranet networks, and as such there would be serious implications and repercussions related to their use. To address some of the “technology confusion” raised in the report, Microsoft and many others in the industry have provided guidance for developers, service providers and enterprises to use unambiguous Fully Qualified Domain Names to specify locations in the tree hierarchy of the DNS.

So, after many months, I was happy to read recently that ICANN’s New gTLD Program Committee (NGPC) passed a resolution definitively rejecting the push for dotless domains. This was also supported by ICANN’s board, as announced last week. You can read more about how ICANN rejected the request to support dotless generic top-level domains on the Internet in Charlie Osborne’s article here on ZDnet.


An update on so-called dotless domains on the Internet

A couple of months ago I wrote here about the challenges with so-called “dotless” domains (e.g. http://microsoft instead of the common Such shortcuts may seem harmless at first glance, but they raise many more issues than might be solved when it comes to completing and validating an Internet URL or email address.

As you may recall, Microsoft’s position is that such shortened domains (as noted in our comment here) are not a good idea, as called out in the report from ICANN’s own Security and Stability Advisory Committee. (You can view the complete report here.) We know that many others also support the view that dotless domains would not be universally reachable, along with the serious security vulnerabilities enabled. Dotless domains would be confusing and customers might not know what to expect when they entered in such a shortened name.

In addition, the surface area to address all the different software components for stability and security concerns related to using such dotless names is tough. Not just a problem for consumers, many businesses and organizations (from small business to complex and worldwide enterprises) have current and legacy software and services that follow the tradition of using dotless names exclusive in the intranet space.

For instance, here at Microsoft, if I type in a dotless domian (e.g. “http://search“) into the address bar at work, I’ll go to my internal intranet search web page. Many companies function the same way, and you can imagine that any number of terms or strings used on a number of many different intranet networks could have serious implications and repercussions related… particularly if companies had to do additional work to parse and allocate these terms from a set of new top level domains.

I saw an example of what confusion could look like over lunch, as I attempted to register on a web site. In this case, the site failed to recognize an email address with only dotless domain as valid…


Now, multiply that by the number of websites where you enter in your email or web address and you can imagine the confusion, in addition to the work involved if every web site had to support new (and growing) dotless domains. (Certainly one of the new services that will opened up will include selling/ leasing new second level domains or Internet email addresses on the new crop of gTLDs.)

To address some of the confusion we’ve seen in the past (where companies have deployed single label domains), Microsoft and many others in the industry have provided guidance for developers, service providers and enterprises to use unambiguous Fully Qualified Domain Names. These FQDNs are sometimes referred to an absolute domain name, which specify locations in the tree hierarchy of the DNS and ensure that people get where they are expecting when they type in an address on the Internet URL and avoid any confusion.

Last week, the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) published a public statement calling attention again to the concerns on using dotless domains in the root zone, noting the relevant standards published by the IETF RFCs. In the statement, the IAB also cites the ICANN SSAC’s report SAC053 as “a reasonable summary of the technical problems that arise from the implementation of dotless domains.” The Register offers their own take in an article posted today.

I look forward to ICANN’s latest study to examine the potential risks related to dotless domain names (based on ICANN’s SSAC 053 report). Once released, Microsoft is interested to provide additional feedback and comments. The good folks at ICANN are holding their latest meeting in Durban this week, and I can imagine there will be some discussion around this (and many other pressing topics).

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ICANN, the GAC, SSAC and gTLDs: Challenges with Dotless Domains and Closed Generics

Last year, Craig Mundie posted about ICANN’s gTLD Reveal Day calling it “another step in the Internet’s evolution.”

Let’s hope we won’t see “one step up and two steps back.”

ICYMI, ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers organization) approved plans for new generic Top Level Domains (“gTLDs”) to add to the common domains you see today, like .com, .net, and .org among and others. It was impressive to see the level of interest in these new domains, with close to 2,000 applications for new unique domains from around the world. As Craig noted, Microsoft focused on eleven new top-level domain names that correspond to our well-known products, services and brands: .microsoft, .windows, .xbox, .office, .docs, .bing, .skype, .live, .skydrive, .hotmail and .azure…

“Our goal for our new TLDs is to promote responsible utilization of the Web and ultimately better experiences for consumers. Although we’re not yet talking about specific plans for the TLDs for which we’ve applied, we believe that – properly used – this expansion of domains can help deliver new services and capabilities to consumers and the Internet community as a whole. Appropriately utilized, the new TLDs can also protect the rights of trademark holders and brand owners, while promoting a safer and more secure computing experience.

“With so many new gTLD applications, there are bound to be cases where multiple players have applied for the same top-level domain, and ICANN has processes in place to help resolve those cases. We are just now reviewing all of the applications by other companies and organizations. We will work closely with ICANN and others to ensure competition and innovation are preserved for the industry, while also helping protect the rights and expectations of other stakeholders.”

Late last summer, ICANN’s own Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC) published a report to address the issue of dotless gTLDs. This was partly in response to questions on whether or not new gTLD name registry operators would be able to use their gTLD as a valid Internet domain (e.g. http://microsoft instead of the common The SSAC strongly recommended against the use of dotless domains, and opened a comment period on this issue, to get feedback from the community (you can read more here)…

“…the combined effect of these potential ambiguities makes it very difficult in practice to predict how a dotless domain name will be resolved in different situations. The result could be anything from fully expected behavior to a security incident in which the user of a domain name (or URL with the domain name embedded) communicates unknowingly with a party other than intended; or, as in the email example in Section 3.4 above, a failure of the system to provide any service at all. Additionally, this ambiguous behavior could be used to develop methodologies to compromise the session and allow for malicious activities with, for example, DNS redirection.

“The SSAC is aware that there currently exist TLDs that attempt to resolve dotless domain names. Our initial examination reveals that resolution of these names is not consistent or universal, and in particular, applications behave differently when presented with “dotless” responses. These behaviors occur for reasons illustrated in this paper. Recommendation: Dotless domains will not be universally reachable and the SSAC recommends strongly against their use. As a result, the SSAC also recommends that the use of DNS resource records such as A, AAAA, and MX in the apex of a Top-Level Domain (TLD) be contractually prohibited where appropriate and strongly discouraged in all cases.”

As we summarized in our comments, Microsoft supports and endorses the report’s recommendations against use of dotless domains. There are significant security considerations around the use of dotless domains with new gTLDs, generally a bad idea that would create significant security risks for people using the Internet. Dotless domain names are often resolved by operating systems, browsers and other products to addresses on the local network / intranet. Our recommendation is to use Fully Qualified Domain Names (FQDNs) – sometimes referred to an absolute domain name – to ensure that people get where they are expecting when they type in an address on the Internet URL.

Last week, following broad coverage (as briefly noted on TechCrunch) on proposed dotless domains and how new gTLDs might be operated, I had a discussion with the folks over at on the topic.

As we saw in the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) recommendation to ICANN last week, we believe it’s contrary to the free and open ideals of the Internet for a private commercial entity to act as gatekeeper to domains that consist of generic industry terms, like .search, .cloud or .app. ICANN should follow the GAC’s clear recommendation that any non-open domains that consist of generic industry terms be required to establish that they serve a public interest goal.

Allowing dominant market leaders to control such generic domains is like trusting a fox to guard the henhouse. We urge ICANN to abide by the GAC’s advice and to follow the SSAC’s conclusions in order to preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet, protect the billions of Internet users, and foster healthy competition.

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RSS feed reader blues? Get your feed in Microsoft Outlook and Office 365

ICYMI, Google Reader, Google Voice App for Blackberry, Google Cloud Connect, and Snapseed Desktop are shutting down. Hilarity ensued on the Internet with the melt down on social media over the change. As Danny Sullivan noted here, “Google should have done better by Google Reader & Google users than to bury its closure in a “spring cleaning” post.”

All the talk about RSS Readers reminded me of how important it is to listen and respond (this from 2011 via TechCrunch).

But I digress.

If you’re impacted by this announcement, have no fear: there are options, many great options.

First off, Good advice from Sara Hevans (@prsarahevans) on how to backup your Google Reader account

Once you’ve backed up, you’ll need a new reader.

With all these options, you may already have an option on your desktop: you can also use Outlook in Microsoft Office to subscribe to an RSS feed as noted here.

So if you’re looking for RSS subscription and management? our own Office 365 Home Premium has that:

Quick links:

Tags: Microsoft, RSS, Outlook

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One look at the future of computing from Microsoft, circa 2018-2023

Here’s a link to Microsoft’s video of what the future could look like 5-10 years from now.

Wouldn’t it be cool if we could pick up a can of screen paint at the home improvement store just as we have chalk board paint today?

What’s interesting to me: you don’t see a beige box or traditional personal computer (save the ones with the traditional phone-format and tablet), nor a logo or set of tiled windows. (I did spot one Windows logo on the tablet in the video.)

Mark Wilson offers his own interesting thought (not that I agree) in his post over on Fast Company that this one vision of the future is trapped in a box

“Microsoft, this video is not the future… Even Apple, the company that owes most of its success to these magic, touchable rectangles, is already moving on from the paradigm [his ref to his post about Apple’s reported forthcoming iWatch], easing the consumer into a world where hardware enables naturalistic gestures that keep us in tune with our surroundings.”

Hmmm… seems that the points raised in the video place even more emphasis on how ubiquitous hardware that melts into the background. The computer – no, the technology of the future – emerges from table tops, and responds back to you in a familiar voice enables natural gestures of showing, sharing, as well as asking and responding verbally. Who’s to say what it looks like outside the home and how you take it with you? Likely the subject of more interesting clips to come from the looking glass. It’s interesting to see how much has come to fruition since this look way back in 2009, and even 2011.

I can imagine that some prior art may be referenced Harry Potter by the good folks at Hogwarts, in the living paintings that seem to virtually span beyond the edge of the frame. 😉

Additional reading: Microsoft’s View of the Future Workplace is Brilliant, Here’s Why – Forbes

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