Wildcarding Domain Names – in the .AU context

19 01 2010

The issue of domain name wildcarding became a hot issue in 2006, after auDA deleted 19 domain names from a Registrant because they were wildcarded. This matter ended up in the Federal Court of Australia and was fought out, until the parties resolved the matter shortly before trial.

This Court battle caused auDA to develop an interim policy on wildcarding in 2007, which was to have been reviewed  but almost 3 years on and nothing has happened – so it remains an interim policy. Our enquiries of auDA revealed that they did intend to have their security and stability advisory committee (SSAC) look at the issue soon (that was in 2009) – it is interesting to note that at the time the interim policy was announced the SSAC didn’t have any members!

In order to understand wildcarding one must understand what it means. The auDA policy defines it as:

A “wildcard DNS record” is a record in a DNS file that will match all requests for non-existent domain names, so that a user who types a non-existent domain name into their browser does not get the standard “Error 404” message, but is instead redirected to another webpage.

The auDA definition is a little misleading. Firstly a wildcard record matches all requests for fourth level domains as opposed to ‘non-existent domain names‘. For example a domain coopermills.com.au exists, but if it were wildcarded then anything that was typed before coopermills.com.au with a full stop would resolve to (usually) a web page hosted at the third level domain. If an internet user was to type cars.coopermills.com.au, then it may resolve to www.coopermills.com.au. The effect of this is to in essence allow any fourth level domain, as opposed to manually creating them.

Wildcarding is commonly used by almost all parking companies such as Sedo. The rational is that it is better that an internet user is directed to content rather than an error – this enhances the internet user experience.

auDA had claimed that wildcarding caused the security issues identified in RFC 1535. The Registrant called the author of RFC 1535 Ehud Gavron to give evidence as an expert at the trial, who disagreed. During Mr Gavron’s visit (and after the matter had been resolved by the parties), Cooper Mills Lawyers hosted Mr Gavron who spoke on wildcarding of domain names in the .au context.

To download the podcast click on the link: Domain Wildcarding: The Implications for the .au Space

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