Meet the new masters of the .org domain

Even one of the most serious computer worms in recent memory failed to stop the transition of the fifth-largest Internet domain to its new operator.

This past weekend marked a critical stage in the Public Interest Registry’s (PIR)

takeover of the management of .org, the domain commonly used by non-profit or community-based enterprises for their Internet Portals. The .org domain was managed by VeriSign Global Registry until last fall, when the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) endorsed the Internet Society (ISOC) as the new overseer. VeriSign gave up its government-granted monopoly over .org in order to keep its .com business. ISOC formed PIR as a separate entity to exclusively handle .org.

PIR chose Afilias Ltd. as its back-end provider. Ram Mohan, the company’s vice-president and CTO, said he was based at its wholly owned subsidiary, LibertyRMS in Toronto, where he oversaw the technical operations during the conversion.

While thousands of enterprises reported a slowdown or seizure of mission-critical systems due to a computer-worm called SQL Slammer, Mohan said the conversion from VeriSign to PIR went as expected.

“”We were mostly concerned about network congestion while the data files were being pulled,”” he said. “”As it turned out, we had contacted our network service provider early Saturday morning and took preventative steps very early. We were mostly unaffected.””

PIR chairman David Maher said the weekend project was the largest domain transition ever attempted, involving the movement of 2.6 million names from VeriSign to Afilias.

Mohan said Afilias broke the process into several stages over the weekend.

At 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, it instructed VeriSign to shut off access to records and prepare the file transfer. PIR, in the meantime, put in place a freeze on transfers and extended “”grace periods”” to domain renewals until after the process was complete. After receiving the final file from VeriSign in the early afternoon, Mohan’s team verified the data to ensure all records were intact before being loaded into the new database.

On Sunday night, it re-activated the “”Who is?”” service to coincide with the opening of businesses in Asia.

“”Within the first 30 minutes, we had completed more than 18,000 transactions and supported 170 current connections,”” Mohan said. “”At this time, the registry began registering domain names at a rate of one domain name every six seconds.””

By 10:00 a.m., more than 100,000 Who is? requests had been handled, along with 890,000 requests for a .org domain name information and more 30,000 requests for .org DNS host names.

Beyond the data cutover tasks ahead, PIR vice-president of operations Bruce Beckwith said the organization would upgrade to a “”thick registry”” system to centralize information on who owns .org domain names. Maher said this would allow PIR to offer new services like OrgLock, a way of making sure there’s a very secure means of preserving domain names, and Orgsearch, which will allow .org registrants to use search engines at a nominal fees.

A planned service called OrgSure, which will allow users to make sure a non-commercial entity is what it purports to be, has been put on the back burner, Maher said. “”Since we’re global in scope — I’m a lawyer in America — the legal implications of that are considerable,”” he said. “”That would probably be the last to be put in place.””

Though the registrar is now operating normally, Mohan said a stability control period that will preclude changes to existing domains had been imposed. It will end tomorrow.

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