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Of Darker Domains and Dark Registrars

August 15, 2012

Of dark domains and dark registrars

When popular service DomainTools recently reported on the issue of dark domains – domain registrations not configured with name servers at the Top-Level Domain (TLD) registry and thus not published to the TLD zone files –  they cited the example of Spectrum.com.

By performing a whois search on the domain, one can see that Spectrum.com is indeed missing its name server records, though all other records seem to be accounted for including registrant, administrative and technical contacts, domain status, registrar of record, and creation, expiration and last update dates.

However I believe I’ve identified a set of much darker domains – domain registrations which are not configured with any records at all.  Moreover, the entire set of these darker domains are all bound to a single domain registrar: GMO Domain International, Inc.

Here is the list:

  • FantasyYoga.com
  • nbck.com
  • MiniLaw.com
  • educw.com
  • FloodOne.com
  • 78se.com

These half-dozen domains return no whois records whatsoever, only ‘domain not found’.  This is consistent with domains that are in the pending delete phase of the domain drop cycle, however the domains are not pending delete.  They are in fact registered, and have just been renewed another year.  I monitored this as they were approaching expiration two days ago on 8/13/2012, only to see them redeemed and the year rolled over to 2013.  (see below)

DomainTools registration result for FantasyYoga.com

DomainTools registration result for FantasyYoga.com

I first became aware of FantasyYoga.com, which has been on my radar for nearly a year, puzzled as to why it seemed to be perpetually pending delete but never dropped.  Yet any time I checked the domain’s availability for registration it came back as ‘already taken’.  Since then I’d always assumed that the domain must’ve somehow gotten ‘stuck’ in the pending delete phase as some strange quirk.

It wasn’t until I recently began researching that I made a connection to registrar GMO which lead me to the other five domains, through a Google search.

GMO Domain International, Inc. is the corporate address listed with the InterNIC Registrar Directory.  It’s parent company is GMO Internet Group. However its homepage of record links it to JapanRegistry.com.

JapanRegistry was, or is, a fully ICANN-accredited domain registrar. It’s not quite clear if the company is dormant or still in operation.  According to ICANNWiki it was acquired by GMO Internet back in 2005.

The last known update to JapanRegistry’s homepage is dated from May of 2009 and indicates that the site would be undergoing a Systems Migration with GMO Internet during which domain registration services would be suspended for an indefinite period of time and that the registrar’s domain management panel would be terminated.

Could this be the explanation behind these darker domains?  Perhaps the systems migration never fully completed, or there was an error in the process which lead the domains to become stuck in domain limbo.

Given that this group of dark domains and perhaps many more like them are all linked to the same registrar, could we say that GMO/JapanRegistry is a dark registrar?

I did however manage to identify one domain registered with GMO that does seem to have at least its name servers configured.  That domain is 114Mov.com, which is currently parked and the name servers given under DomainTools registration tab are NAME-SERVICES.COM.  However you will still find that performing a whois query on the domain returns a ‘domain not found’ message and that it shows no actual records.

Strange indeed.  If you have any information that may shed more light on this puzzle feel free to leave a comment below.

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