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X.Org Might Lose Its Domain Name (phoronix.com)
174 points by carlf79 on Jan 8, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 86 comments

To all the armchair domain admins commenting here: It's a single-letter domain in one of the traditional non-country TLDs. It only exists because it was grandfathered in in 1993 [1] I'm pretty sure no one here ever dealed with such a situation ever. If you try to change anything in its registration without supplying it in a legally watertight package delivered by lawyers nothing at all happens, not even extending the registration as the non-owner. Just check the whois entry and look up the various ICANN domain status codes.

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-letter_second-level_dom...

The domain statuses are not any different from other n-lettered domains.

Yes, single-letter domains are grandfathered but I wouldnt be aware of any special mandatory procedures for them as you mentioned. Please do provide a source otherwise.

Maybe they should try calling the admin contact? His firm's phone number is easily findable. Interestingly, his website is unresolvable, possibly due to some hero trying to snipe his email?

Yeah, I'm sure they hadn't thought of that.

They're not losing it because of some legal battle or copyright claim, they're losing it because they lost contact with the guy who really owns it, and waited until they had one week to go to make the issue public.

No, they're in danger of massive registration headaches because they don't have a clear chain of proof of migration from the LLC (since dissolved) to the 501(c)3 that succeeded it, and they're either not in contact with the person who was the administrative contact when the LLC existed or he's being unhelpful. I'll note that the listing was last updated in 2007, so his name's been on the contact info for 8+ years - probably at that time they renewed for as long as the system would allow.

There are provisions in place for replacing contacts on registered domains when the contact is someone no longer with an organization, and I'm pretty sure those aren't generally all that onerous (since incorrect changes can be reverted) - generally something on organization letterhead, probably a drivers' license photo, that kind of thing. In this case because the originally registering organization no longer exists they basically need proof that either the current foundation is legally the successor entity or they need proof that the domain name was part of the "assets" transferred to the new 501(c)3. They could probably have just sent in a change request on the current letterhead, but I suspect that A) they're no longer at that address either, B) Someone at Verisign said "Hey.... If we force an expiration we can auction this sucker for $$$$$$", or C) Leon Shiman could be expected to object to a change.

Another problem is the question of whether there's a registered trademark for X.Org - if they had that, even if someone else snagged the domain I suspect they'd be able to get it back via UDRP. Unfortunately it's not clear from a quick search that it's ever been trademarked, which likely drastically complicates the situation.

When 1 character domains expire, they are not available for re-registration- Just FYI

Why aren't they? Is there a minimum number of characters now?

They don't need to trademark (verb) X to get a trademark (noun). Registration is a good idea, but failure to register doesn't mean any joe can start using X.org. So long as the organization used the mark in trade (ie sold something and/or took donations) their basic trademark will be protected.

The "(verb)" and "(noun)" actually make it less clear, by the way.

The difference is subtle to non-native speakers of European languages. Experience suggests that my girlfriend, for one, would find the gp easier to read with the notations.

> The difference is subtle to non-native speakers of European languages.

I don't think that's an accurate generalization. If anything, European languages are probably _more_ likely to morphologically distinguish nouns and verbs than normal, with English being an exception. (I don't have hard data to back this up though, could be wrong.)

I expect native speakers of English and other European languages to have less trouble than my girlfriend, who is not a native speaker of English or any other European language.

If (as you suppose) English and other European languages are likely to make large distinctions between nouns and verbs, then native speakers of those languages would more naturally notice the distinction in the sentence without having it pointed out to them, correct? I believe we're in agreement here.

Perhaps I went a bit too far in trying to reduce the wordiness of my statement and should have left it as "those who are not native speakers of English or any other Eurpean languages".

The point is that the reason for trouble here is that English is _not_ making a morphological distinction. Since most European languages do make more of a distinction, speakers of European languages should be _more_ confused. Of course many non-European languages make distinctions as well, although the most spoken of all (the various Chinese languages) don't, just as English.

Basically, there's little reason to expect a Czech speaker to find this any easier than a Japanese speaker.

I'm from Europe, and I found the gp very confusing and would have understood better without the hints.

Okay, but then I presume you're implying that you're a native speaker of a European language and my statement doesn't apply to you.

I expect people who are not native speakers of English or other European languages to be helped by the annotation. My girlfriend and many of my colleagues here in Asia speak natively only East Asian languages. Some of my colleagues are native speakers of both English and one or more East Asian languages, and I don't expect that they would find the grammatical notation to be helpful to them. I also don't expect my colleague who's a native speaker of French and Chinese to be helped by the annotation, even though his English is obviously a second language. But, that's just my intuition based on living and working in East Asia.

It is not less clear but redundant with "to" and "a". They already make the verb/noun distinction apparent.

In any case, they're in trouble because they forgot to renew the domain every year since 2007. If they had to do it every year instead of forgetting about it for almost a decade, they probably would have found out about the problem much sooner, and would have had several years to fix it.

If a domain is really important to me, I make sure to prepay for at least 3 years. I don't wait 3 years to renew it for another 3 years; I renew it every year to maintain the 3-year buffer. If I ever owned a single-letter domain, I would triple that buffer and top it up every year.

I just don't understand companies and organizations who keep their domains barely registered, always renewing at the last moment. A domain that expires in less than a year should be treated like a single point of failure for your entire business.

They've also lost and then regained their 501(c)(3) a few years ago: https://lwn.net/Articles/569098/

"They guy who really owns it"? I didn't get that from the article.

It sounded like it was registered to their LLC which was restructured, and now cannot prove they are still the same organization.

Couldn't they file a trademark claim to takeover ownership?

It's not quite that simple. Owning a trademark doesn't automatically give you the right to seize the corresponding domain names. ICANN has a dispute resolution policy that sets out rules for how such situations are handled: https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/policy-2012-02-25-en

Basically, if someone snaps up the x.org domain, and can make a case that they have any legitimate purpose for it other than impersonating or extorting money from the X.org organization, they get to keep it.

Nissan.com comes to mind


Except that the article's second paragraph says:

> Apparently for the past half-year there have been some "ownership struggles" of the X.Org domain name, which the X.Org Foundation Board of Directors have been trying to resolve in private.

Still, if they're fighting for ownership, you'd think whoever has their finger on the button right now would at least have the decency to cough up $10 to renew it. It doesn't really make sense. Mr Shimans name is in the whois database, surely he has the authority? I wonder if anyone has bothered to take a 15 minute drive from MIT to meet him.

The renewal rate might be closer to $60/year, considering how old the domain is. (That's how much a .com cost in the 90s.)

Prices of domains (usually; some registries do have premium concepts) are not stuck to their original registration but change over time.

x.org is registered with Network Solutions though and they never lowered their prices when domains actually got cheaper (=when the concept of registrars was introduced). So one-year renewal is still US$35 (http://www.networksolutions.com/domain-name-registration/pri...).

Nonetheless, in this case $35 should equally not be a problem either.

luckily domain prices have changed over time; .org domains are priced annually between $9 - $12, purchased by registrars for ~$7.70 ('12)

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.org#Cost_of_registration

* I have had domains registered since '96

Not his name is in the database, but only an apparently related email address.

Problem is the entire domain does not resolve at the moment.

You should apologize for spreading disinformation.

While spreading it may be bad, what will apologizing do?

You used to be able to renew Network Solutions domains without owning them. This didn't give the renewing party any rights; it just put money in. You can't do that online any more. But you might be able to do it over the phone.

Update: the expiration date for X.org is now 2025-01-19T05:00:00Z. Somebody paid the bill.

> The domain is currently registered in the name of X.Org Foundation LLC, which the foundation dissolved when forming the 501(c)3 organization.

How is it even vaguely possible that there's no paperwork assigning all assets of X.Org Foundation LLC to the 501(c)(3)?

Where is the lawyer who handled this for them?

There's something odd mentioned right here: http://www.x.org/wiki/BoardOfDirectors/ActionItems/

> We lost 501(c)(3) status because the tax returns for the last 3 years didn't get filed on time. This was a surprise(...)

> Thanks to the SFLC we have re-gained our 501(c)(3) status.

Gaining or losing 501(c)(3) status does not affect the legal personhood of your organization.

...but it does say something about the organization of the organization.

What a terrible lack of information in this article.

As is standard for a Phoronix.com "article".

I wondered how the author had written "more than 10,000 articles".

Ha, still not as bad as their "benchmarks" though.

What's bad about his benchmarks? I've cursory glanced at them before and didn't notice anything in particular (used to write gpu drivers for a living).

From: https://wiki.gandi.net/en/contacts/troubleshooting/lost-hand...

"Since domains can be renewed from any handle, sometimes people create a new handle to renew a domain. (While this is not a problem in itself, it can create confusion, so it is only recommended as a last resort.)"

Basically you don't need access to the domain to renew it, you only need access if you want make changes. A random member of the public can renew a domain for you without contacting you.

Does it not work that way with Network Solutions? Can someone not just simply renew it for them?

I don't know about Network Solutions, but allowing anyone to renew a domain is not the norm. In some situations, it can even pose legal problems. For instance, a somewhat common resolution to domain trademark disputes is for the owner to pledge to discontinue use of a domain and to allow the domain to expire without renewing or transferring it. If anyone is allowed to renew a domain without needing the owner's permission, they can potentially put the owner of a trademark-infringing domain in a sticky situation.

Surely the resolution to any trademark conflict would be a domain transfer or not. "Let it lapse and end up with some other random owner" benefits only the lawyers.

That said, I can see why some owners may wish to immediately disavow a domain if they consider it to be a legal or reputational risk. In that case, it can simply be transferred to another owner, so I don't see why it would be a problem for anyone to renew it (though payment fraud might be a separate concern from some registrars).

Transferring a domain costs money (although not much); more importantly, it causes the domain to be renewed for an extra year. If the owner of the trademark doesn't want the domain to exist (e.g, if it's some off-brand use of their mark), having the domain transferred to them is counterproductive.

Just trying to understand this. Wouldn't that actually be good? Wouldn't the trademark owner want the domain so they could keep it unassigned? If they let it expire, someone could eventually purchase it and use it for similar purposes. That seems counterproductive to me, not transferring it.

> Wouldn't the trademark owner want the domain so they could keep it unassigned?

Consider a low-quality domain name like "buy-acme-widgets-cheap-123.com" (for the trademark "Acme"). There are so many possible domain names of that form that Acme Co. would have no real interest in trying to protect that specific one from being misused in the future.

Another messy situation would be if the domain name contained multiple trademarks belonging to different owners. The holder of one trademark would probably be reluctant to take ownership of a domain name which also infringed on another company's trademark!

Then they won't care if the settlement is to not use it. It will just point to nowhere...

If they lawyered up enough to get one party to agree to let it lapse, I'd say the outlook is not favorable for any copycats.

some TLDs (mostly ccTLDs) have onerous ownership requirements, it might be easier in that case to just have ann agreement to let it be dormant, given whatever circumstances.

I don't know why anyone would ever use Network Solutions. They have a long history of really shady practices and breaches. I worked info sec for a company that registered their domains through Network Solutions, and someone called in, got a password reset, and took administrative control over the account. Re-routed our domain for several hours, including MX records. Doing that investigation, I found tons of articles online of others saying that same thing, that Network Solutions let their accounts be taken over by someone with no claim to the account.

Given that it's at Network Solutions, I'm surprised they haven't been able to finagle a renewal. Based on the age of the domain, they probably simply never moved the domain to another registrar once the opportunity was available.

The article's statement about the administrative/registration contact is not quite correct.

The given email address seems to belong to this person, but he is still not the actual owner/registrant of the domain, which is the LLC.

The question now is who is the actual representative, respectively legal successor, of the LLC. This person/entity should be able to get the contact address changed to an address under their control.

they can file a dispute I guess


edit: according to a verisign employee I know, it costs ~1000-2000USD to do the dispute process but if they have the trademark and it's not being challenged (go to trial) it just gets reviewed at meeting and people vote.

A project that loses an asset that valuable, because they cannot get their act together until one week before the disaster is going to die sooner or later anyway, even if you disregard that they are indeed already dying.

Lots of assumptions there.

It is my personal opinion, that I expressed in a commentary (definition: an expression of opinions or offering of explanations about an event or situation) section on the internet.

Which is also why it's a good place for people to critique your opinion. On that note, I believe you are invoking a fallacy by the name of "I'm entitled to my opinion".

Is it really that hard for someone at X.org to figure out how to escalate to an exec at NetSol to get a domain renewed?

I emailed a friend at Network Solutions to look into this... we'll see.

So can they just re-register it when it expires, or is the reason they can't do that because lots of people will be waiting to register it at the moment it expires?

People are queueing up to take over any domain with moderate amount of traffic. Since the expiry time is public, there are lists of soon-expiring domains. This is way worse for a heavy traffic domain, and probably ridiculous for x.org.

You can't register a single-letter .org anymore.

But they are being "awarded" [1]. So if it expires, maybe they could get it back since they're a non-profit.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-letter_second-level_dom...

So they are currently grandfathered in, and as soon as the record expires it's a dead domain?


That's an interesting question given that one letter domain names for .org are generally not available, x.org was grandfathered in.

My first thought was: "Get a bunch of folks with affinity for x.org to variously try and pick it up when released, and then gift it to them."

epilogue: the domain was not lost.

all conjecture contained herein was for naught.

i really hope keith is able to pull something off. he's a standup guy (i worked with him in the mid-90's at ncd, where he worked on making X11 even more awesome).

I find myself amazed that they wouldn't just renew it for 10+ years at a time, and do that every couple of years.

Looks like it was last renewed nine years ago. The last updated date in the whois record is 2007-01-12.

Maybe they should just form a new LLC with the same name as the old one, owned by the new organization.

That sounds incredible -_-'

Since not even the X.Org Foundation is particularly attached to X anymore, they could just let it lapse and register wayland.org or something.

X isn't dead and wont be for years

Even if they aren't closely tied to the X software package anymore, they are literally called "the X.Org Foundation". Why wouldn't they want to hang on to x.org?

The X.Org Foundation was formed for stewardship of X, the window system and its canonical implementation.

Since X is now deprecated tech (the foundation itself even states that Wayland is the future), a name change is perhaps in order.

At least according to Keith, I don't think X.org officially holds that stance.

I've seen posts by "X.Org Foundation" on their official Google+ page to the effect that Wayland is the display server of the future and efforts should be focused to target it.

I quite like the sound of xorg.org. Or perhaps they could rent x.org.org off the chap who currently owns org.org.

X.Org.info, the perfect place to find info about a project called X.Org.

Hell, even if they called themselves something completely different... that'd still be a valuable asset.

wayland.org is already taken by a college

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