Consumers warned over 100-year DNS sign-up

New Zealanders are being warned against taking up a $US1,000 offer to renew Internet domain names for 100 years.

U.S. registrar Network Solutions made the offer in e-mails to its customers yesterday. The company says for an upfront payment of US$9.99 for each year, it will renew the domain name for 100 years. The payment is non-refundable and non-transferable.

But Wellington IT consultant Alick Wilson says it's an "odd" deal. He doubts that the current domain name system will be in place for anything like 100 years, and says other registrars already charge less than $US9.99 without requiring payment for 100 years.

"I find this quite interesting, and given that you can actually register with other companies for less than $US9 a year, why would you bother?" he says.

Last year Wilson was appointed to an ICANN leadership body. ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, has oversight of the domain name system.

"This just seems odd," Wilson says. "My suggestion would be that there are a number of alternative registrars." Network Solutions says the US$9.99 rate represents a saving of over 70 percent compared to the company's normal annual rate of $US34.99. However, other registrars offer domain name registration for as little as $US4 a year.

Network Solutions is pitching its offer at organizations who are concerned at possibly forgetting to renew a domain name. Wilson says that might appeal to some larger corporations that tend not to change registrars because the cost savings don't offset the administrative overhead of switching. For those companies, the annual registration cost is "chickenfeed," he says.

Those organizations are Network Solutions customers because the company originally had a monopoly over dot-com registrations.

But paying 100 years' registration fees in advance doesn't guarantee ownership of the name for 100 years. Network Solutions says it will register the name as far in advance as possible, and renew it each year, but Wilson points out there is no guarantee the company will continue in business for 100 years.

The numerical IP structure underpinning DNS is slated for replacement by IPv6, he says, and the naming structure may well receive an update also.

"It could even last 50 years from now. But would I bet on it? Probably not."

According to the Web site, Network Solutions is the third biggest registrar worldwide with a 4.2 percent market share.