Who owns a domain name?

On March 11, Teplitsa. Technologies for Social Good, an educational project for NGOs, streamed a discussion on its YouTube channel that covered the domain industry – in particular, the DNS hierarchy and domain administration.

The host and viewers interviewed Georgy Georgiyevsky, Head of the Department for Registrar Relations at the Coordination Center for TLD .RU/.РФ, and Mikhail Anisimov, Head of Global Stakeholder Engagement for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The discussion started with a surprise question from host Vladimir Lomov about whether websites’ ranking in search engines are based on their domain names. Mikhail Anisimov answered that search engine algorithms are updated rather frequently; still, it is highly likely that the meaning of a domain name does factor into search optimization even if only slightly. Georgy Georgiyevsky noted that he had repeatedly raised this issue with representatives of Russian and international search engines who still could not give a definitive answer on how search engine algorithms work. The answer seems to lie in “the artificial intelligence that runs the indexing and the search engine base building.” “Therefore, there can be plenty of completely different criteria. I stand behind Mikhail when he says that domain names matter but they are not the most important factor. Search engines prioritize content relevance when they rank search results,” Georgy added.

The participants then moved to the main topic of the livestream. Is it right to assume that a domain name belongs to the person in whose name it is registered? Georgy and Mikhail pointed out that, when it comes to domain names, there is a thing called domain administration. It means that a registrant of the domain name obtains, for the current period of time, the right to perform certain actions with respect to this domain (for example, to park it or to delegate it for addressing). This right is obtained from a top-level domain registry via a registrar. For example, in .RU or .РФ, this right is given to a specific person for one year. Other registries may offer multi-year registration.

Administration does not amount to ownership or any other similar property-related feature: “A domain cannot be property for one simple reason: domain name registration is a service. It is a service, provided by a registrar of entering a name in the registry of a specific top-level domain for a specified period of time,” Georgy Georgiyevsky concluded.

Other matters covered during the conversation were related to pricing on the secondary market of domain names, inheriting domain names, managing TLDs, the DNS infrastructure and server hierarchy, circumstances that could lead to suspended delegation, and even the myth about a red button that can switch off DNS.

The recorded livestream is available on the Teplitsa LIVE channel here.

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