Continuity .gb.com endangered due to legal dispute

top_logoDuring the previous weekend, all websites and other services ending in .gb.com went off-line. The extension .gb.com isn’t a real “top level domain” like fore example .be or .co.uk. It actually is the owner of the domain name “gb.com” who is selling subdomains under his domain name. And it now turns out that ownership of gb.com is disputed.

The so called “registry” managing and selling .gb.com domain names is/was the company Centralnic. Centralnic was founded by Stephen Dyer in 2000, but was heading for bankruptcy in 2003 and was in the last quarter of that year bought by the shareholders that currently are in charge. While Centralnic states that the domain name gb.com was at that time part of the deal and should therefore be their property, it looks like the owner information of the domain name has all the time remained to be that of Stephen Dyer and his company GB.COM LTD.

Without any warning, GB.COM LTD Sunday removed the Centralnic nameservers from the gb.com domain and added their own nameservers, causing all subdomains of gb.com to stop working. Instead of the normal website that should appear on a .gb.com domain name, the following message was shown:

You may be here because you have been sold a domain or email service using the gb.com domain that has ceased to work.
You can restore that service swiftly by registering with GB.COM Ltd.
GB.COM Ltd will not provide a service that you have paid others for, unless they have an arrangement with GB.COM Ltd.
If you have already paid for future service and it has ceased then you should contact your supplier.
If you have any queries please send us an email and we will endeavour to answer your questions.

GB.COM Ltd.
You can sign up here or if you have an account you can login here.

Centralnic itself has started creating accounts for all their clients and resellers via the website of www.gb.com. They also issued a statement indicating that they are undertaking legal action against this. Until further notice, the future of .gb.com is however unsure. Registration and management via Centralnic is no longer possible and it isn’t clear what GB.COM Ltd is planning to do with the domain name. They seem to want to offer a similar service, but while their website allows to create new .gb.com domain names, it doesn’t ask for a payment in any of these steps.

This certainly is a step back for the reputation of Centralnic, which has been very good since the take-over in 2004. They even started managing one “real” extension (.la), and they have rebuild their system to one to match that of a real registry (using standard protocols like EPP). But this event now does shown the dangers of relying on such a pseudo second level domain name and it brings back the memory of the last quarter of 2003, when the the inevitable bankruptcy of  Centralnic had for a first time endangered the future of .gb.com and all other domains managed by Centralnic.

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This post was written by Bart on August 1, 2011

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