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How India’s .IN Domain Rouses from its Slumber

1992-2004: 7,000 names registered
January 21, 2005: 9,000 names registered
February 21, 2005: 50,000 names registered
April 2005: 100,000 names registered

This is one of the most rapid starts of any domain worldwide. In my conversations with senior officials of the Indian Government and the National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) which manages the .IN Registry, they credited three key decisions that proved critical to the success of the domain’s re-launch:

  • The IT Minister’s (and Ministry’s) strong vision of proliferation of the .IN domain;
  • Adoption of international best practices adapted to local needs; and
  • Separation of registry and registrar functions

On January 1, 2005, India made the .IN domain more widely available, under liberalized registration rules and improved technical systems. I had an up-close view while working with the government in observing .IN rouse from its slumber and grow with vigor, purpose and dedication.

Historically, .IN domain names were available only to a restricted few. In 2004 the Department of Information Technology (DIT) greatly liberalized the policies and procedures for the registration of .IN names, sparking national and worldwide demand. It was fascinating to participate in the process that led to this country-code domain (ccTLD) to expand its online presence on the Domain Name System.

Proliferation Imperative

Proliferation of the dot-in domain is part of the IT Minister’s 10-point agenda for Indian IT and executed by the Ministry for Communication and Information Technology.

India is one of the world’s fastest growing economies, the global leader in outsourcing and the service computing, and home to over a billion people. But when I first met officials from the Indian government to discuss their plans for .IN, India had a total of just about 7,000 .IN registrations, fewer than most small countries have. India’s Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) managed the domain based on rigid rules and restrictions. In one case, a request to register a primary color (such as ‘green.in’) was denied because the name was deemed “too generic.” Companies that wanted to register their names had to submit paper forms, and wait as much as three months before they learned the status of their applications.

How To Liberalize

India did a lot of things right when it went about liberalizing its ccTLD. I list them here in no particular order:

  • Separated Registry and Registrar functions. The government decided to exit the registration business, and instead opened it to competition. There are now dozens of registrars accredited to sell .IN domain names to the public.
  • Opened second level domains for direct registration
  • Selected a registry services provider based on technical competence, through an RFP process
  • Used domain passwords to restrict hijacking
  • Removed restrictive registration policies, allowing registration by all interested parties world-wide
  • Conformed to IETF RFCs and standards, such as those for Internationalized Domain Names
  • Adopted a verified Sunrise process
  • Setup a dedicated committee to build liberalization policies
  • Selected registrars based on defined eligibility criteria

Registrants started asking about how to get their own .IN domain soon after NIXI took responsibility on January 1. By the time the registry opened for real-time registrations on February 16, more than 33,000 names were snapped up in the first minutes. By the end of the first week, the 50,000 mark was crossed. Less than 100 days into its re-launch, .IN is about to pass the 100,000 registration milestone. Along the way, almost 30 registrars are already accredited and a domain name industry is starting to form in the country.

Competitive, Attractive Landscape Here to Stay

India’s liberalization of its .IN domain name offers many lessons. In many areas, no real codified standards or best practices were available in a well-defined and structured format. The building and running of a registry local to the country, teaching smart but inexperienced engineers about Resource Records, Anycast, BGP and Add Storms are part of a critical knowledge gap that many ccTLDs seem to have. Folks have approached me and a couple others involved in the .IN re-launch to write a book on this experience (tempus fugit).

A key element in NIXI’s strategy was to outsource the operational aspects to an experienced provider. This enabled .IN to launch quickly on a fully developed platform that was fast, stable and secure—without the expense, time commitment and limitations inherent in internal development. More importantly, it allowed the scarce resources at NIXI to focus on policy and oversight rather than the nuts and bolts of registry operations. The partnership between the ccTLD authority and an experienced registry services provider achieved the best of both: a world class technical capability completely under the control of the ccTLD.

.IN’s broad appeal to organizations and individuals both inside India and all over the world augurs well. The potential to establish or enhance a uniquely Indian online identity resonates with the country’s citizens and wealthy expatriates. The ability to create an “Indian” feel for global brands focused on India attracts international exposure and demand. The magic is in converting this to reality.

Achieving the promise of ccTLD growth is more elusive than it seems.

The author led the technical team that helped re-launch the .IN domain name in 2005, as part of a registry service offered by the author’s employer Afilias to the Indian government and NIXI.

By Ram Mohan, Chief Operating Officer at Afilias

Mr. Mohan brings over 20 years of technology leadership experience to Afilias and the industry.

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Jothan Frakes  –  Mar 31, 2005 9:06 PM

Ram, the success of .IN is going to be seen to grow going forward, and it is something that I believe that Afilias has done a fantastic job in providing the registry services for.

James Seng  –  Apr 1, 2005 7:46 AM

Ram, congz with the successful .IN implementation.

Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Apr 4, 2005 2:33 PM

Ram, congratulations on doing a great job. I must say it is a relief to register .in domains without going through a huge rigmarole of form filling and assorted other bureaucracy.

There is of course the problem of firms getting accredited as .in registrars, who can be charitably described as fly by night, at best, or actively malicious at worst.

http://www.inregistry.in/accredited_registrars/ lists, among others,

Ikon Marketing (http://www.ikonmktg.com/) - known spam operation.  http://groups-beta.google.com/groups?q=ikonmktg.com .. I remember them being listed in spamhaus.org as well

Given the huge problem that is currently being faced with spammers abusing the domain registration process to signup dozens of throwaway domains with fake registration info, I feel that some kind of due diligence could be done to avoid fly by night registrars coming into the picture.

I know that this may be tough to do, but not doing this seems a risky move that will sooner or later lead to pollution of the .in namespace with randomly named spammer domains, something that has been noted previously in other TLDs like .biz and .info

Yes, this is carping criticism, but I get to see massive abuse of a process that was designed to be as simple and convenient as possible, on a daily basis - at the receiving end of all the spam that can be thrown at a our servers.


ps - Given that we are a large ISP with over 40 million users on large freemail / university domains, here’s a sample of a minute’s worth of our logs, as sampled some months back by one of my colleagues

Ram Mohan  –  Apr 4, 2005 9:40 PM

Thanks for your kind words.

Your comments are very welcome - I take your comments in a constructive light, and not as carping.

I will forward your comments to the Registrar Evaluation Committee - and also ask that you send these same comments to the <support at registry dot in> and <registry at nixi dot org dot in> addresses.


Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Apr 5, 2005 1:12 AM

thanks, i will do this


Ram Mohan  –  Apr 5, 2005 2:21 AM

James, Jothan - thanks for your words of praise - it was good to be part of a successful implementation team, and even better to see good pickup in the marketplace.

I hope that more ccTLDs liberalize, open and grow - just doing that often aids in the publicity and education of the public about what the Internet and the domain name system can do for them.


Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Apr 15, 2005 7:25 AM

funny. i run a rather large isp’s antispam operations (40 million users is large enough I hope) but so far I haven’t seen

1. That .co.in is any better or worse than any other .in second level TLD

2. Not nearly as much spam from india as from (say) Taiwan, China, Korea etc

3. That there is any reason at all for me to block, or advise any ISP to block, an entire ccTLD or sTLD.  Not even .biz or .info, which seem to comprise the bulk of the pharmacy spam domains - we block something on the order of three hundred brand new / throwaway domains abused by spammers, every day, an unhealthy percentage of which are biz and info.

I would definitely be interested in just what rationale (or rhyme, or reason, or whatever you call it) you follow when you issue your advice.

Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Apr 15, 2005 9:36 AM

I perfectly agree about sending signals - but there’s a rather good, existing mechanism for that, which doesnt involve broadcast advisories asking people to block sTLDs

Ram Mohan  –  Apr 15, 2005 7:25 PM

This is an interesting area to explore ... should a domain name registry have the responsibility and the authority to also set domain name usage policies?  This question is often more complicated for a gTLD than a ccTLD.

(I think) the argument above is that registries should regulate domain name usage.  In many circles, the opposite argument stands that the real task of a domain registry is to run a stable, reliable, secure and predictable technology service, and that issues such as spam are already legislated in various national jurisdictions.


Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Apr 16, 2005 1:00 AM

Ram, here’s the way you can go about it.

1. Have policies for fair and accurate reporting of information set by the registry .. *.in used to require faxes of company registrations etc, no need to go to that extent but make sure that you have something about domains not being able to be registered as M.Mouse or D.Duck

2. Select registrars who can be proactive, and work with them to ensure that abusive domain registrations are cut off, fast.

3. Work with the registrars to watch for abusive signup patterns for domain names and see if you cant suppress these. Quite often these signups are from stolen credit cards, so it is in their interest, I’d say.

Ram Mohan  –  Apr 17, 2005 3:14 AM

These are very helpful comments, thank you.  I remain wary of registries and/or registrars taking on the role of domain name use police ... at least in the gTLD world, it’s a low-margin world and not easily economically supportable.

We’re touching on a larger-scale issue affecting more than just .in ... Suresh, I wonder about your experience with larger ccTLDs like .de or .uk - do they have more stringent usage policies/monitoring?  What about smaller but also popular ccTLDs like .us or .cn?

Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Apr 17, 2005 4:48 AM

ram: the policies as such seem to be driven by different registrars.

godaddy has been quite proactive about stamping down on spammer registered domains, especially where they have evidence of bogus contact info.

directi in india took some extensive prodding to do it - but they have been doing a decent job as well.

you can talk to richard cox or steve linford fro m spamhaus, they’ll be delighted to work with you on this matter.

Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Apr 17, 2005 4:50 AM

just adding to my comment - it would be quite useful for the registry to be proactive in that it

1. works with registrars to set up antispam acceptable use policies

2. watches for signs of fraudulent registration, and alerts registrars to these trends. the registry has a macro level view of the situation - aggregating these trends across all its registrars, and can be of a lot of help

Matt M  –  Dec 1, 2006 2:08 PM

Thanks for the warning about the unreliable registrars. It was timely, since I was looking to register a .in domain.

Can I ask someone here to recommend a few food ones? Please?


Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Dec 1, 2006 11:24 PM

eNom, Directi etc all offer .in domains now. If you see a registrar you recognize, rather than a hole in the wall outfit, then feel free to use it.

Ram Mohan  –  Dec 19, 2006 2:13 PM

These are not recommendations, but registrars whom I have used personally and have had good experiences with:

International Registrars: gld.in, enom, directi
Local Registrars: net4india, sify


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