After months of legal back-and-forths and bankruptcy proceedings, customers of the domain registrar Net 4 India may finally have a shot at retrieving their domain names — the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers on Wednesday announced that the bankrupt registrar’s domains will be transferred to Public Domain Registry (PDR), a US-based company. PDR is owned by the Burlington, Massachusetts based Endurance International Group, which owns several domain and web hosting storefronts. Net 4 India’s domain names have been stuck as customers have been unable to renew them due to the company’s operations crumbling amid insolvency proceedings.
“ICANN org will work with PDR to ensure registration data for previous Net 4 India customers is transferred successfully to PDR. ICANN anticipates PDR will begin contacting registrants with information on how to access and manage their domain name registrations by early next week,” ICANN said in an announcement posted on its website. (emphasis supplied) Note that country code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) domains like .in, which are not administered by ICANN, cannot be retrieved as a part of this bulk transfer. Net 4 customers will have to directly approach country registries to retrieve those; the one for India is the National Internet Exchange of India. NIXI has details on transferring .in domains here.
The chosen registrar’s parent company has businesses that are significantly invested in India — for instance, BigRock is one of Endurance’s registrars. “PDR has experience operating in the same region as Net 4 India, supports many local languages and currencies, and was selected after a careful review to ensure registrants will be well served,” ICANN said. Indeed, while PDR’s website is curiously barebones, its legal page has several clauses specifically for India, such as resolving disputes in arbitration in Mumbai. Indian users of this registrar will have an agreement with an India-based subsidiary of Endurance, as opposed to the Delaware-based PDR LLC; this kind of carve-out isn’t provided for any other country.
Timeline of the Net 4 issue
- September 2020: For months on end, Net 4 customers, small and big, complain that they are unable to renew or access their domains. The company itself is embroiled in bankruptcy proceedings and has barely any staff to address complaints.
- October 2020: It emerged that Net 4’s shareholding surreptitiously changed hands, and its founder and CEO was in the United Kingdom. NIXI committed to not letting .in domains registered with Net 4 expire, and started offering support.
- February 2021: After recording several lapses, ICANN announces that it will terminate Net 4’s accreditation, opening the way for Net 4 domains to be transferred to another functioning registrar.
- March 2021: In a setback for users, the National Company Law Tribunal puts ICANN’s termination on hold, as the insolvency professional assigned to Net 4 argues that a bulk transfer of Net 4 domains would erode the value of the entity, complicating asset reconstruction efforts. ICANN argues that NCLT has no jurisdiction to put their termination on hold as they are not based in India.
- April 2021: Things take a turn for the worse as Net 4 customers complain that the registrar’s website — and customers’ own sites — had gone down. Armed with this new development, ICANN, represented by the law firm Trilegal, filed an urgent application with NCLT to put an end to registrants’ uncertainty, and to let the termination of Net 4’s accreditation proceed. NCLT allowed this, clearing the way for the domain to be transferred to a new registrar.
- May 2021: After some scouting, ICANN announced that the receiving registrar for supported domains will be Public Domain Registry, or PDR, which is owned by the US-based Endurance International Group.
Update (May 13, 10:59am): Story updated with more detail on Endurance International Group.
Disclosure: MediaNama has domains that were in management with Net 4 India.