Controversial free-domains registry Freenom has lost its deal with the government of Gabon after years of abuse. The government has retaken its ccTLD and will delete as many as seven million .ga domains.
That’s according to the French ccTLD registry, AFNIC (pdf), which says it has been helping migrate the TLD from Freenom to Gabonese government entity ANINF for the last year.
The technical handover will begin today and run until June 7, this coming Wednesday, according to ANINF.
AFNIC said the migration is happening due to “the failure of the company Freenom, which has managed the .ga TLD up until now, to provide the Internet community with a satisfactory service.”
ANINF said it wants to: “Put an end to abusive practices, through the will and support of the Gabonese State, which have had a negative impact on the image of the country and its influence on the Internet.”
Freenom’s business model is to allow people to register domains for free, then bring them in-house and monetize them when they expire or are suspended for abuse such as spam and phishing — something that happens rather a lot.
Security blogger Brian Krebs reported last week that abuse levels originating from ccTLD domains have plummeted since Freenom’s troubles began earlier this year.
ANINF reckons there are currently over seven million domains in .ga, and says most of those will be deleted.
That would make .ga the seventh-largest TLD overall and fourth-largest ccTLD after China, Germany and the UK. But Gabon has a population of just 2.3 million with a relatively low internet penetration of 62%.
Could it be the beginning of the end for Freenom?
Presumably most of the domains Gabon will delete are owned and currently monetized by Freenom, so it will be losing a large parking network when ANINF swings the ban hammer.
There’s also reason to believe .ga will not be the last ccTLD it loses. The tech contact in the IANA record for Mali’s .ml switched from Freenom’s Netherlands-based subsidiary to a Mali government agency back in March, suggesting a takeover is also imminent there.
Then of course there’s the lawsuit by Facebook owner Meta, filed earlier this year, which accuses Freenom of cybersquatting and seeks a ruinous amount in damages.
Freenom has not allowed anyone to register domains in any of its managed TLDs — .ml, .ga, .cf, .gq and .tk — since at least January 1 this year.
I asked Freenom to explain this a few weeks ago and the company declined to comment.
ANINF says the migration this week will cause disruptions, but says it’s been reaching out to registrars with legit registrations to minimize the turbulence for their customers.