Background information

This page offers some background to the domain name industry, explaining some key terms, as well as explaining what the eIDAS regulation is and how it fits with the domain name industry and the RegeID project.

What is the DNS?

The domain name system (DNS) is mostly known for associating names with IP addresses, as humans can more easily remember names than numbers à think of it like the internet’s address book.

The DNS is a hierarchically-organised database, which contains information on the 1500+ top-level domains (TLD) and their respective IP addresses. Each TLD registry manages the information and resolves DNS queries for their respective TLD.

In practice, for applications to work and/or communicate with each other via the internet, domain names need to be translated into machine-readable IP addresses. This is done through what is called a DNS query, which is launched every time a user wants to access a website or send an email.

For more information, visit the CENTR website

What is a ccTLD registry?

A country code top-level domain (ccTLD) registry operator manages or administers a country-specific top-level domain, such as .si or .eu. It is like a database for all the domains in its TLD.

In short, this means that you are directed to the correct website when you type in a URL, and that when you send an email, it goes to the right recipient.

Behind the scenes is more complex, as registries have to manage the registration of domains, including running the technical infrastructure of the DNS and managing the zone file (database) that includes all domain names registered under the specific top-level domain. Registries also invest a lot of time and effort into ensuring the security of the network and processes, including by following national and international standards for information security

What is eIDAS?

eIDAS stands for electronic Identification (eID), Authentication and Trust Services. It is a European Regulation that was adopted in 2014, which aims to facilitate the digital interactions between businesses, individuals and public authorities in all EU member states, ensuring these exchanges are safer and more efficient. In order to achieve this, the Regulation creates one framework for eID and trust services, so that eIDs can be recognised and used across all EU countries.

Across Europe electronic IDs (eIDs) are on the rise, as they provide a quick and convenient way for people to identify themselves online, as well as helping minimise abuse. Some ccTLD registries require users to use their eID to register a domain or to log on to their registrant portals, where they can see an overview of their registered domains, update their contact information, make payments, transfer or delete a domain and more. Using eIDs firstly reduces the administrative burden for registrants and reduces errors in data entry, but it also helps the registry as it is easy to trace the registrant if there is abuse on a domain. The eIDAS regulation will enable European registries to accept the use of eIDs from other member states, cutting down administrative time and creating a safer European zonefile.

Further resources: eIDAS made easy according to the European Commission.

Key terminology explained

Registry vs. registrar vs. registrant:

A domain name registry is the technical operator and manager of a top-level domain (for example .de, .eu, .com). They almost exclusively work with registrars, which are the bodies that sell domain names to the public. The registrant is the person or company that purchases, i.e. registers, the domain name. If the registrant makes changes to the domain, the registrar will pass on that information to the registry, which then updates its database.

Domain name vs. website:

A domain name is not a website. The domain name is the address which helps your device find and access the online resources you are looking for. These can be websites, email servers or any other online resource. The website consists of webpages and content. Domains or domain names do not hold any content; they are the “address” of the website.

ccTLD vs. gTLD:

A top-level domain (TLD) is the right-most label of a domain name (www.example.eu). Two-letter TLDs are referred to as country codes, as defined in the ISO-3166-1 list, a standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). TLDs with three or more characters are referred to as “generic” TLDs, or gTLDs (e.g., .org, .com, .name). ccTLDs are governed by national and international law, while gTLDs also need to comply with ICANN (www.icann.org) policies. To view a full list of TLDs that are part of the internet, see IANA’s Root Zone Database: https://www.iana.org/domains/root/db.