The Federal Council voted today, 5 November, in favour of the new Ordinance on Internet Domains (OID). This means that SWITCH will stop selling domain names at the start of January 2015. So what happens now?
This has come as no surprise for SWITCH. It started to become clear years ago that the foundation would eventually hand over the direct sale of domain names ending in .ch and related client support. With this in mind, it has carefully prepared for the transfer of domain names well in advance in conjunction with the Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM).
The reasoning behind the new rules is that a different model to that practised in Switzerland for handling domain names has become established internationally. Up to now, SWITCH has performed a dual task in relation to domain names ending in .ch. On the one hand, it operates the technical infrastructure needed for .ch, namely the directory of domain names with the ending .ch. On the other, it has sold these domain names and provided support to their holders. The latter task has been increasingly taken up by business partners of SWITCH known as registrars. The former – operating the directory of domain names, also called the registry – is a very sensitive matter. If this critical infrastructure were to break down, large parts of public life in Switzerland would grind to a halt (see also here). For this reason, it is heavily regulated by the federal government. The second task, that of the registrars, is not subject to special regulation. The Ordinance on Internet Domains will now resolve this dual task issue. The transitional provisions of the OID state that, as the registry operator, SWITCH may not enter into any new contractual relationships with end clients with effect from the start of January 2015 and that existing clients must transfer their domain names to a registrar. Starting in the middle of January 2015, SWITCH will begin writing to its clients to request that they transfer their domain names to the registrars. As a registrar our subsidiary switchplus will continue to offer the full range of domain name services.
But what will SWITCH do in future?
The foundation will focus on operating the .ch domain name directory and on ensuring that the Swiss Internet is secure and stable. However, this is by no means the whole story. SWITCH’s main remit is to develop and operate Internet services for the major universities. Here are just a few examples:
This is just a small selection of the services the SWITCH foundation provides for the Swiss Internet and for Switzerland’s research community.