'.fr' eligibility requirements to be relaxed

Following the re-appointment of AFNIC as the '.fr' registry for a seven-year period, the French government has set a number of conditions for the future of the '.fr' domain name space. 
In January last year, the French government put out an invitation to tender for the management of the '.fr' registry as a result of the adoption of a 2007 decree. AFNIC, the incumbent French domain name registry, threw its hat into the ring and submitted its tender. The result of this invitation to tender was recently announced and AFNIC was chosen to continue to run the '.fr' registry for the next seven years.
As part of the new contract to run the registry, a number of conditions have been laid down by the government. The most interesting of these conditions is the commitment to open up the '.fr' extension to a broader base of potential domain name registrants.
Therefore, AFNIC will be implementing some rules changes to the registration restrictions that govern domain name registrations under '.fr'. Currently, the rules governing domain name registrations under '.fr' require the registrant to be either:
  • an individual living in France;
  • a French company; or
  • the holder of a trademark affording protection in France.
The first rule change proposed by AFNIC was to allow French individuals living outside of France to register domain names under '.fr'. This rule change was implemented in mid-March 2010.
In addition, and more radically, AFNIC has committed to opening up domain name registrations under '.fr' to all entities based in the European Union within the next two years. This is a major development, as despite the gradual relaxations in '.fr' eligibility requirements, AFNIC has always sought to reserve the '.fr' extension to entities having a link with France.
The other conditions set by the French government include:
  • a better transparency of registrars' quality of service and costs;
  • investments in research and development partnerships; and
  • investments in equipment and software to increase security.
These developments should further boost the volume of domain name registrations under the '.fr' extension, which has shown steady growth over the years, and which counts over 1.6 million registered domain names. AFNIC's 2009 report on the domain name market in France ("Observatoire 2009 du marché des noms de domaine en France") shows that the '.fr' extension has grown by 25% in 2009, against an average of 8% for the other extensions worldwide. Furthermore, 80% of new domain names registered in France are registered under '.fr', which makes it the favourite extension in France. According to AFNIC, this is because '.fr' domain names are easy, quick and cheap to register, and because '.fr' is considered as the main extension for the French-speaking world.
David Taylor, Lovells LLP, Paris

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