Two changes that might affect owners of domain names and holders of websites will soon come into force. One imposes obligations of accessibility onto certain websites and the other relates to the termination of direct registration and management of domain names by the ISOC-IL.

1. Website accessibility regulations taking effect October 2016

According to Sec. 35 of the Equal Rights for People with Disabilities (Service Accessibility Adjustments) Regulations 5773-2013,(“the Regulations”), as of October 2016 all entities providing public services[1] through the Internet should provide accessibility to people with disabilities to such websites. The accessibility should comply with Israeli standard #5568, which incorporates by reference the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

It is important to note that websites, including online services and applications, that are covered under the Regulations and went on-air starting on October 25, 2015 should already have been adjusted, while existing websites are required to complete their accessibility process no later than October 25, 2016.

The Regulations allow some exemptions and empowers the Commissioner for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities, following a well-reasoned written request, to discharge certain service providers from certain requirements thereunder.

As the deadline to meet the Israeli standard approaches, several reliefs are being considered by the Commissioner[2]. One important relief is the consideration regarding the postponement of the upcoming deadline set under the Regulations, provided that the process for accessibility adjustments (such as carrying out accessibility surveys and producing accessibility plans) will be initiated prior to September 1, 2016. No binding changes have been incorporated into the Regulations as of yet.

Igal Rosenkranz, CEO of LiveDns Ltd., which provides, inter alia, accessibility services, remarks that “[there is] huge confusion among website owners. Some are not even aware of the website accessibility regulations taking effect on October 25th, while others are not sure if they should make their website accessible as a result of these regulations.”

It is thus advisable to review the Regulations and their potential impact on owned websites, and if necessary, modify the websites to meet the Israeli standard.

2. Termination of direct registration and management of domain names via ISOC-IL as of November 2016

According to the Israel Internet Association (ISOC-IL) announcement, starting November 1, 2016, ISOC-IL will stop the direct registration and direct management of domain names with the suffix .il (excluding the SLD .k12.il, which ISOC-IL will continue to manage directly). The registration activity as well as the management of the domain names currently executed directly by ISOC-IL will be fully transferred to the ISOC-IL’s accredited registrars, operating in parallel with ISOC-IL since 2007.

To better understand the influence of this change on your domain names (if any), it is important to understand that currently (and until November 1, 2016) a domain name with the suffix “.co.il” and “net.il” could be managed directly by ISOC-IL or by one of the ten ISOC-IL-accredited registrars. If your domain names are already managed by one of those accredited registrars, ISOC-IL’s announcement has no effect on these domains. However, if your domain names are managed directly by ISOC-IL (and not via one of the accredited registrars), then starting November 1, 2016, renewing your domain name directly via ISOC-IL will not be possible and transferring your domain name to one of the accredited registrars will be required.

According to the ISOC-IL announcement, the purpose of this step is to increase competition, emphasizing quality of service and pricing for the benefit of the public good, with ISOC-IL focusing on IT infrastructure, database and information security necessary to manage domain names registration and on determining the technical and legal regulation of the registrars and the registry.

“As the largest accredited domain name registrar is Israel,” Mr. Rosenkranz adds, “we see a massive movement of domain names from being directly managed with ISOC-IL to our domain management system. Any delay in transferring the management of domains to one of the registrars before the end of the period set by ISOC-IL might result in downtime to domain-associated services.”

It is therefore recommended to first check whether your domain name is managed by the ISOC-IL directly (this can be done by performing a “whois” check), and if so, to compare the different accredited registrars in order to arrive at the most appropriate choice.

The list of registrars is provided on the ISOC-IL website: http://en.isoc.org.il/domains/accredited_registrars.html