ICANN Actually Does Something About Domain Tasting

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2008-01-30 Print this article Print

Opinion: No more free tastes at domain, so registrants will go on a diet. We have Network Solutions to thank, it seems.

I take it all back, sort of.

ICANN has a way of studying matters, and then studying them some more, and then assigning them to a committee and then putting a preliminary report out for comment - you get the idea. Only after years does the group take action.

It seems members have taken action over domain tasting. Click here to see the minutes of a recent directors meeting and look specifically at sections 5 ("Proposals to Address Domain Tasting") and 6 ("Compliance Report on Network Solutions' Domain Reservation Activities"). They have begun the process to make some fees on domains non-refundable.

Every year, 20 cents of what you pay for a domain name goes to ICANN. As with other fees for domain registration, the initial 20 cents is refundable if you delete the registration in the initial five-day AGP (Add Grace Period). (There is a note in the ICANN Board minutes that the fee "is subject to raise as the contracted rate is U.S. $0.25" so perhaps it's scheduled to go up. That's what you get for paying in dollars.)

The theory, which the board accepts and I agree with, is that this will stop domain tasting, or at least the vast majority of it, because it raises the marginal cost of tasting a domain from no money to a small, but definite amount. Given that tasting happens by the millions of domains, those costs could mount quickly.

Here is the text of the actual resolution of the board:

Whereas, the current version of all gTLD registry contracts provides for a five-calendar-day Add Grace period (AGP) following the initial registration of a domain during which a domain may be deleted and the sponsoring Registrar will be credited for the amount of the registration fee (see, e.g.,http://www.icann.org/tlds/agreements/verisign/appendix-07-01mar06.htm);

Whereas, the AGP was originally created to allow domain names that had been accidentally registered to be cancelled;

Whereas, the practice of "domain tasting," by which names are registered and then deleted during the AGP, has grown at a very great rate since 2005, with tens of millions of domains registered and deleted each month;

Whereas, it is apparent that the AGP is being used for purposes for which it was not intended;

Whereas, abuse of the AGP is, in the opinion of the majority of respondents whose statements were collected by the GNSO Ad Hoc Group on Domain Name Tasting (4 October 2007 report), producing disadvantages in the form of consumer confusion and potential fraud that outweigh the benefits of the AGP;

Whereas, the GNSO Council on 31 October 2007 resolved to launch a PDP on Domain Tasting and to encourage staff to apply ICANN's fee collections to names registered and subsequently de-registered during the AGP;

Whereas, it is the Board's view that abuses of the AGP should speedily be halted, while the positive benefits of the AGP to consumers should be retained;

Whereas, the positive benefits of the AGP may include, among other things, avoiding fraud and monitoring, testing and development of registrars' provisioning, production and/or merchant gateway systems;

Whereas, the Board believes that the withdrawal of ICANN's waiver of ICANN's non-refundable transaction fee to the deletion of names within the AGP will substantially end the practice of abusing the AGP;

THEREFORE, the Board resolves (2008.01.04) to encourage ICANN's budgetary process to include fees for all domains added, including domains added during the AGP, and encourages community discussion involved in developing the ICANN budget, subject to both Board approval and registrar approval of this fee.

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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