ICANN Actually Does Something About Domain Tasting

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

title=Enter Network Solutions}

The recent scandal over Network Solutions' use of domain tasting and front-running seems to have lit a fire under ICANN in this matter. The board discussed NSI's controversial policies only as something to be eliminated. When it was suggested that a fee, such as the one agreed on, would put an end to the practice, nobody objected, and in fact one member said that he had spoken with NSI and was informed that they would "roll back" their policy if a fee were imposed.

I have to think that, but for NSI's practices, action against tasting would remain in committee for the foreseeable future.

There is some question out there about the impact of the fee. DomainNameNews argues that the fee is large enough to end domain kiting, but not domain tasting. (Domain kiting, which is serial re-registration and deletion of domains, also faces practical problems next month when Google ends monetization of domains being used in this way.)

But are 20 or 25 cents enough to end tasting? I don't see how it doesn't, at the very least, cut it down to a small fraction of its current level, and by that I mean at least 90 percent down. When tasting is free, a registrant has no incentive to scrutinize a domain before registering it. There are registrars that have registered millions of domains and deleted more than 90 percent of them. Twenty cents times a million is $200,000, not chump change.

DomainNameNews does have a point that tasting of expiring domains is probably still a reasonable proposition, as those domains have been vetted to a point and are more likely to draw visitors. About 20,000 domains expire every day.

But overall, I think their take is too dismissive. Last year PIR (Public Interest Registry, the registry for .ORG) imposed an "excess deletion fee" for registrars whose deletes in the AGP exceeded 90 percent of total registrations. This is a pretty high bar to cross, but PIR says it reduced deleted domains from 2.4 million in May to 152,700 in June.

The ICANN Board's vote, you'll notice, is "to encourage ICANN's budgetary process" to include such fees. This makes me think it could take a while, although John Levine argues that "it might be within a month." Let's hope that John's right and that this happens soon.

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983.

For insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at eWEEK.com Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer's blog Cheap Hack

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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