ICANN Takes a Lick at Domain Tasting

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2007-08-05 Print this article Print

I recently became aware of a report by ICANNs staff called "GNSO Issues Report on Domain Tasting" for the At-Large Advisory Committee for an Issues Report on Domain Tasting. Domain tasting, as defined by the report itself, is:
[a] monetisation practice employed by registrants to use the AGP to register domain names in order to test their profitability. During this period, registrants conduct a cost-benefit analysis to see if the tested domain names return enough traffic to offset the registration fee paid to the registry over the course of the registration period (e.g., currently $6 US for a .NAME domain name).
The "AGP" is the "Add Grace Period," a period of several days (typically five) following a registration during which the registrant may revoke the registration for a full refund of the registry and ICANN transaction fees.

ICANN is considering other changes that could improve the state of the Internet, but will they? Click here to read more.

Its typical of ICANN to refer to the registry fee for the .NAME TLD. Of course, nobody gives a damn about .NAME and, while the issue of domain tasting may affect it technically, as a practical matter theyre irrelevant. Domain tasting is overwhelmingly an issue of and for the .COM namespace, as is the entire domain name boom. Even the ICANN report says that tasting is basically a problem of the .COM space, although it does appear in some of the others.

Some other domains are experiencing healthy growth, such as the .UK and .DE country codes, but even the old standard .NET and .ORG domains are languishing relative to .COM, and the tasting issues parallel the less abusive growth. After all, its all about finding domains people will navigate to, and its an article of faith of those in the domain name business that .COM domains have a large and automatic advantage in popularity. See VeriSigns most recent report on domain name growth for some interesting charts on where the registrations and growth are.

Last year PIR (Public Interest Registry), which runs the .ORG domain, became concerned enough about tasting to ask ICANN for permission to charge a 5 cent excess deletion fee for registrars performing deletions in the AGP in excess of 90 percent of registrations. Ninety percent! My instinct tells me this is excessively tolerant, and of course it is, but no practical tasting operation could be profitable deleting only 89 percent of their registrations. Anyway, the new PIR policy went into effect for June of this year, so its too early to determine the actual impact, and PIR seems not to have released any numbers yet.

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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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