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.
ICANN Actually Does Something About Domain Tasting
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