ICANN Takes On Domain Tasting

    January 30, 2008
    WebProNews Staff

It took a small panel of us to translate the minutes of the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) meeting regarding the practice of domain tasting, which read like an MC Escher painting, but we think we got it, and here’s what we’ve come up with:

Domainers will no longer be able to "taste" domains free of charge. A deletion fee waiver, which was instituted in 2005, will be withdrawn. ICANN said that since introducing the waiver, as much as 95.5% of names registered within the five-day Add-Grace Period (AGP) were deleted. For some registrars it was as much as 99.5%. Tens of millions of domains are registered and deleted each month.

ICANN concluded that reenacting the non-refundable transaction fee would effectively end the practice of abusing the AGP.

This solution was selected out of three proposed options, which are:

ICANN could revise its registrar-level transaction fee (the current rate is US$0.20, which is subject to raise as the contracted rate is US$0.25) to cover all new registrations and discontinue the exemption for "tasted" domains, (2) registries could impose a "restocking" fee for disproportionate domain deletions, or (3) ICANN could establish a new "policy" effectively deleting the add grace period policy in the registry agreements.

ICANN also specifically addressed the concern over NetworkSolutions’ recent controversial practice of automatically registering domains searched for on their site, raising the price, and then returning during the grace period. NetworkSolutions defended the practice as a way to protect customers from frontrunners, but critics have had trouble deciphering the difference.

ICANN had trouble with this, too. According to the minutes, though the Board decided that there was something (they didn’t really say what) fundamentally different about Network Solutions’ practice – i.e., something about it isn’t as questionable as the larger issue – comment was made that the practice had outcomes customers would not expect and would not want.

Short from condemning the practice, the Board asked Network Solutions if reinstituting the deletion fee would result in them discontinuing. Network Solutions said it would.

On the WebPro Blog, our own David Utter expresses his doubt that it will fully solve the problem of domain tasting:

"The problem with ICANN’s solution is it may be ineffective against well-financed domain tasters. A return fee may be the cost of doing business, one that simply becomes part of the accounting process without having an impact on the activity."