ICANN Proposed Tasting Fee a Good First Step

Earlier this week, the ICANN Board recommended making the ICANN fee of $0.20 per domain year non-refundable. Previously, that fee was refundable if the domain was deleted within the five day Add Grace Period (AGP).

Around the same time, Google announced it would drop names consistently added and deleted during the AGP from its AdSense program, making it far more difficult to profit from ads served on those domain names.

icann.jpgWe think ICANN’s resolution to introduce a fee is a good first step, but we don’t believe it goes far enough; some tasters will look at a nominal $0.20 fee as a cost of doing business. Add Grace Period abuse could be further diminished or eliminated by substantially shortening the AGP period to 12 hours or less. This would let registrants correct ‘true’ mistakes like spelling errors (which is what the AGP was originally intended for), while significantly curbing the practice of tasting at the same time.

For those of you who aren’t aware of what tasting is, here’s a quick overview: Generic Top Level Domains (also known as ‘gTLDs’) support what is known as an ‘Add Grace Period’ (AGP). Originally designed to correct domain name registration errors like typos and such, the AGP allows registrars to delete any names they register within five days, and receive a full refund.

Over the past several years the AGP has been used largely for profit instead of correcting mistakes. Some registrars register names en masse, display ads on them, measure their traffic, and then see which ones might be profitable to keep. The rest are deleted before the end of the grace period. How many names are deleted? According to an ICANN report, 94% of all .com registrations in January 2007 were deleted. Some registrars even re-register and delete the names over and over, allowing them to essentially keep the names for free.

The result of this practice is short-term trademark infringement, consumer confusion as sites disappear/re-appear (and point to advertising), and a great deal of unnecessary (and potentially dangerous) operational load.

Domain tasting will be one of many issues up for discussion at ICANN’s 31st International Public Meeting, will take place between February 10 and 15. I’ll be heading to India in two weeks and I’ll provide coverage of the meetings here on the Tucows blog.

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