Unsavory Domain Tasting – ICANN Starts to Take Action

by on October 31, 2007 · 2 comments

Domain name tasting was on today’s ICANN agenda at the meeting in LA. The GNSO Council, which represents commercial and noncommercial interests, considered this unsavory issue and voted to take a more thorough look at domain name tasting.

What is domain name tasting? It refers to an abusive practice in which speculators look for the best domain names where they can park ads, and take advantage of a five-day grace period between the time a new domain name is reserved and the time the registration fee must be paid.

Speculators routinely register large numbers of potentially attractive domain names and then carefully track how many accidental hits they generate. If a site fails to generate much traffic, the speculator can let the domain name lapse without paying anything.  But if the site generates a lot of traffic, the speculator can use it to park ads, often from one of the large managed Web advertising networks like Google, and generate significant revenue with no effort.

WIkipedia describes the controversy:

The practice is controversial as practitioners typically register many hundreds of thousands of domain names under this practice, with these temporary registrations far exceeding the number of domain names actually licensed. In April 2006, out of 35 million registrations, only a little more than 2 million were permanent or actually purchased. By February 2007, the CEO of GoDaddy reported that of 55.1 million domain names registered, 51.5 million were canceled and refunded just before the 5 day grace period expired and only 3.6 million domain names were actually kept.

All this tasting taxes the DNS network, and increases the costs and burdens on legitimate registrants. Moreover, the ICANNWiki describes the consumer harm as follows:

People who try to register a domain name may get caught up in a large
domain taster. If over 1,000,000 domains are held up in domain tasting
each day then people trying to register some of those names will
suspect someone is spying on their domain queries.

ICANN is aware of growing abuse of the 5-day Grace Period policy, and has held multiple workshops on the subject. Here in this meeting, we’ve finally seen ICANN make more aggressive moves by ICANN to explore new grace period policies and restrictions to guard the integrity of the DNS from this kind of abuse.

So look for ICANN action soon as it carries out the "policy development process" (PDP) to address the issues set forth in the GNSO domain tasting report.

  • http://echoreply.us/tech/ tinkertim

    I’m not quite sure if there is anything that could be done about this in a single act. It is a growing (and festering) problem.

    Years in the web hosting industry tell me, at least 4/10 domain registrations are fraudulent, using stolen credit card numbers or phished PayPal accounts. Since these charges are typically small, they might remain undiscovered by the rightful owner of the account or card for 15 – 30 days (depending on when they get their statement). Even with the grace period as-is, hosts and registrars end up eating a significant majority of these domains.

    That’s a problem for the host and registrar as well as a problem for someone who might want that domain and attempt to register it legally.

    I’d be in favor of a 45 day grace period, but release/refunds should have to be accompanied with proof of fraud. Since fraud is one of the biggest factors driving prices higher, this might help a bit.

    However, this puts a greater administrative weight on ICANN, as I said, I’m not sure that there is any good solution to the problem.

    I see no other sensible reason for ‘tasting’, either you want the domain or you don’t. At least they’re (attempting) to address it. I hope that they deal with this a little more efficiently than they dealt with the Registerfly melt down.

  • http://echoreply.us/tech/ tinkertim

    I’m not quite sure if there is anything that could be done about this in a single act. It is a growing (and festering) problem.

    Years in the web hosting industry tell me, at least 4/10 domain registrations are fraudulent, using stolen credit card numbers or phished PayPal accounts. Since these charges are typically small, they might remain undiscovered by the rightful owner of the account or card for 15 – 30 days (depending on when they get their statement). Even with the grace period as-is, hosts and registrars end up eating a significant majority of these domains.

    That’s a problem for the host and registrar as well as a problem for someone who might want that domain and attempt to register it legally.

    I’d be in favor of a 45 day grace period, but release/refunds should have to be accompanied with proof of fraud. Since fraud is one of the biggest factors driving prices higher, this might help a bit.

    However, this puts a greater administrative weight on ICANN, as I said, I’m not sure that there is any good solution to the problem.

    I see no other sensible reason for ‘tasting’, either you want the domain or you don’t. At least they’re (attempting) to address it. I hope that they deal with this a little more efficiently than they dealt with the Registerfly melt down.

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