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.

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