Is Domain Name Front Running About To Come To An End?

This Thursday, ICANN will vote on next fiscal year’s budget, and included in that is a provision to charge 20 cents per registration for domain names that are deleted during the grace period. There will still be a refundable grace period, but if the “level of deletions exceeds 10 percent of a registrar’s net new registrations in that month,” the fee kicks in—in effect, making front running uneconomical. Network Solutions is urging ICANN to approve it, and has said that it will stop pre-registering domains if the provision is approved.

On their official announcement page, Network Solutions writes,

If ICANN adopts the anti-tasting provision, Network Solutions will feel safe in discontinuing its service. Implementing a non-refundable fee during the AGP will deflate domain tasters’ profits and provide a substantial blow to front runners who use and sell search data for tasting purposes. While we understand and appreciate certain concerns initially raised about our protection measure and the way it was implemented, we are heartened by the fact that we successfully highlighted the issue and assisted in moving toward the eradication of these negative practices.

Of course, they also profited nicely from subsequent registrations due to their policy—it wasn’t simply an act of good citizenship. We also assume this means that pre-registering searched domains will no longer be profitable to Network Solutions—in other words, the policy will be discontinued mainly for economic reasons.

In a related discussion on Slashdot, solprovider points out that ICANN’s new policy may also put an end to what Network Solutions describes as “domain kiting,” where several (possibly related) companies keep passing domain registrations from one to the next by taking advantage of the free grace period, effectively preventing the domains from ever being available to the public. Solprovider points out that domain kiters may simply purchase the domains if the numbers make sense financially.

We’ll have to wait and see whether millions of trapped domain names become avaible in the near future—or if they’ll simply be registered for real by these companies.

“Network Solutions Encourages ICANN to Adopt Transaction Fee to End Domain Tasting and Front Running” [Network Solutions]
“ICANN to Add Anti Front Running Charge?” [Slashdot]

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