welcoming another domain registrant to the
Internet? No, but this is what it is starting to feel
can't blame domain registrants for feeling a little
punch drunk as a seemingly never-ending battle with ICANN
over huge (and possibly unlimited) price hikes in
proposed new registry contracts continues to rage on.
The organization charged by the U.S. Department of
Commerce with oversight of the domain name system
threw the first blow by negotiating (if you can call it
that) remarkably one-sided contract renewals with the .org,
.info and .biz registries. Those deals
left the door wide open for those registries to charge
people who register or renew domain names any price
they felt like charging them, including different prices
for different domain names (variable pricing).
before the ICANN Board could get those contracts
approved, a Canadian domain owner, George Kirikos,
who has kept an eye on ICANN matters for years, spotted
the flaws in the proposed agreements and sounded the
result was an enormous uproar from the Internet
community and virtually unanimous condemnation of
the agreements during the public comment period when
people were able to post their opinions on the ICANN
board. That forced ICANN to revisit the issue, but now
they are back, just a few weeks later, with "revised"
contract proposals that are still fraught with danger
for everyone who owns a domain name or has a website
that depends on one.
extremely brief public comment period was opened,
one that few people even know about, and unless you make
your voice heard by the end of the day Tuesday,
November 21, it is possible that the train will
leave the station with a sizeable chunk of your
financial future on board. That's because ICANN will be
considering approving those contracts in a
meeting they have scheduled Wednesday (Nov. 22),
coincidentally (?) the day before one of America's
biggest holidays (Thanksgiving) when many people will be
preoccupied with other things.
matter is on the agenda even though virtually
all interested parties both inside ICANN
(their various constituencies) and out, do
not want this issue decided prematurely, and
certainly not before the upcoming ICANN meeting
in Sao Paolo, Brazil in two weeks. Why
the big rush? It could be because the ICANN
board is expected to lose several pro-registry
members at that meeting and wants to ram these
lopsided agreements through while they still
Some have let their guard down because ICANN had said
they would postpone action on the contracts while an
"independent" study into the underlying issues
was conducted. For some reason, they apparently decided not
to wait for the results of that study. In addition,
many registrants heard that the revised contracts would
limit the registries to a 10% price increase in any
given year and thought that they could at least survive
that extra burden. At a time when costs of providing
registry services is falling, double digit increases are
unconscionable enough, but what many people don't
realize is that the threat of variable pricing,
which could take away everything domain and website
owners have worked for over the years, has not been
eliminated in the revised contracts.
Corwin, Legal Counsel
Internet Commerce Association
Corwin, the Washington, D.C. based
legal counsel for the new Internet
Commerce Association (a trade group
organized to help protect domain registrant
rights), spelled it out for us.
"Differential pricing under agreements that
allow for unlimited price increases has greater
potential for harm than differential pricing
under agreements that allow for ten percent
annual increases - but that 10% annual increase,
even if targeted solely at domain names with
greater market value/traffic, still has the
potential to result in a near-doubling of
registration fees over the six year term of
agreements are revised to explicitly prohibit
differential pricing - that is, to require
that the same registration/renewal fee be
charged to all domain names (which it should,
because the basic service rendered to each
domain by the registry is identical), something
that is quite absent from these proposed
agreements - I think one has to conclude that
differential pricing is still permitted."
Corwin added, "My take is that the ten percent
limitation is a trojan horse designed to look
reasonable and get price increase permissibility built
into the agreements...I'm concerned their handpicked
expert will conclude that price restraints should be
eliminated because there's sufficient inter-registry
competition, and at that point the ten percent
limitation could be dropped and unlimited price
increases reinstated with no obligation to put out for
comment or approve revised agreements. That's why
to ICANN says that the economic study should
precede approval, not follow it."
with the clock ticking down, what can you do?
You need to post your comments immediately
by clicking the comment link at the bottom of this
page on the ICANN website. The page
also has links to both the original contracts
and the slightly revised ones that we believe
continue to be a grave threat to domain
registrants. It has been pointed out before, but
if you are primarily a .com owner, who thinks
you don't have a dog in this fight, there is
little doubt that if ICANN is allowed to give
the store away to the .org, .info and .biz
registries, the .com registry will demand the
same provisions in their next contract.
believe that if the ICANN board shoves these
contracts through in the manner they are
currently attempting to do (in violation of
their own bylaws for ground up consensus),
nobody will win except a handful of registries.
Registrants will obviously lose big, but so
will ICANN, an organization that can ill
afford the permanent
loss of trust and credibility that would be
the inevitable byproduct of such an overtly
anti-consumer power play here.
organization has already been told by a U.S.
Congressional committee that it needed to improve
transparency and accountability in its
to approve these flawed contracts would confirm
once and for all that ICANN has no intention of
acting on that advice.
other agencies around the globe
interested in wrestling control away
from ICANN this may not the best
time for their image to take a
interesting news items have popped up in the
past few days but as of this writing I don't have
enough information to go into depth on them. I
should be able to do that, either on our site or
in the next newsletter, after I get some more
background on these developments.
Among them are DomainSponsor's
announcement that they will hold a
globally-oriented DomainFest in Hollywood,
California Jan. 31 - Feb. 3. That will
apparently put another player on the major domain
conference stage alongside the highly successful T.R.A.F.F.I.C.
and Domain Roundtable conferences. As of
this writing, details on the show's agenda have
not been released. T.R.A.F.F.I.C. has already
announced 2007 shows in Las Vegas in March,
New York City in June (location and exact
dates still being finalized) and Hollywood,
Florida in October. We understand Roundtable
intends to return for a third outing sometime next
spring, but details have not been released yet.
of the largest domain aftermarket sales venues, Afternic.com,
announced they would no longer list adult and gambling
domains, mirroring a move that other sales sites like
BuyDomains.com have made. However, Afternic went a
giant step further when President Roger Collins
said they would also eliminate domains related to hate and
self-destructive behavior in an effort to "make the
site more comfortable for mainstream domain name shoppers,
especially small business owners."
move has sparked a considerable amount of debate and
speculation, but so far the company has had no comment
beyond its original statement. We have sent them a few
questions to get more background on their decision and
will pass any response we get along to you.
In another startling bit of news, an internal Yahoo!
memo that leaked out over the weekend paints a
pretty grim picture for employees at the #2 search
engine (behind Google). The memo, written by Yahoo senior Vice President
Brad Garlinghouse said the company needs a dramatic organizational shake-up and cuts in its workforce of
up to 20%. Garlinghouse added that Yahoo! must consolidate its overlapping business units and establish a clear chain of command to improve its performance. The company reported a 38% drop in third-quarter profit last month as sales growth fell to the lowest in four years.
Many people in the domain business have personal
friends and acquaintances at Yahoo! and will be
nervously waiting to see how deep any cuts might
That's it for this month.
wish all of our
American readers a very
to everyone around the globe a joyous
holiday season as we head into that most
wonderful time of the the year!