Posts Tagged ‘Domain Tasting’

ICANN stamps out domain tasting

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

By Jon Lawrence

ICANN has announced that the controversial practice of domain tasting has been eradicated from the gTLD registries. This achievement represents an all too rare but nonetheless very welcome example of ICANN’s bottom-up policy development process working through to a successful, tangible conclusion.

Domain tasting is a practice that involves using the five day ‘Add Grace Period’(AGP) as a completely risk-free ‘try-before-you-buy’ opportunity for testing the level of traffic that recently-deleted domain names are attracting.  Any names that attract insufficient traffic to turn a profit from monetisation using a Pay-Per-Click advertising platform such as Google Adsense are then deleted before the end of the AGP, without charge.

The AGP was originally implemented to give Registrars a short window within which to deal with errors and other issues, such as registrations made using stolen credit cards.  Over the last few years, this worthy intention became completely overwhelmed by registrars engaging in Domain Tasting, and resulted in enormous growth in system loads for the larger registries, particularly Verisign’s .COM and .NET Registry.  The problem reached such a scale that ICANN has estimated that over 99% of all new domain registrations were the result of Domain Tasting before the recent changes were implemented.

A new ICANN report shows that Domain Tasting has declined by 99.7% since the new Domain Tasting Policy was implemented earlier this year.  This new Policy imposes additional fees when a registrar registers and then deletes domain names above a set monthly threshold, thereby effectively rendering the Domain Tasting business model uneconomic, while still maintaining the original function of the AGP.

There were a number of negative consequences of this gaming of the system, apart from increased costs for the affected Registry Operators.  Re-registering domain names that had been allowed to lapse inadvertently became extremely difficult, if not impossible, due to the sophisticated automated systems that were employed by those registrars involved in Domain Tasting.  ICANN has also singled out ‘an enormous proliferation’ in the number of parking pages – usually single page websites containing nothing but keyword-generated advertisements – as a significant negative consequence of the Domain Tasting phenomenon.  This is no doubt true, however these sorts of sites existed before Domain Tasting came along and will continue to exist now that it has been eradicated.  It is, for example, a very common practice now for registrars to point new domain names to such sites by default, in an attempt to generate incremental advertising revenue, until the registrant is ready to upload a ‘real’ website.

ICANN is to be congratulated on putting an end to a practice that was causing significant disruption and providing an advantage to a small number of players within the industry at the expense of the great majority.  It’s not often that you’ll see a policy change being that effective, that quickly.

See ICANN’s announcement or go directly to the AGP Deletes Status Report.