News, views and what I choose to dos




Domain name madness all around

Category : Domain names ยท by Oct 19th, 2006

So earlier this week I received not one but two emails offering to sell me back a recently expired domain of mine – back2black.com – for a very reasonable $199.95.

I had decided to let the domain go, and I had never actually put up a site at the domain, so its shows how sophisticated domainers have become in exploiting the millions of dollars that expire every year – some in the full knowledge of their owners, many not.

Of course the email told me it was a “Limited Time Offer…!!!” – and we all know why that is – because if Webnamesolution.com doesn’t hand it back within five days, it isn’t going to get its $6 back. All of this of course neatly fits into the hot news of the moment: domains and their rightful owners.

There is of course the Spamhaus.org issue – can ICANN shut it down? No. Will Tucows? Possibly. Should a US judge be *able* to do that to a UK company. Ah… well…

The Guardian wants a feature on why people’s websites suddenly disappear and are replaced with porn site links. Which of course also ties neatly with…

The domain tasting issue which the ICANN Board should have been voting on an amendment to help tackle yesterday but instead bypassed it (or didn’t get around to discussing it) because — yet more domain issues — the contracts for .info, .biz and .something-else were up for voting. Most controversial was the possibility that a registry would be allowed to charge different amounts for different domains.

And the result? Well, perhaps, inevitably and quite possibly, wisely, ICANN decided it has to have an independent report into what the hell domain names are and how they actually function.

The Board minutes show that they want a “reputable economic consulting firm” to look at five main issues:

  • Whether the domain registration market is one market or whether each TLD functions as a separate market,
  • Whether registrations in different TLDs are substitutable,
  • What are the effects on consumer and pricing behavior of the switching costs involved in moving from one TLD to another,
  • What is the effect of the market structure and pricing on new TLD entrants, and
  • Whether there are other markets with similar issues, and if so how are these issues addressed and by who?

This should prove interesting. I wonder how much such a team would be allowed to look at .coms. And I’ll be very interested to see who gets chosen, who’s on the expert panel, and how much influence ICANN gets over the final report. Domain names are ICANN’s living – can we honestly expect a report to be allowed through that doesn’t fit in with ICANN’s philosophy?

It is definitely a report I will follow very closely. I wonder if there have been proper studies of domains before – must have been – but how many of them remain relevant anymore with the recent huge changes in the domain name market.

And what about the next group of new gTLDs? Everywhere you look it’s domain names. Oh, and .asia was finally approved yesterday as well. Another interesting one to watch, especially because of the huge boom in online activity from Asia, and the ever-threatening issue of IDNs.

I have a long list of people I’m trying to speak to today: Ed Viltz, David Maher, Paul Stahura, Roland La Plante, Edmon Chung, Siarhei Chyzhevich. And I feel terrible. I have a dreadful cold. Can some of them call me back soon, I want to go to bed with a hot toddy and a book.

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