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VeriSign to revamp secondary domain biz

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VeriSign Inc next month will re-launch its GreatDomains domain name resale service, dropping its retail auction model in favor of a wholesale system that will be made available to all of its registrar channel partners, ComputerWire has learned.

The service, expected to be announced next week, will be called Name Store. Coming shortly after the closure of its only major rival, Register.com Inc's Afternic service, it represents VeriSign's attempt to bring its successful registry model to a market that has not grown as quickly as thought.

While the secondary market for domain names saw some action at the end of the dot-com boom, with names such as Business.com fetching millions, the introduction of new top-level domains such as .biz and the general slowness of the market means growth has not been as big as expected.

"Essentially we're offering a secondary market program to all the registrars we service," a VeriSign spokesperson said. She said the company has been planning the move for some time and thinks it will "make a lot of sense" to registrars and customers alike.

After the changes, coming January 15, all current GreatDomains customers will have their listings removed from the service, and will lose their domain "parking" service. Only orders entered before January 15 will be honored.

Under the new wholesale service, customers must select a registrar, which will charge a listing fee for fixed-price sales below $5,000. It is expected the listings will be centrally pooled and each registrar will be able to offer customers the chance to search the list of domains for sale.

While the service will apparently be operated by VeriSign Global Registry Services, which also runs the .com and .net domain registries, its launch will not require the approval of industry overseer ICANN, which has previously annoyed the company by dragging its feet approving new registry level services.

VeriSign bought GreatDomains in a deal rumored to be worth about $80m in October 2000, a month after Register.com bought Afternic for about $50m. Both companies charged escrow fees for acting as a marketplace where speculators could advertise their names and entrepreneurs could shop for cool-sounding real estate.

Register.com said it was to close Afternic in is most recent quarterly financial results. The firm turned a loss after a sustained period of profit, and said it needed to cut more costs to get back in the black. Its decision to ax Afternic may mean the secondary market is difficult to pull off as a standalone retail business.

© ComputerWire

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