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ICANN to throttle domain tasters

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ICANN wants to destroy domain tasters at the expense of poor typists.

Today, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers said that it will consider charging its annual fee for internet domain names as soon as names are registered.

From ICANN's perspective, this would effectively eliminate so-called "domain tasters," those nefarious net mavens that enjoy registering countless domains, testing their "marketability," and then returning them from whence they came - without paying a penny.

"Domain tasting has been an issue for the Internet community and ICANN is offering this proposal as a way to stop tasting," read a canned statement from Dr. Paul Twomey, ICANN’s President and CEO. "Charging the ICANN fee as soon as a domain name is registered would close the loophole used by tasters to test a domain name’s profitability for free."

You see, when you register a domain name, you have five days to return it for a full refund. This "Add Grace Period" was meant to protect people silly enough to misspell or mistype when registering domains. But it also allows tasters to temporarily register as many domains as they like, as often as they like.

According to an ICANN study, in January 2007, a mere ten organizations accounted for 95 per cent of all deleted domain names. That's 45,450,897 out of 47,824,131 discarded addresses.

The annual "ICANN fee" is only 20 cents. But if registrants are forced to pay a dollar for every five domains they grab, ICANN believes, domain tasters will quit tasting. "It would change the dynamics," ICANN spokesman Jason Keenan told us. "The difference between doing a million registrations for free and doing five for a dollar is enormous."

This new proposal is part of a "very rough version" of ICANN's budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, and this very rough version will be discussed during ICANN's meeting in New Delhi next month. The organization's final budget will be rubber-stamped in Paris this summer - ICANN likes to jet set - but even if the domain tasting proposal is approved, it will still need an OK from the world's registrars.

"If registrars representing two-thirds of domain revenue collected by ICANN approve the proposal, then the ICANN fee would be charged [at the time of registration]," Keenan said.

Meanwhile, Network Solutions has told InfoWorld it will quit front running domain names if this ICANN proposal goes through. At the moment, the registrar is self-registering domains that its customers search for but don't immediately buy.

The company claims it's doing this to prevent domain tasters from tasting domains its customers show interest in, but we claim that's nonsense. Network Solutions is simply trying to make some extra dough.

If you search the Network Solutions web site for a domain and don't immediately purchase it, domain tasters can still taste it. They're simply forced to do so through Network Solutions. The trick is that if you decide to actually purchase the name over the next four days, you're forced to use Network Solutions too. You can't use another registrar. And other registrars charge much less money.

We can't help but wonder if Network Solutions will actually vote to approve ICANN's proposal. But your guess is as good as ours. Network Solutions won't speak to us. As usual.

In any event, let's hope the ICANN proposal passes. And let's hope Networks Solutions keeps its word. ®

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