ICANN Approves Waiting List Service

That crashing sound you hear is the sound of an entire niche industry

VeriSign’s controversial call for a waiting list service was passed by the
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) late last week, despite objections raised earlier by one of its supporting

After a six-month grace period on expired domain names has passed, VeriSign
will begin a one-year test program to determine whether the service is a
boon to domain name owners and domain name wannabes.

The amendment gives the registry another revenue stream to pocket and
essentially puts companies that offer to grab a domain name for interested
buyers out of business. A waiting list service lets interested domain name
seekers pay for the opportunity to grab an existing domain name once it

Though VeriSign won’t offer the service directly to domain name holders, it
will charge registrars an undetermined fee ($25 has been mentioned) to
offer the service to its customers. The fee is assessed whether the
original domain name holder gives up the domain name or not.

In July, the domain names supporting organization (DNSO), one of three
technical bodies whose task is to advise ICANN directors, rejected the
amendment VeriSign was looking to adopt, but said it would cooperate if the
board voted otherwise — provided the board adopt several conditions.

They are:

  • A six-month redemption grace period for all deleted domain names, so
    owner’s who inadvertently let their domain expire could get them back.
  • The WLS will run on a trial basis for one year.
  • No preference or exclusion because of any registrar reservation
  • Registrars won’t be able to put a name on the WLS more than 60 days
    from expiration.
  • Current domain owners will be notified their domain has an interested
    buyer, though the prospective buyer’s identity won’t be revealed.
  • Collect data on the WLS trial period to determine if the service is
    really necessary.

Mary Hewitt, an ICANN spokesperson, said the DNSO committee’s conditions
were met.

“The objections that they had, (the DNSO team) said that if the board did
approve the waiting list service they would like these conditions met,” she
said. “And they did.”

The conditions were certainly not the DNSO’s preference. In July, the
organization’s task force primary recommendation was to reject the VeriSign
plan, 15-3, though it expected ICANN’s board of directors to approve it

Ellen Shankman, at the meeting last month, asked ICANN internal counsel
Louis Touton what the board would do in the event the task force rejected
the waiting list service request. He replied the board was more interested
in getting the viewpoint of the task force, but wouldn’t characterize it as
a consensus if it were rejected.

According to its quarterly revenue reports, Network Solutions (a registrar
division of VeriSign) has been steadily losing the war with other
registrars for new customers. The business of renewing and extending
domain names remains strong, however, though many are switching to more
affordable domain services provided by Network Solutions competitors.

Karl Auerbach, the sole dissenting vote on the ICANN board of directors,
feels the waiting list service gives Network Solutions an unfair advantage.

“The people who are affected by this, the registrars, don’t have a voice in
ICANN, and I think it’s unfair that we keep changing the contract these
people have with VeriSign, without having any role or participation in
making those changes,” he said.

Auerbach voiced his objection over the clause which prevents current domain
name holders from finding out the identity of the WLS bidder for their
domain. He related a case where a Hebrew organization let one of its
domain’s expire. It was immediately picked up by a porn operator, so every
time a visitor goes to the site looking for information about the
organization, they instead see a porn site.

“That does a lot of damage to their good name,” Auerbach said. “If they
would have known who was going to pick up that site after it expired, they
might have paid the price and kept the domain.”

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