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ICANN Approves Waiting List Service

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

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 organizations.

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 expires.

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 service.
  • 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 anyways.

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."