VeriSign reins in wait list for domains

The domain name registrar revises its controversial proposal to resell expiring Web addresses after registries complain they won't make a profit from the service.

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Domain name registrar VeriSign said Wednesday that it is revising a controversial proposal to award expiring Web addresses to registrants who pay to be on a waiting list.

VeriSign, which operates the registry for the .com, .net and .org domains, said that with the revision it will charge registrars $35 a year to put a Web address on the Domain Name Wait Listing Service, with rebates offered for bulk subscriptions. Registers would then resell each wait-listed entry to consumers.

The price reduction is an attempt to win applause from a number of registrars who criticized the original proposal, saying they would not profit from the service. Previously, VeriSign had proposed charging registrars $40 per address.

"We think (the revised proposal) meets many of their concerns," said Chuck Gomes, vice president of policy and compliance for VeriSign. "It certainly gives them even greater opportunity for margins on their side of the business."

The criticism marks the latest troubles for the organizations that oversee top-level domains. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is facing a heated battle with Web address administrators in Europe, which say the group must guarantee the stability of the servers that link domains.

Meanwhile, NeuLevel and several other registries have been hit with a class-action lawsuit, which alleges they ran an illegal lottery system with applications for Web addresses ending in .biz.

VeriSign's wait-list proposal avoids lottery questions and instead would reserve a Web address for the first person to request it. If a Web address expires and is not renewed, it would automatically be transferred to the person that paid the wait-list fee.

Some registrars, however, were concerned that the proposal would be unfair to people wishing to acquire an expired domain name. Some said they would prefer an auction system, with the Web address being awarded to the highest bidder.

An auction system is "the best solution to distributing these domain names," said Peter Girard, director of marketing at Afternic, a wholly owned subsidiary of Register.com. "It gets the names in the hands of end users more effectively."

VeriSign has proposed a 12-month trial to ensure the service's effectiveness. The company has said it hopes to have a trial service up and running in late March.