New ICANN policy stops domain tasting

Policy has nearly wiped out the practice of buying up lots of domain names and dumping the unprofitable ones, says a new report from ICANN.

Lance Whitney
Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
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ICANN has won a major battle over the abusive tactic of domain tasting, said the organization in a report released Wednesday.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is responsible for managing and doling out Internet domain names.

It's not an easy job. And making it harder was a scheme used by some registrars known as domain tasting. Someone would buy up lots of domain names, try them out, and then get rid of the unprofitable ones, all without losing any money. As long as the registrar dumped the domains within the five-day grace period, known as the Add Grace Period (AGP), a full refund was given.

Designed by ICANN to help registrars who made errors in their domain names, the grace period refund was quickly abused by Web sites that populated their domains with lots of ad links that redirected visitors to other sites. It also led to the unavailability of popular names that were scooped up by domain tasters.

In June 2008, ICANN decided to act. The organization stopped refunding the 20-cent annual fee for each registered deleted domain name beyond a certain limit.

But since 20 cents per domain wasn't much of a penalty, ICANN got tougher. The organization began charging registrars $6.75 (the cost of a current .org domain) or higher for each deleted domain beyond a certain limit during the grace period.

In its report, ICANN used the following example to illustrate the policy change:
Someone registers 1,000 domain names and gets rid of 300 of them during the grace period. Under the policy, the registrar is allowed up to 70 deletions. The remaining 230 cost 20 cents each for a total of $46. Plus, each excessive deletion costs the registrar at least $6.75. Dumping 230 domain names rings up a bill of $1,552.50 for a grand total of $1,598.50.

ICANN said the new policy resulted in a 99.7 percent decrease in domain deletions from June 2008 to April 2009.