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Registrars Plan to Pool Their Resources in New Open Listing Service for Secondary Market Domains

By Ron Jackson
Editor/Publisher



Perhaps it’s time to publish a game program for the expiring domains industry. How else can you keep up with the constantly changing rules and players? Of course that would be an exercise in futility. It would be like trying to produce an up to date football program for a game where different teams are put on the field for every series of downs with a different set of rules each time the ball is snapped.


The race for expiring domains
 will resume in a new Pool

You’ve seen big players rise and fall and auction formats come and go, but as the old saying goes, “you ain’t seen nothing yet!”  Open SRS (Tucows) started the latest scramble when they announced they would soon start auctioning off expiring names registered with them rather than let them go into the traditional drop cycle (at the end of which multiple drop catching companies compete for names that they can then sell in their own auctions). Open SRS threw in another new wrinkle – they will share proceeds from their sales with the original domain owner. 

Network Solutions quickly jumped on the bandwagon. They have already implemented a new program in which their expiring names are auctioned off exclusively by Snapnames.com. Dotster.com has decided to go down the same road, recently announcing they will reserve their expiring names for their own auction company, Namewinner.com. In each case, these registrars changed their customer registration agreement to allow them to sell expiring domains rather than let them enter the customary drop process that gave original owners some extra time to rescue their domains. These registrars are instituting their own grace period before selling the domains however they will no longer follow ICANN’s uniform procedure. 

If things continue in the current direction, one big problem for domain buyers will be that they will have to check a drop list for each individual registrar and bid at more auction venues than ever before. Pool.com (the 800-pound gorilla in the drop game until recently) just rolled out a new plan that they say will alleviate some of these headaches. They are calling it Open Listing Service (OLS) and the idea is to consolidate expiring domains from multiple registrars in a single system. In addition, OLS can accommodate any names available on the secondary market, not just those that are dropping in a given day. In fact Pool says their current Marketplace (domains listed for sale by individual owners) might be folded into the OLS. 

You may have heard talk that a new ICANN rule effective in December will short circuit these new auction systems by requiring adherence to the old drop process, but Pool President Taryn Naidu told us that is not true and that OLS and most of the individual registrar auctions will be in compliance with the new rule due to amended agreements with their customers. We spoke at length with Naidu at the recent T.R.A.F.F.I.C. 2004 conference in Delray Beach, Florida to get the inside scoop on OLS.   

Taryn Naidu
President, Pool.com

While Pool prepares to go forward with their plan, they have joined 99 other plaintiffs in a $150 million lawsuit filed against Verisign  (Verisign is a minority owner in Network Solutions and once was sole owner of the company). Since Verisign is the central registry for .com and .net domains, Naidu said it was unfair for them to benefit from the “near monopoly they enjoy over .com addresses” by excluding competitors. Thanks to many years as the sole source for .com domains, Network Solution holds the lion’s share of the high value names dropping today. 

While the legal battle rages, domain buyers will have to familiarize themselves with the new rules of the road. Naidu told us “OLS is actually a back-end API we have built that any ICANN-accredited registrar can incorporate into their existing site.”  So customers will be able to access it from multiple locations including the current Pool.com site and Namescout.com (NameScout and Pool are both owned by the Momentous.ca Corp.). The company plans a news release this month announcing who else is on board and when OLS will launch. Those who are not fans of Pool’s current 2-stage sealed bid auction will be happy to know that OLS will be an old-style open auction with proxy bidding. 

You may wonder why an individual registrar would want to cast their lot with Pool rather than open their own auction site as Open SRS and Dotster are doing. Naidu said “the advantage is that OLS allows an individual registrar to hit demographics they might otherwise miss while keeping their own existing traffic on their site.” Since OLS will be seen on a variety of sites and in multiple languages around the globe, participating companies can reach a far larger audience for their offerings. They can also set their own opening bid prices, length of auction, etc. and brand their own system using the OLS backend. 

Naidu said it will also give them a chance to integrate the primary (new) registration market with the secondary market. Someone may visit a registrar’s site looking to register domainscramble.com for example. If they find it is taken the OLS system can offer them the domain if it is available on the secondary market or give them a choice of substitutes in other extensions if the .com is not for sale. 

Naidu said Pool is also encouraging all of their partners to give original owners at least a 30-day grace period to reclaim their names before they are sold. He would also like to see them share auction profits with the original owners as Open SRS plans to do, however Naidu said  these details will be left up to the individual registrars. 

Naidu said OLS will publish a master pending delete list making it easy to determine what names will drop from registrars that are part of the system. He believes the OLS can become the central warehouse the industry will need to bring some order to a process that seems to become more chaotic with each permutation. The official startup is just days away, so you’ll soon be able to decide for yourself.

   

 


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Copyright 2004
Domain Name Journal
A Division of
Internet Edge, Inc.

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