is no doubt about the news that is most important
this month. ICANN is considering incredibly
ill-advised new contracts for the .org, .info
and .biz registries that would allow them, for
the first time, to charge any price they wanted
for domain registrations and renewals, including
different prices for different domains. In effect,
if these contracts are approved, the registries can
become your business partner, or shut you down,
whenever they choose, by simply setting an exorbitant
renewal fee for your domain.
In proposing these
grossly one-sided contracts, ICANN is clearly violating their
Agreement of Understanding with the U.S. Department of Commerce which states ICANN is to
"support competition and consumer choice in the technical management of the DNS.
This competition will lower costs, promote innovation, and
enhance user choice and satisfaction." The
obvious question is how is ICANN supporting competition, consumer choice and lowering costs when they
propose to hand monopoly registries the power to charge anything they want?
Especially when there are other capable companies out
there who are more than willing to operate the
registries at low fixed prices.
In a normal contract,
a price is agreed on in exchange for services
rendered. Who would enter a contract with someone that says you can charge us (or the people we are supposed to represent)
anything you feel like charging us? Would any
sane businessman sign a store lease that did not specify
the monthly rent to be paid - instead leaving it up to
the landlord to charge whatever the felt they could
squeeze out of the business owner? Of course not. In our
opinion, these proposals represent a complete abdication of ICANN's
responsibilities to the Internet community.
registrants are fortunate that this irresponsible giveaway
is not already a fait accompli. George Kirikos,
who has followed ICANN activities for several years,
spotted the flaws in the proposed contracts and sounded
the alarm just days before ICANN closed the door to
public comment August 28. Despite extremely short
public comment boards were flooded by
protesters, including members of their own
committees and constituencies. Condemnation of the
proposed contracts was virtually unanimous with
the exception of a couple of representatives from other
registry operators who felt that leaving consumers open
to potential rape was a wonderful idea.
full ICANN board met Sept. 7 to consider public
reaction to the proposals. No decision on the contracts
was made and no minutes from the closed meeting have
been released as of this writing. This is obviously a
situation that every domain owner must keep their
attention glued to, even if they have no interest in
.org, .info or .biz domains. If ICANN chooses to ignore
the outcry from the Internet community and approves
these contracts, Verisign will undoubtedly be
handed similar keys to the .com and .net
stores when those contracts come up for renewal. No one
will ever again be able to develop a domain with
confidence that what they build won't be destroyed by
price hikes from registry operators at some point down
we continue, let's address a point of confusion,
particularly among newcomers, about the difference
between registries and registrars. A registry is the
central organization that controls an entire TLD (for
example PIR operates the central registry that
controls all .org domains). The general public does not
interact with the registries. Instead, you register your
domains through registrars. They pay the central
registry for each domain they register and any amount
they charge you, above the fee the registry is entitled
by contract to charge them, is their profit. So, if the
registry is allowed to charge higher prices, every
registrar is forced to pass along those price hikes,
or go out of business.
addition to the threat to all current and future
domain registrants, we believe these contracts
also present a grave danger to the .org,
.info and .biz registries themselves. How can
that be, when they would have the power to pick
the amount of revenue they wanted to extract
from domain owners? It's really very simple. Who
would develop a domain in one of those
extensions knowing that the registry had
the right to step in at any time and take away a
domain by instituting an unbearable renewal fee?
Unfortunately, we would have no choice but to
recommend that those extensions be completely avoided if
these contracts are approved. Who wants to play Russian
Roulette with the future of their business or
is not a position we want to be put in. We know
executives at these registries and they are good people.
The .info registry in particular has been great about
keeping prices low, and even giving domains away. The
.org registry, which provides the online home for
hundreds of thousands of non-profit groups, is respected
around the world. But what happens when today's
executives move on and a new group comes in that might
not be so honorable? That's why contracts exist and
prices and obligations are clearly spelled out in them.
Just saying "trust us" is not going to fly
with domain registrants when their future is on the
issue is so important that an online petition to the U.S.
Congress has been started. We urge you, regardless
of where you live around the world, to sign the petition
Americans can have added impact by going to Congress.org
where you can enter your zip code in the box in the
upper left corner to bring up direct email links to your
Congressmen. This will allow you to quickly lodge
protests with them, so they in turn can prevail upon the
Department of Commerce (who oversees ICANN) to
make sure these anti-completive, anti-business
contracts are killed.
the meantime, as hundreds of others have done, we call
upon the full ICANN board to act first and and act
responsibly by rejecting these fatally flawed
agreements that should never have seen the light of
day to begin with.
Will New Zip Code Network Energize .US?
registry, in partnership with Vendare
Media, has quietly rolled out a local information network based on zip codes, that includes
every single American zip code in the
.US extension. Check any zip code, for example, the one for our
Tampa, Florida office, 33625.us, and you will see what they have started doing. More local content
is to be added to the sites and the registry expects the network to dramatically increase
The registry had reserved
all 5-number domains from the beginning, so they owned the complete set when the deal was struck with Vendare to handle the development.
Inc. (who will be the subject of our September
Cover Story, due out Monday, Sept. 11) has built a similar network with
.com and .net domains but does not have the complete set of zip codes in one extension, so it will be interesting to see how the competition between the two networks plays out.
the Chief Strategy Officer at Marchex, told us, “We have found that the majority of Internet users navigate the Web using .com or .net, and we feel fortunate to have acquired the majority of ZIPs in those areas."
"Additionally, the challenge of building out relevant Web sites, increasing Web site utility and promoting repeat usage at the ZIP Code level is in finding an efficient way to populate the pages with geo-specific content on a wide range of topics, such as hotels, restaurants and
attractions," Christothoulou said. "Fortunately,
Open List (Editor's Note: a content development
company acquired by Marches this year) allows us to accomplish this type of integration and we are happy with the results we have seen to date on our ZIP Code Web sites. It will be interesting to watch what happens with this other effort and how they answer the challenge of creating deep, rich Web sites that benefit both consumers and advertisers.”
DomainSponsor Invites Domain Owners to Meet in Los Angeles
hosting a DomainFest in Los Angeles
Wednesday, Sept. 20 through Friday, Sept.
22. The gathering at the Marina
del Rey Marriott will give domainers on the West Coast a chance to get together in a convenient location to network, listen to speakers and enjoy some good times.
There is no cost
to attend but space is limited. There will be no on-site registration so you need to go to the
DomainFestLA.com website to fill out the required
RSVP form. The show agenda will also be
posted on the conference website. Afternic.com
and the .Mobi registry are co-sponsoring
- Marina del Rey