ICANN claims death of “domain tasting”

ICANN is claiming to have nearly eradicated the practice of “domain tasting” – registering domain names for short periods of time to see if online ads placed on them have money making potential.

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) claimed the practice had been enabled by a loophole in domain registration that granted a five-day grace period after a domain was registered in which they could return it for free.

With new methods of online advertising and automated systems, millions of domains were being registered to see whether online ads were likely to make more money than the registration fee over the next year.

If this didn’t look to be the case, the user could return the domain for free before the five day period expired.

This led to a form of internet graffiti – an enormous increase in the number of websites with nothing but ads. Also, if users accidentally let their domain name lapse, it was difficult to get them back as they were often using automated systems.

To combat this, ICANN changed its policy to ensure that if a company registered and returned more than a certain number of domains, it would be charged for each registration above that amount, therefore making speculative domain tasting more expensive.

ICANN claims its efforts led to a 99.7% decline in domain tasting for all registries that implemented the new policy.

“This shows the power of the internet community working together,” says ICANN chief executive Rod Beckstrom. “The problem was identified and then a solution produced that has effectively seen the death of domain testing in less than a year.”

The move has been welcomed by internet hosting firms: “The reason this was bad for all of us is that it allowed people to speculate and cherry pick domains out of the pool,” notes Joe White COO of hosting firm Gandi.

“We had a case some years ago where some domain registrars had 100% renewal rates (normally around 70%), because if the customer didn’t renew, they registrar did and put adverts on it. So this means domains we never returning to the pool, and if they did they were snapped up by other speculators.

“What we should see over the coming years are more domains returning to the pool as it doesn’t make financial sense to keep them, and with the tasting practice effectively stopped more will be available for all of us. However, domainers are innovators too, so who knows what the next scam might be,” he finishes.

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