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19 Apr 2008
Domain tasting is the disreputable practice of registering lots of domains, seeing how much traffic they get, and then using the five day Add Grace Period to refund the 99.9% of them that aren't worth paying for. A related abuse is front running, registrars speculatively grabbing domains that people inquire about to prevent them from using a different registrar.
In January, the ICANN board voted to make their 20 cent per domain fee non-refundable, effective probably in the next budget year which would be 2009. That would deter the highest volume tasters but as other people have pointed out, it wouldn't have much effect against front running if the 20 cent fee might lock in a $30 registration and a $100 hosting package.
The ICANN Generic Names Supporting Organization has had tasting on its agenda since last fall, with a staff report issued in January, and a proposed anti-tasting policy written in March. On Thursday the 17th, the GNSO put the proposed policy to a vote, and it passed overwhelmingly. Under ICANN rules, the ICANN board has to take up the resolution at its next meeting, and since it was approved by a supermajority, it becomes ICANN policy unless 2/3 of the board votes against it, which in this case is unlikely. So unless the board ignores its own rules (not for the first time) the GNSO resolution will shortly be ICANN policy.
This particular policy will kill tasting and front running dead. It quite simply says that registries can only refund 10% of a registrar's net new monthly registrations, with a floor of 50 for tiny registrars, and a narrowly written exception process for unusual screwups. (In particular: "'extraordinary circumstances' which reoccur regularly will not be deemed extraordinary.")
I can't wait to see what happens at the next board meeting. At the March 27th meeting the board punted front running to the GNSO, clearly hoping that it would go away for a long time, and now, it's back!
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