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25 Oct 2005

Verisign Gets .COM Forever, But ICANN Gets a Lobbyist ICANN

A press release on the ICANN web site says that ICANN and Verisign have agreed to settle all pending lawsuits, and there's a new .COM agreement, all tentative but if history is any guide, nothing short of DOC action is going to stop it.

The good news is that VeriSign has agreed not to make unilateral changes like Sitefinder. They have to give prior notice to ICANN for any material change in the operation of the registry, and if ICANN has any concerns there’s a lengthy process full of expert panels and Consensus and the like to decide whether they can do it. They agree to treat all registrars the same, not to own more than 15% of any registrar, and a long laundry list of things to prevent favoritism.

In the settlement agreement, VeriSign also agrees to:

reiterate its support for ICANN as the appropriate technical coordination body for the DNS, in particular with respect to Internet domain names, IP address numbers, root server system management functions, and protocol parameter and port numbers. VeriSign also agrees that it will continue to be an advocate for the private sector solution to the coordination of Internet names and addresses, including (without limitation) that VeriSign will advocate ICANN's appropriate role in that process.

Or to put it in practical terms, they'll lobby for ICANN at WSIS, which is good news for ICANN if not necessarily for the world at large.

The bad news is that the new .COM agreement gives the .COM registry to VeriSign until 2012, with automatic renewals forever unless they go bankrupt or materially breach the agreement. The registry fee, now $6, can increase 7% per year. Since the real cost of running .COM is more like $3, based on credible offers on the table from Tucows and Afilias to run .COM for about that price, with 50 million domains in .COM this is $150M per year of pure profit given by ICANN to Verisign, paid for by the registrars and indirectly by domain owners. The registrar communitity is, to put it mildly, not pleased with this facet of the agreement, particularly considering that the registry fee was never an issue in any of the legal skirmishes.

On top of the current ICANN fee, currently 25 cents, there's a new fee of 37 cents on 1 Jan, increasing to 45 cents on 1 Jul, and 50 cents on 1 July 2007, for a total of 75 cents per registration, the revenue to be used for a list of virtuous causes including anything ICANN wants to use it for. With 50 million domains, this is $37M per year to ICANN, mandated in a contract with no oversight from anyone, growing as fast as .COM grows, which if history is any guide, is pretty fast.

I guess this means I don't have to worry about flying coach to ICANN meetings.

posted at: 12:00 :: permanent link to this entry :: 0 comments
posted at: 12:00 :: permanent link to this entry :: 0 comments

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