ICANN - Handing out a License to Steal?
Posted in domains Fri, 25 Aug 2006 14:09:00 GMT
George Kirikos discusses ICANN's proposed tiered pricing which will allow registrars to charge whatever they want on a per-domain basis. This is also being discussed on Slashdot. This currently covers the biz, info and org domains. The com TLD was recently renewed but the speculation is that it may go this way when it comes up for renewal again. Differential, per-domain per-year pricing has been confirmed by Vint Cerf of ICANN. Theoretically, Google could be charged $1million or even $1billion per year for say google.biz.
One consequence of the Internet and the success of companies like Google, YouTube, etc. is that comanies in other industries, whether they be ISPs or registrars want a piece of the action. The easiest way to do it is to charge the successful companies for things like bandwidth usage, domain names or something else. We've already seen this with the Net Neutrality debate and now we have this. One way for registrars and ISPs to take advantage of these potential windfalls would be to base their charges on a percentage of historic or estimated future profits.
Differential pricing is a bad idea for industry and innovation but a great way to extort money, essentially a license to steal, for registrars. Let's say you start a new site with nubuzzwrd.com, a domain name that is initially worthless. Let's say the site isn't even in public beta but the biz registrar finds out you have VC funding. Would you be surprised if nubuzzwrd.biz suddenly goes up to $1million/year?
George makes a good case about domain pricing being used as political weapons. If the com TLD gets renewed with the same terms, the com operator could easily put competitors out of business by charging $1billion/year for say GoDaddy.com and Tucows.com. They could effectively silence sites they don't like say VeriSignSucks.com. And just imagine if the head of the TLC operator happens to not like NYTimes.com or FoxNews.com.
Vint says there are some "protections" built-in because there would be a 6-month notice to raise prices and an ability for registrants to renew for up to 10 years at "old prices." We've already seen how this won't protect people who are crossing TLDs from .com to .biz. Also many companies are in business for much longer than 10 years. A registrar can just look at the earnings for say Google, GE or Goldman Sachs and jack up the price to a percentage of the company's historic annual profits. They can even go for estimated future profits. What would Google or GE do? Give up their domain name and Internet presence?
This is extortion and a license to steal, plain and simple. What are Vint and ICANN thinking? These are just proposals now. Hopefully this will be removed from the proposals or one has to start questioning the privileges ICANN has been given.