Posted Wednesday, February 6th, 2008 at 8:47 pm by John Brian (91 posts)
I’ve got friends who have a raccoon in their attic. They’ve been trying all sorts of stuff to get it out of there, but it’s being pretty stubborn and always seems to outwit (or at least be more patient than) them. The raccoon reminds me of domain name tasters – annoying critters who, no matter what you try to do to get rid of them (humanely, anyway), just won’t get out of the internet’s attic and stop chewing on our stuff.
Google and ICANN recently took measures that, combined, will hopefully put an end to (or at least a heavy price tag on) domain name tasting. This is good news in the face of the recent revelations that some domain registrars have been cheating the system (see my previous posts on domain name insider trading for more).
First, on the Google front:
Google is planning to introduce a system to detect a form of domain registration abuse known as domain kiting. In so doing, the company stands to lose millions in advertising revenue, though it may gain far more in user trust and goodwill. [h/t Ars Technica]
Let’s hear it for not being evil. The gist of the article is that Google plans to block adsense from serving ads on those domains that seem to exist solely to generate adword revenue. While there are still other ad providers who may not be as scrupulous, Google is the 800 lb gorilla of the sector, and losing this resource would cost domain kiters significantly.
If this wasn’t bad enough for virtual prospectors, ICANN is cracking down on the loophole allowing people to "return" a domain within 5 days with no charge:
Under the current rules, domain registrars have up to five days to sample domains before committing to purchase them, typically at a cost of around $6.25 per domain. An additional 20-cent surcharge per domain goes to ICANN, but the group has always refunded that fee if the registrar failed to purchase the domain within five days of claiming it.
Until now. The new policy would not refund the 20-cent fee.
While 20 cents may not be a lot to you or me when buying one domain at a time, according to the article, many tasters only keep 1 domain for every 100,000 they taste, adding $20,000 per domain to their costs.
Why are these moves great for those of us who just want to be able to buy domains for our campaigns and for the internet to be easily navigable? Follow me below the fold for some analysis…
First, I’m fascinated that some folks see domain name prospecting as a legitimate activity. On Domain Tools, whose blog rejoices in the end of the domain tasting, they’re auctioning off domain names for more than $200,000. And yet they don’t see any incongruity here between these two elements. Similarly, the blog comments seem remarkably cautious about the idea of limiting domain mining.
Is there an argument I’m missing here on why this sort of thing is good? Can someone fill me in on why we don’t want the internet to be more logical to search (i.e. when I type in Obama.com, I should probably go here or here, not here)? Or why people should just be able to sit on domains by virtue of getting there first?
Second, this may cause shifts in the way NPOs are paying for their adwords. At the moment, you’re paying for everyone who goes to a parked domain, sees that they’re not where they should be, then clicks one of the adwords to get to where they’re going (something I personally never do, not even on Huckabee.com). If this sort of business becomes unprofitable and shuts down, not only will NPOs get to buy their own domains back but their adwords dollars will go where they’re supposed to: toward bringing in new people who weren’t already trying to get to your site. Hopefully this means the end of Heifer.com.
Lastly, this will hopefully slow down the inevitable "running out of domain names" problem that’s on the horizon. We all know that it’ll be here someday – non-dot-com names never really caught on, and most people still think just put a dot-com after whatever they want, thinking they’ll get there (and it’s mostly true!). It’s not a long term solution, but it helps a little – think of it as turning a vacant lot with a billboard on it into a skyscraper.
I’ll be interested to see if domain name tasters are able to get around this new regulation by both public and private entities. I’m hoping not, but like that raccoon, they may just find another way in. At which I’ll suggest we just call animal control on them.