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ICANN backs anti-tasting plan, sets bespoke domain price at $185,000

The body that governs internet addresses has adopted a plan to battle domain tasting, a practice which businesses claim allows unscrupulous operators to earn millions trading on familiar brand names.28 Oct 2008

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has begun a consultation process on a policy that it hopes will fight the practice while leaving legitimate domain name registration activity unharmed.

Typosquatting is big business. Millions of pounds are made every year by businesses which register slight variants of well known brands and earn money from adverts which they place on the pages that people mistakenly visit.

Domain name tasting is the process by which those operators decide which internet addresses will be profitable for typosquatting. ICANN policy states that registrars can return a registered domain after five days and get a full refund.

Typosquatters can register millions of domain names and keep only those which attract enough traffic in those five days to indicate that they will be profitable. If they keep a rolling stable of millions of domain names registered for just five days at a time, they can effectively have domain names for free.

ICANN has now said that it wants to limit the number of domain names any registrar can receive. They will only be eligible for a refund on up to 50 domain names in a month or 10% of their new registrations in that month, whichever is greater, ICANN said.

The policy was suggested earlier this year by one of ICANN's committees, but has now adopted as policy and is open for consultation until 20th November.

The Policy will affect [generic top level domain] Operators and ICANN-accredited registrars and become effective following appropriate comment and notice periods on the implementation plan," said an ICANN statement.

The changes will apply to generic top level domains such as .com and .org. The Board of ICANN adopted the policy at a meeting in June.

ICANN has also announced the likely cost of one of its bespoke domains. The body will charge $185,000 for the right to register any term as a top level domain, it said.

ICANN recently announced a drastic change to its policy, which had previously been to severely limit the registration of top level domains (TLDs). A TLD is the set of characters that come after the last dot in an internet address, such as .com or .net.

Each country has its own TLD, such as .uk, and all others are called generic TLDs. These have been very limited in number, but ICANN recently said that it would allow anything to be registered as a TLD. These have become known as bespoke domains.

It said last week that the fees it would charge for bespoke domains would be likely to be $185,000.

"The primary ICANN fee will be the evaluation fee. It is currently estimated that this fee will be $185,000," said an ICANN statement "Applicants may face other fees (paid directly to providers) in case of technical issues or disputes. As with existing registries, newly delegated registries will also pay ICANN fees."

ICANN, a US-based non-profit organization, will use the money to cover the costs of the scheme and will not try to build up a cash pile from the fees, it said. 

"If all cost-related estimates are accurate, there will be no net increase to ICANN's funds as a result of evaluating new gTLD applications; fees will just equal costs," it said. "If there is an excess or shortfall (which will take some time to assess), the community will determine how funds should be handled."