06|26|2008 09:45 pm EDT
In a recently released policy brief, ICANN addresses domain name monetization (PDF) as if it were a problem to be addressed. The policy brief begins by discussing and explaining domain monetization and Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising in layman terms. The paper further goes on to discuss domain tasting and points out that domain monetization, specifically PPC, is at the root of the problems of domain tasting. Later in the brief, ICANN suggests that domain monetization may also be preventing internet users from using domain names. Generally speaking, the policy brief places domain monetization at the center stage as a problem likely to be cited in future ICANN policy considerations.
The paper asks:
“How Does Domain Monetization Impact Registrants?”
Domain name monetization techniques impact Internet users in different ways. The PPC model has been criticized for increasing the prevalence of cyber-squatting and speculative behavior by encouraging parties to grab names that are similar to famous brands or people and are therefore more likely to generate significant traffic.
Monetization did not impact registrants in this way. Tasting did. What is worrisome to Domain Name News is that in this brief ICANN is addressing the issue of domain monetization rather than domain tasting. The policy brief clearly puts “Domain Monetization” as the topic at hand, as if it were a problem. The problem we believe the brief should be addressing prominently is domain tasting. While there likely would be no domain tasting without a form of domain monetization (in this case PPC), one should not blame domain monetization as a problem worthy of policy considerations. Afterall, every domain name is monetized in some way, even ICANN.org is being monetized. Additionally, PPC domain monetization comes from search engines, yet ICANN places no blame on search engines or their advertisers for any of these “problems” with domain monetization.
Clearly there are ‘bad apples’ which brought the topic to the level where a policy brief had to be written about domain monetization. Registrars allowing tasting and domain monetization companies allowing trademarks to be monetized are part of the problem. Businesses and players in the domain business could have policed this issue a long time ago. Some registrars and parking companies have already undergone extensive purging of trademark infringing domains from their portfolios and prevent the monetization of them. There are also registrars who specifically forbid domain tasting. A leading parking company rep told Domain Name News “The TM market lives on as many parking companies continue to allow domain owners to park/monetize these domain names on their platforms. If the commercial incentive to own these names is removed, then the market will effectively disappear.”
ICANN is making attempts to solve the domain tasting issue with a proposed policy mentioned in the brief. Firstly, the proposed .20 fee for domain names deleted during the AGP should impact tasting operations bottom line and prevent the abuse of AGP. Additionally there is a proposed policy which states if a registrar deletes more than 10% of the total amount of domain names registered in a given month, refunds will not be granted. This should take care of the tasting issue, but it still leaves us wondering what else ICANN has up their sleeves regarding domain monetization.
But wait, ICANN isn’t through with saying that domain monetization is bad for the internet though. After addressing the tasting issue in the brief, ICANN states that domain monetization is a problem that is causing some domain names currently being used for PPC to be used in a way which may be a problem for some internet users. According to the paper Domain Monetization . . .
has also raised questions about whether “good names” are being used solely to create paid links and PPC revenue, rather than enable new users to create an online identity or substantive content.
This is often an argument cited by critics of domain monetization or domain parking. These critics (who likely do not have a good domain name or have a desire for a good domain name) feel that domain monetization robs them of domain names they could ‘put to use in a better way’ or as ICANN puts it with “substantive content”. In this scenario everyone who isn’t using a domain that I want is squatting the domain name. We wonder who is going to be the decision maker on any future policy of what is and is not “substantive content” or an “online identity” or who deserves a domain name and who doesn’t. It is not Domain Name News’ belief that this falls in to the mandate of ICANN and we feel they are treading further in to uncharted territory. Additionally, there are plenty of alternative extensions available, and more to come. It’s likely that these “good domains” they are referring to are the more coveted .com domain names, so maybe this “problem” is already being addressed by the release of more extensions.
We believe that the intentions of this paper should have been to address the problems of domain tasting. As it is clear by a statement near the end of the paper that ICANN is more focused on tasting :
The practices of using parking and PPC to monetize domain names have not to date generated the same concerns as tasting.
The reasons for referencing domain monetization in this brief as if it were a problem is not clear, but it doesn’t read as a mistake. We see no good in labeling domain monetization as if it were a problem and wonder what else ICANN believes regarding domain monetization. The good that can be seen in this brief is that ICANN is making steps to do something about the tasting problems. The bad is that they’ve lumped all registrants and anyone monetizing a domain name in to the same basket. Let’s just hope that sensible minds come together in this “bottom-up, consensus based, policy making community” and not throw the baby out with the bath water.