What is good policy for a registry?


Back from the holidays I must admit I was thinking quite a bit on what is good policy for a registry? Of course I have my own personal favorites that I can not walk away from easily, but instead of thinking for too long, I decided to write down now immediately what is in my head. The main reasons for this are two: the decision by ICANN to change the rules for change in policy regarding the Add Grace Periods.

What is Add Grace Period you might ask? ICANN writes: A grace period is a specified number of calendar days following a gTLD registry operation in which the operation may be reversed and a credit may be issued to a Registrar.. In short, it is a time period after registering a domain name when that registration can be revoked, and no charges will apply.

This has sometimes been called tasting and is something I personally feel is bad, very bad, for the registrant. Might sound weird because the whole idea behind grace periods is that the registrant should be able to change its mind. But the bad thing is that this of course is used by people making money in various pay per click mechanisms, or trading of domain names. They register a domain name, use it for a day (or whatever the grace period is) and if no revenue is connected with the domain name, it is given back. When the domain name is given back, another registrar doing the same thing is immediately registering the domain name again. Because of this, almost all thinkable domain names are of course in use all the time, without anyone paying for it. And on top of that, the large number of transactions (registrations + deletions) make it non-trivial to ensure DNS is working properly.

So tasting is bad, and it is a good thing ICANN is moving towards a more strict add grace period. But why so complicated rules? Why not just say that any registrar that register a domain name in a registry have to pay for it. Many ccTLDs have that policy and it is the only way to get rid of tasting. .ORG have experience in this, and other registries/TLDs as well. Sure, it might look bad in the numbers as the number of registrations might look like if they are going down, but I claim that the number of paid registrations goes up. So to conclude, I think ICANN will still have a too relaxed policy after this change in policy (but I welcome the policy as it is better than the old one).

Second thing that irritates me a bit is the decision to move forward with addition of new TLDs. I can see a reason for IDN versions of existing TLDs, and I can see a reason for many sponsored TLDs, but to open the door completely for any TLD, as long as one pays. I am sorry, but that is just plain wrong. And one can see in the comments to the policy proposal that everyone is not completely happy. My technical explanation is simple. The DNS is designed to be a hierarchal namespace. Not flat. And every step to make DNS more flat will create problems. What problems one might ask? Several, and I will not explain them here. But let me try to turn the question around, simply because I do not understand why I am to argue why I do not want new TLDs. I think the ones that really want new TLDs should explain why. “Just because” is not good enough.

The two favorite other things that I have to mention, because even in Sweden people start asking about them. Although we have them implemented in .SE and it shows it is a good thing. First, that the list of domain names that will be available a certain date and time is published beforehand. Excellent, because that limits the amount of hammering on DNS and whois servers. It also makes it possible for newspapers to see what high value domain names have forgot to pay the bill. Best way to make people pay (print a notice about it in the newspaper). Secondly, the ability for people to register a domain name without delegating it. That even makes it possible to implement DNSSEC (with NSEC) without being afraid of integrity issues with zone walking.

I can see that TLDs that have not implemented these two policies this way are the ones most against DNSSEC, while the ones that have better policy (like .SE) have less problems with DNSSEC.

What could be improved in many TLDs though (including .SE) is the sunrise that happens every time a domain name is made available. But more about that in a different post.