With little fanfare, ICANN last week formally approved new rules that could allow incumbent registry operators to own registrars that sell domains in their own gTLDs.
The policy would give the likes of Verisign, Neustar and Afilias the right to become affiliated with registrars that sell .com, .biz and .info names respectively.
These registries would have to sign up to the standard new gTLD registry agreement first, or submit to contract renegotiation in order to drop their current cross-ownership bans.
In either case, they would become bound by the new registry Code of Conduct, preventing them from offering preferential terms to their affiliated registrars.
The new rule came into effect following the ICANN board meeting on Thursday, at which this resolution was passed.
ICANN had already dropped cross-ownership restrictions for new gTLD registry operators, but held back from bringing in the same rules for incumbents due to concerns from competition authorities.
After exchanges of letters with the European Commission and US Department of Commerce, these concerns appear to have dried up, however. ICANN said in its resolution:
it appears that there is no longer any reason against extending the approved process to existing registry operators for their own TLDs.
This action will be an advantage for the ICANN community, as it will provide the opportunity for treating all registry operators equally with respect to cross-ownership restrictions.
Registries would have their requests for contract changes referred to competition authorities for comment before ICANN would approve them.
Based on previous comments, Verisign might have a struggle with respect to .com but the other incumbents might have an easier time renegotiating their deals.
Neustar has been particularly outspoken in its desire to get rid of the contractual language preventing it owning a .biz registrar, so we might see that company first to get into talks.
Both .biz and .info contracts are up for renewal before the end of the year.