Soon Verisign could sell .com domains direct

Kevin Murphy, October 22, 2012, 11:28:52 (UTC), Domain Registries

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.

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Comments (6)

  1. So when do some enterprising registrars get to tender a serious bid for managing the .com registry?

  2. Philip Corwin says:

    Kevin, the policy referenced in the Resoultion contains this amendment language that must be included if the registry does not adopt the entire new gTLD contract –

    (b) Registry Operator Shall Not Act as Own Registrar. Registry Operator shall not act as a registrar with respect to the TLD. This shall not preclude Registry Operator from registering names within the TLD to itself through a request made to an ICANN-accredited registrar or from becoming an Affiliate of or reseller for an ICANN accredited registrar.

    – so VRSN could affiliate with or control a registrar, but that registrar could not sell domains of VRSN-operated registries like .com or .net.

    Therefore, your headline should be rephrased.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      I’m not sure if I agree with you there Phil.

      From the text you quoted, there doesn’t seem to be a restriction on Verisign buying or affiliating with a registrar that sells .com domains.

      Sure, Verisign Inc might not be able to be a .com registrar itself, but it could set up a wholly-owned subsidiary, Verisign Registrar Inc, and sell them that way.

  3. Philip Corwin says:

    I’ll concede that interpretation of the rather squishy language is possible, although it provides for a toothless result.

    I wasn’t involved in the endless debate on ending Ry-Rr separation nor am I completely clear on what the intent of this particular amendment is.

    So you can keep the headline until further enlightenment is achieved.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      Very kind of you. ;)

      I’ve put in a couple of requests for clarity and will issue a correction if it turns out the post is wrong.

  4. Philip Corwin says:

    This has a much broader implication — a VeriSign bid to end separation could bring the TMC and URS to .Com and .Net in advance of general UDRP reform — just posted on this at http://internetcommerce.org/URS%40DotCom

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