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Thick Whois coming to .com next year, price rise to follow?

Kevin Murphy, October 27, 2016, 10:55:17 (UTC), Domain Registries

Verisign could be running a “thick” Whois database for .com, .net and .jobs by mid-2017, under a new ICANN proposal.

A timetable published this week would see the final three hold-out gTLDs fully move over to the standard thick Whois model by February 2019, with the system live by next August.

Some people believe that Verisign might use the move as an excuse to increase .com prices.

Thick Whois is where the registry stores the full Whois record, containing all registrant contact data, for every domain in their TLD.

The three Verisign TLDs currently have “thin” Whois databases, which only store information about domain creation dates, the sponsoring registrar and name servers.

The model dates back to when the registry and registrar businesses of Verisign’s predecessor, Network Solutions, were broken up at the end of the last century.

But it’s been ICANN consensus policy for about three years for Verisign to eventually switch to a thick model.

Finally, ICANN has published for public comment its anticipated schedule (pdf) for this to happen.

Under the proposal, Verisign would have to start offering registrars the ability to put domains in its thick Whois by August 1 2017, both live via EPP and in bulk.

It would not become obligatory for registrars to submit thick Whois for all newly registered domains until May 1, 2018.

They’d have until February 1, 2019 to bulk-migrate all existing Whois records over to the new system.

Thick Whois in .com has been controversial for a number of reasons.

Some registrars have expressed dissatisfaction with the idea of migrating part of their customer relationship to Verisign. Others have had concerns that local data protection laws may prevent them moving data in bulk overseas.

The new proposal includes a carve-out that would let registrars request an exemption from the requirements if they can show it would conflict with local laws, which holds the potential to make a mockery out of the entire endeavor.

Some observers also believe that Verisign may use the expense of building and operating the new Whois system as an excuse to trigger talks with ICANN about increasing the price of .com from its current, frozen level.

Under its .com contract, Verisign can ICANN ask for a fee increase “due to the imposition of any new Consensus Policy”, which is exactly what the move to thick Whois is.

Whether it would choose to exercise this right is another question — .com is a staggeringly profitable cash-printing machine and this Whois is not likely to be that expensive, relatively speaking.

The proposed implementation timetable is open for public comment until December 15.

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Comments (3)

  1. JZ says:

    i really hope it won’t result in a price increase. the thick whois does nothing for registrants.

  2. Thick whois is standard practice for most gTLDs, isn’t it?

    A price increase would suck, granted. Anybody want to chime in regarding other pros / cons? I’m not well informed on this topic.

    • Rubens Kuhl says:

      Depends on the criteria for ‘most’; if number of gTLDs, then yes; even before the 2012-round, most of the then existing gTLDs were Thick WHOIS-based. If number of registrations, then Thin registrations still outnumber Thick.

      I don’t see any price increase of more cents than one can count in a hand as being justifiable by adopting Thick WHOIS from a purely IT perspective; but if registrars prefer moving all their registrations to proxy registrations so the move doesn’t give VRSN their customer base, then there will be significant cost increases in their privacy/proxy operations.

      Google Domains already does that for all domains, Uniregistry allows that for free but is not default; I think this will become standard practice, but will inevitably be paid for by those who wouldn’t require privacy/proxy.

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