The big incumbent top-level domain registry operators could apply to also become registrars as early as June this year, according to a just-passed ICANN resolution.
Last November, ICANN decided to dump its longstanding policy of generally not allowing TLD registries to also own and operate registrars.
While the rule was designed primarily for TLDs won under the new gTLD program, it will also retroactively apply to operators of existing gTLDs.
Neustar (.biz) has already publicly stated its intention to vertically integrate, and is keen for ICANN to lift its current 15% registrar ownership restriction before the new gTLD program kicks off.
According to a resolution passed by ICANN’s board of directors on Thursday, Neustar is not the only registry operator to make such a request.
The board last week…
RESOLVED (2011.04.21.13), the Board directs the CEO to develop a process for existing gTLD registry operators to transition to the new form of Registry Agreement or to request amendments to their registry agreements to remove the cross-ownership restrictions. This process would be available to existing operators upon Board approval of the new gTLD Program.
ICANN currently plans to approve the gTLD program June 20 at its meeting in Singapore.
That gives CEO Rod Beckstrom and his team just two months to come up with a process for allowing the likes of VeriSign, Neustar and Afilias to either amend their contracts or move to the standard contract outlined in the new TLD program’s Applicant Guidebook.
I see a potential source of tension here.
The registry agreement template in the Guidebook has been described by some as an “adhesion contract” due to its heavy balance in ICANN’s favor.
Existing registries will very likely prefer to simply delete the cross-ownership restrictions in their current contracts and incorporate the new proposed Code of Conduct rules.
On the other hand, some have suggested that registries should be obliged to adopt the new Guidebook agreement in full, rather than amend their existing deals, in the interests of equitable treatment.
Registrars still signed up to ICANN’s 2001 Registrar Accreditation Agreement only get the option to upgrade wholesale to the 2009 agreement, it has been noted.