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Rules for registry-registrar mergers proposed

Kevin Murphy, May 2, 2011, 19:57:48 (UTC), Domain Registries

ICANN has revealed how it intends to enable incumbent domain name registries to also become registrars, ending a decade of cross-ownership restrictions.

The industry shake-up could allow companies such as VeriSign, Neustar and Afilias to become accredited registrars in their own top-level domains later this year.

Hypothetically, before long you could be able to go directly to VeriSign for your .com domains, to Afilias and Public Interest Registry for .info and .org, or to Neustar for .biz.

The changes could potentially also kick off a wave of consolidation in the industry, with registry operators buying previously independent registrars.

ICANN’s proposed process is straightforward, requiring just a few amendments to the registries’ existing contracts, but it could also call for governmental competition reviews.

Registries will have to agree to abide by a Code of Conduct substantially the same as the one binding on wannabe registries applying later this year under the new gTLD program.

The Code is designed to stop registries giving their affiliated registrars unfair advantages, such as lower prices or preferential access to data, over other ICANN-accredited registrars.

Registries would also have the option to adopt the registry contract from the new gTLD Applicant Guidebook wholesale, although I expect in practice this is unlikely to happen.

ICANN would be able to refer vertical integration requests to national competition authorities if it determined that cross-ownership could cause “significant competition issues”.

VeriSign would be the most likely to be hit by such a review, but it’s also the only registry that does not appear to have been particularly hamstrung over the years by the forced separation rules.

The proposed process for registries to request the contract changes has been posted to the ICANN web site and is now open for public comment.

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Comments (3)

  1. Jon says:

    >VeriSign would be the most likely to be hit by such a review, but it’s also the only registry that does not appear to have been particularly hamstrung over the years by the forced separation rules.

    Kevin, I’m unclear what you mean here. It was of course the monopoly power that Network Solutions (in its original incarnation, as it was when acquired by Verisign) enjoyed as both the sole registrar and registry for .com, .net and .org, that lead to these forced separation rules in the first place. So, given that they were the one entity that was in fact forced to separate, I would suggest that they have been the most, not the least, affected, by these rules. Or am I missing something?

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      Would NSI/VeriSign be a more lucrative business if it was vertically intergrated? Quite possibly.

      But the fact they have been separated for eight or nine years does not appear to have hurt .com, with its 93 million registrations.

      One could make the argument that the same could not be said for “new” TLDs introduced over the last decade.

      That’s basically what I was getting at.

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