The ICANN community has taken another baby step towards pushing VeriSign into implementing a “thick” Whois database for .com and .net domain names.
The GNSO Council yesterday voted to ask ICANN to prepare an Issue Report exploring whether to require “all incumbent gTLDs” to operate a thick Whois. Basically, that means VeriSign.
The .com and .net registries currently run on a “thin” model, whereby each accredited registrar manages their own Whois databases.
Most other gTLDs today run thick registries, as will all registries approved by ICANN under its forthcoming new gTLDs program.
The thinness of .com can cause problems during inter-registrar transfers, when gaining and losing registrars have no central authoritative database of registrant contact details to rely upon.
In fact, yesterday’s GNSO vote followed the recommendations of a working group that decided after much deliberation that a thick .com registry may help reduce bogus or contested transfers.
Trusting registrars to manage their own Whois is also a frequent source of frustration for law enforcement, trademark interests and anti-spam firms.
Failure to maintain a functional web-based or port 43 Whois interface is an often-cited problem when ICANN’s compliance department terminates rogue registrars.
Now that an Issue Report has been requested by the GNSO, the idea of a thick .com moves closer to a possible Policy Development Process, which in turn can create binding ICANN consensus policies.
There’s already a clause in VeriSign’s .com registry agreement that gives ICANN the right to demand that it creates a centralized Whois database.
Switching to a thick model would presumably not only transfer responsibility to VeriSign, but also cost and liability, which is presumably why the company seems to be resisting the move.
Don’t expect the changes to come any time soon.
Writing the Issue Report is not expected to be a priority for ICANN staff, due to their ongoing chronic resource problems, and any subsequent PDP could take years.
The alternative – for ICANN and VeriSign to come to a bilateral agreement when the .com contract comes up for renewal next year – seems unlikely given that ICANN did not make a similar requirement when .net was renegotiated earlier this year.