Update: Domain Tasting Changes

Last week, I reported on domain tasting and how Google’s rumored policy change for their domain parking program could put a dent in the practice of domain tasting by no longer monetizing domains less than four days old.

However, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organization which oversees domain registration for most popular extensions, is looking to put a stop to the practice altogether. They have proposed changes to their Add Grace Period (AGP), which will apply their registration fee to all domains purchased, including those that are returned.

The ICANN fee is currently $0.20 per domain, per year. This fee would remain intact even if the domain is returned within the five-day grace period. To a legitimate user who made a single mistake, the fee is minimal. But to a spammer who had “tasted” a million domains, the fee equates to over $200,000 spent.

The proposal, which is still awaiting final approval, would be a part of the ICANN budget process starting July 1 of this year. During an ICANN meeting in June, registrars will be asked to approve the proposal and, if it is passed, it would be a part of ICANN’s 2009 budget.

That, in turn, is likely the most disheartening part of the process, that it may be a year before we see any impact from it. According to ICANN’s own information, in January 2007 there were 47,824,131 domain deletions, of which 45,450,897 were from the top ten domain tasters.

This means that, last year, the top ten domain tasters are currently deleting an average of 1,466,158 domains per day (or 17 domains per second) all at no cost. All of this to find the handful of useful domains that can be turned into spam sites or sold at a profit. Those numbers have likely increased in the past year.

Though ICANN’s rules of operation prohibit it from moving more quickly than it currently is, the sluggish pace means that, for the rest of 2008, the spammers will have free reign to abuse the system with impunity.

Hopefully the aforementioned Google changes will at least dent the process and the uncertain future of the practice will prevent other companies from filling the void.

However, if there is one thing I have learned about spammers over the years I have been watching them, it is that closing one door simply invites them to open another. Also, any opportunity they have, they will seize right up until the last second passes.

So expect a very robust year for spam in 2008 before things, possibly, get better in 2009. It will be interesting to see what effect this has on Web spam. If any.

It will be something that this site and many others will be monitoring.

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