An article in BusinessWeek discusses “domain tasting” and its effects on major brands.
The article, titled “The Great Internet Brand Rip-Off“, discusses so-called “domain tasting” and how major brands are being exploited through domain tasting combined with typosquatting.
Domain tasting is the practice of registering a domain, checking its traffic and revenue, and returning it for a full refund within 5 days if it doesn’t meet certain criteria. Once a practice of only the top domainers who owned registrars, the common domainer can now participate thanks to new services. Moniker offers a domain tasting service that charges a $.25 fee for returned domains. Pool recently launched a service of its own.
It’s important to distinguish between the two types of domain tasting, which the BusinessWeek article fails to do. First, there’s domain tasting in which people register variations of trademarks (such as typos). This is what the BusinessWeek article addresses. Second, there’s domain tasting of non-trademarked domains. Many people would argue the latter is bad, but not as bad as domain tasting of trademarks. The article implies that the only “tasting” going on is that of trademarks.
The article also wrongly accuses Moniker of registering trademark domains. It’s unclear whether this is an assertion of the Verizon Communication’s (NYSE: VZ) attorney quoted in the article. The article says “What angers Deutsch is that none of the sites have anything to do with Verizon. Instead, they’re registered by companies like Nassau (Bahamas)-based Wan-Fu China and Pompano Beach (Fla.)-based Moniker.com.” My guess is it’s not Moniker that’s registering these domains on its own account. Rather, it is Moniker customers registering domains and using Moniker’s privacy services. Generally speaking, registrars cannot play censor and decide which domains their customers register.
These issues aside, there is growing pressure on ICANN to do something about domain tasting. After all, the five day registration grace period is being used in a way for which it wasn’t originally intended. It was intended to allow registrars to return domains that their customer registered by mistake (such as spelling errors) or for which credit cards were denied.