Domain tasting is down, and will take another hit in March. But that may not be the end of it…
Domain tasting — the practice of registering a domain to test for traffic and deleting it for a refund within a specified grace period — is down 84% since ICANN inacted a budget measure to make the scheme more expensive. But that was just a temporary fix. By March 31, 2009, all registrars will face even harsher penalties for engaging in the practice. But as I detail below, there are a couple ways around ICANN’s policies.
ICANN is beginning to implement its new “Add Grace Period Limits Policy” and has given registries and registrars until the end of March to comply. The policy was approved by ICANN’s Board back in June.
Under the new policy, registrars will not be entitled to refunds for any domain returned under the Add Grace Period (currently 5 days for .com) above and beyond 10% of domains registered. This will make domain tasting much more expensive.
There are a handful of ways a registrar could still engage in domain tasting after this policy is implemented:
1. A registrar with a large consumer base and low return ratio could run its own tasting operation, limited to 10% of domains it registers on behalf of consumers each month.
2. The policy allows registrars to request a one-time exemption from a registry, but this must be for “extraordinary circumstances”. These must be reported to ICANN.
3. A registrar can effectively “taste” domains expiring from its customers shortly after they expire. GoDaddy was doing this, but to its credit recently stopped the practice.
4. A registrar could be extremely judicious in the domains it tastes, only tasting the domains it believes have a 90% or better chance of having traffic.
VeriSign reports (pdf) show that only a handful of registrars appeared to still be engaged in traditional domain tasting as of August 2008, most notably eNom and NameKing.