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Minds + Machines nixes Priority Reservation System after registrars complain

Registrars complained to ICANN’s compliance department about program.

Minds + MachinesMinds + Machines has nixed its Priority Reservation System for new top level domain names after registrars questioned aspects of the program.

The program allowed customers to reserve domain names ahead of launch. Unlike typical pre-registrations, customers were guaranteed they’d get the domain name after sunrise since it was a program run by the registry, not registrars.

Some registrars cried afoul via the ICANN Registrar Stakeholder Group (RrSG). They weren’t necessarily upset about the program itself, which let registrars take priority orders as well. The problem, in the eyes of registrars, was that Minds + Machines launched the program before registrars could sign agreements with the registry. This gave M + M a head start and was unfair to registrars, they argued.

Minds + Machines is now converting orders under the program to landrush orders. Customers can still get the domain name, assuming no one else places a landrush order on the domain name. In that case, it will go to auction.

Antony Van Couvering, CEO of Minds + Machines, released this statement to Domain Name Wire:

The Compliance Department at ICANN needs to look at every complaint, and so when some of our registrar competitors complained about our Priority Reservation program, they reached out to us for information, which we provided. They asked us to make some changes, which we did. We expect any inconvenience to our customers to be minimal, and to ICANN’s credit this was a major concern for them as well. We expect the vast majority of our Priority Reservation period to be allocated to the customers who applied for them, and any Priority Reservation customer who does not get the name they applied for will receive a full refund. This won’t have any impact on our business, and we are satisfied with ICANN’s assurances that they will strive to prevent the misuse of their compliance function for anti-competitive purposes.

This shows some of the tension that can occur with vertical integration between registry and registrar.

I suspect that the changes aren’t just in response to the RrSG complaint. ICANN has been cracking down on registries earmarking or selling domain names ahead of sunrise. ICANN has raised this issue with other registries, including .xyz and .club. Both registries canceled auctions held prior to sunrise.

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