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Is Verisign about to change the expired domain drop catching game?

Patent application shows that Verisign might be shaking up the current system.

Lots of well-timed firepower.

That’s how the expired domain name drop catching system works in .com today. Drop catchers target domain names the second they drop, and try to coordinate amongst their hundreds of owned-and-operated registrars as well as partners to register as many of the desirable domain names as possible.

But is .com registry Verisign getting ready to change how this works?

The explosion in the number of new registrars created solely for grabbing dropping domains was precipitated, at least in part, by some rate limiting actions by Verisign. Now there are signs that it will make further changes.

First, ICANN predicts that a number of these registrars will be shut down over the next year.

Then there’s this: a detailed plan by Verisign for how to determine which registrars are working together for drop catching and to “mitigate” their efforts.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application from Verisign today for “Detecting and Mitigating Registrar Collusion in Drop-Add Acquisitions of Domain Names” (pdf). The application was filed on December 31, 2015.

It describes ways to figure out which registrars are working together to grab domains on behalf of clients. While most of the patent application discusses how to figure out this collusion, there’s also talk of how to mitigate it:

Examples of mitigating actions include logging the potential drop-add collusion between the pair of DNS registrars, notifying the registry or a user thereof of the potential drop-add collusion between the pair of DNS registrars, sending a request to the registry to throttle or block current and/or future domain name acquisition requests from one or both of the pair of DNS registrars, and the like.

Does the current drop-catching system tax Verisign’s resources too much? Or is there something else going on?

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Reader Interactions


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  1. Martin

    Imagine those who bought registrars thinking of ROI on their investments? This can blow their plans out of the water.

  2. JohnH

    What do you think would motivate this? Is it purely spite–sour grapes because they can’t participate in the spoils?

  3. JSL

    It is to Verisign’s advantage that there be lots of small-medium registrars instead of a handful of large ones.

  4. Bill Sweetman

    Difficult to fathom the rationale behind Verisign wanting to (in essence) impede the re-registration of domain names. Verisign only makes money if domains are registered. Perhaps Verisign hopes to charge dropcatchers a fee to be excluded from the ‘mitigation’ list. Some might consider that a digital shakedown…

  5. Christopher Ambler

    I’m reasonably sure there’s more to this. I’m also reasonably sure that if Verisign imposes measures that registrars will find a way to overcome them.

    It’s what I did for almost a decade, after all, from the wide-open days of 40 non rate-limited connections to the days of 4 severely rate-limited connections (and into the days of deliberate jitter).

    Indeed, I have plenty of ideas on how it could be done, even now – though I must be honest and say that after a decade of doing it, it was getting kinda old. 😉

  6. http://www.domainregistry.de/presse.html

    As far I know, Verisign has not commented its intentions.

    Re-registering of expired domains is in the interest of a Registry.

    If Versign would face technical problems, it would propose a Waiting List Service.

    Therefore I think we know nothing about the background and every comment is speculative.

    We are ready to participate at networks for registering expired domains, if the registry and ICANN think it is permitted by the existing policies.

    Hans-Peter Oswald

    ICANN accredited Registrar Secura

    • Drewbert

      Not only that.

      Spread the deletions across 24 hours and actually advertise in advance the exact time of each deletion, and limit each registrar/drop catcher/registrant to one shot per domain.

  7. Rakeless Clammer

    What percentage of total traffic does drop catching represent today?
    Anyone hazard a guess – say for .com?
    Are tag teaming drop catchers motivated by shared renewals responsible for a material % of ping activity on Verisign servers? Many thanks. RC

  8. ikehook

    If drop catching companies want to spend money to buy more accredidations or invest in better software shouldn’t that be up to them? What the hell does “leveling the playing field” have to do with free enterprise and business? Will Verisign make Godaddy split into multiple companies because they have too large a market share? This is how business works, you want to be the best, develop the best tech and build your business to beat the competition. This drives innovation and progress. There has to be another reason, like maybe verisign wants a cut of the money from premium pending delete names, and not just 7 bucks.

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