It should not be a goal to align legacy TLD policies with new TLD policies.
ICANN dropped a bombshell yesterday: it’s planning to remove all price controls on .org and .info domain names.
The organization justified this move by saying:
This change will not only allow the [.org/info] renewal agreement to better conform with the base registry agreement, but also takes into consideration the maturation of the domain name market and the goal of treating the Registry Operator equitably with registry operators of new gTLDs and other legacy gTLDs utilizing the base registry agreement.
The proposed agreement also adds Uniform Rapid Suspension, a trademark rights protection mechanism that was created as part of the new top level domain program. It allows trademark holders to quickly take down domains that are alleged to be cybersquatting. ICANN has previously added URS to several other top level domain contracts as they have renewed.
ICANN’s justification seems to be that all registries should play by the same rules. But this ignores the environment in which these domain names were launched and registered by customers. It is, in effect, a retroactive change to policy.
It’s true that new top level domain registries can jack up their prices as much as they want. However, compared to legacy TLDs, these price increases were allowed from the start. The most recent .org and .info registry agreements had price controls baked in that only allowed prices to increase 10% per year. That’s a lot, but it’s not unlimited.
So people who have registered .org and .info domains with the understanding that price increases would be capped are suddenly using domains that could theoretically cost thousands of dollars to renew.
While I doubt that Public Interest Registry (.org) and Afilias (.info) will increase prices that much, history tells us that the existing customers are the ones that will end up paying the higher prices. Registries generally discount first-year registrations, not renewals. So it’s reasonable to expect that these registries will increase the base cost going forward but then offer specials on new registrations.
ICANN notes that “Protections for existing registrants will remain in place, in line with the base registry agreement.” These protections are just allowing existing registrants to renew their domains for up to 10 years at current prices before price hikes take effect. That just kicks the can down the road.
One of ICANN’s missions is the stability of the DNS. Allowing uncapped price changes adds instability to the market behind it.