ICANN Has Had Enough of Playing Graceful with Scammers

It's not uncommon these days to run into an empty domain covered in ads, completely unassociated with what we expected to find. The cash cow may find itself on the barbecue soon, however, as the powers that be are planning to pull the plug.

The annoying practice — known as domain tasting, as though the sites were serving up Bordeaux and Brie — takes advantage of a loophole in ICANN policy that allows a registrant to cancel their domain within five days of purchase. The policy is intended to help correct misspellings and remedy rash decisions, but it has been turned into an art form by domain tasters, who use it to register domains, host ads for profit, and then drop the domain before being charged. The provision has also been used for front running — using inside information to register domains and then resell them at a higher price — a practice that recently landed Network Solutions in hot water. Both scams may soon be a thing of the past, however, as ICANN — the body responsible for overseeing registrations — is considering an end to the loopholes, particularly in light of data showing 95% — more than 45 million domains — had been registered and dropped by a mere ten registrants.

Google — whose AdSense program is a prime source of tasting revenues — is finally doing its part to end the practice, announcing last week that they will ban domains determined to be abusing the grace period from the program.

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Justin Ryan is a Contributing Editor for Linux Journal.