The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (“ICANN”) is looking to effectively end domain tasting. Domain tasting is the use of the Add Grace Period (“AGP”) to test the profitably of a domain name registration by tracking traffic to a newly registered domain name. The AGP is a five-day grace period that allows the registration of the domain name to be deleted and a refund to be issued to a registrar for the annual ICANN fee. Cybersquatters and typosquatters will sometimes register a domain name, that is a misspelling of a trademark or service mark, and monitor traffic from visitors that misspell the proper domain name or trademark. The cyber-squatters and typo-squatters will then park the domain name and place advertisements, such as pay per click advertisements, and monitor the income for up to five days, cancelling the lower traffic domain names.
ICANN proposes to eliminate the AGP and charge a non-refundable ICANN fee upon registration of the domain. “Domain tasting has been an issue for the Internet community and ICANN is offering this proposal as a way to stop tasting,” said Dr Paul Twomey, ICANN’s President and CEO. “Charging the ICANN fee as soon as a domain name is registered would close the loophole used by tasters to test a domain name’s profitability for free.”
The original purpose of the AGP was logical because it allowed registrars to avoid costs if a domain name was mistyped or misspelled during the registration process. It is part of the .com, .net, .org, .info, .name, .pro, and .biz registry contracts.
According to ICANN, “[t]asting has been a serious challenge for the Internet community and has grown exponentially since 2004. In January 2007 the top 10 domain tasters accounted for 95% of all deleted .com and .net domain names – or 45,450,897 domain names out of 47,824,131 total deletes.”
PRACTICE NOTE: In today’s internet-based business world, you have to make sure that the .com extension is available for your trademark. Don’t use hyphens in your domain name because that will send your traffic and customers to another site. Also, don’t misspell common words because that will unintentionally direct your traffic and customers to another site. You may, however, want to register common misspellings of your domain name and point those domains to your main site. You should also register the .net and .org extensions for your trademark to reduce the possibility of cybersquatters registering your domain name with those extensions.