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DNSO Status Report Regarding Deletions, Solutions, and WLS

Posted:10 June 2002

To the ICANN Community:

At its 22 April 2002 meeting the Board adopted resolution 02.53 requesting the Names Council to provide a status report by 10 June 2002 on its review of domain-name-deletion issues, including "any recommendations (with supporting materials) concerning VeriSign's request to modify the .com and .net agreements to allow it to provide a wait-listing service, for a fee, as part of its operation of the .com and .net registries."

On 10 June 2002 the Names Council forwarded the following status report in response to the Board's request. This report will be discussed at the 24-28 June 2002 ICANN meeting in Bucharest.

Louis Touton
ICANN Secretary


DNSO Status Report Regarding Deletions, Solutions, and WLS
Prepared by Marilyn Cade, Chair
Transfers Task Force
June 4, 2002
(Forwarded to ICANN Board by Names Council on 10 June 2002)

Overview and Background:

On 21 March 2002 Verisign proposed to introduce a new registry service – the Wait List Service (WLS) – and requested from ICANN a change to its registry agreement of.com and .net registries to enable this.

At their April 22, 2002 special meeting of the ICANN Board, the Board noted the previous consideration that the Transfers Task Force {TR-TF} in the context of the analysis of transfers, and noted that a report of the Transfer TF will be of assistance in evaluating the Verisign WLS proposal.

At the 4/22 board meeting, via Resolution [02.53] the Board requested the Names Council to coordinate within the DNSO a comprehensive review of issues concerning the deletion of domain names and possible solutions for those issues and to submit to the Board, no later than 10 June 2002, a status report on that review, with the status report to include any recommendations with supporting materials concerning Verisign's request to modify the .com and .net agreements to allow it to provide a wait listing service for a fee as part of its operation of the .com and .net registries.

The Secretary was also directed to advise the Address and Protocol Councils of the request and the board's intent to consider that request at its Bucharest meeting on 28 June 2002, with an invitation to those councils to submit comments, if any, before that time. Via Resolution [02.55] the Board invited public comments and directed that a suitable mechanism be established for allowing comments over the Internet for at least a 30 day period.

The Names Council referred this matter to the Transfer Task Force on 4/24/02. The Task Force published Terms of Reference; numerous postings within the GA took place; comments from the GA and others have been received, and the TF hosted two widely publicized and open to any interested party conference calls on 5/21/02 and 5/22/02.

MP 3 recordings and minutes are provided for those calls via the Transfer Task Force List. In addition to usual notice via posting on the Transfer TF archive, all constituencies and the GA were notified of the calls. The names of all conference call attendees will be posted. In addition, comments have been posted to the TR-TF archive when requested by participants in the outreach calls. Approximately 19 attendees attended each of the calls; although there was some overlap in participation.

The GA, BC, IPC constituencies have all submitted written comments. On May 25, the TF Chair posted an extensive summary of discussions of the TR-TF related to Deletions, Solutions and VGRS WLS. This document is available on the archives of the TR-TF.

This document provides the requested status report described in the Board referral and outlines the present views of the TR-TF, related to the issues of deletions, possible solutions, and the VGRS WLS proposal and is presented to the Names Council at its June 6 meeting, for forwarding to the Board on June10, 2002.

Status Report:

The larger issues related to deletions and solutions are identified in this status report and some suggestions from participants are noted for further exploration by the TF. Overall, unintended, fraudulent, or accidental deletions are viewed as having a significant effect on registrants, and some concerns have been expressed that there has not been sufficient outreach to registrants to document such harm. The TF believes that sufficient data exists to determine that registrants are harmed by such activities and that the public forum will provide further documentation of the views of registrants. The TF also plans to ask the At Large registration list, as well as constituencies and the GA for any further specific comments from registrants related to deletions and proposed solutions.

Preliminary Findings of the TF:

After consultation with the community who has responded to a broad set of invitations to provide comments and input, as well as input received from several constituencies/GA, the Names Council Transfers Task force provides the following comments:

1. There is both legitimate frustration felt by prospective registrants in securing a currently registered gTLD domain name when its registration lapses and grave concern by existing registrants that they may lose their currently registered gTLD domain name should its registration unintentionally lapse.

2. The concerns of name holders who lose their names through accident, mistake, misunderstanding can be addressed through other mechanisms, other than a WLS service [addressed in more detail later].

3. It appears that the concerns of legitimate domain name holders who use the domain name and have IP interests in the domain name may also be addressed by other mechanisms than WLS, should they need to/choose to recover a name that is being cybersquatted, or is desirable for their business/organizational identity. [further discussion needed].

4. Other registrants who seek to register a specific name, large numbers of names, or a wide variety of lapsing names are presently using a variety of competitive services to "grab" deleted names.

5. These competitive services are differentiated from one another and are used by "regular" registrants, as well as bulk purchasers of names. Comments were received that indicate that some IP owners also use the services.

II. User Concerns:

Broad agreement exists within the TF that underlying the frustration, confusion, and concerns related to deletions is an ill defined and poorly enforced deletions policy and variant practices between the ICANN accredited registrars, their agents and the registry for .com and .net.

1. Suggestions for addressing these issues include the recently announced Redemptions Policy which some on the TF and in the community of respondents believe will enable the majority of individual registrants to achieve a "safe harbor" for recovery, in the event of accidental or mistaken deletion.

2. Several respondents identified the need for a standard deletions policy that would be established by accreditation agreement and enforced by ICANN, to include the Redemptions Period as a key element.

3. Noted by the TF and other commenters was the confusion caused by practices, which vary, and by the lack of certainty and information about processes related to deletions.

III. Competition and Harm to existing Competition:

1. The TF determines that there exists today a range of competing services that provide the function of seeking out specific expiring gTLD domain names for registration by prospective registrants.

2. In their comments, many of the respondents to the TF outreach made the point that the VGRS WLS service would create unfair competitive conditions for the existing services; and those who are in that market, who responded, noted that they were extremely concerned about their ability to survive the new entrant at the sole source/monopoly level.

3. Thus, if this were the case, the TF would conclude that the entrance of the VGRS WLS would cause conditions, which harm existing competing services in the WLS space.

4. If this is the case, and so far, the comments submitted support this view, we should therefore expect existing competing services to find conditions changing to the point that it is impossible to compete with the new entrant at the sole source/monopoly level.

5. Trial: Comments were made from respondents that this is actually a 24 month service offering, not a trial, since the service, if approved, would exist for 12months, and services contracted in the12th month of the "trial" would still exist for an additional 12 months from contract date. Since the marketing of the "trial" will not be as a trial, the TF would therefore not be persuaded that the use of the term "trial" limits the expectations of the market, or of users.

6. Therefore, the TF could assume that if the "trial" is approved, the ability of the existing competitive differentiated services to survive will be extremely limited to nonexistent.

III. Technical Solutions to "Add Storms:"

1. It was acknowledged that present practices of competitive services result in "add storms" which are affecting the registry's services, and according to the registry, adding significant costs for support of all the attempts to "grab" names but without resulting in transactions which provide revenue to the registry.

2. Discussions included the technical implications of these "attacks" and what adjustments have been made to deal with them. It was acknowledged that technical solutions have been provided to address some of them.

3. However, the Registrar constituency presentation noted that many of the technical adjustments proposed or recommended by their constituency have not been made. [The TF will seek to clarify VSGR response to this and included their response in the final report].

4. Comments from other participants noted that other changes in approach could be undertaken which could diminish the "add storms" impact and duration, while still supporting competitive services at the registrar level. [The TF will seek to understand why/whether such changes might ameliorate the
"add storms" to a significant degree and will comment accordingly].

5. So far, there has been no evidence provided to the TF suggesting that there are any technical issues that would prohibit the existing services from continuing to operate.

6. The TF was interested in whether there was indication that VS was recommending this service to address existing demands on the technical performance of the database. However, existing data from VS itself is that while the "add storms" are a serious problem, they have taken steps to address the technical performance during these periods.

From the above we would note that:

Based on the TF work, we believe that current user frustration" and concern losing an expiring gTLD domain name accidentally or though misunderstanding, can and should be addressed through the swift introduction and effective enforcement of the proposed Redemptions Grace Period for Deleted Names policy and practice. Further,

1. The TF as a preliminary finding believes that a standard deletions period and set of procedures, which are standardized across registrars, will further limit harm and concern in the overall deletions areas. The TF will further discuss what steps would be needed to implement a standard deletions period and procedure, which can be implemented and enforced through the accreditation agreements with ICANN accredited registrars

2. The TF noted that competing services exist today at the registrar level to fulfill any additional need related to purchasing registration for names which are lapsing but where no existing relationship exists and the registrant is interested in registering a legitimately deleted name/group of names. So far, the TF did not identify from their own perspective, or from comments submitted that there is added legitimate consumer benefit achieved from the introduction of the WLS.

3. The VGRS has complained about the "add storms" and has suggested that the VGRS WLS will assist in elevating the technical stresses created by these "add storms"; however, their primary assertion is that service will be better and more efficient, and more "successful" than services provided at competitive level via the registrar or other third parties.

4. Some commentors expressed concern and by some TF members that user interests are likely to be harmed through the reduction in competition.

5. Members of the TF and respondents questioned whether there is a strong possibility of discriminatory behavior between the large registrar[s] and registry business of Verisign as a result of the sole source/monopoly status of the registry as a result of the introduction of the WLS at the registry level.

IV. Status on Policy Recommendations and Further Comments

Based on the above observations, over the next few weeks, we will further explore making policy recommendations and seek further comment from the TF and from the community. At present, the possible preliminary policy recommendations that are based on the present positions heard in the TF and in the available comments are that:

1. The ICANN Board should move with all haste to implement and actively enforce the proposed Redemptions Grace Period for Deleted Names policy and practice and instruct the staff to ensure an effective mechanism for self reporting of the implementation status and tracking of its use.

2. The ICANN Board should reject Verisign's request to amend its agreement to enable it to introduce its proposed WLS as a sole source/monopoly level service and The ICANN Board rejects Verisign's request to trial the WLS for 12 months.

3. Further work should be undertaken on a fast track basis, on the broader concerns of deletions and possible solutions to consider what, if any further efforts are needed to institute a standard deletions period and processes and to determine whether any policy changes are needed to address effective solutions to these issues and concerns..

V. NOTE: The TF discussed the possibility that the community and/or the Board would reject the possible recommendations described above:

Should the community or the ICANN Board not accept the policy recommendations noted above and grant Verisign's request for a change to its agreement and a 12 month trial of its WLS, the TF could decide to then strongly recommend that:

1. The introduction of the WLS be dependent on the implementation and proven (for not less than 3 months) practice envisaged in the proposed Redemptions Grace Period for Deleted Names policy and practice

2. The price for the WLS be set at the same amount as the current registry fee for a registration - the cost of the WLS function being no more, and probably less than a registration (given that the activity is less complicated).

3. The WLS include a requirement that notice be provided by the registry (through the registrar) to the existing registrant of a domain name when a WLS option is taken out against that registrant's domain name.

4. The WLS include a requirement for full transparency as to who has placed a WLS option on a domain name and the registrar that action the option.

VI. Fast Track versus full Consensus Process:

The Task Force has not yet determined whether to recommend that a fast track process or a full consensus process, but does expect to discuss and comment on that in a final posting before Bucharest, based on comments received after posting on 6/10/02.

VII.

This document represents a Status Report and summary from the Task Force chair and is not presented as a consensus document of the TF. Such a document will include further documentation of the positions taken by representatives of the TF, in regard to the possible policy recommendations and will be posted by 6/10/02.

The TF chair thanks the participants of the conference calls; the GA, the TF members, and others in the community who offered comments and input.

The TF respectfully submits the status report as requested, and requests that the Names Council transmit the Status report to the Board.

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