OPINION by H. Page Howe
This may not be a popular post, but it feels right.
I think we should defer expired name auctions as an industry for 60 days… and stop pending deletes right away. Just delay, they still come up in the current way 60 days from now.
Verisign has announced it will reduce the wholesale redemption fee for names in redemption period.
Other registrars have agreed to waive the Registrar markup-up or charge for the extra year plus a little. So in a normal, post grace period restoration, you had the Verisign Fee, plus a registrar markup. This was usually $40 to $240 (Thanks Enom) and only the original owner could restore. I surveyed some registrars. They are also waiving their fee in some cases.
EPIK– No Markup
Directnic Fabulous – No Markup (Limited Number, contact your Rep)
Dynadot – Regular Late Fee $18.99 for .com
Then today DomainIncyte.com reports registrars have extended some expiration dates. The headline is registrants won’t lose names. But won’t they if expired name auctions still take place? And it will be the better, more painful to lose names that get taken in expired auctions. Cant we, as investors, go without those domains only in action because of Coronavirus and the shutdown in the economy. I think its a false hope for those truly in need to think that have extra time, because if their name sells , its gone.
And its the new owner where the brunt will fall. We would have paid a premium for the name, and then couldn’t give it back to the owner without taking a loss.
So the elephant in the room, and the reason I don’t think you will see any announcements from any registrars about the waived fees, is most good names will be auctioned off, prior to the expiration of the grace period. The headlines will create extreme cases of names lost.
Any expired name reverts back to the registrar per the terms they have with the customer, and may never go to redemption. The registrars use the “window of uncertainty” to sell the name and keep the proceeds and somehow remove the redemption rights from the domain name.
So a domain owner with COVID19 in ICU who doesn’t renew may not get the headline benefits. And this creates easy to write negative stories about lost domains. Mark Cuban talked about how companies actions now will set their “brand” for the next 10 years. Right now we are setup to be the bad guys – meaning it will be us, Domainers, that take the hit as opposed to the registrars. And that could mean additional scrutiny and publicity that ICANN, and other participants, sometimes use to bring drastic changes – ie Verisign wanting to take over drops.
So the Registrars probably won’t walk away from the expired name revenue for nothing, so lets just delay for 60 days and give truly harmed owners a chance. But it us, the buyers who drive the ecosystem. The drop services won’t want to lose the revenue in the interim, but they can promote their third party name selling services; and the expired names will still be auctions in 60 days. Even if I wanted to withdraw and not bid, someone will… If their is food on the table, I’m eating.
Delaying expired auctions is a shared sacrifice for the common good. And I’m not talking about names that are used and need to be renewed, I’m just talking about expired names, that will be deleted anyway. So whats the difference between a May deletion, and July.
All we lose are names we shouldn’t have been able to buy in the first place. Real expired names still start going to auctions in 60 days.
So if all three groups help:
1 ) Expired domain buyers take a 60 day break (Maybe a good thing) and get to still review and buy the truly expired names later. But we gain a 60 day delay in renewals where we do want the grace period.
2) Registrars can now make some blanket statements that names wont be lost. Otherwise it has to have an asterisk that says you still may lose. They still get all the real renewal revenue from real sites.
3) For the registry, ie in .com, Verisign can reset redemption periods, like many other industries are doing for rent, taxes etc. Companies will still mostly renew on their expiration date to keep email and websites working. So they aren’t “losing” because real registrations are all still renewed. Yes they get one year of registration for every name sold at auctions, but its maybe 1% of expired names. The fact that a real site goes offline still serves its intended purpose. Real websites get renewed on time.
So, if a business has closed – but comes back – why make them lose their old name?
So I propose the industry extends the normal grace period for 60 days, and then starts whatever expired name auctions would normally happen. And we can simply stop the drops for all existing names in redemption to make up for February and March drops. And, most importantly, don’t add any special new rules change in this emergency time, like ICANN and the Registrars always want to.
This way the true intended beneficiary, the name owner unable to get into work, or providing medical care or family care; because of COVID-19, doesn’t lose their name.
So that’s where the rubber meets the road, will we as Domainers defer buying expired names to help-out in this tragedy. This could give us a feel good moment, and avoid some negative press… or tough conversations.
I wont stop buying if it just means another domain investor gets a better deal. And if the names I don’t bid on just become the registrars property to warehouse, or go through the drop a short 30 days later, then someone else gets a good deal at the hands of the registrant.
So will Registrars truly help save their customers’ names, not for the registrars benefit, but for the name owners?
The measures announced so far may only highlight the unfairness of the registrar and the expired domain community greed and largess, once its known that all names won’t be extended, or able to take advantage of the waived redemption fee.
If we work together, and defer our buying of names when they may be from owners severely affected by CV, we help people. By inserting a “CV extension” time, we as investors still get our shot at the expired names, registrars delay their expired domain revenue (like many other industries) and the registry cooperates resetting expiration dates.
And someone, maybe someone we know with COVID-19 doesn’t miss losing their companies operating name – and we as the new owner don’t have to talk to a family member or business owner and explain why we exploited the situation to buy their name.