Domain tasting taken off the menu by Nominet

United Kingdom

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) allows registrars a five-day grace period after certain generic top level domains (gTLDs), such as those under '.com', are created to decide whether or not to delete them, in which case the registration fee is refunded. Over the course of this year certain registrars and other players in the domain name industry have been exploiting this so-called grace period by registering domain names and determining how much traffic they receive before the grace period expires. Names with lower traffic are then deleted at no cost, but higher traffic names are retained and pointed towards websites containing pay-per-click links or pop-up advertisements. Such names are registered for the registrar's own profit, the registrar effectively acting as both registrant and registrar.

This phenomenon is known as 'domain tasting' and is beginning to cause the internet community some concern, although it is difficult to see how widespread it is as registrars are able to cover their tracks, for example by failing to list names for which they are the registrant in the WHOIS. From a brand protection point of view, it also underlines the
importance of not allowing domain names to lapse.

If a domain name has for instance been indexed in major search engines then, once it has been relinquished and reregistered, the brand owner runs the serious risk of having their online identity compromised by third parties seeking revenue generated from clicks on the associated website.

Nominet, the organization responsible for the running of the United Kingdom's '.uk' domain name extension, has announced that it will be taking tough action against registrars indulging in domain tasting. According to Nominet, registrars are provided with the facility to delete domain names registered in error before they are invoiced only so as to allow domain names containing spelling mistakes to be deleted and re-registered with the correct spelling.

However, having monitored registration and deletion volumes closely, Nominet noticed that the facility was being abused by domain tasters and saw the need to take firm action to prevent unnecessary load on its systems, potentially jeopardizing access for other users.

It has issued a statement to the effect that any use of the deletion facility on the Nominet automatic system other than for the correction of registrar errors will be heavily sanctioned. This of course applies only to the 5 million '.uk' domain names, not any of the gTLDs.

David Taylor and Jane Seager, Lovells, Paris

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