ICANN proposes new anti-domain tasting solution

The body behind the internet's addressing system, ICANN, could stop any domain name registrar from processing refunds on more than 10% of its domains in any given month in a new bid to stop domain name tasting.

Domain name tasting exploits the fact that someone registering a domain can keep it for up to five days and then return it for free. Unscrupulous operators are using that grace period to test domain names to see if their advertising income exceeds their registration costs for a year.

The process ties up millions of domain names at a time and upsets advertisers who are paying for the display of adverts on content-less pages that people quickly leave because they usually arrive there by mistake.

ICANN, which oversees the grace period, is under pressure to make changes to combat tasting and is already considering a change to the refund process.

Its board will decide in June whether to accept ICANN management's proposal to keep 20 cents of the $6 charge to discourage bulk-registrations of domains for tasting.

Now a part of ICANN, the Generic Names Supporting Organisation (GNSO), has recommended a change to the number of refunds any registrar can claim on behalf of customers.

It wants the operators of generic top level domains (gTLDs) such as .com or .org to be restricted in the refunds they can offer.

It has proposed that they only be allowed to offer refunds to 10% of the newly registered domain names in any given month. If that number is under 50 they will be allowed to refund up to 50 fees.

"An exemption may be sought for a particular month, upon the documented showing of extraordinary circumstances," said a statement from the GNSO. "The GNSO Council will consider public comments and constituency impact statements regarding the draft motion and incorporate them into a further draft for Council consideration at its scheduled 17 April meeting."

The industry that has built up around the five-day grace period can reportedly earn practitioners millions of pounds a year through pay-per-click ads seen by people who visit these addresses and their empty sites by mistake.

The practice is widely condemned because it wastes users' time and advertisers' budgets, since they want to pay to have their ads displayed on pages people want to visit rather than these empty pages.