My Thoughts About Verisign’s Letter to ICANN

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Verisign submitted a letter (pdf) to ICANN in response to the comments regarding the proposed amendment #3 of the .com registry contract. I want to highlight one aspect of the letter I found notable. In providing an example of domain name speculator activity, Verisign wrote:

“As a recent example, moments before the World Health Organization announced the official name of the coronavirus, Namecheap registered the name (covid-19.com) to a domain name speculator, presumably unassociated with the public health mission of the WHO.”

It is interesting that Verisign knocks this sale that added $7.85 to its bottom line. Multiply this by many thousands each day, and Verisign is making a whole lot of money from domain names registered by speculators.

Most likely, this highlighted domain name and other domain names of the sort will not be resold because they have little commercial value. In fact, I previously wrote about how a very low percentage of these types of domain names have sold for meaningful amounts of money. Assuming most registered domain names will never be resold, only three entities make money from speculative domain names like the one highlighted: Verisign, Namecheap, and ICANN. Verisign takes the lion’s share of the proceeds.

I also found it interesting that Verisign called out this particular domain registration because the company doesn’t seem to have issues with people to registering domain names like this or even registering domain names with trademarks in them. In fact, in Verisign’s blog series, the company highlights recent trending keywords that were registered in .com and .net domain names. In August of 2019, for example, Verisign shared these 4 trending keywords, among others:

  • dorian
  • airbnb
  • hurricane
  • taylorswift

Instead of providing some sort of educational guidance about the perils of registering trademark keywords like AirBNB or TaylorSwift, Verisign simply highlighted that these were trending. In addition, Verisign highlighted that “dorian” and “hurricane” were trending keywords while Hurricane Dorian caused a great deal of damage and loss of life. Perhaps Verisign should have taken a role in educating its customers about why they should not register domain names with certain keywords.

As a domain investor, I hate seeing domain names related to tragedies registered by speculators. I also think it is dangerous for investors to register trademark keyword domain names. In fact, one of my first articles on DomainInvesting.com from 2007 offered two important tips:

“NEVER ever register domain names with famous or somewhat famous trademarks (or trademark typos).”

“Never try to capitalize on a tragedy or other event no matter how much money you can make in a short period of time, unless you intend to build a “real” memorial site.”

In that article, I wrote about the negative publicity that could come with registering a domain name related to a tragedy or other event such as an pandemic. I wrote, “Think of it this way, would you want a New York Times headline to read: ‘Cybersquatter John Doe Takes Advantage of Families of XXXXXXXXX Tragedy?’

I never would have expected that Verisign would be the company calling out domain speculators for their registrations that add many millions of dollars to its bottom line each year. We are aligned though, because I would love for speculators to stop paying Verisign to register those kinds of domain names.

28 COMMENTS

  1. Verisign is more or less saying: Hi, it’s unfair that someone registered a domain to speculate they might sell it. Most likely that “investor” breaks even at his/her hobby. Might even lose money each year. Or might make a few thousand dollars. If he/she is lucky as only might make $100k a year doing this and it might be his/her full time job. But… We only made a paltry $612,000,000 last year. ($612 million which is just barely over a half billion dollars profit a year)

    Since we are the monopoly we will threaten anyone who opposes us in our greed. Be warned, you are our enemy because you are stopping us from making $1.8 billion a year. We have to make more and more and more money, forever, because we are a public company and have shareholders who want more and more and more.

    Pathetic monopolist. Diversify. Go get into other businesses. Just like IBM or Google or Apple or Microsoft. It’s your own fault you sold off all your other businesses, and you have zero incentive to innovate and do other things. All you have is greed in your eyes, and you want the money from the bottom of the bucket. Don’t think you can just have it because you WANT it. Go build something new and unique and sell that. That is what INNOVATIVE businesses do after all. Unfortunately as the world looks at you, you are just there to blood suck and greed off the world. But you are not doing anything new, unique or special except trying to use threats to keep others down.

    Pathetic.

    • @Katie, you speak the truth. The same can be said about ICANN. We’re at the point in time when corporations don’t even try to hide it anymore. Greed and huge profits.

  2. Deep State is global. Deep State are Pure Evil People. Deep State controls ICANN. It is a global scam to steal your money. You work hard for your money. Do not let ICANN steal your money. Go to WhiteHouse.gov and send a email to President Trump about ICANN. Trump has the power to stop ICANN.

      • Elliot I don’t have time to mince words, so I am suggesting for your consideration this person is either a bit disturbed or tying to cause trouble i.e. trolling. I’ve already addressed more deeply (“deep stately”?) what he’s doing elsewhere recently. It’s all bad.

    • Thank God Trump is draining the swamp of the deep state. His work is too important to be restricted by laws around whistle-blower protection, an independent judiciary, and term limits. I read about this in the great state of Kansas.

  3. Verisign spitting in the face of 20% of its customers.
    For years, they were very happy making hundreds of millions (if not billions over the years) from “speculators”, even sponsoring domain investing conferences.

    Only one word comes to mind : PITIFUL !

    The DoJ and DoC must put an end to this monopoly and put the .COM contract for bid with rebid every 5 years.
    Verisign will then go bankrupt.

  4. Registries need to quit scapegoating their customers and own up to their own actions.

    Trying to deflect attention from misdeeds or egregious behavior by pointing the finger at some average Joe who rushed to register a domain hoping to make a buck or two is an unbecoming and desperate attempt at misdirection. It seems this tired defense strategy is all the big registries have to resort to to defend themselves these days.

    That said, as Elliot noted, domain investors must be wise in their decisions to register contentious domains. Perceptions matter, and a few bad decisions by a few people can be weaponized by the likes of Verisign and reflect poorly on everybody else.

  5. Isn’t the reason that the price increases are in the contract in the first place a result of a non public settlement where Verisign sued ICANN?

  6. Verisign’s letter is about a big, powerful bully trying to delegitimize and take away the voice of a small but scrappy and diverse organization of industry professionals.

    Everybody open your eyes and think about what this one company in the industry is trying to do here to the detriment of virtually everyone else in the industry just to get their way.

    Greed, power, lobbying, political connections, billionaires, threats, lawsuits vs. a comment generator.

    Really.

  7. Elliot thanks for the article.

    It is perfect read for many…

    Verisign quoting a domain name and its implications is hilarious really very very funny.

    like you mentioned they used to give trending keywords and there was no single mention of why it is bad to register trademark related and some tragedy related names.

    Verisign is didn’t hesitated to say bad about domain invesotrs…it happened before when .com price hikes were proposed…I don’t think they are thinking it properly…
    how many names will be registered if there are no domain investors and each and everything is end user or someone who is in similar niche of the registered topic.

    This is pathetic way of attacking people who oppose their opinion…

    The given example of registered name is not a good sign of a domain investor…we all agree to that..

    like you mentioned big beneficiary of that name registration is Verisign if the registrant able to sell it to someone or not that is different thing.

    I wonder what will Verisign do if someone sues them over registering numerous names of tragedy related and trademark related…stating they are first accomplice of this wrong doing and damaging. as matter of fact they share large part of that registration cost…that makes them beneficiary to that registrant.

    Verisign is more and more becoming a aggressive attacker without a proper explanation to their decisions..this can damage its reputation and eventually their business in long term.

  8. “Verisign is more and more becoming a aggressive attacker.” Interesting point, Ravi.

    Question to any ICANN representative reading this blog post: Have you or anyone you know at ICANN ever felt intimidated or threatened by a Verisign employee or representative during the course of contract negotiations or otherwise?

    Maybe there needs to be a whistleblower option for ICANN employees to report abuses of power or wrongdoing (internal or external).

  9. A .com became available after deleting from the registry sometime during last week. It’s my latest registration, added to the hundreds of domains I already maintain.

    Did I do this because I’m a “domainer” hoping to sell it? Do I have any intention of selling it?

    No. I did it because I’m an end user who has a use for the domain, and it’s now being used. Even a single visit by a single visitor is potentially valuable to my business, let alone more. And I’m “the little guy.”

    See this comment: https://www.thedomains.com/2020/02/11/verising-arstechnica/#comment-247836

  10. Instead of just complaining about how bad verisign and icann is, the domain community should TOTALLY focus on demanding from icann, US gov’t agencies and US representatives that the ,com registry should be up for bid every 5 yrs. And, Icann should undergo a thorough oversight review by US Dept of Commerce and US Congress.

    But, you need help from the mainstream media. Because, verisign and icann spends multi-millions EVERY year for lobbyist. They can be beaten but you need the media’s help.

    Then, you will see verisign and Icann become MORE RESPONSIVE to the domain community.

  11. Domain investors have to operate in a competitive global market in order to domain assets.

    In contrast, Verisign bought itself a money printing machine which it has managed to strongarm a perpetual noncompetitive contract to operate.

  12. I believe that everything that is happening now was already written since the 70’s with the creation of IANA.

    Internet: it is the basis of everything that has come after all of us in this world.

    Since we know the use of the Internet we have been introducing ourselves in this world so slowly in it creating one and the other online businesses to get previous study and analysis that niche market you were more prepared to face your losses and benefits until you get to have a base with which economically can live better than before.

    That said we could never think or believe what we are living now with Verising and Icann and a long etcetera that is deeply complex that in the end we can only write that they have done their homework without us knowing or stop predicting what is happening. happening now could not be and now the power they have the usual.

    Without the internet there would be no domains, websites, blog, and what is in front of and behind it with only one purpose, business and economic power.

    I remember that knowing the Internet I saw that it would be the business of the 21st century and now I think many times how this will be in the 22nd century for future human generations of this planet and what I do believe will be the same as now, with the same perfection of not having Heard the words of our grandparents and parents, the Internet is generational like human life.

  13. Dear Verisign.com
    Speculators created the value of .com’s
    thru relentless preaching and millions of dollars worth of free marketing to your benifit that still continues to this day!
    Kiss my bottom line good bye!
    And 26 million new G regs you don’t
    control.
    I do agree ICA has demonstrated credibility issues by not being transparent with all facts however, using aftermarket activity to justify your position is equally weak.
    DOC is no longer involved. That argument is irrelevant and using it to try
    influencing future policy decisions ? WTF
    Speculators are also showing you the way to long term market viability.
    Build your own portfolio. As a long term investor, I’m done doing it for you.

    ICANN- A perfect time for public bid competition for all legacy tld’s for the global public good. Preferred vendor status no longer applies given the significant pool of qualified “stewards”
    that exist today that may not have existed in the past. Let the market decide not Verisign not ISOC.
    Cheers
    cc: ICANN

  14. The Honorable Philip Corwin of Verisign, former legal counsel for the Internet Commerce Association, might be approached for comment. Online archives show him as generous with interviews.

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