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Apr 28, 2019.

The Spurious Justifications for Eliminating Price Caps on .org and Other Legacy Domains

This post by Nat Cohen covers ICANN’s proposal to lift price protections on .org domains, allowing the Public Interest Registry (the owner of .org) to charge whatever price they wish to registrars. ICANN’s justification is that extortion by registrars will cause domain owners to leave, driving the price down. This analogy falls apart when we consider that organizations are strongly coupled to their domain names. Nat explains by analogy:

Let us say that you live in a long-established city of millions of people. One day some state officials announce that they are going to remove all price controls from the electric company for your city. The electric company will soon be able to charge whatever it wishes to provide you electricity. The state officials say that it is only fair for your electric company to be able to set fees at any level that it chooses since the state recently allowed the electric companies in some new developments to set fees at whatever level they chose (and these companies paid handsomely for the privilege). Those electric companies are not happy because so few people want to move to their developments (in part, you think to yourself, because the residents have no protection against being overcharged on their electric bill), so to make things even, all citizens in the state will lose their protections from being overcharged on their electric bills as well. When you express concern that your electric company might jack up your rates, the state officials offer the reassurance that the electric company would not be able to increase your rates that much because if you did not like the higher rates you could sell your house and move to a different city. The rationale that “don’t worry, you can move” that is clearly absurd in the example from the physical world is being touted as reasonable when applied to the virtual world of domain names. Indeed, the disruption may be even greater in the virtual world of the Internet where one’s domain name is indistinguishable from one’s online brand.

There is no justifiable reason for this change except to allow price-gouging, and it’s disappointing to see site owners and NPOs being treated as revenue streams.