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How Much Money Is There in Complaining?

John Levine

Although I don't have a lot of sympathy for the trademark lawyers' argument that trademark holders need to register .sucks domains cheaply before anyone else can, there is one point at the end of their letter that's worth a look.

The registry contract for .sucks, between Vox Populi and ICANN, has this sentence that appears (as far as I know) in no other registry contract, in the section on Registry-Level fees:

In addition, Registry Operator shall also pay ICANN (i) a one-time fixed registry access fee of US$100,000 as of the Effective Date of this Agreement, and (ii) a registry administration fee of US$1.00 for each of the first 900,000 Transactions.

This in in addition to the $25,000/yr that every other registry pays. While I doubt that there will be 900,000 transactions (domain registration-years) anytime in the forseeable future, it's still a significant chunk of money paid to ICANN for no observable reason. Since ICANN assures us they have a proven commitment to accountability and transparency in all of its practices, it's baffling that they haven't explained what ICANN is giving to Vox Populi in return for all that extra money.

Finally, Vox Populi beat out two other applicants for .sucks in a private auction in which they reportedly paid $3 million, which does make one wonder exactly what the business plan is. They'd need 10,000 registrations at the $300 list price to make back the $3 mil, which seems pretty optimistic, unless they figure the trademark owners will grab them all even if they don't pay the $2500 sunrise price. Perhaps they believe claims that they'll create a dialog and improve customer service, like they said when they planned to charge $25K for sunrise registrations. Or maybe not.

By John Levine, Author, Consultant & Speaker
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Related topics: Domain Names, ICANN, New TLDs
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"no observable reason" John Berryhill  –  Apr 15, 2015 8:31 AM PDT

Whether a reason is "observable" is apparently a function of where one does one's observing.

One way to observe, is to ask.  And when asked, as quoted two weeks ago on DomainIncite, ICANN has stated:

"Some affiliates of Momentous, the majority owners of Vox Populi Registry, had previously defaulted on substantial payments to ICANN. Given this previous experience, ICANN negotiated special contract provisions in the Vox Populi Registry Agreement to provide additional financial assurances. Those provisions were added solely for that reason and were not related to the nature of this specific TLD."

Transparent? John Levine  –  Apr 15, 2015 8:33 AM PDT

That may well be true, but it ain't very transparent.

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