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The Three-Character Question at the Heart of Single-Character .COMs: W-H-Y?

Greg Thomas

In the matter relating to O.COM, I've focused on the fact that VeriSign has — in correspondence to the organization that is counter-party to its .COM and transliterated .COM IDN Registry Agreements, in earnings calls with its investors and financial analysts, and in policy published on its website for every innocent and unsuspecting Tom, Dick, and Harry in the world to be duped by — stated an unequivocal and unwavering commitment — for almost a decade — that a registered second-level domain name in an IDN transliteration of .COM [which o.קום (o.xn--9dbq2a) most certainly is] shall be:

"...unavailable in all other transliterations of .com IDN TLDs and in the .com registry unless and until John Doe (and only John Doe) registers it in another .com IDN TLD or in the .com registry."

I've taken the liberty of selectively bolding for emphasis, but the words are all Verisign's.

Taking a spin around this junkyard in a different jalopy, let's ask the central question that any 2-year old child asks: why?

Why — when I have published previously and pointed out that this Verisign commitment remains on the corporate website even though most companies would have either amended it, issued a correction, or taken it down if it was inaccurate or misleading — does a company as deliberate and risk-averse as Verisign still have this commitment posted, unless it is meant to be?

Why — for a corporation not known for spontaneous acts of charity and that is widely viewed as being of similar temperament to Ebenezer Scrooge before being visited by ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future — is the release process for SCDNs so tortured and with the proceeds being designated for non-profits?

Why — when there is an alternative path offering much less discernible resistance — has Verisign taken an indirect route that doesn't accrue value associated with these SCDNs for their shareholders?

If I were employed by Verisign, I would take one look at exigent circumstances along with the company's past statements — which include a 2011 assertion that .COM IDN TLDs are not new domain space, but represent new resolution services instead — and I would recommend packaging the remaining unregistered IDN SCDNs together with their corresponding legacy .COM SCDN and offer each of these as platinum-plated "technical bundles" at the absolute highest price the market will bear.

By doing this, VeriSign would strategically leverage the full range of options afforded by its portfolio of gTLDs in order to create value for its shareholders while demonstrating the indisputable power and relevancy of a truly globalized .COM domain name. The company would achieve these oft-stated and longtime aims while satisfying its regulatory burden by ensuring that only $7.85 from each of these multi-million dollar sales is credited to the registration of the legacy .COM domain name — all of the other value is attributable to the unregulated .COM IDN SCDNs.

This is, seemingly, Verisign's big moment — to pull off the greatest of escapes, outdoing Houdini himself, while accruing some very attractive revenue to the bottom line in the process — so what the hell are they waiting for?

I suspect that the answer to that question may reside in phantasmagorical activity — not of Christmases past, present and future — but of ICANN.

After all, these SCDNs are existing, registered domain names. The registrant, according to WHOIS records, is IANA. Prior to 2016, IANA was a function that was a shared responsibility and governed by a web of contractual agreements that included a U.S. federal procurement contract, a Cooperative Agreement, and an Affirmation of Commitments between ICANN, NTIA and VeriSign. As part of the IANA transition, Public Technical Indicators was legally established to house the IANA functions — for the first time creating a single legal entity, wholly owned by ICANN, which also happens to be a domainer — having maintained the registrations for these SCDNs since 1993.

I know, from firsthand experience, that VeriSign leadership is exceptionally rational and almost always acts to maximize value for the company's shareholders. So, if the most obvious route of least resistance that leads to profit is being neglected, then there must be something better on the horizon that just isn't quite apparent yet. Before the much-vaunted community of stakeholders reveals itself to be a cheap floozy that can be bought off with some charitable contributions, maybe they should follow the lead of my 2-year old nephew and start asking — why?

By Greg Thomas, Managing Director of The Viking Group LLC
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