ICANN is lifting restrictions on VeriSign's pricing of .net domains after Jan. 1, 2007, a move that may signal ICANN's intent to get out of the business of regulating domain name pricing. ICANN has historically capped registry fees at either $6 or $4.25 per domain, depending on the top-level domain extension (TLD). The new contract reduces the current .net price cap from $6 to $4.25 through Dec. 31, 2006, but then lifts it altogether. The awarding of the .net registry to VeriSign has already prompted controversy and criticism from competitors.
VeriSign's Tom Galvin noted that the new contract (PDF) gives the company the flexibility to raise prices to invest in its infrastructure, but said VeriSign "will take a prudent approach to any adjustment in .net pricing." VeriSign must give six months' notice of any price change, providing an opportunity for existing domain name owners to lock in existing prices with a multi-year renewal.
Hosting companies have been slashing domain prices in a bid to acquire hosting customers, effectively commoditizing first-time domain registrations. The discounts on new domains have persisted even as resale prices for existing domain names have soared, a disconnect that has encouraged speculative buying of previously unregistered names.
Is Yahoo selling domains for $9.95 or $4.98? That may depend on how and when you navigate to its domain sales page, as Yahoo offers periodic promotions to build interest in its web hosting offerings. On Tuesday, the yahoo.com home page featured domains for $4.98, while ads appearing on Google.com for Yahoo domains were also offering the $4.98 rate. Meanwhile, the smallbusiness.yahoo.com page was listing .com domains for $9.95 a year.
"Yahoo's standard domain price is $9.95, which is offered on our web site and channel wide 24x7," said Yahoo spokesperson Kelley Podboy. "From time to time, we use promotional pricing (e.g. $4.98) to build awareness of our services and reach new business customers in promotional channels, like Yahoo.com, where we run one-day ads several times a month. Due to the limited nature of this advertising, we hope that visitors respond right away. If they don't, they may pay our standard $9.95 price."
Yahoo isn't the only provider offering targeted discounts, as 1&1 Internet features regional pricing differences on .com domains (which are $5.99 on 1&1's U.S. site and 8.89 pounds, or $16.21, at its UK site)
A growing number of hosting companies are offering free domain names to customers who sign up for hosting accounts. The list of providers bundling free domains with hosting plans includes some of the industry's largest hosting specialists, some of whom are including multiple domains with entry-level plans. Major hosting companies have been slashing domain name prices for more than a year as a strategy for attracting small business customers. The widespread use of free domains in hosting packages extends the trend, and is at least partially a response to competition from domain registrars seeking to expand their hosting operations.
1&1 Internet includes a free domain with its $4.99 a month starter hosting plan, and three free domains with its $9.99 a month plan. Yahoo bundles a free domain with its small business hosting accounts, which start at $11.95 a year. Interland includes a free domain with its Value Hosting plan if customers prepay the first year. Netfirms, which sells stand-alone .com domains for $4.95 a year, is offering two free domain names with a $9.95 a month hosting plan.
Pricing on new stand-alone domain names was largely stable this month, with no major changes in leading providers' pricing for one-year .com names.
It didn't take long for popesquatters to try and cash in on domains related to the new pope, Benedict XVI. The PopeBenedictXVI.com domain is for sale on eBay, with a starting price listed at $100,000, and a "buy it now" price of just $250,000. The domain owner is Total Interest Ltd., a Bahamas-based domain company that grabbed the name in February.
Other variations on the papal name taken by former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger are being auctioned at Sedo, where popesquatters Chris and Linda Dunaway of Gatlinsburg, Tenn. are offering an entire portfolio of Benedictine domains, including PopeBenedict.net, PopeBenedict.org, PopeBenedictXVI.net, Pope Benedict.info and PopeBenedictXVI.info.
While Internet betting sites set odds on the identity of the next pope, domain speculators are buying up domains connected to names that might be adopted by the new Catholic leader. Blogger and technology author Rogers Cadenhead admitted to participating in "popesquatting" potential papal domains. "My money's on one of these six names - BenedictXVI, Clement XV, Innocent XIV, Leo XIV, Paul VII, Pius XIII," Cadenhead wrote on his blog. "I mean this literally. I registered all six of these as dot-com domain names earlier this month, which I feared was tacky - to say nothing of soul-imperiling - until I read about the vacant papal see stamp. Clearly I'm not the only baptized Catholic who gets geeked about this process."
Cadenhead has plenty of company. PopeBenedict16.com is already for sale on the domain auction site Sedo. But speculators who are just now thinking about papal names are arriving late to the game. The JohnPaulIII.com domain was registered in 1999 while JohnPaulIII.net was bought last November.
EV1Servers has been approved as an ICANN_accredited domain name registrar, the company said today. The Houston provider was approved for top level domains (TLDs) including .com, .net, .org, .biz, .info and .us. The ICANN approval follows a similar move by The Planet.
"This is great news - for both EV1 and our customers," says Robert Marsh, the company's CEO and Head Surfer, who is on the mend after undergoing open heart surgery last month. Marsh said the company plans to introduce an enhanced domain registration system with new features including DNS management and URL forwarding, which will be available to both new users and owners of the 200,000 domains EV1 currently manages through its reseller relationship with Tucows/OpenSRS. The company will also offer an integrated reseller interface for domain names, SSL certificates and website builder software.