A growing number of large hosting companies are becoming ICANN-accredited registrars, allowing them to sell domain names directly instead of relying on third-party wholesalers. The Planet is now accredited and is selling domains to existing customers for just $5.99 a year. Another huge dedicated hosting company, EV1Servers.net, says it is also seeking registrar status, citing the approval process as a factor in an extended outage for its online domain registration system.
Becoming a registrar allows hosting companies to eliminate the middleman and capture the fees being paid to their wholesale registrars on each domain. Some may be able to lower their domain prices and pass the savings along to customers. Germany's 1&1 Internet AG, the world's largest hosting specialist, is an accredited registrar and offers .com domain names for just $5.99 a year.
The domain price wars are finally being felt on the high end of the pricing spectrum, as Register.com has lowered its price for a one-year .com from $35 to $30. The move by the second-oldest registrar follows recent decision by the oldest registrar, Network Solutions, to offer price-slashing promotions. Register.com says the change is a "limited time offer." But after years of refusing to lower prices, the industry pioneers seem to be recognizing that the pool of folks who'll pay them $35 for a domain is shrinking.
In other pricing moves, Yahoo has ended its $4.98 a year offer, raising its one-year .com price to $9.95. Also moving to $9.95 this month is RegisterFly, which had previously been at $14.95.
VeriSign received the highest marks in an evaluation of the firms competing to maintain the .net top-level domain (TLD), and appears likely to keep the lucrative registry deal for another six years. The report by Telcordia is influential in the decision on the future of .net, and ICANN indicated it would "promptly enter negotiations with the top-ranked applicant."
The report (PDF) ranked VeriSign slightly ahead of Sentan, followed by Afilias, Denic and CORE++. ICANN will now enter into negotiations with VeriSign, which currently maintains the .com and .net registries. If a deal can't be reached, ICANN would then presumably turn to Sentan, a joint venture between Japan Registry Services and NeuLevel (which maintains the .biz registry). Telcordia's analysis said Sentan is a viable alternative to VeriSign, which in theory should motivate VeriSign to quickly conclude a deal with ICANN. The new registry agreement will take effect July 1.
Dotster is running keyword advertising on tens of thousands of .info domains it recently registered, creating an instant advertising platform that generates revenue for both Dotster and Google. The strategy marks a shift in registrars' efforts to leverage the huge numbers of customer domains "parked" on their servers, which have traditionally been used to market registrars' in-house offerings.
Dotster is converting these parked domains into revenue from text ads served by Google's AdSense for Domains program. The model doesn't always work perfectly, however, as seen at dotster.info, which displays ads for two Dotster competitors, Register.com and Go Daddy.
The January hijacking of panix.com has prompted ICANN to review whether domain registrars can outsource security checks designed to protect domain owners.
In its findings on the panix.com hijacking, ICANN said it is "very concerned" that Australian registrar Melbourne IT relied upon a reseller to confirm the transfer request, and will "review the appropriateness of these arrangements." Panix was never contacted, and thousands of customers of the New York ISP lost service for an entire weekend when panix.com was transferred to an Arizona woman using a free Yahoo email account. Tim Cole, ICANN's chief registrar liaison, called the incident "one of the more serious breaches of its policies by an accredited registrar."
New domain names can't get much cheaper, but the secondary market continues to see big-ticket sales. Local.com was bought for $700,000 Monday by search engine services firm Interchange Corp., which operates the ePilot pay-per-click advertising network.
Pricing was stable in the market for first-time domain registrations, with no major price movements among the largest hosting companies and registrars. Netfirms has the current lowest price for a one-year .com at $4.95. Yahoo once again extended its $4.98 a year "limited time offer" as it launched a new Small Business Resource Center.