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Standing Up to ICANN to Keep Domain Prices in Check

Earlier this year, ICANN announced that it would remove historical price caps for the .org top-level domain (TLD) from the Public Interest Registry (PIR) contract. Namecheap immediately encouraged Internet users to submit comments to ICANN in support of keeping the price caps for .org and other legacy TLDs (such as .biz, .asia, and .info).

Our concern was (and still is) that removing this price cap for these legacy (pre-2012) TLDs could lead to large and unpredictable price increases that would harm Internet users and stifle innovation. You can read more about this in our earlier blog post: Help Keep Domain Prices in Check.

We were overwhelmed by the extraordinary response – over 3,500 comments! After analyzing them carefully, we found that:

  • 20% of comments were submitted by Namecheap customers
  • 98% of comments supported keeping the price caps
  • 0.25% of comments wanted to remove price caps
  • 13% of comments were from nonprofits
  • 34% of comments were from domain name registrants with domains in the .org, .info, or .biz TLDs (34%)

Despite the fact that almost every comment supported keeping price caps, ICANN decided to ignore this advice and removed the caps. ICANN’s reasoning is that, in the event of a price increase, registrants could move to other TLDs or quickly renew domain names for 10 years prior to the change taking effect. In doing so, ICANN explicitly ignored feedback provided by many commenters:

  • Using a .org domain name is critical to a nonprofit: it is well-known, safe, and trusted. There are no equivalent or relevant TLD that has the established reputation of .org.
  • Many have been using a .org domain name for years, and the cost and risk of moving to another TLD (e.g. losing search engine rankings, notifying the public of the new TLD, etc) causes great concern.
  • If prices increase too much, registrants might abandon using a domain name in order to use another platform with price certainty. This includes relying solely on social media or mobile apps.
  • Concern that ICANN’s decision only benefits the PIR and not registrants of .org or the Internet in general.
  • Why now? The PIR is purely maintaining the .org registry and not undertaking development initiatives that would benefit registrants or require additional resources.
  • Concern that removing the price cap for .org would also lead to removing the price cap for the .com registry agreement (which is subject to renewal in 2024, is the largest TLD by far, and because it is commercial in nature, is more likely to lead to price increases).

There were many emotional stories from commenters, often doing thankless and tireless work to provide humanitarian support all over the world. This includes suicide prevention, combatting human trafficking, helping disabled children, supporting people with life-threatening medical conditions, overcoming government censorship, and helping people in the poorest regions of the world. These commenters showed how any price increase in their domain name registration will hurt their important efforts, resulting in actual harm to people.

At Namecheap, we cannot understand why ICANN ignored the overwhelming voice of the Internet community and would decide to allow unrestricted price increases in legacy TLDs. We decided to stand up to ICANN on behalf of our customers, and the Internet community as a whole, on this very important issue by filing a Request for Reconsideration. This is a process through ICANN’s bylaws that requires ICANN’s board of directors to formally reconsider this wrong decision by ICANN staff. ICANN has 90 days to initially respond to Namecheap’s request, and we’ll update you when there is more information.

You can read more about Namecheap’s Request for Reconsideration, including additional analysis and more stories from commenters, on ICANN’s website at Request 19-2: Namecheap, Inc.

Namecheap remains committed to keeping domain name prices predictable and any price increases reasonable (as they always have been for legacy TLDs). We are also considering other options in the event that ICANN decides to ignore its own bylaws and the voice of the entire Internet community.

Sincerely,
Richard Kirkendall
CEO Namecheap

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