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Is WLS the Right Mechanism to Protect Consumers?

You might want to look at materials made at the time when we (the ICANN board) voted on WLS:

First of all there’s the official minutes at:


I’d like to mention that the “friendly amendment” to notify the prior owner came from me. I personally consider that change - to notify the existing owner - to have significantly changed, and improved, the dynamics of WLS.

Then there’s my diary entry at:


As you can see, I voted against WLS for many reasons.

The claim that the *only* way that reliable wait listing can be done by *the* registry is not true. The registrars could, as a technical matter, if they chose to do so, “wrap” the registry with a new entity that mediates all acquisitions and releases. Whether this accords with ICANN’s hyper intricate contractual scheme or with laws against restraint of trade, I don’t know.

Personally I consider WLS to be contrary to the idea that a contract contains an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing - it seems to me that WLS violates that implied covenant - It is as if my doctor is selling contracts on parts of my body should I die while under his care.

As I see it the registry has one purpose in the contract: to maintain a registrant’s domain name records in good working order. And it seems that the registry is taking advantage of its privileged relationship with the domain name registrant to obtain a profit out of information that would be valuable to the domain name registrant…if the registrant were given the full details by the registry.

Part of what sustains WLS is the $6 yearly registry fee. That fee makes it unlikely that someone could set up a viable business in which they buy up the right to continue a registration contract from registrants who no longer want to retain a given name. Yet that $6 fee, far from being a nice low floor, is actually an artificial price prop, far in excess of the actual costs once the costs of periodic billing (and ICANN’s unjustifiable 10 year limit on registrations) is factored out.

If the registry price reflected actual costs, particularly if truly long term registration contracts were allowed by ICANN, then it would be possible for third parties to buy up no-longer desired domain name contracts without being burdened by artificially inflated registry charges.

WLS is hardly a mechanism to protect consumers - if it were, the existing domain name holder would be able to share in proceeds of the sale of the name to the successor. But WLS is something quite different - it is a system in which one party to a contract, the registry, takes unfair advantage of the other party to the contract, the domain name registrant, by withholding from the registrant, information about the resale value of that registrant’s right to renew, and sell, the registrant’s contractual right to the domain name.

By Karl Auerbach, Chief Technical Officer at InterWorking Labs

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