Apparently ICANN has largely solved a problem with “domain tasting” using relatively straightforward economic means, which is cool and I wish we could see more systemic problems on the Internet approached this way. For those who don’t know (and I was one of these people), here’s what domain tasting is:

The move was intended to stop “domain tasting,” where someone registers a raft of domain names and then monitors those domains for up to five days to see which domains attract a lot of visitors. If the domain looks like a loser, a person could get a refund within five days, called the Add Grace Period.

The grace period is intended to allow people to be refunded, for example, if they made a spelling mistake while registering a domain. But many specialize in abusing the grace period by setting up thousands of Web sites crammed with advertising links on newly registered domains. If the advertising revenue exceeded the registration fees, the domain would be kept.

Pretty evil. Anyway, they’ve started to only refund part of the cost for the domains which are released after the grace period. At first they just kept $0.20 per domain, which didn’t have much effect, but more recently they’ve increased it to $6.75 per domain. The results are apparently impressive:

In a report, ICANN said Add Grace Period deletions for registries that have implemented the policy have dropped 99.7 percent between June 2008 to April 2009.

Cool beans! Now we just need to get other smart people thinking about where we can leverage simple economic ideas like this rather than spinning our wheels fighting technical battles.

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