ICANN on Namecheap decision: it was a mixed bag

After pointing out that Namecheap didn’t get everything it asked for, ICANN says it’s up to the organization what to do with the decision.

Blue background with a white globe and the word ICANN for Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers

ICANN has published its spin on the Independent Review Panel decision in the complaint brought by Namecheap over removing price caps on legacy top level domains.

Not surprisingly, it points out that Namecheap didn’t get a total victory. But it admits neither did ICANN.

After explaining what Namecheap didn’t convince the panel of, ICANN stated:

Ultimately, however, the IRP panel found that ICANN’s approval of the 2019 Registry Agreements for .INFO and .ORG without price controls violated the Articles and/or Bylaws in a few ways, including ICANN was not sufficiently transparent in its decision making, the Board did not, but should have made the decision about these particular Registry Agreement renewals, and ICANN did not follow procedures for ensuring promotion of the global public interest.

ICANN pointed out that the IRP panel recommended but did not order ICANN’s board to analyze and discuss what next steps to take.

The full panel decision is here (pdf).

Here’s my take on what has happened: ICANN’s staff went into the process of removing price caps on legacy TLDs with the pre-determined decision to remove them. Sure, it went through some of the motions of transparency (e.g., community feedback). But it knew all along it was going to remove them. The organization doesn’t want to be a price regulator.

Now, the panel has pointed out that it should have done more. It should have been more transparent and actually considered all parties. Instead, it just considered what was in the best interests of ICANN (the organization).

I’m not sure that .org and .info will ever have price caps again. But I think the decision could impact future decisions for .com. If the U.S. government ever removes price caps on .com domains, ICANN will have to be more deliberate in its process.

And I’ll repeat this: with the exception of .com, top level domains don’t really have market power over new registrations. But they sure as heck do over renewals. Once you build a site on a domain, the switching costs are enormous.

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