ICANN Approves Auction of O.COM, But Verisign Will Only Get Registry Fee

The ICANN Board approved Verisign’s request to release the o.com domain name via an auction at ICANN 64 held in Kobe, Japan, last week, but on the condition that the .com and .net registry is only able to recoup the standard registry fee (currently $7.85), with the remaining proceeds going to charitable cause. The release could prove to be a precedent for releasing the remaining 22 single character .com domains.

It’s taken close to 1.5 years since Verisign submitted a registry service request in November 2017 to conduct a trial for the release of one .com domain name with a single-character label, o.com, through an auction and to disburse the auction proceeds toward areas of public good for the Internet community, consistent with ICANN org’s Single-Character Second-Level Domain Name (SCSLD) Allocation Framework.

No significant security or stability issues were identified by ICANN, but competition issues were raised. So on 7 December 2017, ICANN org referred the matter to the United States Department of Justice. On 14 December, the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice communicated to ICANN that it did not intend to open an investigation on the matter.

Following a preliminary determination of approval of the proposed registry service, ICANN posted the proposed Amendment to the .com Registry Agreement to enable the implementation of the service for public comment from 10 May 2018 to 20 June 2018.

ICANN, various groups in the GNSO and the community all recommended release the domain name and follows ICANN allowing the release of single character domain names in a number of legacy gTLDs including .org, .biz, .info, .mobi, and .pro. Further, single-character names are not required to be reserved for gTLDs introduced as part of the New gTLD Program.

Following the auction, in which it’s uncertain how many participants there will be apart from Overstock, which was granted a trademark for o.com, I think, in 2012 and has registered o.co, the winning registrant must: (i) submit the entire amount of the winning bid within fourteen (14) calendar days from the date on which it was determined to be the winner, and (ii) commit to submitting to the Trust five percent (5%) of the First Instalment of the Winning Bid for each year that the domain name is renewed after expiration of the initial five (5) year registration period (each a “Subsequent Instalment”) up until, and including, the twenty-fifth (25th) year the winning registrant renews the single-character domain name.

The Subsequent Instalments are intended to encourage a continuous funding stream to the non-profit organisation(s) up until the expiration of the Subsequent Instalment. By way of example, if the auction took place in 2020 and the winning bid was $10,000, the first instalment of the winning bid for the single-character domain name would be $10,000 and be paid in 2020, and the Subsequent Instalment for each year after the five (5) year initial term would be $500 and be paid in 2026 through 2045 (i.e., 5% of the first instalment of the winning bid).