Domain Name Goldrush Part 7 – WLS Gets ICANN Approval

Lee Hodgson

As predicted in Part 6 of the Domain Name Goldrush Series, the WLS has been given the go-ahead! After a long delay, ICANN recently approved the introduction of VeriSign’s "Wait Listing Service" (WLS).

For those of you who aren’t familiar with WLS, it’s a registry-level, first-come first-served subscription service for the automatic registration of deleted domain names. It is largely based on SnapName’s successful SnapBack(TM) backordering system, and indeed, VeriSign has partnered with SnapNames to design and produce the WLS system.

Once WLS launches, any deleting .com or .net domain name (.org names will not be included) that has a WLS order on it will no longer be "fought over" by ICANN registrars and the various name grabbing services. Instead, it will automatically be allocated to the WLS position holder for that name.

In other words, the days of name-grabbing by registrars will be over for some names, replaced by a first-come first-served back ordering system. Names will only ever drop if they haven’t already been subscribed to.

So when will this new system be implemented? There’s no clear answer to that question yet. As one of the conditions of their approval the system, ICANN specified that:

Subscriptions under the WLS in the .com and .net top-level domains shall not be taken by VeriSign Global Registry Services until at least six months have elapsed after implementation of the Redemption Grace Period for all deleted names in those top-level domains.

Since the "Redemption Grace Period" has not yet been implemented, it seems that we are still many months away from the launch of WLS.

Other conditions attached by ICANN are also of interest. In particular:

No preference in connection with, or exclusion from, WLS shall be given because of any registrar-level reservation service.

This means that SnapBack subscriptions won’t automatically be converted by the Registry into WLS subscriptions on the same name. However, SnapNames and its registrar partners intend to convert SnapBacks to WLS orders.

In other words, your SnapBack subscriptions will not become obsolete once WLS is launched. The minimum guarantee SnapNames has given is that they will convert each and every SnapBack order into a WLS subscription without charge. They’ll try for the name on which you had the SnapBack, and if that isn’t available, you’ll be able to select a different name — just like today’s exchange guarantee.

It should be noted that WLS has only been approved on a 12-month trial basis. However, given the changes required by the registry, registrars, and the consumer in converting to WLS, as well as the momentum the system will inevitably build, you don’t have to be a genius to work out that WLS is likely to be with us for a long time to come.

While many domain speculators, who have based their business models on the infinite intricacies of name grabbing during domain drops, are up in arms about WLS, most consumers will find it a more straightforward, fair and accessible system. They’ll know that in the future, if they subscribe to a particular domain name and the previous owner doesn’t renew, they will get the name. It doesn’t get much fairer than that.

As someone who has spent countless hours trying to explain to bewildered customers how the current domain drop system works, I, for one, look forward to this new more consumer-friendly system.

Bring on the brave new expiring domains world!

How much do you know about the dropping names industry? Read Lee’s complete series — the index is here.