Statistics of registrars violating the ICANN domain name transfer policy

In a previous post, I talked about how some domain name registrars have been violating the ICANN transfer policy for years, preventing domain name holders from easily transferring domain names.

I lamented the lack of detailed statistics about how many transfers each registrar rejected. However, it turns out that some of those numbers are actually available right on the ICANN Web site.

Those statistics show exactly how many “outbound” transfers each registrar rejected. Let’s take a look at the May 2009 “.com” statistics for the 5 biggest registrars in the world, keeping in mind that the transfer policy suggests that a transfer should be rejected only in very limited circumstances:

  • GoDaddy: 7,855 of 26,475 (29.7% rejected)
  • eNom: 262 of 22,724 (1.2% rejected)
  • Tucows: 143 of 22,257 (0.6% rejected)
  • Network Solutions: 889 of 17,242 (5.2% rejected)
  • Melbourne IT: 35 of 37,746 (0.1% rejected)

(Our company didn’t reject any, but we’re much smaller and our numbers aren’t statistically significant.)

You can see that GoDaddy and Network Solutions reject far more transfers than the other three. In fact, GoDaddy rejects transfers at a rate that’s about 300 times higher than Melbourne IT and 50 times higher than Tucows. Network Solutions rejects about 50 times as many as Melbourne IT and 9 times as many as Tucows.

In other words, GoDaddy and Network Solutions are far more likely to say “we’re not going to let you move your domain name” than their large competitors. Remember, the transfer policy says that rejections are reserved for exceptional circumstances — but GoDaddy is rejecting almost 30% of them!

GoDaddy and Network Solutions claim they’re rejecting transfers for security reasons (although they both freely admit that “security reasons” include simple contact updates, even though the ICANN policy expressly forbids this). The actual rate of attempted domain name hijacking is almost certainly just a tiny fraction of one percent. Blocking 30%, or even 5%, is absurd.

The obvious conclusion is that GoDaddy and Network Solutions are intentionally inconveniencing domain name holders to make it difficult to switch to another company, and ICANN is letting them get away with it. (After my last post, I got a couple of “please send us the details” messages from people at ICANN, but nothing has happened since. Anyway, I’ve been sending them examples for years, and they could have done something about it a long time ago if they were interested.)

The fundamental problem is that ICANN doesn’t see itself as a regulatory agency. Some registrars routinely violate this and other policies that they’re contractually required to follow (trust me, you don’t want to hear my rant about the EDDP), but nothing happens to them. Is it any wonder that they continue to take advantage of it?

Most of the Internet does fine without any regulation because users have choice — they aren’t locked in to any particular company. But registrars are different. They need oversight because they’re in a position to prevent their domain name customers from easily exercising that choice.

I don’t have much faith that ICANN will fix this — in fact, part c of the new transfer working group charter suggests that some of the existing rules might be removed instead of being enforced. The very premise of that charter, that a “change of registrant […] often figures in hijacking cases”, is utter nonsense, no more accurate than “e-mail addresses containing vowels often figure in hijacking cases”. Both statements are literally true but completely irrelevant. A change of registrant can never reliably suggest hijacking, simply because changes of registrant contact information happen all the time and hijackings don’t.

There’s nothing wrong with the existing transfer rules. Companies like Tucows, Melbourne IT and Tiger Technologies honor them every day. What’s needed is for all registrars to play fair.

In the meantime, if you want to have control of your domain name, you might want to avoid GoDaddy and Network Solutions and pick another registrar instead. We’re a fine choice if you don’t mind paying a little more for quality customer service, but there are plenty of other good choices, too.