For the first time in eight years, price for.com domain names could rise, with the body responsible for overseeing top-level internet domains, ICANN, close granting final approval for a series of price hikes.
As of 2012, the.com registration price has remained at $7.85. Consumers didn’t necessarily see that price— a registrar could have charged you more or less— but that was the price domain registrars that ended up paying per registration.
The price could rise to nearly $13.50 per domain over the next ten years, under a proposed agreement. The agreement allows Verisign to raise the price by up to 7 percent per year over most of the next decade, which has a contract to oversee.com domains. For two years (2024 and 2025), Verisign would be forced to postpone price increases, but would otherwise have the permission to raise prices by 2029 gradually.
The price hikes do not come from ICANN: they come from an agreement reached by Verisign with the Department of Commerce, which has some control of the domains of.com. Göran Marby, CEO of ICANN, writes in a blog post yesterday that the body “is not a price regulator and defers to the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Justice for the regulation of pricing for “.COM” registry services.”
In 2018, Verisign signed an agreement with the Government to raise prices. But it is gaining attention now because, deal with Verisign, ICANN is close to announcing the price increases. Nonetheless, by Marby’s account, there’s nothing ICANN can do— it’s just updating its consent to represent the price changes already agreed.
The government agreement defends price increases by claiming that new top-level domains (such as as.pizza and.camera) and “using social media” have made the domain name market “more competitive.” That’s not precisely wrong, but.com remains the default ending for domains, at least in the U.S.
The change also stems, as Engadget points out, from the desire of the Trump administration to roll back anything that is remotely related to Obama. In a press release for 2018 on the updated change in the agreement, the telecom agency of the Commerce Department referred to the price freeze as “Obama-era price controls.” It said it was abolishing them in favor of “price flexibility.”
ICANN’s deal with Verisign is still not final. A deadline for public comment ends on Friday, then a final report is expected in March.
Domain registrar Namecheap is fighting against the reforms at the last minute. It sent an email to consumers on Monday, called “Help Us Avoid. COM Price Increases,” urging readers to leave a comment about price hikes. Eventually, it may be registrars who feel the most significant impact: if they want to keep the.com price low as a means of hooking consumers and selling them on other services, they may have to reach even more.