ICANN Consults on Plan to Allow Verisign to Auction O.COM

Following getting the approval of the Justice Department to release the o.com, ICANN is now consulting on the best method to auction off the domain name. It’s possible that following the consultation other single letter .com domain names will be released, of which only 3 have previously been released.

The process comes about after the .com registry Verisign submitted a request to release for registration o.com. ICANN reviewed Verisign’s proposal and determined it does not raise significant Security or Stability issues. However, ICANN determined it might raise significant competition issues. On 7 December 2017, ICANN referred the matter to the appropriate governmental competition authority, the United States Department of Justice, and on 14 December 2017, the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice advised it did not intend to open an investigation on the matter. Upon approving the proposed Registry Service, ICANN determined the Registry Service requires an amendment to the .COM Registry Agreement.

Under the proposed amendment, o.com will be allocated through an auction process with any proceeds, apart from standard registry registration fees, going to one or more non-profits to benefit the Internet community in general. The proposal also notes that the winning bidder will be required to pay 5% of the winning bid in annual registration fees (fees going to the non-profit benefitting the internet community) from the 5th to the 25th year, with the winning bid being the fee for the first 5 years.

Single characters were approved to be released for .coop and .mobi in 2008, and then subsequently for .asia, .cat, .info, .org, .pro, .tel and .travel. Single-character names are not required to be reserved for gTLDs introduced as part of the New gTLD Program.

As Domain Incite reports, there may be only one bidder in an auction as Overstock has a trademark in the US for the domain name.

For more on the announcement and the proposed amendment to the .com Registry Agreement, see:
https://www.icann.org/public-comments/o-com-single-char-2018-05-10-en

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