The RegisterFly clusterf**ck took a major step towards resolution today with the official announcement by ICANN that GoDaddy will take control of the approximately 850,000 domain names still in the clutches of RegisterFly CEO Kevin Medina. The internet rumors of a GoDaddy takeover turned out to be true, and Medina now can devote himself completely to fending off the angry public with whatever resources he has left.
At one time, RegisterFly controlled two million domains, but a bitter personal breakup between the two founders led eventually to bizarre personal attacks, acrimonious litigation, and ultimately to the loss of ICANN accreditation.
“The RegisterFly situation has been extremely difficult – first and foremost for registrants, as well as for the entire registry and registrar community,” said Dr Paul Twomey, ICANN’s President and CEO. “ICANN had been actively seeking participants to act as a transfer provider to bulk transfer RegisterFly records to another accredited registrar. We have ended that process because the GoDaddy.com agreement is a better solution for RegisterFly customers since it's a direct and automatic transfer to a competent and experienced customer service oriented organization.”
More surprising than the transfer to GoDaddy, which had been rumored for a while, is the uncharacteristic goodwill demonstrated by Verisign, the registry that for all intents and purposes now owns the .com registry in perpetuity. A company more accustomed to screwing the public than to empathizing with it, Verisign agreed to waive potentially lucrative transfer fees. ICANN also tipped its hat to the other registries involved - Afilias, GNR, NeuStar, and PIR - for forgoing potential transfer fees, as well as to the registrar Tucows, which provided technical help with the move.
ICANN's official position is that registrants don't actually own their domains - they just rent the space, as it were. Trademark attorneys could take issue with this, but more important is the public perception of ICANN's credibility; a registrant who loses an internet-based business due to an error or omission by an accredited registrar doesn't care about the nuances of ICANN's legal opinion on a registrant's status as a potential third party beneficiary of ICANN's Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA). He or she just wants his (or her) business back.
Here at El Reg we sincerely hope that the RegisterFly disaster will be a positive lesson for ICANN, and provide the impetus needed for the revision of the RAA that is clearly overdue. A transparent and public auditing system for registrars should be the first order of business.®
Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office