We assume the inevitable for much in life. Death, taxes and perpetual domain fees are only some of what we have grown to accept without much thought. We should take a serious look at why we are paying annual domain name fees and question if we have fallen into a trap. From the perspective of those who are collecting that few-dollar fee several hundred million times a year, this is not to be questioned. Cash cows never are. The single domain holder might find this too trivial to consider. Those with a handful of domains may find a bit more interest. The large portfolio manager may find this is a serious expense that could see a remarkable payback as we move from the rental model to ownership.
We should remember that when domains were first established the price was $0. Once it was contracted out to Network Solutions it went to $100 for two years. That price went down to $70 after a successful lawsuit claiming that the other $30 was an unlawful tax. Later the monopoly was modified and they had to start offering a $6 per year wholesale price. While that sound much more reasonable, why isn’t it still $0.
We need to break this into two parts, the domain name and the DNS service. There is a real cost in running DNS servers and payment needs to be made for it. While these costs are real, they are a trivial part of the web and could be made even less so. The TLD operator provides only a small part of the DNS infrastructure. While the TLD is vital, it is still trifle compared to the rest of the DNS.
In reality we are paying for the privilege of saying a given domain is mine as long as I pay the rent. During the rental period I can use it for most anything I see fit. I remain a renter. If I violate the landlord’s terms, or if I somehow cross a line, my rental agreement can be revoked. My holding of the domain is only partially secure.
If I go to a jeweler and buy a ring, it becomes mine, period. It is my option to use it as long as I desire. If, because of some unique characteristic of my ring, others find it more valuable what I paid for it, I am free to sell it at whatever price. If I stick it in a drawer and forget about it, I will not be getting an annual bill for me to keep it. There is no technical reason that this could not be done with domains.
ShofarDomain is starting with the “.own” TLD, and already with others, offering domains for sale rather than rent. We have no annual fee to pay to IANA, or their parent, ICANN, or their perspective parent, the UN. When someone buys a domain, they submit a digital key that we don’t have, and the domain is theirs alone. The first payment is the last payment. Perhaps this is a better model.
Death and taxes will remain inevitable. They are beyond our scope. Perpetual domain fees are a policy that can be changed by technology. This sounds like an idea whose time has come.