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A visual of the rise and fall of domain tasting

dot comRemember domain tasting? At its worst, millions of domain names were yanked up and dropped every day in this rather nasty scheme that abused the five-day “add grace period” for domain registrations. Things were bad, really bad. Back in 2006-2007, a full 94% of domain registrations were the result of domain tasting, only 6% were legitimate, permanent registrations.

Domain tasting was largely killed off by some policy changes from ICANN in 2008 (with a final death blow early in 2009), so we thought it was interesting to see this historical chart of .com domain names that actually showed visual evidence of the practice, and when it disappeared.

The chart below shows the number of registered .com domain names over time. We wondered about the jaggedness at first, but quickly realized that what we were seeing was the result of the massive domain tasting that was going on at that time.

dot com domain names over time

The chart is from Registrar Stats (we just added the rectangle to clearly point out the affected time period). Look how jagged that chart is from 2006 to 2008, when domain tasting really got out of hand, and then look how that suddenly stopped in 2008.

Interesting, isn’t it? If we had been able to zoom in, we would have seen even more drastic ups and downs during that period.

And on a side note, judging by that graph it looks like there will soon be more than 100 million registered .com domain names. That’ll be quite a milestone.

Uhm… what is domain tasting again?

Just in case you never heard of it, or forgot, domain tasting was a somewhat shady practice used by some domain registrars (even some major ones), i.e. the companies you register your domain names through.

A loophole allowed registrars to register a domain name at no cost as long as they returned it within five days (the five-day add grace period). They could essentially try out domain names for five days and give them a taste, so to speak. Hence the label “domain tasting.”

Why was this a big deal? Because someone finally decided to do this on a massive scale.

Automated systems “tasted” millions domain names for up to five days, connected them to landing pages full of ads, and looked at how they performed. Some domain names would get enough traffic to warrant keeping them and paying the registration fee, most would be dropped. If nothing else, the registrar got five days of free traffic out of them.

The most affected top-level domain by far was .com. Not so strange, since it’s also by far the most widely used. That’s why the chart above really shows the effect.

More info

For more information and stats about domain tasting, check out this article:

The legacy of domain tasting: 380 million deleted domain names

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