DNS Week gave the .pr registry a moment in the spotlight. The LACTLD event was held in San Juan between August 20-23 and was co-sponsored by the registry. To open the festivities, there was a party last Monday to celebrate the 30th anniversary of .pr.
To capitalize on the moment, the registry and its backend provider Afilias jointly issued a press release, which was picked up by Yahoo Finance, as well as several blogs focusing on domain names.
This positive press didn’t sit well with Giancarlo González, former CIO of the island-state. In what a registry official has classified as a “smear campaign,” González published an OpEd blasting the registry for its high prices. His essay also rehashed the 2007 redelegation of .pr, which occurred under dubious circumstances.
For those not familiar with the redelegation, DomainIncite published a good summary in 2011. The domain was managed by a department within the University of Puerto Rico, until the head of this department successfully peitioned IANA to reassign the TLD to his own private company, called Gauss Research Laboratories.
Apart from rehashing this decade-old controversy, González published new criticism of the registry’s pricing policy. The wholesale price of second-level .pr domains is 1000 USD, which the essay argues has led Puerto Rican business to prefer .com domains where the string ends in “pr,” for example “mariospizzapr.com.”
González seems to have been annoyed mainly that Afilias/Gauss called attention to their contribution to the Puerto Rican internet community, when in his mind Gauss has failed to make .pr relevant locally.
The OpEd gained some traction locally, with other bloggers posting about González’s essay and adding their own commentary. All such posts reviewed by Toweb indicated an agreement with González’s arguments.
The chatter was sufficient to garner a response from Gauss. The registry’s EVP Pablo Rodríguez on Thursday gave an interview with Puerto Rico’s leading newspaper El Nuevo Día in which he defended the registry’s actions.
With regards to the high prices, Rodríguez argued that there is no “one size fits all” pricing strategy for TLDs. The 1000 USD fee is a means by which Gauss can “become sustainable and reach the goals (the organization) has set for itself.” Furthermore, he highlights the fact that this price does not/will not apply to all registrants.
Government agencies can currently obtain .pr domains for free and there is a program in the works by which local SMEs could register for 100 USD. Nothing is finalized at this point, but Rodríguez also mentions a plan to offer volume discounts, which presumably would mean that registrar price would be low enough to allow resale at an affordable price.
Beyond pricing, Rodriguéz made reference to the redelegation, although merely to say that the lawsuit filed by the University of Puerto Rico against Gauss would take may year to resolve itself. He also made the aformentioned “smear campaign” remark in response to the timing of González article, which coincided with DNS Week.
So, what do we make of all of this? The criticism of the 2007 redelegation is warranted, as its hard to escape the conclusion that there were significant irregularities with this transition. However, this is old news and González mentions the story here mainly to paint Gauss as a bad actor.
Similarly, González is right that it’s disingenuous on the part of Afilias/Gauss to speak of their impact in Puerto Rico, when there is little awareness of the TLD locally. This flattering language is typical of press releases and we fail to find it insulting, as González apparently has.
I struggle to see the commercial argument for charging 1000 USD for a registration, but Rodríguez comments are technically correct. We can’t expect .pr to adhere to the same business strategy as .xyz, or other TLDs that compete on volume.
In summary, González’s text isn’t the exposée that it appears to be, as his claims are easily addressed by Gauss in an adequate manner. However, it’s good for a registry to get a “kick in the pants” from time to time, so as to avoid complacency. If the program to give SMEs a cheaper price eventually materializes, we can even say that some good came of this.