Actually the WLS doesn't even need for a name to expire - it takes money from people every year just in case a domain may expire.Agreed. But with a 30 day grace period in effect for expiring domains most of the demand for expiring domains would go away, because most of the desirable names wouldn't drop. I let a name I never got around to using drop and 30 days after it became available it remains unregistered. It would have once been considered a desirable name, certainly more desirable than much of the drek on afternic/greatdomains. But those registering expired names aren't that interested in the string itself any more.
Many (probably most) expiring names were held by speculators who never used them and gave up on trying to sell them. If they couldn't sell them before the economy took a downturn, and before there were new gTLDs and ever increasing repurposed ccTLDs, who in their right mind would buy them for resale now? Admittedly there are some speculators who seem to suffer from a sort of collector mania, purchasing new or dropped names that only they see any value in, but those numbers have dropped off precipitously and aren't sufficient to generate much income for SnapNames, VeriSign, et al. It isn't enough to keep the industry afloat.
Those who are hoovering up expired domains go after the pre-owned, pre-used, ready made traffic catchers, those sites that have links in, are listed in search engines, and get substantial traffic. I suspect most who own such domain names have no intention of letting them drop, certainly most of the stories of dropjacking I've heard (and I now hear them almost every day), some mentioned via here, involved inadvertent loss.
The grace period would presumably cut down substantially on such inadvertent losses, and therefore on the market for expired names. As there isn't much profit to be had for registrars/registries these days I suspect that ICANN will allow a service charge to redeem these names that is in excess of actual cost, not least because if the registrars/registries aren't making a profit, that cuts into ICANN funding, perhaps even their stability.
My praise for the grace period seems to have been premature. I fail to see why it couldn't have been enacted at Accra. ICANN put it off for discussion on technical issues but what are these issues? Each registrar already has a grace period, from zero days to 30 days or more. There is no technical issue involved in ICANN telling registrars to synch their grace period at a minimum of 30 days. In the meantime, VeriSign tries to push through the WLS so that they can sell as many slots as possible while the market still exists. I am heartened to see that the WLS is being actively opposed, but I have a sneaking suspicion that ICANN may use the grace period issue as an excuse to allow VeriSign to go ahead with the WLS in some fashion. Regardless, ICANN will have to handle this in some way that continues to provide them income while they wait for governments to bail them out.
This is extremely shortsighted because at least some of the inadvertently dropped names were arguably the fault of VeriSign. Some who have lost their names have suffered considerable loss of money and/or reputation. I wouldn't be the least surprised to see VeriSign sued over this, perhaps in a class action. It isn't inconceivable that ICANN could be dragged into it as well, becoming another nail in their coffin. The EFF has now shown it is willing to go after ICANN, perhaps those who registered and used domains in good faith only to have them dropjacked also could use some representation. As with the current slamming by VeriSign, leaving themselves open to such litigation shows just how desparate VeriSign/ICANN are becoming. -g