auDA’s PRP are ruining 30 years of trust and value in Australian Domain Names

auda policy review panel 2018

After 8 months of deliberations, in February this year, the PRP went on an Australian road-trip to share their “proposal for the future of the .au domain space” in a live-forum format.

Suffice to say, some of the PRP’s biggest proposals were mostly seen as a giant flop and now they have back-pedalled on two of their main recommendations for how to implement Direct .AU Registrations.

A NameBid article pointed out that around a mere 50 people attended the live forums across Australia.

To put this dismal number in perspective, there are 3.1 million Australian domain names in existence, and only around 50 people came to the Australian turn out.

But, out of those 50 people, many of them must have been clearly dissatisfied with the proposals on offer, as many of them took to public forums and contacted dozens of domain name and IT-news sources to instigate negative public articles about the proposals.

myob.com/au/blog/business-affected-auda-proposed-domain-shake-up

smartcompany.com.au/technology/seo/smes-demand-answers-auda-introduction-au-domain

smartcompany.com.au/technology/businesses-argue-consultation-on-au-domains-ignored-them

The most notable policy recommendations that were called out as being “crazy” and overshadowed everything else the PRP were trying to achieve, were to do with upcoming Direct .AU Registration implementation.

There was the 50/50 coin-flip lottery policy.

It was suggested by the PRP that owning your Direct .AU domain name (once Direct Registrations were introduced) should go to a “lucky dip”.

In their own words, the PRP described this option as:

Lottery / Random: This model allocates the SLD on a random basis. For example, a lottery system would require registrants interested in registering the SLD to purchase a lottery ticket. A registrant would be able to purchase a lottery ticket for each domain name licence held by them. For example, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation would be able to purchase a lottery ticket for abc.net.au and abc.com.au. The winner of the lottery would have the right to register the SLD. Where only one registrant purchased a ticket for any given lottery that registrant would automatically be given the right to register the SLD. The benefit of this approach is that all registrants who purchase a lottery ticket will have an equal chance of winning the lottery.

Seriously?

How did this idea even get past staying on the whiteboard for more than 5 minutes, let alone being officially recommended on paper?

Then there was the “cut-off date” recommendation.

This was being proposed to be implemented as at 18th April, 2016. This meant that if you’d bought a domain name AFTER 18th April, 2016, you would NOT BE ENTITLED to own the Direct .AU matching version of your domain name.

Thousands of domain names had been purchased after that date, for thousands of dollars, including Fetch.com.au for $132,000 (sold by DBR in 2017).

How could they not have thought about this at the initial point of the cut-off date idea being created?

As you can imagine, these recommendations were publicly shot-down by the domain name industry and business people alike.

The PRP finally acknowledged that the above recommendations were a bad idea when they posted a PUBLIC BACKPEDAL announcement on 12th June 2018, as an Interim Report.

In response to why they are no longer going to be promoting a “lottery system” for winning a Direct .AU matching domain name, they said:

A version of this model was proposed as a ‘straw person’ model at public forums, and received some support, but also harsh criticism. Accordingly, the Panel has decided against this model because:

• Although a lottery is perceived to be fair, many domain names may not be allocated to the ‘best’ or most logical owner of the domain name.

• The Panel noted suggestions raised at the public forums that an appropriate system for the implementation of direct registration would be ‘least harm for maximum benefit’. The Panel notes concerns that the lottery approach for contested domains may create ‘random harm’.

I’m not sure how they assumed a “lottery system” would be perceived to be “fair” at all? In any way, shape or form. And I’m sure they’d only be able to count on one hand the number of people who showed “some support” for this concept.

What this clearly shows to me, is that there are one or two people on the PRP who are clearly against domain name investors (aka Domainers).

It is starting to look like Domain Name Investors, and anyone who owns more than a few domain names, is clearly being targeted by one or two people in the current PRP.

This article comes to mind (and I will be expanding on this in my next article).

Both ideas (Lottery and Cut-Off Date) should have been shot down at the initial “bright idea” phase, the moment the person who came up with it, suggested it.

There are many more issues to be discussed in the future, regarding Direct .AU Registrations, but it sure feels good that these two silly ideas have been successfully shot down.

The PRP still don’t seem to have their proper thinking-caps on though. Because, in this latest Interim Report (see section 4.5), the PRP have decided an all-new cut-off date should be implemented as at 4th February, 2018.

I publicly stood up in Perth when the very first cut-off date was mentioned and I verbally informed the PRP there was NO WAY the cut off date was going to be the 18th April, 2016. And from the feedback I received from the other public forums that took place, a large majority agreed. For the simple fact that, it was a crazy idea, it didn’t make sense, that thousands of domain names had been bought for thousands of dollars after that date, and… most notably…  that as of that exact moment, the PRP was DESTROYING THE VALUE OF .COM.AU DOMAIN NAMES going forward. Because, in effect, who would want to buy a .com.au domain name after that date, if they knew they wouldn’t be entitled to the matching Direct .AU when it became available.

The most worrying point is, the PRP KNEW people had bought domain names after that cut-off date. For tens of thousands of dollars, on public record. Yet, they wanted the cut-off date to retroactively be implemented anyway.

A really good question to ask at this point would be; for what purpose?

By simply nudging the cut-off date to 4th February, 2018, all the PRP have done is continue to wreck the value and trust of Australian domain names.

Who wants to buy a domain name off the drop platforms in 2018? Knowing there’s no chance of owning the Direct .AU matching domain?

NO ONE.

Whether it’s a domain name investor or an end-user buying a dropped domain they’ve been dreaming of owning for a decade, the value of domain names have now been reduced to rubble, for as long as a “cut-off date” exists without a Direct .AU implementation date.

It’s not only the value of our domain names that are being ruined, but also the trust in their future use, the industry, the governing body and the policy system in general.

Since 2007, auDA have been discussing bringing in Direct .AU Registrations, as mentioned on Page 1 of this document.

That’s over 10 years ago. 

auDA have been trying to get a green light and implement Direct .AU Registrations FOR OVER TEN YEARS!

And just two weeks ago, the PRP, in their Interim Report acknowledged they HAVE NO IDEA when Direct .AU Registrations will come into being:

The Panel originally proposed a cut-off date of 18 April 2016. This was when the auDA Board announced its approval of, and intention to implement, direct registration.

However, if direct registration is not implemented until late 2019 or 2020, there is then a long period of time between the cut-off date and the launch date. This may unacceptably hurt a significant number of new businesses, especially those that are unaware that direct registration is coming

Is it going to take another 10 years to actually implement Direct .AU Registrations?

Is the PRP going to keep nudging the cut-off date every six months over multiple years?

The PRP are currently directly responsible for hurting the value and trust of our existing Australian domain names.

30 years of .com.au trust and value are being RUINED in a few short months by one or two people on the current PRP coming up with and promoting ongoing crazy cut-off dates out of thin air.

This is what the PRP need to do right now:

ADMIT they have no idea when Direct .AU Registrations are going to be introduced and PUBLICLY STATE there will be NO CUT OFF DATE until the general public are informed of an exact date and year of when Direct .AU Registrations are actually going to be implemented.

I write this next sentence directly to John Swinson, Chair of the current PRP.

John; as Chair of the PRP, this boils down to you shooting down crazy ideas being dreamed up by one or two individuals that are catastrophic to the current and future value and trust of Australian domain names.

Perhaps it’s time to remove one or two people from the PRP who are responsible for clearly leading us in this wrong direction?

Enough damage has already been done this year.

Please act quickly.