Justifying The End Result

I read with interest over the weekend a comment that “The Names Policy Panel had extensive public consultation” with regards the implementation of direct registrations.

That was perhaps said to justify the auDA Board’s decision to accept the Names Panel (Majority) Report.

My understanding is that some of the auDA Board and management now realise (albeit privately) that they could have done better.

My opinion has always been that they should have done better. Every single registrant should have been made aware that such a major change was in the offing – and given the chance to comment.

I first raised this issue at the Names Panel last year – and again publicly at the auDA Annual General Meeting.

The Public Consultation

  • There was an Issues Paper in April 2015 which invited people to do a written submission or complete a survey. According to the publicly available Minutes, the Panel received 27 submissions and 375 survey responses (193 complete or partially complete).
  • Then followed the Draft Recommendations in August, 2015. Same public process as above. Survey results were ticking along in a similar vein numbers wise until the “game changer”. When the “game changer” happened, survey numbers went through the roof. The Panel received 30 written submissions and 4,922 survey responses (4,495 complete or partially complete).

What Was The Game Changer?

The publicly available Minutes basically tell you this.

It was noted that this was by far the highest number of responses to an auDA Panel consultation process, stimulated in large part by an EDM sent to customers of a large registrar group.

Comments and survey responses were due by the 30th September, 2015. The Melbourne IT group (NetRegistry, ZipHosting, TPPWholesale, Netfleet, MelbourneIT etc) sent out a mass email to their extensive customer base on Friday 25th September.

I have two views on this. First, good on them for engaging their customer base (I wish I had their mailing list!); but second, I’m disappointed that they chose to so blatantly gloss up all the benefits. Not one mention of any potential negatives or disadvantages (like extra cost etc.).

And to top it off, the Call to Action was “Simply click YES for all questions. Vote now”.

You be the judge though. If you got this email, and you’d never heard a thing about what was going on, what would you do?

MelbIT email

Once the Supply side of the domain industry put their weight and resources behind the push for direct registrations, it was always going to happen. The auDA Board had “facts” to justify their actions.

Forget about engaging the mass of registrants out there (there are approximately 1,700,000 individual registrants in our namespace – figures courtesy of AusRegistry).

The Boat Has Sailed

Whilst I will never stop being a voice of opposition to what has happened in the past, there isn’t a lot we can practically do about it. That boat has sailed now.

The destination is implementation – and proper rights protection for existing registrants. That’s where all my attention is going to be focused.

Anyway, that’s my opinion. What do you think?


Disclaimer

Disclaimer 2

31 thoughts on “Justifying The End Result

  • April 26, 2016 at 11:15 am
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    Certainly, they emphasized the pros and ignored the cons altogether.  Pretty much what we’d expect in a sales pitch.

    1. “The option of a shorter domain name …”

    =

    The obligation of paying for a shorter domain name in addition to the longer domain you already pay for.

    +

    The risk of someone else owning a shorter domain name that otherwise matches yours.

    2. “Reducing the risk of misdirected traffic through customers misremembering addresses, for example typing .net.au instead of .com.au”

    =

    Exacerbating the risk of misdirected traffic as customers mistakenly type .au instead of .com.au or .net.au (or vice versa)

    Their third bullet point seems quite sound:

    3. “Providing shorter addresses without sacrificing the visibility and trust associated with an .au domain.”

    I’d see that remark as being aimed principally at the new gTLDs.

    As for their point about overseas adoption of .UK and .NZ, that’s quite dubious.  Even though I think those 2LDs will ultimately be embraced, that’s something we’d see in the future – not currently.

  • April 26, 2016 at 12:06 pm
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    Its sad too see that we are a world driven by money and big business, Who will end up with business.au or news.au will anyone have a chance at pokies.au or will it be who has the deepest pockets will be the ones who will end up with the premium names imagine bank.au or banking.au are these already assigned to who has the .com.au or will they be open to all

    Anonymous likes this.
  • tim
    April 26, 2016 at 1:02 pm
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    i love the bit about people getting confused over .net.au ! i have some lowwwwwwww brow clients and even they know .net.au is crap

    hardly an important point to bring up, more so a filler so they didn’t put extra cost in ?

    tim

  • April 26, 2016 at 6:55 pm
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    It will be interesting for the auDA board when the 1.6 million wake up and realise they have to pay twice as much.

    If I ran MelbourneIT I’d be worried about people investigating cheaper options and making sure we had one (like Ziphosting).

     

     

  • April 26, 2016 at 8:12 pm
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    Let’s not forget Ned, that I did this simply copying exactly what you were doing. Perhaps you could show me where you where you were highlighting the ‘pros’ in your posting to your readers?

    By copying your approach I mean literally I read what you were doing to agitate the no vote and I simply adopted to suit. What exactly did I do differently to you, other than offer a completely opposed view.

    I’d also note that we didn’t force anyone to take the survey. We stated our case, and the bulk of small businesses made their own choice and said they agreed, the same small business you keep saying your arguing on the behalf of. Honestly Ned I’d have far more respect for you if you simply said this is going to completely f^&k the value of my portfolio and I’m going down swinging.

    What I find ironically funny is you keep on banging on about ‘confusion’ and ‘higher’ costs, but you don’t seem at all fazed by the notion of explaining to a small business that someone could buy a name, do nothing with it, and in all probability bought it simply to sit on and sell, and ask literally hundreds of times the face value of the domain – but that kind of ‘higher cost and confusion’ is seemingly ok? I’m sure this will be a popular opinion with domainers and they’ll try to put forward all kinds of creative analogies as to why it’s ok – which QED somewhat proves the point of hypocrisy.

    Ned, domainers on the whole create nothing, add zero value to the space, and exist solely because of market inefficiency trading on effectively an arbitrage. At some point the market always overcomes inefficiencies and the ability to profit from arbitrage disappear. That’s basic market economics. I’d say you and the domainer community are rightly terrified that second level registrations screw your business model, maybe that’s a better conversation to have, rather than disingenuously speaking on behalf of small and micro business who you routinely exploit.

    As a standard disclaimer, these comments are my own, and are unrelated to the view of my employer.

    • April 26, 2016 at 8:30 pm
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      I’d say you and the domainer community are rightly terrified that second level registrations screw your business model, maybe that’s a better conversation to have, rather than disingenuously speaking on behalf of small and micro business who you routinely exploit.

      I for one don’t see it screwing my business model at all, most likely the opposite. I will directly benefit from the introduction of .au, however I don’t see it as a necessary change to the namespace.

      • April 26, 2016 at 8:38 pm
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        @joel – as it turns out I completely agree with you. If I was a domainer, I’d see it as an opportunity.

        Most of the noise I observe is from people with questionable portfolios and the talk is around divesting low value / long tail domains. I think the better domains will be completely unaffected in the short/medium term.

    • April 26, 2016 at 8:41 pm
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      And for the record your employer is MelbourneIT right?

    • Ned O'Meara
      April 26, 2016 at 9:09 pm
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      Hi Brett,

      Firstly, glad you’re reading my blog. Secondly, thanks for taking the time to reply.

      I have a great deal of respect for you; and genuinely like you. As I have written, this Names Panel process has severed a couple of friendships, and strained a few others. I hope we are simply in the latter category.

      The article you refer to was not mine. I played by the rules. Have a look at my posts in chronological order.

      August 21

      August 23

      The first time I spoke for my side was after you initiated things from your side with a blog post.

      September 9

      This is what I said:

      “Throughout the consultation period of the Names Panel, I have publicly repected the process, and kept my opinions to myself.

      Recently I’ve noticed a few members of the Names Panel have been publicly voicing their preferences for .au – in particular there was this blog article on TPPWholesale by Brett Fenton (Brett is currently the Chief Customer Officer of Melbourne IT Group). The obligatory disclaimer states that this is his personal view and not necessarily reflective of the company’s views.

      I like Brett – and have always found him to be a straight shooter. However, he does represent entities that have “skin in the game”.

      What fired me up was this quote from his blog article:

      “The other area of resistance to the proposed change is from the ‘domainer’ community. Domainers buy domains purely to sell later at a profit, and monetise their domain portfolio through the traffic that arrives at the domain. You could say domainers have a vested interest in the discussion around opening up second level registrations as more choice in the marketplace could potentially make their existing .com.au domains less valuable”.

      The reason I am upset by this is that I am a TPP Wholesale customer with many hundreds of domains under their management.”

      • Luke Summers
        April 26, 2016 at 9:38 pm
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        The article you refer to was not mine.

        I can confirm Ned’s comment on that Brett, the article in question was written and published by me.

    • Ned O'Meara
      April 26, 2016 at 9:25 pm
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      Brett,

      Re this comment you made:

      Ned, domainers on the whole create nothing, add zero value to the space, and exist solely because of market inefficiency trading on effectively an arbitrage. At some point the market always overcomes inefficiencies and the ability to profit from arbitrage disappear. That’s basic market economics. I’d say you and the domainer community are rightly terrified that second level registrations screw your business model, maybe that’s a better conversation to have, rather than disingenuously speaking on behalf of small and micro business who you routinely exploit.

      As a standard disclaimer, these comments are my own, and are unrelated to the view of my employer.

      Thanks for saying how you really feel. And given your position and length of service, you can’t cop out by saying that this is your personal view.

      That is disengenuous.

       

      Anonymous likes this.
    • April 27, 2016 at 9:17 am
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      Direct .au registrations on the whole create nothing, add zero value to the space, and are planned to exist solely because of vested interests in my opinion. Some auDA directors are employed by businesses that will profit handsomely. There can be no denying that.

      Direct registrations will add higher costs for registrants in many ways and confusion to the public for as long as both extension options are available: “.au” and “.com.au” are too similar — These two reasons alone should suffice for any impartial person to see that introducing direct registrations has a much higher cost and no benefits except to profit a few, and thus should never be introduced.

      I hope the train hasn’t left the station. The track taken to where we are now stinks!

      auDA’s governance has failed to protect Australia and Audtralians.

      Anonymous likes this.
      • Ned O'Meara
        April 27, 2016 at 9:35 am
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        @Barry – I had to edit your post because one comment was a bit too strong.

        Hopefully the message still remains the same.

      • April 27, 2016 at 10:07 am
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        Barry 99.99% of people agree with you. The only few who do not may possibly be Auda, Ausregistry, Melbourne IT, registrars, resellers and those on the AUDA board supply list… who just all happen to sell domain names and make money from it.

  • April 27, 2016 at 10:45 am
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    @Brett,

    “domainers on the whole create nothing, add zero value to the space, and exist solely because of market inefficiency”

    Nonsense!  And insulting nonsense at that.  What alternative do you imagine?  What sort of efficient market would instantaneously allocate the best domains with the projects best suited to use them?  Who would determine who gets what?  A horde of beneficent angels?

    In reality, market forces decide who lives in which house, who rents commercials space downtown versus on the outskirts.  With digital property, exactly the same market forces apply.  This isn’t an alien concept.  Do auto dealerships “squat” on cars they’re not using? Do grocers “squat” on carrots they won’t eat?  Are they acting unethically by marking up the price between the farm and my salad?  Is it to be lamented that someone owns a building and is trying to profit from the vacant rooms by finding people who might move in?

    Domainers fill a void within the market, making distribution more efficient. They’re an important part of the industry’s ecosystem.  Cumulatively, domainers perform a great deal of outreach and promotion, educating end users about specific domains they might be able to benefit from and about domains in general.

    By holding out for better funded projects, domainers help ensure that quality domains are placed with promising enterprises.  It’s much cheaper to buy a domain from a domainer than from someone who’s already using the domain for a low-quality website, from a small business, or from 1 of the large international companies that stockpiles domains without using them.  As a buyer’s broker, I know this for a fact.  Domainers actually keep the market operating at peak efficiency, identifying names with potential and keeping those domains on the market.  Domainers keep domains accessible and price them based on real market demand – so that they ultimately get used.  The alternative would be seeing premium domains stuck in stagnant backwaters – put to use too early, paired with inferior projects, gobbled up by huge lazy companies, and priced far higher by people unfamiliar with real market conditions.

    Domainers perform a marketing job that registrars / registries lack the manpower and/or talent to handle.  They’re an outsourced, volunteer sales force who PAY upstream suppliers whether they succeed or not.  Registrars, if they were sane and rational would respect domainers for the work they do, not to mention the revenue they provide.

    When brands are split down the middle – whether that’s .AU / .COM.AU, .COM / nTLD, plural / singular, spelling 1 / spelling 2 – there is a real risk and cost involved.  This has nothing to do with domainer “hypocrisy”, as you rather smugly claim.  For example, part of my work involves me as a buyer’s broker.  From time to time, clients approach me asking me to repair their divided brands.  Recently 1 client, who owned an nTLD but not the matching .COM, told me that he’d calculated his ongoing losses due to that confusion in the mid 6 figures.  My preference was a rebrand, but he insisted on procuring the EXTRA domain.  His budget was quite large.  Keep in mind, he would not have faced this problem a few years earlier because the extra domain suffix that was causing his visitors and their emails to go astray didn’t even exist.  THAT is market inefficiency.  Not domainers.  Am I being hypocritical in discussing this issue?  No, hardly!  I make money by solving such confusion.  So if I were following my wallet, I would want as much ambiguity, confusion, and consumer stress as possible.  However, I don’t want that.

    Introducing additional domain extensions causes problems.  Whatever the benefits, those problems are real.  We should be allowed to discuss those without being written off as parasites and hypocrites.

  • April 27, 2016 at 3:49 pm
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    Brilliant comment Joseph, I have never seen it put so eloquently! I agree with you 100%, and want to take this chance to say I have enjoyed many of your comments on Ned’s blog and elsewhere, so thanks for that! Thanks again to you too Ned, you’re both champions!

  • April 27, 2016 at 6:54 pm
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    The global registrar community has seemingly always been jealous of secondary market domain sales revenue, reflected in their involvement in the drop business.

    In the au space you’ve only to look at Brett’s employers ownership of Netfleet for example. Surely Netfleet “create nothing, add zero value to the space, and exist solely because of market inefficiency trading on effectively an arbitrage.”

    “which QED somewhat proves the point of hypocrisy.”

    Mark my words, the push from the supply side for .au will be an auction model… as seen in new GTLD’s.

    The supply side are striving to be the new domainers.

    • April 27, 2016 at 7:11 pm
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      @Andrew,

      That’s certainly 1 possibility – and a dangerous one for consumers.

      In the case of the nTLD program, many registry applicants HAD been domainers; so it wasn’t a shock to see the new extensions being released by way of auction or being priced with higher renewal rates for the more in-demand strings.   For most nTLDs the goal is profit, plain and simple.

      It’s possible the auDA has more genuine concern for Australians than that.  In the UK, their counterpart, Nominet, ultimately found a relatively gentle way to implement 2LD .UK domains – with grandfathered rights lasting 5 years.  So there’s hope that the auDA will emulate their socially responsible course of action and not pursue an nTLD-style cash grab with bidding wars, EAP reverse auctions, or ongoing tiered renewal rates.  Registrars will be getting double their accustomed fees once .AU shadows .COM.AU.  Let that suffice.

    • Ned O'Meara
      April 28, 2016 at 12:44 am
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      @Andrew

      I am going to be doing a separate article in the next week on various responses made to the Names Panel.

      But just as a teaser, it’s interesting to look at Brett’s response (on behalf of Melbourne IT):

      https://www.auda.org.au/assets/pdf/mitgroup.txt

      On the matter of implementation our position remains consistent with that expressed in the April response:

      “The rights of existing holders should be respected. If people or businesses have taken the time to register their marks in Australia, the rights that are associated with those registrations should be protected. Once these users have been accounted for, the space should be open to all users on a first come, first served basis in a landrush process.”

      By existing holders, he was referring to trademark holders and not existing registrants. This position was NOT accepted by the Names Panel.

      • April 28, 2016 at 5:31 am
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        Well, there’s a strange contradiction.

        If 2LD .AU domains were unleashed tomorrow, “open to all users on a first come, first served basis” who would show up to register them?  Domainers, of course!  Domainers pay more attention to domains than any other group.  So domainers would grab the best .AU domains in order to sell them to .COM.AU owners.

        That’s what Brett, on behalf of MelbourneIT, was advocating for?  Given his disdain for domainers, I should think he’d want to prevent that scenario.

        Ultimately, the best 2LD .AU domains will be registered – either by earlier .COM.AU registrants or by domainers hoping to sell matching .AUs to them … or by competitors / squatters hoping to exploit traffic meant for .COM.AU sites.

        MelbourneIT is paid a registration fee, regardless of which type of person registers the .AU. Given that registration volume will be more or less identical in all those cases, why not adopt a policy that ensures priority rights for established .COM.AU registrants?

        That minimizes domainer impact, allowing .COM.AU owners to secure their 2LD .AU domain.  At the same time, MelbourneIT would be paid twice as much from domainers protecting their portfolios with .AU.

        MelbourneIT’s stance seems – if anything – to favor domainers ahead of non-domainer registrants.  In a landrush, domainers would claim the lion’s share of .AU domains.  Either MelbourneIT doesn’t know which side their bread is buttered on, or else they’re up to something.

        I can think of 1 rational reason why MelbourneIT would encourage a landrush, free-for-all .AU rollout. They may be hoping to act as domainers themselves, scooping up the best 2LD .AU domains by means of shell companies, and then reselling those 2LD .AU domains at substantially higher prices to .COM.AU registrants.

        Whatever MelbourneIT’s intentions turn out to be, this interpretation isn’t a far-fetched conspiracy theory.  Many registrars stockpile domains for resale.  Some do it honestly like GoDaddy, which has spent tens of millions of dollars in the past year acquiring portfolios from the biggest domain investors.  But other registrars are more secretive about their own domaining business.  For example, New Ventures (NewVCorp.com) is tied to Network Solutions/ Register.com / Web.com.  At any given time, they’re parking or trying to resell upwards of 300,000 domains.  Many nTLD registries have purchased domains through shell corporations in order to boost registration numbers and raise prices – for instance, Uniregistry via North Sound Names.

        Presumably, MelbourneIT wants a landrush, a free-for-all because they expect to benefit from it.  The only question is in what way.

        • Ned O'Meara
          April 28, 2016 at 7:27 am
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          @Joseph

          Thoughtful post as usual, however you are a little off the mark because of your lack of knowledge of some of our “local playing conditions”. Which is to be expected – you can’t know everything! 😉

          In simple terms, under auDA policy, registrars and associated parties cannot acquire domains for themselves (unless it is specifically for their business operations). Another little policy is that no one can acquire domains for the SOLE purpose of resale. (That’s one of the most misinterpreted policies by the way).

          However, you are potentially on the money in another way! I wrote this article back in September.

          Here’s an excerpt:

          On 30th March 2015 at 1pm (NZDT), newly released .nz domain names will become available for registration on a first-come-first-serve basis. Domain names such as Rugs.nz, or Bets.nz for example. Competition for these highly sought after domains with be very, very high, so we’ve teamed up with Domainz, Melbourne IT, Netregistry, TPP and Zip Hosting and will utilise our cutting edge technology to attempt to register domains for you, ahead of the field.

          By the way, not suggesting that Netfleet did anything wrong in this instance – or would do anything wrong in future instances. They are simply using their advanced technology to take advantage of a situation that was created by the powers that be.

          And therein lies the point.

          • April 28, 2016 at 7:32 am
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            @Ned,

            Thanks for the explanation.  I try to be wrong in public as much as possible.  That way someone will tell me, and I’ll learn something.

  • April 27, 2016 at 7:46 pm
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    “the goal is profit, plain and simple.”

    Anonymous likes this.
    • Ned O'Meara
      April 28, 2016 at 7:38 am
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      @Andrew – wash your mouth out with soap.

      We simply need to grow the market. Could you get on message please. 😉

      Hahahahahahaha!

    • April 28, 2016 at 10:13 pm
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      Actually, auDA’s goal is: “to administer and develop .au in a stable and secure environment for the benefit of all Australians.

      Source: https://www.auda.org.au/assets/About-auDA/Strategic-Plan/auDA-strategic-plan-2015-18.pdf

      However, I do agree with you that the mission of auDA’s current Directors currently appears to be profit, at the expense of all Australians. In my opinion this is plain and simple to see.

      auDA’s decision to proceed with direct registrations is going to cost Australians a magnitude more than the gains of a few.

  • tim
    April 27, 2016 at 10:09 pm
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    once again, people who say nothing forever and then say silly ill informed things, i have a nice portfolio and a different business model to most so don’t tar us all with 1 brush.

    on top of my folio i have strongly promoted the benefits of good domain names to businesses and that domains come in many shapes and $$.

    to name a few i manage and advise various SMB’s, they rely on me for information as they get none from auda, people like lismoreoptometrist.com.au, he’s ownedand branded that since @ 2000, if went to drops it would go back to handreg but he’s made it something and now in such a competitive market of optometry he HAS TO do a defensive registration.

    NO matter how you look at it, its HIS money being forced in to someone elses pocket, its just that simply.
    the same goes for hightealadies.com.au who do wedding teas on weekends and work as secretaries mon-fri, louisemyers.com.au who is a photographer in qld, funnily there is a photographer called louisemyers in SA and to name a few melbourneflorist.com.au (MF) when she had to put the domain cost on her credit card in a last ditch attempt to save her business by going online and manage to not sack her 6 staff, she rolled the dice and is now finally getting good returns against players like rosesonly, interflora, petals etc.

    ALL of those people have not been informed what is happening, MF would close instantly if the .au went to her well cashed up competitors and potentially if it wasn’t for me….. a member of the domainer community……potentially this is what could happen.

    So we play an important roll, one that auda should be doing instead of champagne lunches.

    SO get your facts right

    tim connell

    Anonymous likes this.
  • Scott.L
    April 27, 2016 at 11:16 pm
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    Great post Joseph
    Fortunately for domainers Arbitrage is a necessary force in the domain marketplace. Our collective buying power can make or break a registry.
    Accordingly, It is not possible to simulate price comparisons between two different “words” as the “meaning” of a word is itself a market place efficiency and liquidity is subject to its usage made popular or unpopular by a marketing power or social value therefore; marketplace arbitrage is only found in the registries market pricing for a domain name.
    The domain name licence fee and renewal is price compared and not negotiable with the registry. Accordingly, after a domain name is registered it can never be uniformly priced or valued during the registration period because Valuation can never be known until a deal is done, such negotiations may require a third party [broker] to perception manage the expectations until both parties agree on a price. Yet, if no deal was achieved within the registration period the value of the domain is the cost of renewal.
    So, if a registry like MelbIT is out of whack with its own registration and renewal price structure compared to its competitors, it effectively becomes a marketplace inefficiency subject to arbitrage and not the domainer.
     
     The domainer is the very fabric of a registries existence and we are here to stay.

    Anonymous likes this.
    • Ned O'Meara
      April 28, 2016 at 7:57 am
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      @Scott.L

      I always have a bit of a chuckle about the occupation of “domainer”. On all the auDA panels and working groups I’ve been on, I’ve been the token “Domainer”. Some people initially look at you as if you’re a “black marketeer” or “bootlegger”! Bit like “Nucky” Thompson from Boardwalk Empire.

      Given my rebellious character, that’s why I paid OMG 4 figures for domainer.com.au (quite a few years ago). I’m out there – loud and proud. 😀

      Speaking of OMG, they are technically the biggest “domainer” in the country.  And they are part of a major corporate. (Fairfax Media). They still have around 25,000 domains.

      Wonder how they will react if they are impacted by direct registrations?

      Anonymous likes this.
      • April 28, 2016 at 11:43 am
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        I’ve been advised there are 3 others parties who own more than the Fairfax Media portfolio of 30,000 .com.au names.

        Some registrars better be careful not to put down the domain community and their own customers or customers will walk.. as I have now done with my names to other registrars.

        Fairfax Media  had a lot of their .com.au portfolio names with Melbourne IT you may note some names now moving to other more registrant .com.au owner “friendly” and supportive lower priced registrars!

        No one likes being ripped off or talked down to as to how they do business or why they invest in domain names and if you imagine 30,000 .com.au  names being renewed the loss of that customer will be substantial for the registrar or registrars involved…..some who work for registrars who have been making comments on this forum that “domainers” do nothing, add nothing etc.  Good way to shoot yourself in the foot “anti domainer” registrars / board members.

        Anonymous likes this.
  • April 30, 2016 at 10:15 am
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    Can someone explain to why the .AU registry has only allowed third-level domain registration all these years? Or any ccTLD registry? Think of all the time Australians, and anyone who visits an Australian website, could have saved by just typing “.AU” into the browser! 🙂

    Once I realized they did this it never made sense to me. Who else agrees?

Comments are closed.