My Time As A Registrar / Drop Catcher

As most regular readers would know, earlier this year I had a short-lived dalliance as a registrar. And when I say short, I mean short!

On the 2nd February, I took effective control of three registrars previously owned by Dark Blue Sea – Drop.com.au; Fabulous.com.au and Yexa.com.au. Two weeks later I had an offer I couldn’t refuse from David Warmuz of Trellian – and on the 20th March (after necessary auDA approvals had been made), Trellian took effective control. By my calculations, that is a total of 47 days in the chair.

Having previously been a “domainer” for nearly 10 years, it was fascinating and scintillating to experience “the other side”. I can now definitely be classified as “well rounded”.

Over the next few weeks, I will do a series of articles about some specific things I learnt as a registrar.

What I Enjoyed Most

♦  Working with Cam and Katherine. I’ve known them for many years (as a client); but being the new owner enabled me to see them in a totally different light.  They were incredibly helpful and supportive of me in getting to “learn the ropes”. Did I mention “patient” as well? 😉 One of my bug bears in life is poor service, but Cam and Katherine could never be accused of that. They genuinely care for all their clients – I know, because I saw the back-end emails. Whilst Drop is certainly not the most technologically advanced registrar in the market place, the personalised customer service that they offer is second to none. And that’s worth its weight in gold. In my humble opinion.

♦  Learning new things. I’m not a technical person by any means, nor am I am a web developer. But I got a sudden education in the “problems and opportunities” that exist behind the scenes. And for that steep learning curve, I’m incredibly grateful to Brett Dutton. Brett is a very smart software professional who used to do a lot of work for Dark Blue Sea (owners of Fabulous and Drop etc) “back in the day”. He was introduced to me by Cam, and he became an important and integral part of the team.

What Stressed Me The Most

♦  When I bought Drop and the other two registrars, I knew that the “back-end” and “engine room” were tired and in need of an overhaul. Particularly in relation to drop-catching. But I didn’t realise how chronic the situation actually was. When Drop went down for a day, I can’t tell you how stressed that made me feel! Thanks to Brett and Cam, we handled the problems as they arose – and had plans to place to inject new hardware / software to make us a giant killer again. Then along came Trellian …

♦  A drop-catcher has no protection against bad debts; or people who take advantage of your goodwill and generosity. One particular instance stands out – and this will be the subject of a separate article in the very near future. The story will shock you – but it needs to be told. In our industry, a person who cannot keep their word or honour an arrangement should ultimately be named and shamed. It would have been published already, but I have been distracted by auDA events.

Until next time …

Ned O’Meara – 8th May 2017

14 thoughts on “My Time As A Registrar / Drop Catcher

  • Avatar
    May 8, 2017 at 10:58 am
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    Hi Ned

    I’m looking forward to reading the next of your series and am glad that you’re giving domainers a “view from the other side”.  It is important that registrars and domainers understand each other’s positions. I know I still have a lot to learn in that area.

    I agree, there is no protection for drop catchers against bad debtors. All we can do is delete the name if it is still in the account, however, this is not always the case.

    • Scott.L
      May 9, 2017 at 10:38 am
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      Hi Nikki
      I would assume tighter participation protocols would assist to deter fake bidders; charge a significant abandonment fee and re-auction the domain after 30 days ?

      • Avatar
        May 9, 2017 at 4:37 pm
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        Hi Scott

        Thank you for your suggestions. They’re great!

        Currently the “fake bidders” work around our requirement of having a valid credit card in the system. If, for any reason, I believe someone won’t pay their invoice, I delete the domain name. It’s not the ideal solution but at least it prevents the domain name from being transfered without payment.

        The only way to really avoid “fake bidders” is to insist new users load money in their Netfleet account in order to place bids, only being allowed to spend the pre-loaded amount. Allowances can then be made for trusted users. This of course has implications and needs to be thought through carefully. I’m not sure if it’s something we’ll implement but might be worth talking about if the issue persists.

  • Avatar
    May 8, 2017 at 1:05 pm
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    With auDA running the wholesale registry they should also consider running the official .au daily drop auction.

    All bidding increments by $1 or highest proxy bid.( same as the drop platform not the Netfleet platform where people can be stuck overbidding unfairly).

    The income from auDA running the Official Daily .au Drop Auction can help auDA reduce wholesale .au registration and renewal fees plus assist in running the wholesale registry.

    COR ( Change of Registrant) fees can be abolished totally. The remaining period of the domain name license will simply transfer to the new owner. auDA as Wholesale Registry can easily implement this. Resellers can charge for it is they like but most will not. It is already free in most other countries and always has been. auDA Policy has been left behind on this to the detriment of Australian .au registrant consumers.

    auDA and auDA Board

    1. Raise this for public input now. It is an important exercise.

    2. Go to open public tender / RFP for the daily drop auction platform software.

    The tender/ RFP should be on the auDA website to ensure some accountability transparency and also give the best chance of a suitable chosen successful supplier.

    Software to run such easy auctions is now very affordable and secure.

    3. auDA should put up the tender/ RFT tender responses on the auDA website and involve auDA members.

    4. The successful auction winner’s domain name name will be held by auDA for 1 year until the auction winner chooses an accredited auDA registrar/ Reseller to move it to. Some Registrars/ Resellers may offer this free. Some may choose to charge.

    With auDA building their own Wholesale registry now is the time to include this feature into the build.

    Yes it can be done and yes  it will be a great innovation for the industry for both supply and demand.

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    • Ned O'Meara
      May 8, 2017 at 1:25 pm
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      @Sean – not sure the drop catchers would agree with you!

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      • Avatar
        May 8, 2017 at 2:07 pm
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        Supply has run auDA and policy for too long…It is time someone stood up for the rights and benefits of  Australian Domain Name Registrants and Consumers.

        As everyone knows the current platforms do not create a simply innovative transparent or accountable drop registration service where all bidders have equal chance… the issue at the moment is whoever has the most servers etc get the name and people have to bid on multiple platforms.. It is largely a duopoly.. or as stats show a monopoly.

        It would be fairer for Australia and those interested in the .au names to be able to see them on the auDA website and bid for them at 1 location. Highest bidder wins.

        I’m sorry to say looking at some current platforms their results are not successful in winning the auctions so most of the time the drop auction is again a monopoly offering no advantages or benefits to Australian consumers… Very few people even know about it.. Yes that is good for those who do know but now is the time for auDA to do it for the full benefit of Australia.

        Apologies to the current drop providers but you would know just as auDA has moved to take over the wholesale registry this will probably happen.. You have other business forms of income besides this and you have had a very good run at it so far with little or no oversight or competition.

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        • Avatar
          May 8, 2017 at 7:15 pm
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          Agree with the sentiment of the idea. Concerned about what would happen with money.

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  • Avatar
    May 8, 2017 at 4:59 pm
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    Interesting look behind the curtain. Thanks Ned, looking forward to more.

    I agree with you regarding Cam and Katherine at Fabulous.com – very friendly, fast and easy to deal with!

    I must say, I find it interesting that Nikki from Netfleet is reading this and has the time to respond, but didn’t have the time to respond to my 3+ emails over two weeks to Netfleet when my domain name was stuck in their holding pattern for over 17 days. My auDA complaint was the only time anyone bothered to look at it, as I was told by auDA themselves. And then, still no communication from Netfleet, just an invoice to PAY UP! This was always the problem with Netfleet, Nikki… bad customer service… and I was hoping to see a new improved Netfleet with you…

    And… no offence Sean, but as much as I don’t (and have never) liked Netfleet (the platform or the customer service), I would still rather have them being one of the drop catchers over and above auDA. Too many reasons to list why I don’t think that would be a good idea. Plus, Domain Shield is a fantastic drop catching platform! Still, I strongly believe we need a newcomer to come in and start a fourth drop catching service!!

    Your future “shock” story looks interesting, Ned. And as usual you definitely have that right: this is a small industry. With or without a contract, if you are not legitimate and don’t do as you say you will do, there are reputation consequences.

    I have a story developing of my own, where a “so called” domain brokerage firm has been charging for services they know they can’t perform. Burnt customers are currently reaching out to me… Story developing… This industry definitely needs a clean up!

     

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    • Ned O'Meara
      May 8, 2017 at 8:16 pm
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      @Robert – I’ve always found Nikki from Netfleet great to deal with; and very helpful. Hopefully you two can touch base by phone and get some communication channels opened. In any industry, contacts are a valuable commodity.

      Re dropcatching – even though I’m not a dropcatcher any more, I totally agree with you. Private enterprise solution (with competition) is by far and away the best solution imo. Just look at the dot com market.

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      • Avatar
        May 8, 2017 at 8:25 pm
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        Re dropcatching. Think situation is different now to .com. Would be an outcry if Verisign or Ausregistry made money from drops. Different for AUDA.

        I think self regulation in that area hasn’t worked for .com.au, lack of transparency with hidden bids etc. Still nobody trusts Auda either, who is worse?

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        • Avatar
          May 8, 2017 at 10:50 pm
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          Ausregistry makes money from every .au name sold on the daily drops. They make it from the new registration wholesale fee as does auDA who also get their registration fee.

    • Avatar
      May 9, 2017 at 8:04 am
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      Robert, dodgy domain brokers have no place in our business. There was a recent case in the USA where a bloke didn’t pay out his clients after sales. Then he reverted to a drip feed. Shameful.

      Jeff

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      • Avatar
        May 9, 2017 at 6:11 pm
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        Agreed. I’m hoping to get a little more information before I expose.

  • Avatar
    May 9, 2017 at 8:09 am
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    Ned, I hope you do name and shame this person. Fellow domain investors need to know who they can trust.

    Jeff

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