The time has come to go to print!

As I wrote in my article “Come on auDA – Please Be Accountable”, I am perplexed as to why auDA has not published their Minutes of December and February meetings. But what I’m equally disappointed by is that they have not chosen to publish the 2015 Names Panel Report.

After all, why not publish it now? Surely nothing is going to change? Transparency is a wonderful thing.

But before anyone in the “hierarchy” has a heart attack over me potentially being a front runner for publishing this myself (as a member of the Panel I do have a copy), I can assure you that I’m happy to give auDA the opportunity to publish it themselves. But get a wiggle on please! 😉

Looking Back

While we are waiting, I thought it might be helpful to look back at what was said about “Direct Registrations” at the last two Names Panel’s. (Bolding is mine).

Final Report to auDA Board, November 2007

Views of the Panel

6.3 The Panel’s Issues Paper in May set out a number of arguments for and against direct registrations in .au; for background informational purposes, these are reproduced at Attachment A.

6.4 The Panel’s view is that there is no groundswell of support among the general community for opening up .au to direct registrations, and even amongst those in favour of direct registrations, there is little likelihood of agreement on a method for implementation. For these reasons, the Panel has agreed to recommend that .au should not be opened up to direct registrations at this time.

Of the arguments in favour of direct registrations (in Schedule A at 7.8), I particularly liked this one. 😉

There would be a commercial gain for the Australian domain name industry; the registry operator, registrars and resellers could expect to generate more revenue from increased numbers of registrations. Under auDA’s registry competition policy, a new operator may be selected to run the .au registry, potentially leading to lower costs and more choice for registrars.

Of the arguments against, these ones still ring true today (in my opinion).

7.9 The Panel has identified the following arguments against allowing direct registrations under .au:

• The existing 2LD hierarchy works well and there is high market recognition of the com.au and org.au brands especially. There are approximately 860,000 3LD .au domain names2 compared with over 65 million .com domain names3, indicating that the existing 2LDs are not exhausted in terms of desirable and valuable domain names.

• Unlike new TLDs, this is not a greenfields scenario and the rights and expectations of existing registrants should not be discounted. Existing 3LD domain names may be devalued if .au is opened up to direct registrations, and existing 3LD registrants may be forced into defensive registration or legal action to protect their brands.

• Registrants who choose, or feel compelled, to switch from a 3LD to a direct registration may face significant costs, such as domain name registration fees, printing and stationery, signage, marketing and advertising, as well as revenue already spent promoting the current brand.

• Introducing direct registrations may lead to increased disputes about rights to a domain name. Regardless of the implementation method, ultimately only one entity can secure the .au version of a domain name, which is particularly problematic where the same domain name is held by different registrants in different 2LDs.

• Increased commercial opportunities and revenue for the Australian domain name industry is not in itself a sufficient business case for making a change, in the absence of any clear benefit for the broader community.

Public Submissions

Just for fun, it’s always interesting to see what people said back then. Here are some snippets / extracts. Full version on the links below. 🙂

Bruce Tonkin – Chief Technology Officer – Melbourne IT

“The existing second level domains are widely recognised in Australian and internationally. A key
drawback of introducing names directly at the top level could be damage to the businesses of existing
.com.au registrants, when registrations at the top level are made to trade off their reputations. There
would be a significant cost to businesses to try to protect their brands in the top level without any
specific gain from a consumer perspective”.

(Full submission here)

Jeff Marr – Co-Founder of OMG

“Like the majority of submissions already posted on this subject, I too, cannot agree with nor
see any logical benefit whatsoever in bringing in the .au (2nd level extension). There are so many
factors that would be grossly effected by such an introduction, that it would be hard to understand
how and why anyone could argue otherwise. Some of the more obvious negatives would include – Mass
confusion for the majority of Australian Internet users, a Substantial increase in Commercial
Protection by current .com.au registrants to avoid unwanted & unnecessary disputes over the .au
equivalent if the prior .com.au holders were unsuccessful in registering the equivalent .au domain
name, the Huge Costs related to businesses needing to change their branding from .com.au to .au across
many & varied mediums eg: From Advertising material (in Print, Radio, Television & Internet) to
Packaging materials, Shopfronts, Signage and all other business related products previously branded
with the company’s .com.au website and/or email address, not to mention, the undoubted surge in
Lawsuits, auDRP cases and individual Domain name challenges between current .com.au registrants and
the newly acquired .au holders. The .com.au domain name extension is already well recognised and used
both in Australia and right around the world, but even more importantly, it still has an enormous
potential for growth in its current .com.au form, given the ongoing continued support of auDA, the
Australian registrar system and put simply, time !”

(Full submission here)

George Pongas – Chief Operating Officer – Australian Style Group Pty Ltd

“I support the Panel’s recommendations, specifically that .au should not be opened up to direct
registrations at this time.”

(Full submission here)

There are many more public submissions to read here.


 

Now Fast Forward To 2010 / 2011

Final Recommendations to the auDA Board, August 2011

1H: Direct registrations under .au

Issues:

1.52 The issue of direct registrations under .au was last considered by the 2007 Names Policy
Panel, which recommended that .au not be opened up to direct registrations at that time. The
2007 Panel found that there was no groundswell of support for direct registrations, and even
among those who supported it, there was no agreement on a method of implementation.

Public consultation outcomes:

1.53 The Panel notes that the majority of public comments were against allowing direct
registrations under .au. People thought that the current 2LD hierarchy is well-known and
understood, and introducing direct registrations would cause unnecessary confusion for little
public benefit.

Views of the Panel:

1.54 The Panel notes that there does not seem to have been any shift in public opinion since
the issue of direct registrations under .au was last considered in 2007.

1.55 Members of the current Panel acknowledge arguments that direct registrations have
been successfully introduced in other ccTLDs. However, the Panel agrees that such a major
change to the Australian DNS would require a much stronger level of support from the
community than has been demonstrated through this consultation process.

RECOMMENDATION 1H

The Panel recommends that direct registrations under .au not be allowed at this time.

Some Public Submissions

There weren’t nearly as many as 2007. But here are some snippets / extracts of a couple that did submit. Full version on the links below. 🙂

George Pongas – .au Services Manager – AusRegistry

“a) Should.au be opened up to direct registrations?

AusRegistry acknowledges that this is a controversial suggestion, but proposes that it should at least be explored again and re-­‐evaluated, as it was by the 2007 Names Policy Panel.”

(Full submission here)

Bruce Arnold – Faculty of Law, University of Canberra

“As indicated in the discussion paper, issues regarding direct registration were
canvassed by the 2007 Panel. There is no reason to believe that arguments against
direct registration have become less weighty. In essence, the rationale for direct
registration appears to be additional opportunities for commercial exploitation
rather than consumer benefit. If the current panel is committed to revisiting the past
the concerns expressed above regarding legitimacy and regulatory capture mean that
it is incumbent on the auDA board to conduct any public consultation on a vigorous
and transparent basis, featuring for example independent research rather than a
small-scale questionnaire exercise that is invalidated through weaknesses regarding
population selection (eg biased towards ‘write-ins’ by proxies for the DNS industry,
an issue apparent in some elections) and question design. Such a consultation if
undertaken offers an opportunity for engendering increased community awareness
of auDA’s operation and the dot au regime rather than merely securing the desired
answers.”

(Full submission here)

Andy Callaghan – Domain Owner

“No. Obviously .au could be successful but at what expense? It would be at the expense of
.com.au and .net.au and would lead to large costs for business. As a small business owner if
direct registrations were allowed I would:

– feel compelled to register .au domains
– feel compelled to continue to maintain .com.au and / or .net.au registrations (it does not seem
a realistic option to replace .com.au & .net.au with .au due to the different registrants under
.com.au & .net.au issue) and have to pay our IT providers to ensure email addresses and
websites re-direct and work under all extensions.
– if .au became more popular than .com.au I would feel compelled to re-brand with all the
associated costs or email address changes / redirects, web-site changes, logo changes,
business card changes. I have a number of trading names so the expense would be significant.
On a national basis the expense to small / medium business would be massive.”

(Full submission here)

More submissions here.

P.S. I’m still working on my “Potential / Perceived Conflict of Interest” article. Hopefully it will be worth waiting for!


Disclaimer 2

3 thoughts on “Names Panel Report

  • April 15, 2016 at 12:44 pm
    Permalink

    It only takes one legal complaint to cause a friendly industry blog site to have to display legal notices every time a post is made.

    I too am waiting for auDA to publish the minutes of December and February meetings, as well as the 2015 Names Panel Report.

    This would not stand at all in any other industry. Perhaps an entire restructure is needed?

  • April 16, 2016 at 1:50 pm
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    Do you know who exactly is preventing the minutes being released?

    Who is the current chair?

    • Ned O'Meara
      April 16, 2016 at 2:49 pm
      Permalink

      David – no idea re Minutes. Just know what Jo Lim told me.

      Stuart Benjamin is the Chairman (he is also Demand Class Director). He is a good guy; and also very astute. That’s why I’m surprised that we have this current situation (which is so easily fixed).

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