Outside Looking In!

Outside Looking InI was going to write about potential or perceived “conflict of interest” today, but a guest comment came in overnight from an overseas blogger / commentator – and I felt it was worthy of its own post.

Setting The Scene

The big issue at stake is the possibility of direct registrations being introduced. For example, that is having the ability to register a domain name like domainer.au. Whilst at face value this may be appealing to many people, there are many issues involved (as with any major change).

There was a Names Panel last year – and the final report (with a minority report attached) was presented to the auDA Board on December 14 2015. This report has not been published as yet.

A very one-sided survey question was recently sent out on behalf of auDA (no idea how many were sent, but I didn’t get one!) – this has caused grave concern to some.

My Concerns Arising From The Above

  • In my considered opinion, the big push for direct registrations is coming from the Registry, Registrars and Re-Sellers. I wrote about this last year in my article “Follow The Money”.
  • I believe that the majority of the 1.7 million registrants out there have no clue what is in the pipeline. They should be consulted – they are stakeholders after all; and when it comes down to it, they are the silent majority! Most of these people don’t read blogs or industry newsletters.

However, if every stakeholder (or a significant representative sample) is made aware of the pros and cons, and the majority of them then decide they want them, then I’ll go along with it. That’s the way it should be. And in my opinion, auDA is OBLIGATED to get that sort of consensus before it decides to proceed.

I wrote about this back in September 2015 in my article entitled “We Hereby Give You Notice”.

My Personal Point Of View

I’m not against direct registrations – I ultimately believe they will happen. I just don’t think the time is now. Why is there a need to “grow the market” when we only have 3 million domain names? In our little market, every day around 1000 currently registered domains expire; and at best only about 30 of these get picked up by new buyers.

And if, as there should be, rights extended to existing domain registrants (similar to .uk or .nz), then all that happens is that there are ultimately going to be a truckload of defensive registrations. How does that “grow the market”? All it does is create an unnecessary expense for registrants; and a windfall for the supply side.

Unless one of the game plans under consideration is not to offer existing or “grandfather” rights? I can’t see that happening (there would be lawyers at 20 paces if that was proposed!) – however, given that nothing to date has been forthcoming from auDA (apart from that scary survey question), how do we know what’s going on?

This Is The Guest Comment

Joseph Peterson is based in the USA, and he occasionally writes for publications like Domain Name Wire. He is also not afraid of calling a spade a spade! I met Joseph in person at NamesCon in January, and consider him a friend.

This is his unabridged comment (which he made overnight in relation to my article “We Hereby Give You Notice”).

Sounds like a poor excuse.  In the spirit of empiricism, test it!

Small businesses relying on 3LD .AU domains will be significantly affected by enabling direct 2LD registrations in .AU. Whatever their opinion may be, that’s so.  Indeed they are the largest, most affected constituency.  Surely the auDA acknowledges that.

As the largest constituency, these stake holders deserve to be given a realistic chance to learn about policy changes that will affect them – before new policies solidify.  Surely the auDA acknowledges that too.

The simplest, most reliable, and most impartial way to present these proposed changes to this constituency would be a direct email from the official governing body – as opposed to, say, hearing first from a lobbying group or scaremongering gossip.  Surely the auDA acknowledges that as well.

Unless the terms of service were very badly written indeed, the auDA has the legal right to email .AU registrants.  And why would it have secured that legal right except to exercise it?  The auDA isn’t claiming that the messages it might send ARE spam – only that they might be regarded as such by the recipients.

If the only obstacle to emailing registrants is an hypothesis that they’d object to receiving an email notification, then test that hypothesis!  Ask them!  Let the auDA survey a small representative sample – first presenting them with the relevant notification itself, then asking them whether they regard that notification as spam.  A predetermined threshold could be established, above / below which the auDA would not / would send out an email to 100% of registrants.

Personally I expect direct 2LD registrations in .AU are likely to happen eventually, since that’s the way so many ccTLDs already have gone.  Maybe my hunch is wrong, and Australia will be an almost solitary holdout. Regardless, it seems to me that the crucial question isn’t whether but when and how direct 2LDs will be introduced.  Even if they are blocked, there should be a contingency plan in place specifying how they’d be implemented in terms of timeline, pricing, grandfathered rights, and so forth.

As always, I’m interested to hear what others think.


Disclaimer 2