Question: How do you tell when a domain name extension is in trouble?
Answer: You start giving them away for free (with conditions attached).
First some background. Back in 2014, the UK domain name regulator Nominet introduced direct registrations e.g. in addition to yourname.co.uk, it became possible to register yourname.uk.
This brand new world did not happen easily. Nominet were forced to revise their proposals three times before coming up with a scheme whereby existing .co.uk holders were given first rights to the new extension – along with a 5 year grace period to exercise that option. I wrote about this in September 2017.
Fast forward to present time. The take-up of the new.uk extension has been dismal (and that’s being polite). Many existing registrants did not / and do not want to have to pay what is effectively a “double tax”. So most are keeping their options open, and not doing anything at this stage. Why? Because they still have around 2 years to go to exercise their “first rights”.
A “Cunning” Plan
Nominet have recently decided to run a promotion whereby co.uk owners can register the corresponding .uk variant for two years for free. Nothing wrong with that – they want to try and get some life back into the corpse. By this I mean bolster the “registration rate” – or “artificially inflate statistics”.
However, the biggest registrar in UK (123REG) has gone one step further. They have taken it upon themselves to automatically register the .uk variant for their customers who hold .co.uk domains – without prior consent. Plus they have enabled auto-renew! So this means that unless customers opt out, they will be whacked in the future.
This article in The Register explains the situation: “123-Reg customers outraged at automatic .UK domain registration”
Some UK registrants are outraged at this pre-emptive registration (without permission). One can’t really blame them.
Here’s a couple of comments on the very popular Acorn Domains forum (hat tip to Paul Shaw for alerting me to these):
“Let’s face it – these big registrars never do anything for the benefit of the client. They pushed for .uk, hand in hand, with Nominet’s board – and that was to the detriment of .co.uk registrants and the .co.uk market in general. So if they’ve taken it upon themselves to register hundreds of thousands of domains (nominet’s stats will soon show actual figures) then there can only be one thing in it for them – money – and on the flip side Nominet get to say .uk domain numbers are looking healthy now – so they’re doing this hand in hand again.”
“seems like only yesterday that I remember watching a .uk registrar consultation video, in which the nominet spokesperson told the audience that they chose not to consult their 10m .co.uk registrants about the possible introduction of .uk, because it might be deemed spamming them. And here we are a few years later with .uk domains being registered by a registrar, without prior contact or approval of the registrant, and with the registrant’s details hidden behind the registrar’s own privacy service.“
This latest debacle offers some salutary lessons for Australia (auDA).
For a start, if auDA are intent on introducing direct registrations onto these shores, at the very least they have an obligation to first tell every single one of the 1.7 million individual registrants in this country what they propose – and seek ratification. If they don’t do this, then they have no proper mandate to inflict a “double tax” on existing registrants. It will be seen as a no more than a “cash grab”.
Simple as that in my opinion.
Ned O’Meara – 27th October 2017