Tag Archives: .au

auDA Goes to Court to Delay SGM, Wastes Tens of Thousands of Dollars and Achieves Nothing

In a disgraceful waste of tens of thousands of dollars of .au domain name registrant’s money, auDA took Josh Rowe, one of the Grumpier.com.au 3 and a former auDA Director, to the Federal Court Thursday, and in effect lost. Continue reading auDA Goes to Court to Delay SGM, Wastes Tens of Thousands of Dollars and Achieves Nothing

Questions Raised Over auDA CEO’s Academic Qualifications

A request for information to verify the academic qualifications of auDA CEO Cameron Boardman was been made to the Australian Department of Communications and Arts Sunday. Continue reading Questions Raised Over auDA CEO’s Academic Qualifications

auDA In More Turmoil: Members Threatened With Court Action Over SGM and Another Director Resigns

The turmoil at auDA continues. This week the Australian government released a scathing review into the .au policy and regulatory body with a number of recommendations that, unless they’re all acted upon will see auDA replaced. And it’s unlikely to get member approval to implement the required recommendations. Then Thursday another demand class member resigned, leaving the remaining one of 4 demand members in a strong and unenviable position given the constant turmoil the organisation is in.

Thursday’s resignation saw Nicole Murdoch, elected by Demand class (that is, by those that register domain names) resign. Officially Murdoch resigned due to the workloads of her day job at lawyers Bennett Philp where she is a Director in the Intellectual Property team. But sources have told Domain Pulse that this is only partly true and Murdoch lost faith in auDA and therefore couldn’t serve the Board in good faith.

Murdoch’s resignation saw the usual 4 Directors from Demand class (there are 11 in total, with 3 Independent and 3 Supply Class) being reduced to one – Tim Connell. It was little more than 2 weeks ago that Ned O’Meara walked out the door citing health reasons. As part of the recruitment process already in place, auDA is claiming they have “received 29 applications from candidates with exceptional credentials for the advertised vacancies.” However sources, not auDA Directors to be clear, have told Domain Pulse that auDA already had 2 candidates for the Board in mind prior to Murdoch’s resignation. The names of those earmarked have been told to Domain Pulse, so we shall see if the claims were accurate when new Directors are announced.

While Connell remains the only Director elected by or from the Demand class Members he holds a lot of power. Any decision to be approved by the Board requires “at least one Director elected by each of the Membership Classes is present.” For now, if Connell is not present, a vote cannot take place, and that includes a vote to approve new Directors. If he resigns before any new Directors are appointed it’s likely the government would be forced to step in to administer the organisation.

The turmoil continues as auDA is now threatening court action to delay the Special General Meeting that Members have called to vote on a no-confidence motion in the current CEO Cameron Boardman and the ousting of the 3 Independent Directors including the current Chair Chris Leptos.

In an email to those Members that signed the Grumpier.com.au petition Friday night, auDA say they’re seeking to delay the “SGM to the same day as auDA's 2018 AGM. If the Board does not receive sufficient agreement from members to an extension of time to call and hold the SGM by 4.00pm Monday 23 April 2018, the Board intends to apply for a court order pursuant to section 1322(4) of the Corporations Act extending the time for calling the requested SGM.” The AGM is usually held in late October or early November but auDA is proposing to hold this year’s in September. The email even has serious privacy implications with all names and email addresses of those visible.

auDA gives 2 reasons for the delay – to start dealing with the scathing review from the Australian government and the cost in holding an SGM. But in reality auDA is trying to buy time in the hope that Member anger has subsided enough so they don’t come at the Australian country code top level domain administrator with baseball bats.

Members Domain Pulse have spoken to are outraged that auDA is seeking to delay the meeting. One told Domain Pulse “Bring the fight on. Members are outraged that auDA management is seeking to override their rights as per the Corporations Act.”

Another said “auDA are up against the ropes, so let’s see if members take the bait and give them the chance to catch their breath or step in with a coup de grâce blow.”

* Disclosure: the writer was an auDA Board member (2005 to 2007), served on 3 auDA Names Policy Panels (2007, 2010 and 2015), was a supplier to auDA for 14 years and is now a supplier to Neustar providing online media monitoring services.

auDA Battling to Save Itself After Scathing Government Review Says “No Longer Fit-For-Purpose”

auDA has been put on notice that it needs to reform or its gone following an Australian government review into its operations. The report has found “urgent reforms are necessary”. But reform won’t come easy with significant changes required to its constitution, and without significant changes in leadership, Members will be reluctant to support them. Meanwhile the auDA dirty tricks campaign has taken to Twitter with fake or troll Twitter accounts attacking the 3 behind the Grumpier.com.au call for a SGM.

“The central finding of the review is that auDA’s current management framework is no longer fit-for-purpose and reform is necessary if the company is to perform effectively and meet the needs of Australia’s internet community,” said the Minister for Communications and the Arts, Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield in a statement.

In putting on a brave face, auDA has said they welcome the findings. But the reforms required are going to be nigh on impossible for the current auDA leadership to achieve. Given the .au policy and regulatory body’s constitution, they will require Member support. And Members are not happy with the current auDA leadership, ready to vote out the 3 independent directors, including the Chair, and for a vote of no confidence in the CEO Cameron Boardman in the Special General Meeting that, unless auDA’s lawyers can stop it, will happen in late May. The fake or troll Twitter accounts attacking Josh Rowe, Paul Szyndler and Jim Stewart are all sparingly used and have been making spurious allegations against the 3.

auDA’s endorsement from the Australian government under which it operates has been put on notice with the Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield advising auDA “endorsement of auDA as the appropriate entity to hold the delegation of authority for administration of the .au ccTLD will be subject at all times to auDA meeting the conditions as outlined in the ToE [Terms of Endorsement].”

auDA has 10 business days to respond “to the report's recommendations and the accompanying ToE … including an assessment of the achievability of implementing the revised ToE.” The Minister has also requested an update on the “the likelihood of successful implementation of the registry transformation project” and an update on direct registrations.

To achieve compliance, the government is demanding the reforms be implemented “to achieve compliance with the new ToE within the next twenty-four months (by April 2020)” and 6 monthly updates on progress with “significant progress to have been made by auDA at each of these checkpoints.”

Under the ToE, auDA is also required to “develop a strategy to enable an orderly transition to an alternative domain administrator in the event that endorsement is withdrawn by the Government.”

The review makes 29 recommendations, accepted by the Government, which focus on:

  • reforming auDA’s management framework
  • supporting effective stakeholder engagement
  • outlining the role and expectations of the Government
  • fostering greater trust and confidence in the .au namespace.

The report is critical of the “current membership model, and its relationship to corporate governance” and it “is impeding auDA’s decision making and is contributing to ongoing organisational instability.” It goes on to say the membership class structure is not reflective of Australia’s internet community nor auDA’s stakeholders and that the current process of selecting the “majority of directors are appointed from the membership does not support effective governance outcomes.” There are also criticisms of “directors [who] can be elected to the board with little regard to the skills required to effectively govern a modern domain administrator. Directors are also not required to meet probity, security or conflict of interest checks.” The review recommends a suitably qualified Nominating Committee to vet potential Board members as well as diversifying its membership base reforming its membership model.

“The Government’s review is timely to ensure the right framework is in place so that Australia’s .au domain administrator is modern, fit-for-purpose and supports the interests of Australia’s internet users,” Minister Fifield said.

“The Government has issued modernised terms of endorsement to auDA, reflecting changes to the digital landscape. These terms of endorsement outline the Government’s expectations and provide auDA with the mandate to make the necessary reforms to its governance arrangements.

“The Government expects to see significant progress within the next 3 to 6 months from auDA in implementing these changes.”

The review and more information is available for download from:
https://www.communications.gov.au/publications/review-au-domain-administration

* Disclosure: the writer was an auDA Board member (2005 to 2007), served on 3 auDA Names Policy Panels (2007, 2010 and 2015), was a supplier to auDA for 14 years and is now a supplier to Neustar providing online media monitoring services.

auDA Set For Management Clear-out As Members Revolt [updated]

auDA logoFollowing on from today’s earlier article about a trio of auDA members calling for the CEO and 3 independent directors, including the Chair, to be removed. Sources have confirmed the required numbers have supported the petition and a letter has been sent to auDA advising them of the requirement to hold the Special General Meeting.

The required numbers, 5% of members, had signed the petition at grumpier.com.au within minutes of the petition going public and is a formality for such an SGM under the Corporations Act. The letter calling for the SGM, a general meeting of all Members to be convened pursuant to Section 249D of the Corporations Act 2001, plus the required amount of individually signed petitions, was emailed to Cameron Boardman (CEO) and Hasaka Martin (Company Secretary) on Saturday evening. All Board Members were apparently copied in as well.

The 4 resolutions to be voted on if the SGM goes ahead are for a vote of no confidence in the CEO Cameron Boardman and for the removal of the 3 independent directors, including the Chair Chris Leptos.

Member dissatisfaction has been brewing for months following issues with consultation over direct, or second level, registrations, poor communication and transparency and poor governance.

auDA, the policy and regulatory body for Australia’s country code top level domain, is a membership organisation with members in either demand (those who register domain names) or supply (those who sell domain names) classes. There are 4 directors from each class voted on by members as well as 3 independent directors appointed by the board. Given the outrage at the auDA management and certain board members, it’s hard to see members not voting in favour of the resolutions.

For more information, see today’s earlier article at:
www.domainpulse.com/2018/04/08/auda-members-grumpier-demand-heads-roll/

* The above article has been corrected. An earlier version had said that auDA would be holding the meeting to vote on the resolutions within 2 months of the letter being sent. At this stage auDA have not confirmed if they will be challenging the legality of the resolutions and if they will go ahead.

* Disclaimer: the writer was an auDA Board member (2005 to 2007), served on 3 auDA Names Policy Panels (2007, 2010 and 2015), was a supplier to auDA for 14 years and is now a supplier to Neustar providing online media monitoring services.

AuDA Members Get Grumpier And Demand Heads Roll

Could this be the end of auDA? It’s less than 12 months since a revolt by auDA members that led to the then-Chair Stuart Benjamin resigning prior to a Special General Meeting was held to oust him. At the time auDA said they would listen to their members. But they haven’t. So a trio of members have proposed another SGM, this time calling for the sacking of CEO Cameron Boardman and removing the 3 independent directors including Chair Chris Leptos.

The SGM comes at a delicate time for auDA, the .au country code top level domain (ccTLD) policy and regulatory body. The Australian government is close to releasing a report into auDA’s governance, consultation into which has led to furious lobbying by auDA to make changes that would include sidelining the input of members and from others to have significant changes to the way auDA is managed.

The SGM has been proposed by Josh Rowe, a former auDA director for 14 years and a digital entrepreneur, Paul Szyndler, former auDA General Manager – International and Government Affairs for 5 years and industry participant Jim Stewart. For the SGM to happen, at least 5% of members must support calling it and a petition is available for auDA members to sign at grumpier.com.au. The meeting would be convened pursuant to Section 249D of the Corporations Act 2001. Sources have told Domain Pulse they well and truly have the numbers.

There are 3 themes around which those behind Grumpier have united:
1. The lack of proper process from auDA on consultation for direct, or second level, registrations with negligible input from business and the Chair Chris Leptos claiming there will be “winners and losers”. A Business Case Study was promised by the CEO Cameron Boardman, but this has not been forthcoming. The Policy Review Panel was also never fully populated like previous auDA panels were – and given that there has also been some natural attrition, this has probably contributed to its likely downfall.

2. Poor communication and transparency, which auDA management promised to improve at the last SGM, but which hasn’t happened. A tweet (see below) from former Director Simon Johnson says it all! Whilst that situation has been partially rectified, the last minutes to appear on the auDA website is for a meeting held in December 2017, while minutes haven’t appeared for a meeting in November (nor an agenda), nor meetings in February or March 2018.

SimonJohnsonTweet

Then there is the issue of potential rumours about past alleged financial irregularities by some former staff and management. This topic has been around for over a year, but nothing has been detailed or proven.

3. Poor governance including the lack of action to appoint replacement Demand class directors – following the resignation of Ned O’Meara this month there are now only 2 of 4 demand class directors on the board.

“Even since the last SGM auDA has not listened to members and not been in touch with the broader internet community,” said Josh Rowe. “There needs to be a change of leadership and this is why we’ve called the SGM.”

Member dissatisfaction, and the fact auDA is a member-driven not-for-profit organisation that is accountable to a range of stakeholders, has grown in recent months. The handling of the Registry Transformation Project that saw Afilias oust Neustar as the registry has also seen member dissatisfaction grow. As part of the winning Afilias bid, due to a rumoured much cheaper price, it was expected that the wholesale price, that charged to registrars, of domain names would fall dramatically. However it appears that the fee will only decline by about 10%. Who keeps the rest is the question that Grumpier asks?

Grumpier follows on from the Grumpy campaign that was led by Scott Long, Ian Halson and until last week auDA director Ned O’Meara. Those behind Grumpier say while “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, the 3 behind Grumpy, have nothing to do with Grumpier.com.au.

Another key question that has to be asked of auDA’s current management is it too inexperienced to run such an organisation? There has been high turnover of staff as Domain Pulse has previously reported with only 2 of about 14 staff remaining since Boardman took over as CEO in August 2016 plus some key appointees departing before their seats were warm. Sources Domain Pulse have spoken to say they estimate ‘well in excess of $1 million has been spent’ paying off departing staff and keeping them silent. Questions are also asked by Grumpier about the sudden departure of Company Secretary Di Parker last year after the SGM and the reasons behind Simon Johnson’s sudden resignation as Director.

There are also concerns that “friends or previous colleagues of the CEO have been appointed to plum positions within the organisation” without the positions being advertised. There are also concerns about the independent directors with questions raised around Suzanne Ewart’s being made chair of the auDA board Security and Risk sub-committee when she appears to have no “relevant experience … in this most important discipline” while Sandra Hook is longest serving Independent, “but what has she done about any of the [governance problems and] what relevant domain industry experience does she have?”

The 4 resolutions are:

  • Resolution 1 – Vote of no confidence in Cameron Boardman (CEO)
  • Resolution 2 – Removal of Chris Leptos as a Director
  • Resolution 3 – Removal of Sandra Hook as a Director
  • Resolution 4 – Removal of Suzanne Ewart as a Director

* Disclaimer: the writer was an auDA Board member (2005 to 2007), served on 3 auDA Names Policy Panels (2007, 2010 and 2015), was a supplier to auDA for 14 years and is now a supplier to Neustar providing online media monitoring services.

Global Domain Registrations Climb Up, But .NET and New gTLDs Slide Down: Verisign

Global domain name registrations continue to rise, with approximately 332.4 million registrations at the end of 2017 across all top level domains, according to the latest Verisign Domain Name Industry Brief out today. The increase for the fourth quarter was approximately 1.7 million domain names, or 0.5%, from the third quarter and 3.1 million, or 0.9%, year over year.

Within this slight increase there are notable declines – that of .net which declined to 14.5 million at the end of December from 15.0 million at the end of the third quarter and 15.3 million at the end of 2016. Five years ago at the end of 2012 there were 14.9 million .net registrations.

There was also a decline in the total number of new generic top level domains (new gTLDs) registrations. Among the new gTLDs there were approximately 20.6 million registrations, or 6.2% of total registrations across all TLDs. This was a decrease of approximately 0.5 million registrations, or 2.4% for the quarter, and approximately 5.0 million registrations (19.5%) year over year. The top 10 ngTLDs represented 48.9% of all new gTLD registrations.

But of course there were increases. The big behemoth, .com, saw registrations rise to 131.9 million at the end of 2017 compared to 130.8 million 3 months earlier, 126.9 million 12 months ago and 106.2 million at the end of 2012.

Total country code top level domain (ccTLD) registrations were approximately 146.1 million, a 1.0% increase over the third quarter of 2017, and a 2.4% increase year over year. Registrations at the end of the third quarter of 2017 were 144.7 million, 142.7 million 12 months ago and 110.2 million 5 years ago when the 12 month growth rate for ccTLDs was 21.6% in 12 months.

Without including .tk, ccTLD registrations increased approximately 0.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2017, a 0.5% increase compared to the third quarter of 2017 and ccTLDs increased by approximately 2.3 million registrations, or 1.8%, year over year.

The top 10 ccTLDs as of 31 December were .cn (China), .tk (Tokelau), .de (Germany), .uk (United Kingdom), .ru (Russian Federation), .nl (Netherlands), .br (Brazil), .eu (European Union), .fr (France) and .au (Australia). As of the end of 2017, there were 302 global ccTLD extensions delegated in the root, including Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs), with the top 10 ccTLDs composing 65.5 percent of all ccTLD domain name registrations.

New .com and .net domain name registrations totalled 9.0 million during the fourth quarter of 2017 compared to 8.8 million for the fourth quarter in 2016 and 8.0 million 5 years earlier in 2012.

auDA Goes Gung-Ho With Threats Some Registrants Could Lose Their Domain Names

auDA, the .au policy and regulatory body, has decided to clamp down on a seemingly innocuous practice, that is of the occasional domain name registrant registering domain names with strings that are included on a Reserve List defined under Australian law. Continue reading auDA Goes Gung-Ho With Threats Some Registrants Could Lose Their Domain Names

Australia’s Own ccTLD Not Good Enough for auDA!

Apparently Australia’s ccTLD isn’t good enough for auDA, the .au policy and regulatory body. In advertisements in daily papers promoting a series of seminars on “the biggest changes in 30 years” to .au, auDA deemed it better to use .ly domain name than .au!

The series of advertisements with the, well, let’s be polite, snafu, comes some weeks after auDA’s Marketing and Research Coordinator either jumped or was pushed and the organisation appears to have engaged consultants rather than employ a dedicated person to deal with marketing and communications. [Update: Apparently auDA has now employed a new marketing and communications person]

The advertisements (see here for the Melbourne one) were published in newspapers around the country, this one published in the Herald Sun. The seminars are being held in February in Perth, Sydney (both already held), Melbourne and Brisbane.

So yes, while .ly is a recognised URL shortener, surely using auda.org.au/auMELBO would have been better than bit.ly/auMELBO to take one to the Eventbrite registration form for the Melbourne seminar? And from a usability perspective, including both upper and lower case letters in a URL isn’t wise either. And why http:// and not www.? As the policy and regulatory body maybe they could have used something like aupolicyreform.org.au/mel?

According to the registration form, the 6-hour seminar, including a one-hour lunch break, will:

  • inform stakeholders on the progress of the review and to invite feedback from stakeholders on issues such as:
  • Who should be entitled to hold an Australian domain name licence
  • What eligibility requirements should exist in relation to each type of Australian domain name
  • Should any terms be prohibited from being used as an Australian domain name
  • How .au direct registration should be implemented (that is, domain registration at the second level, such as example.au)
  • Consumer protection, fair trading and the .au domain space
  • What is and is not working at present in relation to Australian domain names
  • A discussion paper will soon be released examining the issues around a new registrant policy.

 

As auDA’s Annus Horribilis Draws to a Close, Afilias Appointed to Operate .AU Registry

It’s been a bruising year for auDA. One could call it their Annus Horribilis. An unusually high staff and board member turnover, ousting of the Chair following a member revolt and a process for dealing with the registry contract commencing in turmoil, but finally coming to an end with Afilias winning the tender to operate the registry from July 2018.

The auDA announcement today comes from a shortlist of 3 which was whittled down from the original 9 full responses received following the tender announcement, a process overseen by domain name industry veteran Bruce Tonkin, which, prior to his stewardship had the appearance of being a process without direction and in total chaos starting with auDA’s announcement, never clarified, that they intended to build and operate the registry and was being conducted without industry consultation, which they are required to do.

The current registry provider, AusRegistry, now owned by Neustar, has run the registry since late 2002 and overseen growth from around 310,000 to today’s 3.125 million.

With the auDA contract, the number of country code top level domains (ccTLDs) operated by Afilias comes to 10. The .au contract is easily the largest of these, the others being .ag (Antigua and Barbuda), .bz (Belize), .gi (Gibraltar), .in (India), .lc (St. Lucia), .me (Montenegro), .mn (Mongolia), .sc (Seychelles) and .vc (St. Vincent and the Grenadines). Afilias also provides backend registry services for 8 legacy generic top level domains (gTLDs) and 193 new gTLDs, 20 of these which they’re also the registry for.

Established in 2000, Afilias is the world’s second largest domain name registry provider with over 21 million names under management, including .org (10.372 million domain names) and .info (5.917 million).

As part of the requirements for operating the .au registry, Afilias is required to have an Australian office and according to the auDA announcement they “will set up a new Melbourne office with 20 local staff, including seasoned domain name professionals with more than 20 years global experience.”