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
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.
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.”
The employee disaster zone that is auDA continues to dismay. This week Domain Pulse learned of another of CEO Cameron Boardman’s Executive Assistants is to leave after only about 4 months in the job. Whether they’re leaving on their own accord or not is not clear, but it follows the previous Executive Assistant being given notice while she was on sick leave having cancer treatment.
The disgraceful treatment of Jacki O’Sullivan, who has since sadly passed away, appears to be symptomatic of the current management and board. O’Sullivan was well liked and respected within the industry and by Domain Pulse. At the end of the 2016/17 financial year she and at least 2 others, also well respected and liked within the domain name industry, didn’t have their contracts renewed, nor were any of them given the opportunity to reapply for their positions.
O’Sullivan was also one of the few remaining links to the leadership of former CEO Chris Disspain. And industry talk is that the constant changes have contributed to the low staff morale. Of 14 staff, including Disspain, who were employed at the organisation at the time Disspain unexpectedly was forced out, it is believed only 2 remain. And others have come and gone, some of them high profile employees employed for their industry expertise but who found the workplace intolerable.
Domain Pulse doesn’t want to cause offence or displeasure to O’Sullivan’s friends and family, but her disgraceful treatment appears to be symptomatic of the current state of the organisation.
The changes though keep coming at auDA. In 2017 alone, 5 auDA Directors have resigned and another 3 in 2016, all outside the normal AGM election. And this week auDA has announced the appointment of 2 new Directors – Suzanne Ewart and Chris Leptos. According to the auDA announcement, Ewart “brings experience in strategy, treasury and finance for some of Australia’s major ASX listed companies to her new role as Independent Director of auDA” while “Leptos is an experienced Non-Executive Director across several sectors, and a Professorial Fellow with Monash University.”
And as Domainer has noted today, 9 of the 11 auDA Directors are based in Victoria, or 10 of the 12 when you add the CEO Cameron Boardman who is a non-voting member of the Board. As Domainer also notes, there are more states of Australia than Victoria, and the lack of diversity is appalling. It makes one think it’s a cosy Victorian club they’re putting together at auDA. It would also be interesting to know how many of the current Directors are members of the Victorian branch of the Liberal Party.
* No comment was sought from auDA as they have said they do not speak to online publications and do not consider them media, and previously have not responded to Domain Pulse/Goldstein Report’s enquiries.
Women account for close to half (48%) of all .au registrants as trust in the Australian ccTLD remains high, with 61% of respondents reporting it was their most trusted TLD in Australia followed by .com (41%), according to the latest annual survey on .au.
These are some of the findings of an annual survey conducted on behalf of the .au registry, AusRegistry, published in their latest Behind the Dot magazine.
The overall results of the survey of 1,201 Australians shed a positive light on .au and its dominance in the marketplace. When asked what the .au country code top level domain signifies, two thirds (67%) of respondents answered, ‘Australia’. The second most popular response at 30% was ‘Australian businesses’. Results also indicate an uptick in a respondent’s willingness to purchase .au domain names, greater domain ownership overall, and a level of trust in .au returning to above 60%.
Women are increasingly registering .au domain names accounting for 48% of registrants compared to 44% in 2013, the first year AusRegistry conducted the survey. Of those without a domain name, 18% wanted to expand their online presence. And a third (34%) of registrants were aware of new generic top level domains.
Increasingly Australians are registering a domain name with 27% of respondents holding a domain name compared to 23% in 2016. And when registering a domain name, two thirds (67%) preferred a .com.au domain, followed by .com (16%), .au (7%), and .net.au (4%). Renewal rates are also high with the annualised retention rate to 30 June 2017 being 84%.
To download AusRegistry’s latest Behind the Dot magazine which includes the survey results in more detail, go to:
The .au policy and regulatory body, auDA, announced a review of its constitution Monday, just days after it was announced Director Simon Johnson was requesting a Fit and Proper Persons Test be put to Members at the upcoming Annual General Meeting.
The Fit and Proper Persons Test [pdf] would preclude anyone with a criminal conviction anywhere in the world, even as small as being convicted of possession of a marijuana joint, or a former bankrupt, from being an auDA Member or standing for a Director’s position on the Board. It would also seek to expel any current Members or Directors that had a criminal conviction or had previously been a bankrupt.
With the Constitutional Review having been already flagged and member’s requested to nominate for the committee some months ago, it makes one wonder why Johnson has requested the changes, which must be approved, and are unlikely to be approved, at the Annual General Meeting this month.
The Member Constitutional Reform Committee for the .au country code top level domain (ccTLD) has been established to review and make recommendations on potential reforms to ensure the Constitution reflects auDA’s purpose and values. The committee is due to report in February 2018.
“This Committee is charged with reviewing auDA’s Constitution and making recommendations for improvements or reforms to reflect the objects and values of the organisation,” Interim Chair Erhan Karabardak said.
“Importantly, the Committee is expected to work closely with all stakeholders, inviting input from government, registrants, registrars, and members.
“The terms of reference include developing and seeking member feedback on a draft Code of Conduct for members, which fulfils a commitment from the Special General Meeting earlier this year.”
In addition, the Committee will evaluate the Constitution to ensure it continues to comply with relevant legislation and ICANN’s expectations of ccTLDs.
The Committee will also work on the implementation of the recommendations of the Cameron Ralph Khoury review into governance models.
“In a rapidly changing digital environment it is important that we have the right fundamental principles in place to govern auDA. I encourage all members to engage with the work of the Committee, and look forward to seeing their recommendations.”
No comment is sought from auDA as auDA has stated they do not speak to online-only media publications such as Domain Pulse and the Goldstein Report. But they still send Domain Pulse and the Goldstein Report media announcements!
Some days I think the ongoing auDA consultations on the introduction of second level registrations are like the Rapture. The believers keep believing, but it never seems to happen. What started with Names Policy Panel recommendations in favour back in 2015 has since gone through several consultations. With very little movement since the Names Policy Panel recommended they be introduced.
The latest consultation is asking for public submissions for the first phase of the Policy Review Panel's work, the development of an implementation policy for Direct Registration.
A lengthy issues paper [pdf] was prepared with 10 questions to be answered by those seeking to make a submission. However we’ve been a bit lax in alerting to this latest consultation as it closes at the close of business on Friday 10 November 2017. That’s close of business Sydney/Melbourne time.
If you wish to make a submission, go to the 2017 Policy Review Panel page where you can download the issues paper [pdf] and obtain more information at:
There’s currently an election underway for directors to the auDA Board. The last 2 years have been dogged by controversy for the .au policy and regulatory body. The Board unceremoniously dumped the CEO and the current CEO and board have overseen a turbulent time since current CEO Cameron Boardman commenced.
It’s believed 12 of 14 paid staff have either left or were booted since March 2016 when then CEO Chris Disspain departed and 5 directors have gone in 2017 alone, all outside the usual election cycle. And another 2 departed in the month that Boardman commenced, prior to the November AGM when elections were held.
Over the last 12 months or so in particular there have been issues with accountability and transparency such as the deletion of historical information from the website that was only (mostly) reinstated following a successful freedom of information request, a Member revolt that saw then Chair Stuart Benjamin resign ahead of a vote and a disregard of consultation processes that served the body well over the past 17 years or so. These consultation processes through Advisory Panels are to be “the principle mechanism for developing policy recommendations to the Board” according to the Constitution but were initially ignored when it came to current Request for Tender for the Registry Transformation Project.
And whispers have been doing the rounds for months of payments to employees that have been booted to keep them quiet.
The latest issue has seen an anonymous email sent to Domain Pulse smearing candidate for the auDA Board Ned O’Meara. The email sent under the name of “Anton Mackenzie” makes allegations of bankruptcy against O’Meara, something O’Meara hasn’t tried to hide. The cowardly email questions whether someone who has been bankrupt should be a director. O’Meara has addressed the issues on his Domainer news site saying he’s:
“got a fairly good idea who is behind the smear campaign, and all I say to them is this: You are gutless wonders. But then you know that already don’t you? If you want to have a go at me, show some ‘cojones’, and put your real identity to the comments.”
The email asked Domain Pulse to do a search on O’Meara. But instead Domain Pulse found 7 successful business people, an actor and a politician, who have been bankrupt – Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Milton Hershey, Burt Reynolds, H.J. Heinz and P.T. Barnum. Domain Pulse replied to the email and asked for more information, but unsurprisingly none was forthcoming.
O’Meara has been involved in domain names in Australia for some time as a domain name investor and registrar operator. Currently he’s semi-retired, writing on his Domainer news site and is standing for election to the auDA Board on a joint ticket with fellow Queenslander, Brisbane lawyer Nicole Murdoch.
The email with the allegations against O’Meara came 2 days after it became public that a Constitutional amendment [pdf] was to be put to Members at the upcoming Annual General Meeting for a Fit and Proper Persons Test. The amendment is proposed by demand class member Simon Johnson who told Domain Pulse he didn’t believe there should be criminals on the auDA Board or as Members. The amendment would see anyone with a criminal conviction, even as small as a teenage marijuana conviction, who has been bankrupt or one of a myriad of other matters being barred from being a Member or Director of auDA. Decisions would be made by the Board and not be made public, so those being investigated would never know the full reasonings behind the decision.
Currently a Member can only be expelled if they “have been guilty of conduct detrimental to the interests of auDA or to the objects of auDA” and the Member has the opportunity to put their case. For Directors, there is currently no specific rules in the Constitution that preclude someone from being a Director and the proposal is a new sub-clause.
Domain Pulse is not suggesting there is any link between the anonymous email and the proposed amendment and is not aware of who is behind the email. The 2017 auDA Annual General Meeting will be held on 27 November.
The .au policy and regulatory body, auDA, is seeking to implement even more onerous rules [pdf] on who can be a Member of the organisation than on who is eligible to stand for the Australian parliament in what could easily be viewed as an attempt to stifle dissent.
The resolutions that will be put to Members at the Annual General Meeting on 27 November come under proposed amendments to the constitution in what auDA describes as a “Fit and Proper Persons Test”. Under auDA’s proposals, someone like Nelson Mandela wouldn’t be allowed to be a member of the organisation.
The proposed resolutions, which need to be approved by members of Australia's country code top level domain (ccTLD) at the upcoming AGM, would give the Board the power to reject a member’s application and expel existing members without giving reason.
If approved the Board will have the power to reject membership applications or expel Members if the applicant or Member has been convicted of an offence against a law of the Commonwealth or of a state or territory of Australia.” To stand for Australia’s parliament, section 44 of the Constitution, a different section of which has been in the news a lot recently, a ban only applies to persons “convicted of a crime punishable by a year or more in prison” and the ban only applies “while serving or awaiting sentence.”
The resolution would also allow the board to reject a membership application or expel a Member if they had “been convicted of an offence against a law of another country” or “been, at any time, a bankrupt”, among other reasons.
Section 44 of the Constitution says in part that a person is precluded from standing for or being a member of the Australian parliament if they are “attainted of treason, or has been convicted and is under sentence, or subject to be sentenced, for any offence punishable under the law of the Commonwealth or of a State by imprisonment for one year or longer.”
A third resolution would, using the same reasonings, would preclude people from standing for the Board for the same reasons.
To download the proposed resolutions in full, go to:
The notice of the AGM is available at:
The Australian Government has ordered a review into the operations of the .au policy and regulatory body, auDA. Could it be that after 2 years or turmoil and mismanagement that the government has had enough?
Could it be that in the 2.5 years since Chris Disspain was unexpectedly dismissed as CEO, with a further 11 (at least) of the 13 then existing staff either leaving or questionably booted, along with some prize recruits coming and going, and an unusual turnover of board members outside normal elections, along with the often bumbling of policy and registry reviews and a member revolt that led to the then Chair resigning, the government has had enough? In the last week it has become known that industry participant and board member aspirant Nicole Murdoch has written to the Minister about irregularities within auDA.
Both the Minister for Communications and the Arts, publicly at least, and auDA who manages Australia's country code top level domain (ccTLD) have tried to paint it as a welcome review. The Minister has said the review is about ensuring .au “remains fit for purpose in serving the needs of Australians online.”
The Minister’s statement says that since auDA was established in 2000 “the digital landscape has changed significantly as the economy increasingly revolves around the internet.”
In a statement from auDA, they say the “Board and Executive of auDA today welcomed the announcement of a Federal Government review into the .au domain.”
“The .au domain is one of the most trusted domain zones in the world and we look forward to working with the government and Australian internet community to maintain and enhance that position,” said auDA Interim Board Chair Erhan Karabardak.
“auDA’s multi-stakeholder work on the Registry Transformation Project and Policy Review Panel will continue throughout the review.
“It is critical that we have the best possible model for managing the domain, and that our risk and mitigation strategies are among the best in the world.”
The review will be undertaken by the Department of Communications and the Arts and will examine the most appropriate framework for the domain and will also identify risk and mitigation strategies for the security and stability of the .au domain.
The next step is the Department will shortly release a discussion paper seeking input from interested industry and community stakeholders with the review expected to be finalised by early 2018.
The terms of reference for the review are available at: https://www.communications.gov.au/documents/terms-reference-review-au-domain-administration