Tag Archives: AusRegistry

More Domain Name Industry Consolidation As Donuts Takes On Afilias Registry Business

Donuts dropped a bit of a bombshell on the domain name industry Thursday by announcing they were taking on the domain name registry business of Afilias, making it one of the largest providers of backend registry services for hundreds of ccTLDs, legacy gTLDs and new gTLDs.

Continue reading More Domain Name Industry Consolidation As Donuts Takes On Afilias Registry Business

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.”

Satisfaction With .AU Runs High Among Australians As Women Increasingly Register Domain Names

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:
https://www.ausregistry.com.au/behind-dot-magazine-unveils-annual-au-survey/

auDA’s Daily Calamity Update: CEO Defends Lack of Accountability and Transparency

It’s turning out to be an almost daily update on the calamities of auDA, the .au regulatory and policy body. It could be amusing, and frustrating for those involved, if it weren’t that auDA was a key player in such a critical piece of Australia’s infrastructure. Today’s update is that they claim they should be compared to the ABC, Australia’s version of the BBC, and the CSIRO, Australia’s peak scientific body.

“Huh?” I hear you ask. Well me too. The man behind Domainer.com.au, Ned O’Meara, wrote to auDA’s CEO Cameron Boardman questioning the recent disappearance of key documents, and questioning the commitment to improving communication and transparency as outlined at the 2016 annual general meeting last November.

Both Stuart Benjamin, auDA Chair, and Boardman had promised that communication and transparency would improve.

While some of the documents, such as annual reports, have returned with “human error” blamed, there are still documents missing. In an obvious thumb of the nose at the commitment to accountability and transparency, the Board resolved at its 13 February board meeting to “cease publishing Board Meeting Agendas and Minutes and remove historical Board Meeting documents from the public website in order to comply with good governance practices.”

One could easily ask how good governance can come about when a member driven organisation purposely make it hard to find out what is going on?

And then the comparison by Boardman of auDA to 2 of Australia’s leading public sector corporations – the ABC and CSIRO. But hang on a minute. auDA is not a public sector organisation. It’s a not for profit with members. While there are no doubt like organisations in Australia, none have such a direct impact on critical infrastructure like auDA does. Comparisons with other member-driven country code top level domains (ccTLDs) would be more accurate.

Organisations like the ABC and CSIRO are accountable according to legislation. For example the CSIRO is a government body that was formed under the Science and Industry Research Act 1949 and subject to the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. The legislation has an accountability standard and particularly under section 29, an official needs to declare their personal interests.

The relevant section, 10F, on “Disclosure of interests” reads:

  1. The Chief Executive shall give written notice to the Board of all direct or indirect pecuniary interests that the Chief Executive has or may have in any business or in any body corporate carrying on a business.
  2. Subsection (1) applies in addition to section 29 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (which deals with the duty to disclose interests).

* 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 AusRegistry proving online media monitoring services and contributing to the Behind the Dot magazine.

Chaos Reigns At auDA As Security Head Suddenly Departs

Appointed amid much fanfare around October last year, auDA’s Director Technology, Security and Strategy, Rachael Falk, has suddenly departed 8 months later.

auDA, the .au policy and regulatory body, is claiming Falk has advised “that she will be resigning at the end of June to pursue other career opportunities.” According to the auDA statement, Falk says “the decision to offer my resignation was due to a number of factors, as I am seeking to pursue a range of different professional opportunities. I look forward to a close, ongoing professional relationship with auDA and fully support and endorse the leadership and direction of the organisation and its executive”.

However industry insiders who have spoken to your correspondent and also to the Australian Domainer blog have a completely different story. According to those speaking off the record, Falk found her position untenable and walked following pressures from senior management and the CEO calling into question her professionalism. While the auDA announcement states Falk is leaving at the end of June, industry sources say she is not going back.

Cybersecurity is a growing problem for business worldwide and the appointment of Falk was seen as something of a coup at the time for auDA. Prior to her appointment Falk was the General Manager for Cyber Influence at Telstra Corporation, responsible for raising awareness on cyber security issues for all 35,000 Telstra staff.

“Having Rachael join our team will ensure that auDA is at the forefront of cyber security thought leadership within the Australian digital community, and she will help galvanise our policy practises and set a new international benchmark for regulatory best-practice,” auDA said in post by their CEO in October.

Similarly, auDA chairman Stuart Benjamin congratulated Falk on her appointment during the auIGF last October, saying auDA needs to win back the trust of the community it serves, and emphasising the higher expectations of auDA – both externally from stakeholders and driven internally by the organisation itself, announcing he will be “seeking a lot more”, according to a post by Kathy Reid on her blog.

Falk’s departure comes at a time when auDA is going through a process of bringing the .au registry operations in house having broken off negotiations with Neustar-owned AusRegistry. AusRegistry has operated the .au registry since 2002. Falk’s departure is also another in a string of departures to have hit the organisation since CEO for 14 years, Chris Disspain, was unceremoniously dumped last year. While auDA claims to be driving change for the good of the organisation, the constant change and turmoil, as well as transparency and accountability disappearing, appears to suggest otherwise.

Comment was sought from Ms Falk but there was no reply. No comment was sought from auDA as they don’t discuss issues with industry blogs as they’re not considered part of the media and have previously refused to comment.

Thanks to Domainer.com.au for some references.

* Disclaimer: the writer was an auDA Board member (2005 to 2007), served on 3 auDA Names Policy Panels (2007, 2010 and 2015), was a client of auDA for 14 years and is now a client of AusRegistry proving online media monitoring services and contributing to the Behind the Dot magazine.

 

auDA Release New Code of Conduct As Transparency Questions Continue

The .au policy regulator, auDA, released a new code of conduct last week as questions of transparency continue to gnaw away at the organisation with a former long-term director launching a funding initiative to raise money for a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

The Code of Conduct which was released to time with the current round of annual membership renewals includes some rather sensible points regarding supporting auDA's values that members are now required to agree to, such as engaging respectfully with other members, not harassing auDA staff, directors or members and not being defamatory or slanderous. But it also contains a fourth and final point for Members:

In any forum, including in the media, where acting as an auDA member or identifiable as an auDA member, I will conduct myself in a manner that will not bring the organisation, Directors or staff, into disrepute.

The arbiter of such a decision is the auDA Board who can temporarily suspend the member or revoke membership.

For 15 years the requirement of such a code hasn’t been deemed an issue. As a Board member a decade ago, your correspondent never heard murmurings of such a requirement. So why now?

The Australian ccTLD regulator, Board and organisation, are currently under fire for a unilateral move to bring in-house the registry operation currently conducted by AusRegistry, in clear breach of both its own constitution and Industry Advisory panels in 2008 and 2012, as previously reported. One wonders if the changes are coincidental?

For such a move regarding changes to registry operations to be legitimate the organisation should have called an Industry Panel, one of which is due to be held, to discuss future registry operations. However auDA management and key Board members have deemed they have no need to consult on the regulator/registry setup that has operated for 15 years. Their consultation announced after the move is an Industry Panel to only consult on how they will manage the registry in-house.

Additionally, transparency has gone out the window with Annual Reports deleted and since restored with no explanation and significant pieces of the organisation’s history deleted including previous Board members. Yes, your correspondent has been wiped from some of auDA’s history.

A Board member for over 14 years, Josh Rowe, has started a fundraising drive for a FOI request to restore the previously published board minutes, agenda and reports. The GoFundMe campaign seeks to raise $657 to obtain the deleted auDA documents from the Australian Government who is an observer on the auDA board.

No comment was sought for this article as auDA explicitly doesn’t answer media enquiries from industry blogs deeming them not part of the media.

 * Disclaimer: the writer was an auDA Board member (2005 to 2007), served on 3 auDA Names Policy Panels (2007, 2010 and 2015), was a client of auDA for 14 years and is now a client of AusRegistry proving online media monitoring services and contributing to the Behind the Dot magazine.

auDA Consults On Registry Role After Decision Made As Accountability and Transparency Questions Linger

The .au policy and regulatory body announced Friday it would be undertaking a consultation process headed by Dr Bruce Tonkin who has joined auDA as the Registry Transformation Project Lead. However the consultation process goes against previous recommendations from industry groups that it should operate the registry itself. Further, auDA’s constitution says Advisory Panels will be used to develop policy recommendations, but the decision to operate the registry has come about before any consultation.

The decision comes about as key documents such as annual reports have disappeared from its website, leading to concerns within the industry that the organisation is rapidly heading backwards on accountability and transparency.

Friday’s announcement says the Registry Transformation Project team will be assisted by an Industry-led Advisory Panel, in addition to a Registrar Liaison Board. The composition of the Industry-led Advisory Panel will be announced shortly and auDA is currently seeking expressions of interest from registrars for the Registrar Liaison Board. The project team leader, Dr Tonkin, was most recently Chief Strategy Officer for Melbourne IT and was involved in the founding of auDA. He’s also been a regular participant in the Competition and Names Policy Advisory Panels since formation and has served 9 years on the Board of ICANN.

The current registry operator, AusRegistry, has held the role since 2002 and overseen a period where registrations of .au domain names have grown from around 307,000 at the end of November 2002, about the time when AusRegistry commenced registry operations to 3.115 million today. It was the ninth largest ccTLD at the end of December 2016 according to the latest Verisign Domain Name Industry Brief.

The decision by the Australian country code top level domain (ccTLD) operator “to build and operate this key piece of national infrastructure” goes against recommendations by its Industry Advisory Panel in 2008 and again in 2012 that the existing setup of auDA as the policy and regulatory body and a separate registry should be retained.

The 2012 Industry Advisory Panel recommendations to the auDA Board included Recommendation 1A that reads:
a) the competitive registry model should be retained;
b) auDA should initiate renegotiations with AusRegistry to extend contractual arrangements for 2, 3 or 4 years;
c) auDA should seek stakeholder input on relevant negotiating factors prior to the renegotiations with AusRegistry;
d) if renegotiations with AusRegistry fail, auDA should proceed to conduct a formal RFT process; and
e) the auDA Board should publicly commit to undertaking a formal RFT process once the renegotiated registry agreement expires.

Likewise in 2008, the panel recommended “that the existing competitive registry model should be retained with future licence terms to be increased from the current 4 year licence term to either a 6 or 8 year licence term” and “that auDA negotiates with the current registry operator with a view to extending the current registry licence term by up to 4 years.”

The decision also flies in the face of a letter from Richard Alston, then Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts who wrote to then President and CEO, Dr M. Stuart Lynn, that auDA would “be inclusive of, and accountable to, members of the Internet community including both the supply and demand sides [and] adopt open, transparent and consultative processes.”

It seems rather obvious that the process should have been for auDA to have called for an Industry Advisory Panel, one of which is due to be held. The panel should have had as one of the issues to consider whether the registry operation should be brought in-house. However the auDA hierarchy seem oblivious to previous industry recommendations and its own constitution and set on going down a road that no other ccTLD operator is interested in due to the cost and complexity involved.

Curiously, this writer posed 5 questions to auDA Thursday. But in a written response was told in part that auDA doesn’t “usually reply to requests for blog stories”. So no response was given. The questions, some of which were answered or partly answered by Friday’s announcement were:
1.    Why is auDA going against the recommendations of the 2012 and 2008 Industry Advisory Panels regarding the role of the registry without consulting with the industry again and in particular why take the competitive registry model in-house which has never been recommended?
2.    The auDA constitution states in section 24.8.a that “Advisory Panels will be used by the Board as the principle mechanism for developing policy recommendations to the Board for the purpose of clause 3.1(d) of this constitution” and in sections 3.1.d, 3.1.e and 24.8.a that auDA should consult on changes to the constitution. Can you explain the consultation that was undertaken in regards to the recent announcement on the operation of the registry?
3.    Why is auDA conducting ongoing consultations (the current online survey) regarding second level registrations which appear to only ask opinions on whether they should happen or not?
4.    Does the auDA CEO consider it appropriate to be seeming to reveal confidential information to some in the industry who, even if off the record, then widely disseminate information to their target group?

5.    It appears the 2015/16 annual report has been deleted from the auDA website. If so, why?

 * Disclaimer: the writer was an auDA Board member (2005 to 2007), served on 3 auDA Names Policy Panels (2007, 2010 and 2015), was a client of auDA for 14 years and is now a client of AusRegistry proving online media monitoring services and contributing to the Behind the Dot magazine.

auDA Surprise: Ends Exclusive AusRegistry Negotiations, Wants to “Build and Operate” Own Registry

The .au policy and regulatory body auDA dropped something of a bombshell Wednesday when it announced it was ending exclusive negotiations with AusRegistry, the registry operator since 2002, and will undertake a restricted tender exercise, by invitation.

The Australian country code top level domain (ccTLD) is operated under a model that is not very common – auDA deals with policy and regulation as well as dealing with contractual issues for who runs the registry and what is expected, while AusRegistry, which is now owned by Neustar, runs the registry.

Under the contract held by AusRegistry to run the registry, registrations for .au domain names have grown from around 307,000 at the end of November 2002 about the time when AusRegistry commenced registry operations to 3.115 million today. It was the ninth largest ccTLD at the end of December 2016 according to the latest Verisign Domain Name Industry Brief.

The announcement by auDA this week follows a prior announcement in December 2016 saying auDA had entered “a period of exclusive negotiation with AusRegistry for the management of auDA’s registry operations beyond 2018.” This followed an unsolicited offer in November from AusRegistry “to continue those services beyond the current contract.”

According to yesterday’s auDA announcement, attributed to by Chair Stuart Benjamin, “this process will commence initially with a scoping exercise, sourcing expert advice so auDA can build and operate a dedicated .au registry.” [emphasis added] auDA says “AusRegistry will be invited to participate in the restricted tender process, as will other operators, once the scoping exercise and tender documentation is complete.” But it seems auDA has made its future clear.

The announcement seems to go against previous industry consultation, which auDA periodically undertakes as part of its role to work with the domain name community in Australia.

One of the consultations auDA undertakes is an Industry Advisory Panel that includes a broad number of people from the domain name industry – from AusRegistry, registrars, community groups and internet users. And the industry panels have recommended in 2008 and 2012 that the existing setup of auDA as the policy and regulatory body and a separate registry should be retained.

The 2012 Industry Advisory Panel recommendations to the auDA Board included Recommendation 1A that reads:
a) the competitive registry model should be retained;
b) auDA should initiate renegotiations with AusRegistry to extend contractual arrangements for 2, 3 or 4 years;
c) auDA should seek stakeholder input on relevant negotiating factors prior to the renegotiations with AusRegistry;
d) if renegotiations with AusRegistry fail, auDA should proceed to conduct a formal RFT process; and
e) the auDA Board should publicly commit to undertaking a formal RFT process once the renegotiated registry agreement expires.

Likewise in 2008, the panel recommended “that the existing competitive registry model should be retained with future licence terms to be increased from the current 4 year licence term to either a 6 or 8 year licence term” and “that auDA negotiates with the current registry operator with a view to extending the current registry licence term by up to 4 years.”

For now though one can assume industry players are digesting auDA’s surprise announcement and working out a way forward.

 

American Private Equity Firm Acquires Neustar

Golden Gate Capital, an American private equity firm, has acquired Neustar in a transaction that values the firm at approximately $2.9 billion, including debt to be refinanced. Neustar shareholders will receive $33.50 per share in cash, a premium of 45%.”We are pleased to have reached this agreement, which will deliver certain and immediate value to our shareholders,” said James Cullen, Neustar’s Chairman of the Board of Directors in a statement. “We are confident that today’s announcement represents the best path forward for all of Neustar’s stakeholders.”Neustar’s businesses include the registry operations for .us, .co, .biz and in mid-2015 they acquired Bombora Technologies, whose subsidiaries include the .au registry operator AusRegistry and ARI Registry Services who operates .melbourne, .sydney, and over 100 new gTLDs. Altogether, Neustar provides registry services for over 300 new gTLDs. Neustar also provides marketing, risk, security and communications services.”We believe this transaction will enable us to continue to execute against our strategy and strengthen our market position as a leader in marketing, risk, security and communication solutions,” said Lisa Hook, Neustar’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “Golden Gate Capital and GIC offered us a compelling opportunity to continue to invest and pursue long-term growth with operational flexibility, and we look forward to working with these two sophisticated investors. Importantly, customers, employees and partners will continue to benefit as we execute against our strategy.””We strongly believe in the Company’s strategic direction and have been very impressed with the team’s ability to transform the business into both a trusted, neutral provider to the telecom industry and a leading information services provider,” said Rishi Chandna, a Managing Director with Golden Gate Capital. “We look forward to partnering with the Neustar team to achieve its strategic objectives, make the Company’s competitive advantages even more compelling and drive value for all of Neustar’s stakeholders.”Golden Gate describes itself as “a privately held enterprise with over $15 billion in committed capital. Unlike conventional private equity firms, we operate as a private holding company and recapitalize, restructure, and ultimately build meaningful businesses in partnership with management over an indefinite time horizon.”The transaction is expected to close no later than the end of the third calendar quarter of 2017 and is subject to approval by Neustar’s shareholders, regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. Under the terms of the agreement, Neustar may solicit alternative proposals from third parties for 30 days.

AusRegistry In Box Seat To Retain .AU Registry Services [updated]

auDA logoIn an announcement today auDA, the .au policy and regulatory body, said they have entered into exclusive negotiations with AusRegistry, now part of Neustar, for the management of the registry operations for .au beyond 2018.

This follows AusRegistry making an unsolicited offer to continue those services beyond the current contract on 14 November.

AusRegistry have provided .au registry services since 2002. In that time .au registrations have grown more than ten-fold from 302,849 to 3,060,599 as of the end of November 2016.

Whoever wins the contract to operate the .au registry from 2018 onwards, there are a few significant changes that will be happening under the operator’s watch. The auDA board in recent months has approved second level registrations, for which policies haven’t been announced, and multi-year registrations.

auDA is seeking a best-in-class operator’s arrangement focussed on an enhanced security and technical setting and a rigorous process is underway to test the value, accountability and performance impacts of these initiatives.

Should the negotiations not be successful in achieving these outcomes, auDA said they reserve the right to conduct a market exercise.