Just two days ago, I wrote a very anguished piece about the auDA that I have known and loved for 10 years. I suggested that it was “only a matter of time” before people on high took some action.
“Unless something changes soon, there will be a formal accounting for this. There has to be, because the pressure is mounting. The train crashes need to end.”
Little did I know that this was already in the works. The very next day came the announcement that the Federal Government intends to hold a review into auDA.
“A review of auDA’s governance arrangements and an assessment of the terms of endorsement will examine whether Australia’s top-level domain, .au, is being managed consistent with Government and community expectations. It is anticipated that the review would be finalised in early 2018.”
Many mainstream media publications have again picked up the story and run with it. As usual, Myriam Robin of the AFR is right on top of it with her “Rear Window” article entitled “Government wades into Australian Domain Authority dispute”.
The one piece that puzzles me slightly is on the SkyNews website. The opening sentence reads:
“A battle over two letters that led to several directors leaving the .au authority has blown up into a government review.”
I’d love to have that better explained.
What Still Worries Me
There are around 320 auDA members at the moment, and under the long standing Constitution, they have rights. The unrest this year has come about simply because some of those in control at auDA forgot this. It’s Politics 101 – if you upset the voters, then get ready for the backlash. The people at the helm of auDA are Victorian Liberal Party warriors (Karabardak and Boardman), so I’m surprised they ignored this basic tenet.
More importantly, there are approximately 1.7 million individual registrants of domain names in Australia. It is the latter that I believe are being disenfranchised by auDA’s “growth strategies”. Many of these people wouldn’t have a clue that auDA intends to try and introduce direct registrations i.e. the ability to register yourname.au in addition to yourname.com.au. This effectively doubles the pool of domain names – but there are potentially some catches. Like having a competitor register the new .au domain name ahead of them; or to avoid this, they will effectively be forced to defensively register the new .au themselves.
Either which way, if this goes ahead, it will be a double tax on registrants. Most good politicians should know by now that tax is never a popular subject! It has seen the downfall of many a political party.
The big question is why? Our market is so tiny with approximately 3.1 million domains registered (compared to dot com with +/- 130 million).
As I have said for over 2 years, if auDA intends on introducing the biggest change in the .au namespace, then make sure every single one of those 1.7 million registrants knows about it first – and has the chance to have a say. Particularly if as an organisation you are financially going to benefit from it.
Hopefully this Government review takes a similar stance, and it won’t be just a “window dressing whitewash”.
Ned O’Meara – 20th October 2017