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auDA chief Disspain let go after 16 years

Kevin Murphy, March 24, 2016, Domain Registries

Australian ccTLD manager auDA had parted ways with its founding CEO, Chris Disspain.

Disspain had been with auDA since its formation in 2000, spearheading the liberalization of the .au market.

His contract was up for renewal later this year, auDA said, “but the Board agreed new leadership was required to take the organisation forward”.

No further explanation was given, but it seems he’s leaving immediately.

Chief operations and policy officer Jo Lim will be acting CEO while a permanent replacement is found, a process expected to take six months.

auDA’s brief statement can be found here.

Disspain is a long-time ICANN leader, chairing the ccNSO for many years and sitting on the board of directors in one of the two ccNSO seats since 2011.

A vocal and active participant in board interactions with the community, he’s often tipped as a natural successor to current chair Steve Crocker, whose term limit kicks in late 2017.

Losing his job at auDA may make that a little more complicated.

Direct .au regs closer to reality

Kevin Murphy, August 20, 2015, Domain Registries

Australians could soon get the ability to register domain names directly under .au for the first time.

Following in the footsteps of the UK and New Zealand, a panel of .au policy body auDA has recommended that the second level should be opened up for registrations, pending further consultation.

In a consultation paper (pdf), the panel wrote:

direct registrations would create names which are shorter, more appealing and more memorable. They would make the domain name system simpler and easier to use. Moreover, the proposed change would open a wide range of new choices for registrants, and would provide a better option, especially for some groups; in particular, the Panel thinks that the biggest benefit will be for individuals, who would be able to obtain an Australian domain name in a simple and straightforward way.

Trademark owners need to pay attention, because the panel has recommended that the release does not include a sunrise period, due to .au’s “no hierarchy of rights” principle.

But the panel is recommending that existing .au registrants should get first dibs on matching second-level names.

Unlike the UK, where .co.uk registrants had preference over registrants in other SLDs, the auDA panel says .com.au owners would not be treated any differently to, for example, .org.au owners.

The panel has also raised the idea of implementing ICANN’s Uniform Rapid Suspension policy.

Registry providers might want to take note that the panel says that .au back-end AusRegistry, now part of Neustar, will not automatically get the contract to run the direct .au registry; an RFP may be in auDA’s future.

The recommendations are now open for comment until September 30.

Australia considers dumping the .com.

Kevin Murphy, April 20, 2015, Domain Policy

Australian domain overseer auDA is thinking about allowing people to register .au domains directly at the second level for the first time.

The organization has opened up a consultation that would allow registrations such as example.au, rather than just the current system of example.com.au, example.org.au and so on.

The move follows the successful recent releases of 2LDs in the UK (.uk) and New Zealand (.nz) ccTLDs and can be seen as a bid to remain competitive in the face of the new gTLD program’s huge expansion of TLD choice.

A consultation paper (pdf) published today reads:

It is suggested that unprecedented competition from new gTLDs requires .au to be more responsive to global market forces. For .au to remain a strong and highly-regarded TLD we need not only to rely on its distinctive Australian identity and good reputation, but continue to innovate in order to counter the likely impact of hundreds of new gTLDs flooding the market. Whilst .au is currently very popular with Australian users, there is potential for new gTLDs to erode the brand equity in .au.

Currently, .au has over a dozen different second-level options, but about 85% of registrations are in .com.au. The TLD has just shy of three million names today.

Complicating matters slightly, the different 2LDs have different registration policies, so auDA would need to figure out a way to harmonize them for direct registrations.

auDA speculates that direct registrations may increase the adoption of .au domain names by individuals not currently able to obtain .com.au names but unaware of the individual-focused .id.au (it exists, apparently), thereby growing the .au name space.

It also worries that many second-level direct registrations may turn out to be defensives, registered by the registrants of the matching .com.au names.

The consultation is open for comments until June 1.

Two ICANN directors update their conflicts profile after .africa complaint

Kevin Murphy, December 19, 2012, Domain Registries

ICANN directors Mike Silber and Chris Disspain have updated their official statements of interest — used to identify potential conflicts on the board — after a complaint from a .africa applicant.

The new SOI statement more clearly specifies the relationship between South African ccTLD policymaker ZADNA — for which Silber acts as treasurer — and Uniforum, which has applied for the .africa gTLD.

(December 28 Update: Silber, in the comments below, states that the update to his SOI was in no way a response to the DCA complaint.)

It also gives a bit more information about Disspain’s employer, .au policymaker AuDA, and ARI Registry Services, which is providing the back-end registry services for dozens of new gTLD applicants.

Here’s Silber’s new SOI summary, with the relevant new text highlighted:

Member of the Management Committee and Treasurer of the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) South Africa. He is also, a Director and Treasurer of the .za Domain Name Authority, the ccTLD administrator for .za. The .za Domain Name Authority has concluded an arms-length operating agreement with Uniforum t/a the .za Central Registry for Uniforum to operate the .za registry. Under the agreement, Uniforum will collect and pay transaction fees to .za Domain Name Authority. Uniforum is acting as the registry service provider for various new gTLD applicants.

Here’s Disspain’s, again with my emphasis:

Director and CEO of .au Domain Administration Limited, the .au ccTLD manager; .au has sponsorship agreement with ICANN under which .au pays ICANN a yearly amount based on the amount of names under management. Former Officer of ICANN, Paul Levins, is a Director of .au Domain Administration Limited. .au Domain Administration Limited licenses AusRegistry Pty Ltd to run the registry for the second level names in .au. Under the Registry License agreement, AusRegistry pays fees to auDA; companies affiliated with AusRegistry are affiliated with new gTLD applications.

AusRegistry is technically ARI’s parent, but they share many of the same senior executives.

The updated statement comes shortly after a complaint filed with ICANN’s Ombudsman by .africa applicant DotConnectAfrica about Silber and Disspain’s alleged conflicts of interest over the gTLD.

While the indirect connection between Silber and DCA’s rival .africa applicant Uniforum is clear, it was not obvious to Ombudsman Chris LaHatte what Disspain’s conflict was supposed to be.

LaHatte found no actions that constituted conflicts of interest from either director, but he appeared to nudge the board to providing fuller disclosure, which is what seems to have happened here.

Ombudsman asks DCA to simmer down after .africa conflict of interest complaint

Kevin Murphy, December 10, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s Ombudsman dismissed a complaint from DotConnectAfrica about alleged conflicts of interest on ICANN’s board of directors, but scolded DCA for its “intemperate” blog posts.

DCA complained in October that two members of the board — Mike Silber and Chris Disspain — have conflicts of interest in relation to the contested .africa gTLD.

DCA has applied for .africa without notable government support, whereas South African registry Uniforum has applied with formal backing from most African governments.

According to DCA’s complaint, as described by Ombudsman Chris LaHatte in a new blog post, Disspain and Silber somehow have conflicts of interest related to this contention set.

Silber is treasurer of ZADNA, the South African domain name authority, which oversees .za policy and ergo Uniforum’s ccTLD business, which is arguably a close connection to the .africa applicant.

Disspain is CEO of auDA, which oversees policy for Australia’s .au ccTLD and therefore has a relationship with AusRegistry, a major back-end provider for new gTLD applicants.

It’s not at all obvious what the alleged conflict of interest related to .africa is in Disspain’s case.

When LaHatte asked DCA executive director Sophia Bekele to explain the precise nature of the conflicts, he did not receive any information beyond identification of these two employment connections, both of which are already fully disclosed by ICANN.

Both men are members of the board’s New gTLD Program Committee, which wields the board’s power over the new gTLD program and is designed to comprise only non-conflicted directors.

LaHatte blogged that he was unable to find any discussion of .africa in any board or committee meeting minutes — because ICANN has not discussed any individual gTLD applications yet — and was therefore unable to find any unfair treatment of DCA.

Dealing with unfair treatment is of course the Ombudsman’s job. LaHatte concluded:

I consider that no disqualifying conflict of interest, or indeed any conflict of interest at all, is present in the actions of both Chris Disspain and Mike Silber. It is likely this complaint has led to increased awareness of the possibilities of conflict of interest, which the Board will carefully consider in terms of the existing policy about conflict, when the issue arises. I consider this should continue to be a matter for consideration in gTLD decision making by the Board.

But the Ombudsman also, it seems, had some concerns about the nature of DCA’s lobbying campaign over the last several months, which has been as vitriolic has it has been scattershot.

As previously noted, some of its allegations against its .africa rival have been baffling.

LaHatte clearly picked up on the tone of the debate also, blogging:

There has been considerable amount of discussion on blogs, Twitter and other sites and in comments on the ICANN website in relation to the new .africa gTLDs applications. Regrettably much of the discussion has been intemperate.

An aspect of this application has been the unfortunate tone of much of the debate on various websites blogs and other places. During the course of this investigation I discussed this with Sophia Bekele (at the Toronto meeting) and suggested that perhaps a less aggressive approach would be appropriate. She readily agreed to this.

The discussion and debate continues to be fairly vigorous, but I would suggest to the competing parties for .africa that they should pay attention to the ICANN rules about respectful communication.

As Uniforum has said little, and DCA a lot, I can also assume that the blog posts being referred to are DCA’s.

The company has for several months regularly posted often incomprehensible allegations on its blog, usually in multicolored text with liberal use of italics and bold.

Bekele was also last week rumbled using a fake identity on a mailing list to support DCA’s position.