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auDA now looking to outsource .au registry

Australian ccTLD overseer auDA appears to have softened its approach to overhauling the management of .au.

The organization said today that it’s now planning to look for an “outsourced registry operation” that will come online in July 2018.

In recent months, the company had been looking for suppliers to help it build a dedicated, in-house, .au infrastructure, in addition to keeping its outsourcing options open.

Today, auDA said that its recent request for expressions of interest had concluded. It said:

The [Registry Transformation Project] team have been very pleased with the strength of responses received and recommended to the auDA Board that auDA should proceed to the next stage of the project. The auDA Board subsequently resolved to undertake a formal Request for Tender (RFT) process. The RFT will be restricted to the respondents of the REOI with a scope to deliver an outsourced registry operation, based on auDA’s updated specifications, by July 2018.

It looks like any registry providers that did not get their foot in the door with the REOI are now permanently shut out of the process.

Additionally, it appears as though auDA has settled on an outsourced, rather than in-house, solution. Given the fact that the majority of the industry is based on service-based registry solutions, that had always seemed like a strong possibility.

auDA now plans to post a draft technical spec for comment August 14 and a formal request for tenders August 28, with a view to picking a winner in October/November for a July 2018 launch.

The company currently uses Neustar as its back-end due to Neustar’s 2015 acquisition of 15-year incumbent AusRegistry.

The names of the companies responding to the REOI, and their number, have not been disclosed.

auDA is currently facing a member revolt, partly but by no means exclusively over its decision to build an in-house registry. The company’s chair finds out whether members want him fired or not on Monday.

Second-level .ke domains go on sale this month

Kenya has become the latest ccTLD to jump on the second-level domain bandwagon.

From this month, registrants will be able to purchase example.ke, rather than having to select from third-level domains such as example.co.ke or example.or.ke, according to the registry.

KeNIC becomes the latest ccTLD registry to give customers the SLD option after the UK, New Zealand and Australia, which all backpedaled historic 3LD-only policies in order to remain relevant in an increasingly crowded TLD market.

Unlike previous launches, existing 3LD .ke registrants do not appear to have first right of refusal for the matching SLD, judging by the new policy (pdf).

The launch will begin July 23 with a 30-day sunrise period for trademark owners. This will be followed by a landrush period of 30 days.

Currently, pricing for co.ke domains in Kenyan shillings is in the same ballpark as the US dollar cost of a .com domain.

There are reportedly around 62,000 .ke domains currently registered.

Domainers want the head of auDA’s chair

Disgruntled domainers have managed to arrange for a vote on whether auDA chair Stuart Benjamin should be fired.

auDA, the .au ccTLD administrator, has been under fire for many months from registrants who believe the organization is being managed in an increasingly erratic and secretive manner.

Now, a campaign and petition at Grumpy.com.au, run by Domainer.com.au publisher Ned O’Meara, has led to auDA calling a special meeting July 31 with a single resolution on the agenda:

That Stuart Benjamin be removed as a director of the Company with immediate effect.

Benjamin will therefore lose his job with simple majority votes of both classes of auDA members — “supply” class, meaning registrars, and “demand” class, meaning registrants.

O’Meara blogged yesterday that he believes there is “a slightly less than even chance” of the resolution being carried due to the possible lack of votes from supply class members.

But auDA rejected as legally “invalid” three additional resolutions that had been proposed.

Grumpy members had also wanted auDA to restore all of its board’s meeting minutes that were inexplicably deleted from the organization’s web site.

They’d wanted a recently instituted member code of conduct to be scrapped, rewritten, and then put to members for a vote.

The code of conduct bans “harassment” and “bullying” of auDA staff, but it also prevents members from talking to the media about auDA in disparaging terms.

Finally, they’d also wanted auDA to abandon its plan to build an in-house registry infrastructure (replacing current provider Neustar) without first putting the plan to a member vote.

But all of these resolutions have been taken off the table on the basis of unspecified “legal advice” provided to auDA.

According to O’Meara and others, dissatisfaction with the organization has been brewing for some time, ever since late 2015 when Benjamin was brought in as a “demand” class director and appointed chair, only to be quickly dismissed and immediately reinstated as an “independent” director and reappointed chair.

In March 2016, 16-year CEO Chris Disspain was fired and replaced by Cameron Boardman.

I’m told auDa has been hemorrhaging staff for months — 10 of its 13 employees have apparently left the organization this year.

India to have SIXTEEN ccTLDs

While most countries are content to operate using a single ccTLD, India is to up its count to an unprecedented 16.

It already has eight, but ICANN’s board of directors at the weekend approved the delegation of an additional eight.

The new ccTLDs, which have yet to hit the root, are .ಭಾರತ, .ഭാരതം, .ভাৰত, .ଭାରତ, .بارت, .भारतम्, .भारोत, and .ڀارت.

If Google Translate and Wikipedia can be trusted, these words all mean “India” in, respectively, Kannada, Malayalam, Bengali, Odia, Arabic, Nepali, Hindi and Sindhi.

They were all approved under ICANN’s IDN ccTLD Fast Track program and will not operate under ICANN contract.

India already has seven internationalized domain name versions of its ccTLD in seven other scripts, along with its vanilla ASCII .in.

National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) will be ccTLD manager for the whole lot.

India may have as many as 122 languages, according to Wikipedia, with 30 spoken by more than a million people.

InternetNZ wants to fire two of its three (!) CEOs

InternetNZ, the .nz ccTLD operator, is proposing a radical simplification of the organization in order to stay relevant in the age of new gTLDs.

A proposal put forward late last week would see the non-profit organization fold its two subsidiaries back into the parent and consolidate management under a single CEO.

Currently, InternetNZ owns Domain Name Commission Limited (DNCL), the .nz policy oversight body, and NZRS Limited, which actually runs the registry. Each of the three entities has its own CEO.

The new proposal describes the situation like this:

Our governance and management structures are cumbersome and a lack of single point of accountability makes it difficult to progress work across the group. The size of governance groups and management resource is out of proportion to the size of the organisation and the size of the issues it is dealing with. There are 20 governors, three chief executives and around 10 senior executives for the 35 FTE [Full Time Employees] across the three organisations.

The New Zealand organization needs to streamline, according to the working group that came up with the paper, in order to more effectively compete with the influx of new TLDs, which has seen ccTLDs see slowing growth.

.nz is one of the few ccTLDs that has a direct new gTLD competitor — .kiwi.

It also wants to diversify its revenue streams outside of domain registration fees, according to the paper, with a target of NZD 1 million ($720,000) from alternate sources by 2020.

As a member-based organization, InternetNZ has put the proposal out for public comment until June 30. It will make a decision in August.