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.
Consolidation in the domain name industry continued last night with Neustar’s $87 million acquisition of Bombora Technologies, the holding group for ARI Registry Services and AusRegistry.
Bombora CEO Adrian Kinderis told DI that the deal makes Neustar the “biggest registry services back-end provider on the market”, as measured by the number of TLDs on its platform, which now weighs in at over 400.
Kinderis and Neustar registry VP Sean Kaine said that the acquisition — conceived as so many deals are, Kinderis joked, in a “drunken ICANN bar” — is not so much about consolidation and more about growth opportunities.
Neustar will be able to cross-sell its suite of identity, security and marketing services, which Bombora does not offer, into ARI’s 100+ TLD client base. It will also be able to pitch ARI’s consulting services to its own clients.
Neustar also gets a “beachhead” in the Asia-Pacific region. While Bombora may not be a hell of a lot closer to Asia than Neustar, it’s in a much more convenient time zone.
Neustar currently faces the losing about half of its annual revenue — some $475 million — due to the loss of its contract to administer telephone number portability in North America.
That contract has been won by Ericsson, but Neustar has sued the US Federal Communications Commission in an attempt to keep it.
The Bombora acquisition won’t exactly fill the gap. The company had $20.6 million in revenue in 2014 and is expected to contribute $8 million to Neustar’s top line in 2015.
The deal is for AUD 118 million, which works out to roughly USD 87 million. Kinderis and business partner Simon Delzoppo will be the primary beneficiaries — between them they held a majority shareholding in Bombora.
The deal includes all of the company’s subsidiaries: ARI, AusRegistry and new gTLD operators such as dotShabaka.
ARI clients will notice a change of branding — the ARI and Bombora brands are to go almost immediately — but no technical changes at first.
“We’re going to continue to operate two registry systems right now,” Kaine said.
One business where there will be even less visible change is AusRegistry, which operates .au.
The AusRegistry brand is staying and .au will continue to be run in Australia, per the terms of the company’s contract with ccTLD policy overseer auDA.
“The .au contract is very important to Bombora,” Kinderis said. “If we had thought there would be any negative impact to that contract we would not have embarked on a deal.”
Kinderis, whose new job title has yet to be agreed, said he expects to take a “prominent role” in Neustar’s registry business. He said he expects to stay with the company “for a long time yet”.
“I want to see Neustar snapping at the heels of Verisign and I’d love to be able to contribute to that,” he said. “We’ve been punching above our weight and now we’re one of the heavyweights.”
Neustar still seems set to lose a critical US government contract that provides half of its annual revenue.
The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously last week to begin talks with rival contract bidder Telcordia, saying it will save the US consumer hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
Since 1997, Neustar has administered the telephone number portability system in the US. It’s not related to domain names.
Neustar, which also runs .us, .biz and .co, made $474.8 million from the deal in 2014, 49% of its annual revenue.
Commissioner Ajit Pai said in a statement:
Should we now declare Telcordia the next local number portability administrator? When you compare the numbers, the answer is clear. Last year, the current contract cost about $460 million. In contrast, Telcordia bid less than $1 billion for a seven-year term — that’s less than $143 million per year. That’s substantial savings for the American public.
Neustar told Bloomberg that the ruling was “procedurally defective” and that the company is “considering all options to address the significant flaws.”
Some kind of legal action to attempt to block the negotiations seems possible.
The company has also initiated a share buy-back to prop up its stock in light of the bad news.
Neustar has been devastated by the news that it is likely to lose a US government contract that provides almost half of its annual revenue.
The US Federal Communications Commission yesterday recommended that Telcordia Technologies take over the Local Number Portability Administrator contract, which Neustar has held since 1997.
The service is basically North America’s centralized phone number registry. It’s not directly related to its domain name businesses.
In 2014, the deal was worth $474.8 million to Neustar, or 49% of its annual revenue.
On the news, the company’s share price fell off a cliff, losing almost 20% of its value before recovering slightly to end the day almost 12% down.
Neustar expressed dismay and anger in a press release, saying the FCC was putting the security of the US phone system at risk:
Although apparently the LNPA is used to port numbers, it is also critical for technology migrations, mergers and acquisitions, disaster recovery, accurate 911 location, and is the only authoritative database for the proper call completion of 11 billion voice calls and text messages each day. The recommendation misunderstands the operating system and would harm public safety, law enforcement, fundamentally burden small carriers, and disrupt service for 12 million consumers — all in pursuit of theoretical savings for a few carriers, which Neustar believes will be dwarfed by the costs and risks of transition.
Switching to Telcordia is currently only a recommendation that FCC commissioners must approve, and Neustar said it will “review all of its options”.
The LNPA deal is due to expire June 30 this year.
Neustar’s domain business — or “security services” as the company calls it — comprises DNS resolution, the registries for .us, .biz and .co, and the back-end registry for many new gTLDs. It brought in revenue of $140.3 million in 2014.
According to Reuters, Neustar is currently talking to advisers about the potential sale of the company, which is currently listed on the New York Stock Exchange, to private equity.
The potential buyers are reportedly waiting for the award of the number portability contract before sealing the deal.
Neustar’s top domain name guy is moving to UK new gTLD consultancy Valideus.
Jeff Neuman, who’s been with Neustar for over 15 years, will become Valideus’ senior vice president for North America, starting this coming Monday, according to Valideus managing director Nick Wood.
I don’t know who’s replacing him at Neustar, where he’s been in charge of the company’s domain name business for the last couple of years, overseeing the company’s business as a registry back-end provider and registry for New York’s .nyc new gTLD.
Neuman was previously Neustar’s longstanding VP of policy, a role which also saw him heavily involved in ICANN’s GNSO Council and Neustar’s application for and launch of .biz, back in 2000.
He’s been quite a pivotal and sometimes outspoken figure over the years.
Valideus is the new gTLD service provider sister company to Com Laude, the brand-focused registrar. It provides application consulting and ongoing registry/registrar management for dot-brand gTLD applicants and registries, Amazon among them.
I gather that Neuman will remain based in the US, as his new job title implies.