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Nominet opens directorship nominations

.uk registry Nominet has opened the nomination period for one of its elected non-executive directors.

The are four elected NEDs on the company’s board, and Anne Taylor’s three-year term is up this year.

Only members may nominate, but you don’t need to be a member to be nominated.

Nominations are open until June 17, elections take place in September, and the winner takes his or her seat in October.

The pay is £37,000 per year, for up to 30 days’ work.

More details can be found here.

Meds regulator won’t say why it gets domains suspended

Kevin Murphy, May 30, 2022, Domain Policy

The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has declined to reveal which .uk domain names it has had suspended and the reasons for having them suspended.

In response to a freedom of information request published last week, the agency said it had 32 domains suspended in the last 12 months — it appears that refers to the 12 months to November 2021 — but declined to list them.

It said most of the domains were being used to breach the Human Medicines Regulations 2012, which regulates the sale of medicines, but declined to give specifics, citing a FOI carve-out related to ongoing investigations.

The MHRA said that it does not have a formal suspensions policy.

The agency is one of several that regularly asks .uk registry Nominet to take down domains believed to be involved in criminal behavior. The Police Intellectual Property Crimes Unit submits by far the largest number of such requests.

.au names available today

Kevin Murphy, March 24, 2022, Domain Registries

Australians are able to register domain names directly under .au for the first time today, after ccTLD registry auDA liberalized its hierarchy.

Second-level names under .au will at first only be available to existing registrants of matching third-level names in zones such as .com.au and .net.au, under a priority allocation process.

This process lasts for six months and allows domain owners to claim their matching 2LD more or less immediately, assuming there are no other registrants with matching rights.

In cases where more than one registrant applies for the name domain — such as when example.com.au and example.net.au are owned by different people — a contention process kicks in.

Registrants with reg dates before the cut-off of February 4, 2018 get priority over those with later dates.

If there are only registrants with names newer than the cut-off date, the oldest one gets priority.

If there are only registrants with names older than the cut-off date, they’ll have to come to a bilateral agreement about who gets the name. If they can’t come to a deal, the name stays reserved, and the applicants will have to renew their applications annually, until only one applicant remains.

There are no auDA-backed auctions envisaged by the process.

Any domains that are unclaimed at the end of the priority process will be released into the available pool on September 20.

It’s a much shorter grandfathering period than other liberalized ccTLDs, such as Nominet, which gave .co.uk registrants five years to claim their matching 2LD, and it will be interesting to see what impact this has on uptake.

Direct .uk domains became available in June 2014, and six months later barely a quarter million had been registered, against over 10 million third-level names.

As the five-year priority window drew to a close in 2019, there were about 2.5 million .uk 2LDs, but this spiked to 3.6 million in the final month, as registrants waited until the last minute to claim their names.

That turned out to be the peak — .uk 2LDs stand at fewer than 1.4 million today, compared to the 9.7 million third-level names. It’s still quite rare to spot a direct .uk name in the wild here.

One interesting kink in the priority process is that auDA, which has stricter rules than many other ccTLDs, will check that anyone who applies for a 2LD is in fact eligible for the 3LD they currently hold, which could dissuade applications.

.au currently has 3.4 million third-level domains under management.

Nominet cuts off Russian registrars

Kevin Murphy, March 10, 2022, Domain Registries

Russian registrars will no longer be able to sell .uk domains, due to the war in Ukraine, Nominet announced today.

“We are not accepting registrations from registrars in Russia — we are suspending the relevant tags,” the registry said.

A “tag” is the unique identifier Nominet issues to its registrars to enable them to access the .uk registry.

I believe it’s the first example of a national domain registry taking action against Russian companies in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

While Nominet is independent, it’s pretty tight with the UK government, which with international partners has implemented some quite tough economic sanctions against Russia.

Nominet said that the “very small” number of existing domains with Russian addresses “will continue to operate as normal”.

Other measures the company announced include a £200,000 donation to the war relief effort, a reduction of its roughly £100,000 of investments in Russian companies to about £1,000, and the monitoring of new .uk registrations for possible Ukraine-related scams.

Other domain companies to announce what effectively amount to sanctions against Russia include Namecheap, Sedo, IONOS, GoDaddy and CENTR.

ICANN has also offered money to Ukraine and concessions to Ukrainian registrants, though the latter may also apply to Russians.

Cybersquatting cases down in .uk

Kevin Murphy, February 23, 2022, Domain Policy

The number of cybersquatting complaints, and the number of successful cybersquatting complaints, were down in .uk last year, according to new data from local registry Nominet.

Nominet said that its Dispute Resolution Service, which has a monopoly on .uk disputes, handled just 548 cases in 2021, the lowest number in the 20-year history of the DRS.

Only 43% of the complaints resulted in the domain being transferred, Nominet said. That’s down from 46% in 2020, 47% in 2019 and 49% in 2018, it said.

The trends fly in contrast to the UDRP, as least in WIPO’s experience in 2021, where cases were soaring.

General counsel Nick Wenban-Smith said in a press release:

Despite the worldwide shift towards online activity during the pandemic, and WIPO disputes on the increase, we haven’t seen a parallel pick up in the number of .UK domain name disputes for the past two years, but instead are reporting a record low in Complaints filed since the DRS launched back in 2001. We hope this is a result of our continued efforts to make .UK a safe place to be online.

Nominet has some pretty strict takedown practices in place — it will suspend a domain if the police’s intellectual property crime unit tells it to, which could clearly have an impact on the need to employ the DRS.

Nominet names Paul Fletcher new CEO

Kevin Murphy, November 18, 2021, Domain Registries

Nominet has named Paul Fletcher as its new CEO.

He’ll join the company in February, filling the spot vacated by Russell Haworth, who quit earlier this year a few days before he could be fired by members.

Fletcher is currently CEO at BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, Nominet said. BCS, formerly the British Computer Society, is also a membership organization, with 60,000 members.

Nominet is currently headed by interim CEO Eleanor Bradley, one of the directors removed from the board at the company’s fractious Emergency General Meeting in March.

Fletcher will join the board at the same time as he joins Nominet, the company said.

Architect of Nominet boardroom bloodbath and Tucows backer win director seats

Kevin Murphy, November 16, 2021, Domain Registries

UK registry Nominet has announced the winners of its non-executive director election, with Simon Blackler securing a runaway victory. Ashley La Bolle of Tucows was also elected, with a strong share of the votes.

Blackler is the architect of the PublicBenefit.uk campaign, which was behind a boardroom bloodbath earlier this year, and La Bolle is director of domains at Tucows, the biggest registrar name to support that campaign.

According to Nominet, Blackler secured 1,285,370 of the 2,558,650 votes in the first-preference round of voting, a smidge over 50%. La Bolle got 750,447 votes, 29.3%, at the same stage, picking up the extra she needed after votes were transferred.

The other four candidates all received 7% or less of the votes in the first-preference ballot.

Voting was based on how many domain names members control, capped at 3% to avoid too much capture by the larger registrars.

Nominet said that turnout was 24.3% — 553 of the 2,276 eligible voters actually cast a ballot.

Blackler and La Bolle will join Nominet’s board at its next Annual General Meeting, which happens this Thursday.

They replace domain investor David Thornton, who had stood for reelection but received less than 6% of the first-round votes, and GoDaddy policy veep James Bladel, who did not stand.

Blackler, who runs the registrar Krystal Hosting, started the PublicBenefit.uk campaign earlier this year in protest at what was seen as Nominet’s unresponsiveness and lack of transparency towards its members.

He rallied a crowd of members upset with what they saw as the company’s diversification into non-core businesses, excessive director and executive compensation, and diminishing devotion to supporting public-benefit causes.

The campaign resulted in the forced resignation of the CEO, the ouster of the chair and almost half the directors, and a renewed focus on the .uk registry and charitable causes under a new chair.

Tucows was the biggest-name registrar to back the campaign, with La Bolle repeatedly blogging about how Nominet needed to be more transparent and engage better with its members.

“Humbled by the amount of support and looking forward to improving Nominet for ALL,” Blackler tweeted following the results announcement.

“I’m truly honoured to be appointed to Nominet’s Board as an NED and am grateful for the support and trust from my peers,” La Bolle said via email. “As well-stated throughout my campaign, I am committed to helping Nominet refocus on its core mandate and re-engage its members to better serve our entire community.”

Nominet rebels dominate directorship slate

Kevin Murphy, October 12, 2021, Domain Registries

Nominet has named the six people nominated for its two open non-executive director positions, and the slate is very much slanted towards the new postbellum reality of UK domain politics.

The PublicBenefit.uk campaign, which saw the CEO forced out and half the board fired at an EGM earlier this year, leading to a broad suite of proposed reforms, has a strong presence on the candidate list.

Simon Blackler of Krystal Hosting, who created and spearheaded the campaign, is standing for one of the so-called “NED” seats. He is also named as a proposer/seconder of two of his rival candidates.

This PublicBenefit slate includes Ashley La Bolle, recently promoted head of domains at Tucows, and consultant and former lawyer Jim Davies, both of whom have Blackler’s endorsement.

La Bolle’s candidacy statement focuses on the need for increased transparency and member engagement, while Davies stands on a platform of constitutional and financial reform.

In his endorsements, Blackler cites Tucows’ endorsement of the PublicBenefit campaign as a crucial turning point in its ultimate success, and Davies’ resignation from the Nominet board in 2009, in which he cited high executive pay and low transparency as reasons for his departure.

One incumbent NED is standing for re-election, David Thornton. Nominated by Michele Neylon and Jothan Frakes, Thornton has a platform based on governance and structural rebalancing.

Internet policy all-rounder Liz Williams is also standing, talking up her extensive experience in areas such as ICANN, privacy and security.

Then there’s Bulgaria-based Brit Stephen Yarrow, whose main policy concerns appear to be raising Nominet’s profile and distancing .uk from the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.

Nominet members should already have been sent the election materials. Everyone else can read them here (pdf).

Votes will be cast November 18 at Nominet’s Annual General Meeting. There are two seats available.

Nominet to purge £50 million from war chest for good causes as new chair outlines strategy

Kevin Murphy, October 8, 2021, Domain Registries

.uk registry Nominet is to take £50 million ($68 million) it had set aside for acquisitions and instead donate it to public benefit causes, as part of a suite of reforms outlined by new chair Andy Green yesterday.

“We’ve made a clear commitment that we’re about purpose, not profit,” Green said in a short video address to members.

The money is about half of Nominet’s reserve fund, which will be reduced to about £50 million over the next three years. The company also committed to donating at least £5 million a year from profits in future.

While the company has talked a good game about addressing critics’ concerns over the few months since its CEO walked and half its board were fired by angry members, it’s the first big example of Nominet putting some concrete pounds-sterling numbers on its new strategy.

And it doesn’t stop at good causes. The company is scrapping its ambitions to broaden out into domain-adjacent sectors such as security, and will sell off its Cyglass network security business.

“We’ve decided to abandon the idea of building a global cyber[-security] business,” Green told members, in an address that promised to put the registry at the center of everything.

Cyglass lost about £2.2 million in the last six-month reporting period, the company revealed.

Nominet will keep one foot in DNS infrastructure security, where it services the UK government, Green said. That business also currently makes a loss, about £1 million, but is targeted for profitability by 2024.

On the issue of executive and director pay, he reiterated that the company has scrapped an incentive plan that he said was “clearly a misstep”, and noted that his own compensation is lower than his predecessors.

Staff wages will be compared against not only companies in the tech sector, but also other public-benefit concerns, he said.

Domainers and registrars who were hoping Nominet would slash its .uk wholesale fees have less to be cheerful about — Green said that Nominet will instead commit to freeze its prices until 2024.

After that time, the company will take another look and decide whether to raise, freeze, or even lower its fees, Green said.

Reaction from some of the members whose uprising caused the current change of strategy appeared to welcome the changes warmly on social media, while expressing concern that Nominet has not yet picked a new permanent CEO to guide the firm on this new path.

Big names shunned as Nominet names first registrar council members

Nominet has named the first six members of UK Registrar Advisory Council, and I think it’s fair to say there’s a definite tilt towards the grassroots/activist end of the ballot.

Major registrars Tucows, Markmonitor and Web.com (Newfold Digital) were shunned, as members elected Rex Wickham of TwentyTwentyMedia and Arnaud Franquinet of Gandi, both smaller, lesser-known registrars, for two years and one year respectively.

From the mid-to-small registrar segment, two members who had vocally supported the PublicBenefit.uk campaign earlier this year were voted in — Andrew Bennett of Netistrar for two years and Dan Rodgers of Domain Registrar Services for one year.

The independent segment directors will be Susannah Clark, who trades as “Girl Next Door” for two years and Ciprian Cucuruz, Webber Multimedia for one year. Both had run unopposed.

The terms are different length for the first two years so they can be eventually staggered for continuity.

The UKRAC was introduced following the member revolt this March, which saw executives and staff removed and a promised overhaul with how Nominet conducts business and interacts with its members.

The panel will be chaired by member-elected non-executive director Anne Taylor. No date has been set for its first meeting.