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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.

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 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.

Nominet names new chair, slashes exec pay, promises reforms and more boardroom exits

Nominet has named its new chair as former BT Openworld CEO Andy Green, who has already laid out a suite of measures — including more blood on the boardroom floor — to address the barrage of criticisms from members who ousted his predecessor earlier this year.

Green is a serial director, with previous board and advisory positions at over a dozen other companies and organizations, mostly in technology and telecommunications.

Nominet, in announcing his appointment, highlighted that he’s a National Infrastructure Commissioner, chair of WaterAid UK, and vice chair of the Disasters Emergency Committee.

He’s got a foot in both the worlds of internet infrastructure and public-benefit causes, in other words — a CV seemingly ideal for the role at this time in Nominet’s troubled history.

In an email to members last week, Green said:

The EGM in March showed that Nominet has failed over a number of years to sufficiently engage with members about the scope and direction of the company. I start my term as Chairman committed to controlling costs (including executive pay), delivering value to members, restoring Nominet’s reputation for great public benefit work at scale and communicating transparently with members about the future direction of Nominet.

March’s Emergency General Meeting was called by members that Nominet seemed to be acting more as a commercial player rather than a public-benefit member organization, more concerned with branching out into new markets and stuffing its directors wallets than focusing on .uk and giving profits to charitable causes.

The EGM saw members narrowly vote to kick out almost half of the board, including the chair. Then-CEO Russel Haworth had quit just a few days earlier, before he too could be ejected.

Green said he wants to “reset the relationship with members starting now”.

He announced six reviews covering controversial areas including registry fees, executive/director compensation, charitable giving, member engagement and non-core services.

He also said that he expects that, following its Annual General Meeting on September 22, more than half of the board of directors will comprise people who were not in place prior to the March EGM.

By next year’s AGM, the board would be “substantially replenished”, he said.

Executives are also getting a battering — Green announced that Nominet has closed its long-term incentives scheme, “which will mean significantly reduced remuneration overall for senior executives”.

The company has named another new director, Eva Lindqvist, who as new chair of the board’s Remuneration Committee will oversee who gets paid what.

Pirate Bay founder among candidates for Nominet advisory council

Nominet has opened up the voting for its inaugural UK Registrar Advisory Council, and there’s at least one eyebrow-raising candidate.

Peter Sunde, who founded the Pirate Bay file-sharing web site and served time for copyright infringement, has put his name forward to be one of six members who will ultimately serve on the council.

The UKRAC is a new creation of Nominet, part of its effort to make peace with members who conducted a coup in March.

The council will comprise two members from the larger registrars, two from the medium-small registrars, and two independents/domainers.

Sunde has put himself forward as a member of the small-medium category, through Sarek, one of two registrars he’s known to be involved in.

He recently told DI that ICANN won’t give Sarek a formal accreditation in the gTLD space because the org is worried that he’ll be a “pain in the ass”.

He told Nominet members he is “from the activist community” and has a love for “the influence that comes with being a registrar”.

He’ll be competing for a seat with an eclectic array of other hopefuls.

There’s Lesley Moody MBE, managing director of AES Digital, who I think it’s fair to say is a much more establishment figure, focused as much on the responsibilities of members to the company as vice versa.

Likewise, Benedict Addis of the Registrar of Last Resort Foundation is also on the ballot. He’s a security guy and former UK cyber-cop, who has for a long time been a voice of law enforcement in the ICANN community.

One of Addis’ proposers, Andrew Bennett, is also standing in his own capactiy. He’s from Netistrar and has been a vocal critic of Nominet over multiple administrations for well over a decade.

Rounding out the ballot of Sunde’s opponents are John Richards of Watchet Web Design, Dan Rodgers of Domain Registrar Services Ltd and Stephen Yarrow of Driver Information Systems.

In the large registrar category the nominations are Arnaud Franquinet of Gandi, Ashley La Bolle of Tucows, Prudence Malinki of MarkMonitor, Barbara Sher of Register.com (part of Newfold Digital) and Rex Wickham of TwentyTwentyMedia.

In separate blog posts today, La Bolle and Wickham have both expressed support for the PublicBenefit.uk campaign that led to the current Nominet reforms.

In the independent registrar category, which is for members who are accredited mainly to register names more cheaply for their own use, the candidates are relative newcomer Ciprian Cucuruz of Webber Multimedia and Susannah Clark, who does business as “Girl Next Door” and expresses skepticism that the UKRAC is much more than a Nominet PR exercise.

Given they’re the only two candidates for the two available seats, they both appear to be shoo-ins.

The election will be run using a single transferable vote system, with each member getting a single vote unrelated to the size of their .uk installed base. Voting closes July 22 and results announced a few days later.

The full list of candidates and all their personal statements can be found here (pdf).