Domain administrator criticised over consultation

Domain administrator criticised over consultation.
Written by Renai LeMay, Contributor
NetRegistry has called on the Australian domain regulator to change its public consultation processes to get more input from domain name purchasers.

The comments from NetRegistry chief executive Larry Bloch come in reaction to .au Domain Administration's (auDA) public request for comment on whether so-called "domain monetisation" should be considered a legitimate reason for individuals or groups to register Australian domain names.

NetRegistry offers domain name registration and management services directly to clients while auDA is the industry self-regulator for the .au domain space.

Domain monetisation is the practice of registering large numbers of domain names for the purpose of selling click-through advertising. But Bloch -- an outspoken figure in the Australian domain name market for some time and a former board member of auDA -- said auDA's community consultation method on the legitimacy of the practice was ineffective.

"What I've certainly found in the auDA public consultation process, is that the people that are prepared to comment and make submissions very often are not people that have a great knowledge of the industry," Bloch said in a telephone interview with ZDNet Australia late last week. "If auDA wants to guide their decision-making by what the domain-consuming public want, then they should survey that public rather than have that public consultation process, that I haven't found to be effective."

Bloch said under the existing process submissions would just come from the "usual suspects" such as government agencies and the Electronic Frontiers Foundation rather than a broad church of stakeholders.

He added that registrars were unlikely to get the hearing that they deserved. "auDA as a whole will look at what the registrars say and say: 'Of course you're going to say that because you're trying to make money.' They'll discount it as a result."

Why not go to domain name owners and run a poll?

Bloch thinks the opinions of consumers of domain names should be surveyed instead.

"I would find more value in surveying people that actually use domain names, than the public consultation process," he said. "auDA have access to every single .au domain name registrant. Why not go to domain name owners and run a poll?"

"That to me is much more democratic than inviting submissions to a whole lot of people who really are not representative," he continued.

Bloch said such direct tactics from auDA would be more active and inclusive than the current public consultation process.

"I think the quality of the response and result is going to be much more reflective of the real consumers out there, than inviting comments from those few people who keep their eye on this, at the regulatory level," he said.

However auDA's chief executive Chris Disspain threw cold water on Bloch's proposal.

"That's not our job, our job is to run .au to the benefit of the Australian community," he told ZDNet Australia in a telephone interview. "Clearly, included in that is people who have domain names, as well as people who don't."

"In this particular instance what we're talking about is a policy that doesn't just affect domain name owners, but affects users," added Disspain.

"This is just an example, but if thousands and thousands of domain names are resolving to domain monetisation pages, who are the people who are going to be seeing those pages? Answer: The users. Not necessarily the domain name owners. Are those users entitled to contribute to the policy and say what they think? Of course they are."

Disspain said auDA would be shortly advertising the public consultation on domain monetisation in major newspapers, as was its standard practice for all public consultations.

"I have no idea who will respond; I can't comment because I don't know. But all I can say is that we will be doing our utmost to ensure that we get as much public input as we possibly can," he said.

In a wider sense, Disspain said the whole point of auDA having eligibility criteria and rules for registering domain names was for the benefit of Australian consumers. "The .au names have a reputation for being safe and generally doing what they say on the box, if you see what I mean," he said.

When it comes to domain monetisation itself, Bloch is broadly in favour of opening up what he sees as constrictive rules imposed by auDA on the market for Australian domain names.

"I think the market should be left to decide what it finds to be a valuable use of domain names, within the constraints of not infringing other people's rights," he said.

However, Disspain was not prepared to be drawn. "We haven't made a decision about this, as was made quite clear in our public paper. We don't know what the answer is and we want people to tell us what they think," he told ZDNet Australia.

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