20i Domains

NED candidates Q&As

Discussion in 'Nominet General Information' started by Siusaidh, Aug 15, 2020.

  1. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Retired Member

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    Hello,

    I am posting this thread to invite my fellow candidates to engage here on the Acorn Forum and I have also posted this on Nominet's Forum. Specifically, I will be addressing the Questions that were put to candidates in the Question and Answer Webinar.

    I know many of you here are pretty fed up about Nominet at the moment, and just want to get on with the business of buying or selling domains. If so, I don't assume you'll follow this thread. But at least I am out here, speaking to you. Some of you will vote for me, some will not, and some may not want to vote at all. But I am here. Unlike any of the other candidates so far.

    First of all, a few comments. The directions for this election made clear that participation in their Q&A was completely optional, and I chose not to participate. I am running my campaign on my own agenda and chosen platforms. One of the reasons I chose to do things differently was to accentuate my difference as a candidate who does not just go along with Nominet's preferred options, and is willing to take a more oppositional position when I choose to. Secondly, I approach issues of UK namespace governance thoughtfully and in depth, and I felt 2 minutes 'on the spot' would result in some superficial responses. I was right about that. I did offer the possibility of taking part if I was given 24 hours' notice of the questions, but that was declined, which was fine by me.

    I have made clear that I will indeed take part, but on my own terms, and I shall be publishing my answers to all the questions (a) on the Nominet forum (b) here on the Acorn forum where far more people take part (because in all honesty, this Nominet forum is pretty moribund), and (c) on my own website at Susannah.uk - which means that my answers will be publicly accessible, out in the open, and easier for all members to see.

    That raises another point. For many days, until someone mentioned that the Q&A webinar had been 'released', I was unaware, because the notification of this was posted like a footnote at the bottom of an email on an entirely different subject. Furthermore, if anyone wants to view the webinar, they have to go to the trouble of emailing a request for a password, wait for that, and only then access the webinar to see what the other 5 candidates’ views were.

    Personally I think that is an ill-judged process, because it gives the impression that Nominet is tucking this webinar away, behind a 'firewall', and doesn't want lots of people viewing it, because maybe they are ashamed by the weakness of some of the answers and the poor corporate image that is projected? I see no reason why Nominet cannot take an open approach and make it directly accessible for anyone to view, just as the original candidate presentations can be viewed without a password.

    Anyway, my own answers are going to be a simple click away, on multiple platforms, and in addition - although I will not reproduce the webinar of the other 5 candidates, I will, in a journalistic sense, report on it, analyse it, and quote extracts from a very small percentage of the other candidates' comments, mostly indirectly. I simply don't buy into the cloak and dagger stuff (as I view it). I want our positions on things to be openly accessible, and I will assist in that process.

    Finally, as a candidate, I am here. An invitation to my fellow candidates: come and engage with me here, or on the Nominet forum. It would be great if you would engage, and frankly I think it is a shame if I am the only candidate who does. I welcome your comments on anything I post, and for that reason I will probably post one Q&A answer a day to allow time for each answer to be commented on. It is likely I will restrict my own replies to fellow candidates if they participate, as my posts will be pretty lengthy anyway and I don't want this thread getting convoluted or set myself up for wreckers (certainly not the bizarre antics of one certain gentleman who paid us a visit recently). Anyone who wants to quote anything I say on their own platforms is very welcome to do so - no need to ask permission.

    I will begin with a report and analysis on the webinar itself which I have now watched. One advantage of doing the Q&A my own way is that I am able to interact dynamically with what my fellow candidates had to say. I think that is an advantage. It's up to them if they want to interact back.
     
  2. Domain Forum

    Acorn Domains Elite Member

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  3. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Retired Member

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    Nominet Questions and Answers Webinar for candidates: overview


    I dislike ‘off the top of your head’ decision-making and comments, and there was a lot of that happening on the Webinar platform. I have taken the opportunity to analyse what the other 5 candidates have said, because there were some glaring inaccuracies.

    But first of all, here are some headline issues arising from what the other candidates were saying (or claiming).

    First, I want to applaud one of my rival candidates, Lindsay Hamilton-Reid, for unreservedly criticising the mass-registration of millions of .uk domains, which were never requested by the registrants themselves. That action disrupted the agreed 5-year process after which the public would be offered all unclaimed domains, and over 2 million domains were registered without request, by Namesco (the company of the sitting candidate), and three other very large registrars: 123-Reg (part of the vast GoDaddy empire), Fasthosts and Ionos 1&1.

    She may be a rival candidate, but Lindsay made exactly the point I have been making in my campaign: that it was not right to mass-register domains like that, and as she said: you can’t go about registering domains if you haven’t been asked to. That is fundamental to my own complaint, because the Registry-Registrar agreement clearly insists that names MUST be requested by a registrant, if they are registered. Two million weren’t. Lindsay added that .co.uk rights holders had frankly had 5 years to register the .uk names if they wanted them, and then (as agreed by Nominet’s own processes) they should have been openly available to the public. Only the Namesco candidate defended the mass-registrations. Three candidates criticised them and the fourth questioned whether that was an ethical course to take even though he suggested ‘no rules were broken’ – but then he appeared unaware of the Registry/Registrar rules.

    Secondly, on the future of dropping domains, all candidates tended to support the auctions model, apart from the sitting director who to be honest and fair was right to remain impartial. However, not one single candidate acknowledged the real impact that radical changes might have on many members, or the need to pause decisions at a time of pandemic and hardship, to try to explore other options and afford time for families and small businesses to organise their finances.

    There appeared to be a shortfall of knowledge and awareness about the specific detail of some current events. One candidate (new to the industry) admitted he did not know what ‘economically-controlled access’ even was, which given it is one of Nominet’s main proposals for dropping domains (and potential impact on members) was a little surprising. No criticism of him as a person, though: he is clearly a likeable person.

    The candidate whose company had mass-registered .uk domains without being asked to, when asked if the .uk domain had been a success, laughed and described the ROR as ‘the gift that keeps on giving’. Except that because of the mass-registrations, over 2 million domains were not ‘given’ at all when the ROR names were due for release last July in accordance with Nominet’s undertaking to the public. To put it in perspective, only about 80,000 .uk domains were registered from the remaining available names. The agreed process had been hugely disrupted, and when Nominet facilitated 1,400,000 names being registered free by the Fasthosts group days before the deadline, that exacerbated the breakdown of the 5-year process, and saw large registrars circumventing the rule requiring registrants to specifically request and consent to any registrations in their names. So, given that two candidates have both worked for large registrars, it was striking that one condemned the mass-registrations outright, while the sitting candidate said the ROR process was a success. Many people would beg to differ.

    A third candidate said .uk’s success was demonstrated by the number of registrations there had been, which acutely overlooks the fact that from a peak of 3,600,000 registered .uk domains, over 2 million will have been dumped, because the ‘ghost’ registrants never asked for them to be registered at all, and did not want them. It is almost ‘Alice in Wonderland’ stuff, and frankly all candidates should have been aware of the events that had taken place. Only Phil Buckingham questioned the ‘success’ of the .uk launch. He has a point: as I have pointed out many times, second level UK registrations will have dropped from a peak of 3,600,000 to not much more that 1,300,000 by the end of September. The rest were a mass-registered illusion. Things got curiouser and curiouser (apologies, I am related to Lewis Carroll…)

    A further question cited over a million .uk domains dropping in September (as a result of mass-registrations which the supposed registrants never asked for) and asked why people were letting these drop and not renewing them. The Namesco employee said that people would have loads of renewal reminders from the registrar they bought the names through. I had to stop the video and listen to that again: the mass so-called registrants “bought” those domains? What? No, please, they didn’t even ask for them and they certainly didn’t “buy” them – and they are letting them drop in September because they never wanted them in the first place.

    THIS is why I prefer to answer serious questions carefully and thoughtfully. You are less likely to say something ludicrous. Not that any of us are infallible!

    When asked about how Nominet should be helping registrars and others at a time of pandemic and economic crisis, the sitting candidate rightly pointed out that Nominet has taken steps, but once again, the opportunity to recognise the big impact proposed changes may have on smaller registrars and their families was not taken by any candidate. (In contrast witness the recent petition of concern signed by 101 registrars including myself and others I sincerely respect.) Personally I believe we need to put change on hold – to explore options deeper during the course of the present pandemic. I think we owe that respect to members who may face real hardship.

    Once again, and looking wider at how Nominet can offer help at this time, I liked the approach of Lindsay, who made the very good point that initiatives need to be collaborative. I agree, and to be fair, some of Nominet’s best initiatives recently have been when they collaborated with other parties, as one participant among others.

    In reviewing this Q&A session, I want to stress that I have nothing against my rival candidates as people. I’ve acknowledged some well-made points. Credit where credit is due. Nor am I interested in being destructive towards Nominet – I want the UK’s namespace and its company to flourish… with a reputation for good ethics and decency. But I believe in being analytical and asking independent questions. That to me is good governance.

    My biggest concern is the consolidation of major players, with expanding acquisitions of smaller companies, holding so much influence and sway on the worldwide stage. Historically, I have seen that again and again with ICANN, Registries, and the largest Registrars: close and symbiotic relationships, where laissez faire seems to rule, with large tech companies left to almost police their own actions (as indeed they were, with the mass-registrations). I was deeply involved in forcing the re-running of the Afilias .info trademark fiasco. I’ve seen it all before. I may ‘only’ be a nurse (which of course I am not at all ashamed of in reality), and appear as an outsider, but I do know this industry. I’ve been challenging doubtful practice for 20 years, and I attend to detail. That is maybe my strength. I have been vocal in calling out the mass-registrations from the beginning, because I see them as symptomatic of a problem. Now in these Q&A’s we find that only 1 out of 6 candidates is endorsing the way that was done, and her company was ‘allowed’ by Nominet to do it, but Namesco and the other 3 big companies in the process caused fake inflation of registration numbers and disrupted the final release of .uk names at the end of the agreed 5 year period. To be plain, it wasn’t alright.

    My personal view is that these commercially influential registrars (indeed GoDaddy is also a Registry) should be kept at arm’s length from Nominet’s decision-making. I simply don’t agree with employees of these very large companies sitting on the Board. I don’t think that creates the right appearance, even though the individuals concerned are scrupulous and principled as far as I know. It’s not personal. We are talking about the UK’s namespace, important to countless smaller companies, and indeed to communities, health services, education, charities, families. In short, it’s bigger than these large and consolidating tech companies, and while Nominet has potential to become a deeply ethical and independent world exemplar of good practice, it needs to guard against future acquisition – or control or undue influence - by very large and powerful companies, corporate culture, and impersonality.

    (continued...)
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2020
  4. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Retired Member

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    Nominet Questions and Answers Webinar for candidates: overview


    (concluding...)

    A model of what I believe in can be found in the ‘creed’ of one of the UK’s outstanding and ethical hosting companies: Krystal. The values this company believes in are an example of the kind of Nominet I seek. There are many other companies and Nominet members who I feel have not sold out or lost their soul: Iomart and Gandi spring to mind. The hearts of companies very often depend on people inside who drive principle and vision, and believe that first and foremost people matter. I see that in Simon Blackler, in Angus MacSween, in Stephan Ramoin. These are people who have not sold out their values. I have also experienced a similar magnanimity and decency from many smaller registrars I regularly deal with: people who work hard to provide good service to their valued customers. The list is too long to name them all, but you can see many of them listed on Andrew Bennett’s petition to Nominet. These are people who deserved the respect of acknowledgment in the Q&A.

    As members of Nominet, and because we believe in the internet and its importance to so many people and communities, we must be willing to call out bad practice and work for what is good. New directors should not just be compliant and suggest all is well in the Nominet world. Maybe all is well for the very largest players, but clearly a significant number of members disagree. There is nothing wrong with a company having ambition. Ambition is a great part of what makes a human being – ambition for your family, ambition for good products, ambition for the community you belong to. Nominet must be ambitious too: ambitious in the service of others. As a nurse, I enjoy huge privilege. I get to help others. I get to work with others, in situations where compassion and collaboration are essential. I am a senior clinician in a Covid-19 team of doctors and nurses. But we depend on everyone else in the health service – cleaners controlling infection, kitchen staff being vigilant about allergies, stores providing vital equipment, pharmacists checking what gets administered. We collaborate together because we understand context. The context of the service we provide. None of us are saints. Most of us mess up. But what we have are values of team and community.

    What is Nominet for? And to take the opening question, ‘Why are you standing for election?’ My answer – sentimental as it sounds – is public service. I am not a stranger to the domain name industry – indeed I believe I have more grasp of detail than most other candidates. I believe in the importance of the UK registry, and that’s not about being soft and unquestioning, but it is about believing it matters, and wanting the namespace to work fairly, securely, reliably and well. That requires attention to detail, and a willingness to ask the hard questions at times, and indeed to confront. It also requires good social skills and confidence, and the ability to listen to others. I am positive in my ambitions for the company, constructive not destructive, but I am a different kind of candidate.

    Thank you for reading (I bet most of you skipped through and just looked at the bold type!)

    Now - fellow candidates - any of you like to come and say hello?
     
  5. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Retired Member

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    For reference, these were the questions asked:


    1. Tell us why you’re standing for election.


    2. Would you be in favour of one vote per domain name registrant, or would you be in favour of one member one vote, if you had to choose one – and why?


    3. In light of market consolidation, do you think Nominet’s bylaws are built for a different world, and are now in effect undemocratic?


    4. Nominet currently has a consultation on auctioning expired domains. Are you in favour of auctions or economically-controlled access?


    5. Do you see the launch of the .uk second-level domains as a success?


    6. Was it right for some registrars to mass-register over a million .uk domains which were due to be released for registration last July, following the right of registration period, when the registrants did not ask for them?


    7. In September, about 1 million .uk domains are set to drop, with only 2.3 million .uk’s currently. Why are people not renewing .uk?


    8. In hindsight, would it have been better for the brand, consumer, and longevity of the exercise, if there had been a permanent link between .co.uk and .uk?


    9. During the time of great economic uncertainty and a global pandemic, how do you think Nominet should be supporting registrars and registrants?


    10. Nominet has changed significantly as an organisation since (the questioner) encountered it first in 2001. What do you think have been the main positives and negatives on that progression?


    11. Are you a member of the Company? If not, why, and will you join?
     
  6. super-whois United Kingdom

    super-whois Active Member

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    I think I am capable of doing my own analysis of the responses from the candidates that participated in the webinar, I continue to await the response of the candidate that didn't. What I'm concerned by though is responses that have the benefit of knowing how the other candidates answered those questions...
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2020
  7. JMI

    JMI Active Member Acorn Supporter

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    Sadly I feel your too biased towards a certain point of view, prone to emotional outbursts rather than applying practical logic to the bigger picture and aren't actually "really" interested in domains.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  8. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Retired Member

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    1. Tell us why you’re standing for election.


    - summary answer -


    My answer – sentimental as it sounds – is public service. In many ways it hinges on a further question: what is Nominet for?

    I believe it has been entrusted with the UK’s namespace to serve all those whose lives depend on it working reliably, fairly and well.

    It does not exist for the enrichment of the large Registrars who have taken up places on its Board. I disagree with that. I frankly believe that huge organisations like GoDaddy and Team Blue (with Namesco) should be kept at arm’s length from the company, not being embedded inside it, where their dominant commercial positions can give the appearance of influence.

    Now why would a registered nurse want to engage with Nominet, as an outsider, as someone who has spent her life in different sectors to this one? I think part of the answer is a mindset – the idea, which I’ve tried to follow in prisons, in schools, and in nursing, of serving others. I believe fundamentally that technology is there to serve others, to serve communities, to enhance people’s lives.

    I am not a stranger to the domain name industry – indeed I believe I have more grasp of detail than most of the other candidates. I was deeply involved in forcing the re-running of the Afilias .info trademark fiasco. The BBC reported on my campaign. I’ve seen it all before: close and symbiotic relationships, where laissez faire seems to rule, with large tech companies left to almost police their own actions (as indeed they were, with the mass-registrations).

    I have been vocal in calling out the .uk mass-registrations from the beginning, because I see them as symptomatic of a problem. They contravened the RRA, disrupted process, were bad PR, and it achieved almost nothing. It seemed like Nominet could and should do better than this. When people suggested I stand for election, I initially said no, but the more I thought about it, the more it just seemed that someone should challenge the status quo and be inside the company, questioning things like this.

    I am positive in my ambitions for the company, constructive not destructive. I am particularly interested in ways that Nominet can work with other agencies to help people access and harness technology in their lives. Public benefit is a deeply attractive aspect of becoming a director. Nominet has the privilege of a unique platform, entrusted to it by government. It must never forget that privilege, and the responsibilities and accountability that invests it with.
     
  9. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Retired Member

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    Q&A Answers


    1. Tell us why you’re standing for election.

    - full answer -

    My answer – sentimental as it sounds – is public service. In many ways it hinges on a further question: what is Nominet for? If you think Nominet is simply for making money, then that would align with what drives many large registries and the vast, consolidating registrar empires that see the world’s domain name systems as mere commodities there to be exploited for the benefit of themselves. I take a very different view of what Nominet is for: I believe it has been entrusted with the UK’s namespace to serve all those whose lives depend on it working reliably, fairly and well.

    Its primary purpose and responsibility is to serve others, not to serve itself, and certainly not to be a conduit for the largest registrars in the world (well one is now a registry as well) to funnel money into their coffers, and hold what I would argue is disproportionate influence inside Nominet. I see the potential for serious conflicts of interest there, and I frankly believe that huge organisations like GoDaddy and Team Blue (with Namesco) should be kept at arm’s length from the company, and not be sitting on the Board. Of course, I would work with the GoDaddy employee if I succeeded in replacing the Namesco employee in the board room, and there would be nothing personal in that, but I must be clear that I believe these very large companies should be removed from any appearance, let alone substance, of undue influence in policy decision-making. My view: they just shouldn’t be there.


    Nominet’s primary purpose and responsibility is serving those who rely on the namespace: and that includes businesses, communities, charities, organisations in health and education, government, clubs, families and individuals. It’s a huge responsibility. What Nominet must never become is a self-motivated hub for a few vested interests who appropriate the namespace as a kind of further consolidation of a vast money-making domain industry, with rising domain name prices, and – as tends to be the case as huge registrars buy out more local and personalised companies – deteriorating customer service.


    Now why would a registered nurse want to engage with Nominet, as an outsider, as someone who has spent her life in different sectors to this one? I think part of the answer is a mindset – the idea, which I’ve tried to follow in prisons, in schools, and in nursing, of serving others. I have been fascinated for decades by the potential technology presents to contribute to human experience. I believe we are only in the early stages of the changes that are to come. But I believe fundamentally that technology is there to serve others, to serve communities, to enhance people’s lives. That excites me.

    (continued...)
     
  10. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Retired Member

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    (...continued)


    I am not a stranger to the domain name industry – indeed I believe I have more grasp of detail than most of the other candidates. I was an elected member of ICANN at Large, and challenged bad practice and opaque arrangements between insiders. Historically, I have seen that again and again with ICANN, Registries, and the largest Registrars: close and symbiotic relationships, where laissez faire seems to rule, with large tech companies left to almost police their own actions (as indeed they were, with the mass-registrations). I may ‘only’ be a nurse (which of course I am not at all ashamed of in reality), and appear as an outsider, but I do know this industry. I’ve been challenging doubtful practice for 20 years, and I attend to detail. That is maybe my strength. I can be pedantic when ‘laissez-faire’ practice translates to rules being circumvented or not being enforced. I have been vocal in calling out the .uk mass-registrations from the beginning, because I see them as symptomatic of a problem. I was frankly astonished when I contacted Nominet when this was taking place, and got told essentially that they were content with what was happening. In fact, I believe they facilitated what was going on. And yet many people believe it was deeply misjudged of – it disrupted process, was bad PR, and it achieved almost nothing. Millions people who never wanted the domains in the first place, still did not want them, even when they were registered without their consent (and against the Registry/Registrar rules) and so we’ve seen them drop, and we’ll see another million drop in the coming weeks. It is registration carnage.


    It seemed like Nominet could and should do better than this. When people suggested I stand for election, I initially said no, but the more I thought about it, the more it just seemed that someone should challenge the status quo and be inside the company, questioning things. That shouldn’t be feared because I want Nominet to flourish. I believe in the importance of the UK registry, and that’s not about being soft and unquestioning, but it is about believing it matters, and wanting the namespace to work fairly, securely, reliably and well. That requires attention to detail, and a willingness to ask the hard questions at times, and indeed to confront. It also requires good social skills and confidence, and the ability to listen to others. To encourage good ideas. I am positive in my ambitions for the company, constructive not destructive.


    I want the UK to have a namespace that is an exemplar for others to follow. I am also sensitive to the security dimension to Nominet’s work. I have worked in security contexts, and I understand the external threats our namespace has to guard against. I am particularly interested in ways that Nominet can work with other agencies to help people access and harness technology in their lives. Public benefit is a deeply attractive aspect of becoming a director – not doing good works for good PR, but doing the right thing because it’s just the right thing to do. Nominet has the privilege of a unique platform, entrusted to it by government. It must never forget that privilege, and the responsibilities and accountability that invests it with.
     
  11. super-whois United Kingdom

    super-whois Active Member

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  12. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Retired Member

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    Yeah, I know. But I'm putting my views here anyway. That's what I choose to do. Then if/when I'm elected it's all on the record and I'm accountable. Enjoy your weekend!
     
  13. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Retired Member

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    2. Would you be in favour of one vote per domain name registrant, or would you be in favour of one member one vote, if you had to choose one – and why?


    - summary answer -


    I believe that sending out voting slips to millions of registrants would turn out to be unwieldy and very complex.

    If you wanted the governance of the UK namespace to be democratised, I believe you have two better routes to choose from.

    The first, as proposed in the question, is to give all paid up Nominet members ‘one member one vote’. This presupposes that membership would be screened more rigidly than it has been to date, with closer scrutiny of people’s business involvements. If workable, it would treat all members with equal value and respect, whatever the size of their company, and it would at least avoid the risk at present that 3 or 4 largest companies have enhanced influence in the company.

    That presently sends a message that smaller businesses and insights and experience are somehow less important and influential to Nominet than their 3 or 4 largest registrars, 2 of whom (at present!) have employees sitting on the Board.

    The second way the governance of the UK namespace could be democratised is if the democratically elected representatives of the public reclaimed greater control and oversight of Nominet, or uncoupled its registry functions from other business projects. Because that is not an unimaginable possibility, Nominet needs to be very careful that it does not lose sight of its duties to the UK and its namespace, which are entrusted to it as a privilege. Part of my role as a director if/when elected is to keep a very close account and record of how Nominet carries out its functions and duties, and to be ready to be called to account. With privilege comes responsibility.

    However, to conclude my answer, I do not believe one vote per registrant is practically likely to be adopted. I do believe that the present ‘weighted voting’ system needs review, to attribute more value and respect to smaller businesses. And yes, there is always the possibility of Nominet’s privileged platform being reclaimed, if it demonstrably fails to live up to the standards expected of it.
     
  14. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Retired Member

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    2. Would you be in favour of one vote per domain name registrant, or would you be in favour of one member one vote, if you had to choose one – and why?


    - full answer -


    As a previously elected member of ICANN at Large (the group that used to represent ordinary internet users, pressing for user influence in internet and domain name governance on the basis of one vote per person), I do have some sympathy with the idea of democratising the way the internet and the domain name system is run. The internet affects all people – why then should it be overseen by ICANN and their commercial allies, and by the Department of Justice of a single country: the USA?

    That said, and turning to Nominet and its responsibility for the UK namespace, I believe that sending out voting slips to millions of registrants would turn out to be unwieldy and very complex. Would a person with 200 registrations have 200 votes? Would a domain retailer with a portfolio of 5000 domains have 5000 votes. In addition, it would be a big bureaucratic challenge to keep up with transfers, address changes, and to explain and communicate the issues being voted on to millions of people who just want the internet to work.

    If you wanted the governance of the UK namespace to be democratised, I believe you have two better routes to choose from.

    The first, as proposed in the question, is to give all paid up Nominet members ‘one member one vote’. This presupposes that membership would be screened more rigidly than it has to date, with closer scrutiny of people’s business involvements. The underlying assumption is that all members would have an interest in how the namespace operated, to some degree, and have invested in the company and so be committed to it. It would treat all members with equal value and respect, whatever the size of their company, and it would at least avoid the risk at present that 3 or 4 largest companies have enhanced influence in the company. As a candidate in this year’s election, I am happy to appeal to all sizes of business to support my candidacy, and some large companies have voiced their support. At the same time, 2000 members have a very small number of votes, and I feel uncomfortable about that. I think it sends a message that their very real businesses and insights and experience are somehow less important and influential to Nominet than their 3 or 4 largest registrars, 2 of whom (at present!) have employees sitting on the Board.

    The last way the governance of the UK namespace could be democratised is if the democratically elected representatives of the public reclaimed greater control and oversight of Nominet, or uncoupled its registry functions from other business projects, and effectively brought the registry functions back under the more direct control of parliamentary group tasked with running the DNS for the country. Because that is not an unimaginable possibility, Nominet needs to be very careful that it does not lose sight of its duties and responsibilities, which are entrusted to it as a privilege, with a unique platform – a platform which could be taken away if it failed to operate openly, accountably, and ethically, in the interests of the UK and all users of the UK namespace.

    However, to conclude my answer, I do not believe one vote per registrant is practically likely to be adopted. I do believe that the present ‘weighted voting’ system needs review, to attribute more value and respect to smaller businesses. And yes, there is always the possibility of Nominet’s privileged platform being reclaimed, if it demonstrably fails to live up to the standards and responsibilities expected of it: but we are not there yet. Part of my role as a director if/when elected is to keep a very close account and record of how Nominet carries out its functions and duties, and to be ready to be called to account. With privilege comes responsibility.
     
  15. Hay

    Hay Active Member Exclusive Member

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    @Siusaidh at least your answers are always detailed, you must have way too much time on your hands lol, its a good thing i suppose! I wish i had enough spare time :p
     
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  16. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Retired Member

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    Wish I did, Ben. I'm living a double existence, with loads of additional training for my NHS job. Work hard, play hard ;)
     
  17. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Retired Member

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    3. In light of market consolidation, do you think Nominet’s bylaws are built for a different world, and are now in effect undemocratic?



    - summary answer -



    As other candidates have said, it stands to reason that bylaws and processes should be continually reviewed.

    With regard to the question of whether Nominet’s processes and governance are in effect undemocratic, I have addressed that issue in my answer to Question 2.

    With regard to market consolidation, that has been happening more and more. GoDaddy has made huge acquisitions in the past year, running towards or past a billion dollars – basically hoovering up powerful competing companies. Now much of this is global, and not much Nominet can do about that. However it does raise concerns – because of the scale of these companies as dominant customers and revenue sources for Nominet. To be clear: the namespace exists for the benefit of community and businesses of all sizes, not for the coffers of these large corporations.

    I have considerable concerns about the possibility that these ‘prime customers’ have too much influence and sway inside Nominet. By letting these giant companies ‘colonise’ Nominet’s governing body, with voting systems that facilitate that, I believe the interests of the UK’s namespace are not being kept at arm’s length from these companies. That is one of the reasons I am standing for election: to try to take the place of the sitting Namesco director.

    In a recent statement, Lord Carlile made this very pertinent point:

    “There cannot be equal opportunity if there are conflicts of interest involved… or what lawyers understand as the law of apparent bias. It’s not to say that such people are biased: that’s often misunderstood. It is the appearance of bias that matters.

    Having people on a core group with a conflict of interest is simply not sustainable."

    To these huge companies, the namespace exists to be colonised wherever they can, and the responsibilities that Nominet owes to the UK, its communities, and the general public are inevitably secondary to GoDaddy and what they and others can suck out of the system to expand their domination of the market. The UK really does not need these forces inside the governing and decision making processes of its namespace.
     
  18. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Retired Member

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    3. In light of market consolidation, do you think Nominet’s bylaws are built for a different world, and are now in effect undemocratic?


    - full answer -


    As other candidates have said, it stands to reason that bylaws and processes should be continually reviewed. Part of the crisis over dropping domains arose because Nominet did not foresee (or did not prioritise) the way a years old system might be ‘gamed’ by parties who realised that Nominet either could not or would not enforce its own rules – largely because they had not changed with the times, and had become unenforceable.

    With regard to the question of whether Nominet’s processes and governance are in effect undemocratic, I have addressed that issue in my answer to Question 2.

    With regard to market consolidation, that has been happening more and more. GoDaddy has made huge acquisitions in the past year, running towards or past a billion dollars – basically hoovering up powerful competing companies, and extending its remit from its original registrar role to expand into the Registry world as well. Team Blue (of which Namesco is a part) is another group where consolidation has been building up.

    Now much of this is global, and not much Nominet can do about that. However, it does raise concerns – because of the scale of these companies as dominant customers and revenue sources for Nominet – about the impact these huge conglomerations may have on the quality of service and general health of the domain name industry. And the impact on the governance of the UK’s namespace. To be clear: the UK’s namespace is not, and must never become, a fiefdom and revenue funnel for these industry giants. The namespace exists for the benefit of its users, not for the coffers of these large corporations.

    I have considerable concerns about the possibility that these ‘prime customers’ have too much influence and sway inside Nominet. When their employees sit on the Board – in one case the employee of a rival Registry to Nominet, in both cases employees whose parent companies allowed the mass-registration of .uk domains without user consent or request – and when Nominet turns a blind eye or facilitates their actions… then what you have is an appearance of possible conflict of interest, or worse still the possibility of actual conflict of interest. By letting these giant companies ‘colonise’ Nominet’s governing body, with voting systems that facilitate that, I believe the interests of the UK’s namespace are not being kept at arm’s length from these companies.

    That is one of the reasons I am standing for election: to try to take the place of the sitting Namesco director. As I have stressed many times, that is in no way personal to the individual concerned. I wish her well. I would simply prefer not to have Team Blue (and Namesco) or GoDaddy implanted on the Nominet Board.

    Even if the employees of these huge companies promise to play nice on the Board, and not influence UK namespace decisions in their favour, with all the sweetness of angels, there is still the problem of ‘appearance of bias’. That itself really matters. In a recent statement, on a different matter involving a Church legal case, Lord Carlile made this very pertinent point:

    “There cannot be equal opportunity if there are conflicts of interest involved… or what lawyers understand as the law of apparent bias. It’s not to say that such people are biased: that’s often misunderstood. It is the appearance of bias that matters.

    Having people on a core group with a conflict of interest is simply not sustainable."

    I believe Lord Carlile is right. Even if Large Registrar board members technically absent themselves from certain votes, there is all the unminuted collaboration and influence that may be brought to bear on a company behind the scenes, when vested interests are not kept at sufficient arm’s length outside the company. In my opinion, whatever expertise they may offer, they should not be right at the core of the company and members of the Board.

    Conflict of interest is an obvious concern for other members. The appearance of bias is itself unacceptable, and should be avoided in the interests of transparency and trust.

    In contrast, I offer myself as an ordinary internet user with a career history in roles valued by the public, involving decades of practical common-sense experience and caring for others. I simply don’t have any conflicts of interest. For me it’s about public service. I believe that adds value and credibility to Nominet, and also represents the fact that millions of people who depend on reliable internet, ordinary users like me, are actually more central to Nominet’s mission than huge corporations like GoDaddy.

    Let me conclude by quoting Simon Blackler, the CEO of one of the UK’s most respected and ethical hosting companies, Krystal and also a Nominet registrar:

    ‘We had a purpose and a mission: we would provide the best possible service we could, backed by a personal, honest approach to customer support and we’d use the company as a platform for positive change in the world.

    What actually happened meanwhile is that a few huge companies like GoDaddy went around and gobbled up most of the competition. Companies are acquired for their future profit (once “optimised”) and the new owners don’t have the same duty of care as the old.

    These monopolies offer consumers very little true choice. Because it’s a hassle to move hosts, most people won’t move if their company is acquired, even if there's a drop in service. Even when consumers do choose to move they’ll often be switching between 2 brands owned by the same company without even realising it. In the unlikely event a new entrant wins market share they’ll just purchase them and hollow out the brand. This behaviour protects/insulates the parent corporations from real loss, providing little incentive for them to “do the right thing”.

    We operate in a way that these large investment/pension fund operated corporations cannot hope to match. To do so would cost them profit, something their shareholders would not be happy about! We’re entirely family owned and there’s no shareholder pressures to deliver returns. With no profit motive we’re free to spend money wherever we think it could improve the service.’

    To these huge companies, the namespace exists to be colonised wherever they can, and the responsibilities that Nominet owes to the UK, its communities, and the general public are inevitably secondary to GoDaddy and what they and others can suck out of the system to expand their domination of the market. The UK really does not need these forces inside the governing and decision making processes of its namespace.
     
  19. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Retired Member

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    4. Nominet currently has a consultation on auctioning expired domains. Are you in favour of auctions or economically-controlled access?



    - summary answer -



    4 of my 5 rival candidates favoured the auction model. I hope I can make a more detailed and informed response.

    There is more to this than a binary.

    That entirely leaves out the significant alternative views and ideas which many other Nominet members have. The consultation asked members this exact question – omitting other options. That gave the impression they had already decided it would be one of their two main routes, and the consultation was about Nominet’s choices, not any alternatives their members might have.

    There should have been an Option 3 - 'Other proposals'.

    I've looked at many routes forward. I’ve discussed options. But I've also listened on forums to people's fears for their families and it’s become clear to me: the proposed radical changes could not have come at a worse time.

    To present the consultation question as "my way", "my other way", or the highway... is disrespectful. To date, it seems to me that Andrew Bennett's petition has been marginalised. It should be discussed at AGM, as a significant statement by significant and valued Nominet members. It should also be formally factored in to your report on the whole consultation process, when that comes out. It should not be erased.

    I believe that - given the pandemic and the harsh economic crisis - it would be respectful to pause for a year or 24 months, and afford time for exploring and testing out other possibilities. Nominet are the ones who have been unable to control suspected ‘rogue’ players, and yet it is the honest registrars who have kept to the rules who will take the economic 'hit'.

    Listening to other members and registrars (which is what a director should do) my own views have changed in the unprecedented context of these times.

    I conclude that Question 4 is invalid, and exactly poses the binary that Nominet wants to present. However, that binary does not reflect the reality of where members are. It is a binary that’s intent on closing down other possibilities. I honestly can’t play that game.

    Post-script: on the subject of Nominet’s options, the consultation also asked: Where should Nominet direct the profits from holding auctions for expired domain names, or charging for drop catching connections? In the event that Nominet goes ahead with one of its chosen options, I believe that ideally Nominet should distance itself from the distribution of these funds. I think a separate body should oversee funds distribution.
     
  20. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Retired Member

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    4. Nominet currently has a consultation on auctioning expired domains. Are you in favour of auctions or economically-controlled access?

    - full answer -


    4 of my 5 rival candidates favoured the auction model. I hope I can make a more detailed and informed response than one of the candidates who asked for clarification, because he was not familiar with the term ‘economically-controlled access’. In response, the host of the webinar explained the term to him and said that the auctions and ECA were "the two options Nominet are consulting on".

    There is more to this than a binary.

    That entirely leaves out the significant alternative views and ideas which many other Nominet members have. The consultation asked members this exact question, with buttons to indicate which option the members supported out of Nominet’s own choices, but no ‘third way’ button to express preference to explore other options as well. In a sense that lost credibility for the consultation because it implied that they had already decided it would be one of their two main routes, and the consultation was about Nominet’s choices, not any alternatives their members might have.

    I will quote extracts from my contribution to the consultation:

    “While the auctions approach meets your own criteria, I am not selecting any option because I believe there should have been an Option 3 - 'Other proposals'. While I personally see auctions as better than the mayhem Nominet has presided over, I believe there are also other models and ways that deserve to be explored first. A majority of correspondents to this consultation would have selected an Option 3. The consultation needs to acknowledge that in its statistics, and you have not made that possible by limiting selection to 1(a) 1(b) and 2. Your consultation loses credibility with valued and experienced Nominet members as a result - for example the not insignificant signatories of the recent petition.

    Surely, Nominet should be approaching this consultation without preconceptions or minds made up - otherwise what is the point of involving members and asking for their opinions?

    Two factors this year have made the whole issue more fraught and challenging.

    1. The domination of a few parties, catching a disproportionate % of most valuable domains, in the mass dump of Namesco's mass-registrations in January, as in the ROR the previous July, which seemed to demonstrate that Nominet was unable or unwilling to enforce respect for its own principles and processes.

    2. A month later Covid-19 had changed the whole way we would have to live our lives for the foreseeable future. In the context of pandemic and economic crisis, the proposal to radically change the way domains could be obtained when they dropped - which could deeply impact on the economic models and businesses many members relied on - could not have come at a worse time.

    I've looked at many routes forward. I’ve discussed options with you. But I've also listened on forums to people's fears for their families. Now is just not the right time. If you analyse Andrew Bennett's petition (which I signed for the reasons I'm outlining here) these were not a crowd of malcontents. There were many well-respected Nominet members (over 100 have signed) and some very significant businesses represented.

    To present the consultation question as "my way", "my other way", or the highway... is disrespectful. Or perhaps it is just sloppy communication. To date, it seems to me that Andrew's petition has been marginalised. It should be welcomed by Nominet, and discussed at AGM, as a significant statement by significant and valued Nominet members, who are not comfortable with this seeming short-listed binary of options. It should also be formally factored in to your report on the whole consultation process, when that comes out. It should not be erased.

    To her credit, Eleanor Bradley acknowledged some of the impact these changes could have, in a recent statement. It's an issue of respect that the very real concerns of members should be afforded voice and platform at the AGM, and that alternative proposals are reported when this consultation is summarised to members. A disappointing 55 members out of 2500 had contributed to the consultation by the time of the round-table meetings. That contrasts with 101 members who signed a petition of dissent. Had there been an ‘Option 3’ in the consultation, that would have been the dominant choice.

    I believe that - given the pandemic and the harsh economic crisis - it would be respectful to pause for a year or 24 months, and afford time for exploring and testing out other possibilities, and also, to afford people the basic dignity and respect of working out how to re-model their family and business finances if they have to. Right now is just not the right time.

    I recognise that this process has already been extended once, but that was before we realised the massive hit our economies were going to take with the pandemic. I believe it should be formally extended, with the interim period openly exploring the ways of making possible option 3's work. And also to give small businesses breathing space.

    Events have changed everything. The underlying problem has been what many (including inside Nominet) have suspected to be 'rogue players' and Nominet's inability to enforce its own rules. And yet it is the honest registrars who have kept to the rules who will take the economic 'hit'.

    Nominet allowed 5 years for rights holders to claim their .uk domains (actually more than 6 years for those mass-registrations dropping next month). And yet there seems to be a bit of a headlong and precipitate rush now to push the present issue to a conclusion, at exactly the wrong time for many members. As the petition demonstrates, serious and valued members are not happy with this.

    If you want to talk ethics and good practice, I commend you to read the whole of Simon Blackler's 'creed' at Krystal, which I quoted in Question 3. It is maybe not chance that Simon is one of the signatories on the petition. So is Stephan Ramoin. These are quality people and I think the concerns raised on the petition need further acknowledgment, and a little more respect.”

    In due course I agree that solutions to ‘gaming’ the system have to be found, and ways round people using multiple tags and identities. If the exact present system can’t keep cheats out, then we look for other solutions, which may include auction (without the exorbitant non-returnable entrance fee which I regard as daylight robbery, and reminds me of the no-return pre-registration fees charged by global registrars in the gTLD releases); or other approaches that members are still suggesting; or a loyalty-based version of ECA with reward for longstanding members and prohibitive costs the first few years as a disincentive to new players wanting to bring in teams of new Nominet ‘members’. I agree with Nominet director David Thornton that £600 will be insufficient to put people off using multiple memberships of friends. Maybe a far stricter method of accreditation and checks can be devised to stop any cheating, but I don’t see how you can ‘prove’ that two people are working as a team. And therein lies the problem. Therefore the ‘control’ needs to be cost – but £600 is too little to put cheats off, while punitive charges will also hurt small registrars, unless there is a tiered system, with a very high entrance point to play, if you are a recent new member.

    However, listening to other members and registrars (which is what a director should do) my own views have changed in the unprecedented context of these times. It is clear: that there is significant unease among some very respected and valued Nominet members about proceeding at this time. It seems respectful to allow an interim period to explore the viability of alternative ways forward. It also seems respectful, given the impact on people’s lives at such a time.

    To just present an ‘either…or’ as a fait accompli is NOT consultation.

    I conclude that Question 4 is invalid, and exactly poses the binary that Nominet wants to present. However, that binary does not reflect the reality of where members are. It is a binary that’s intent on closing down other possibilities. I honestly can’t play that game.


    Post-script: on the subject of Nominet’s options, the consultation also asked: Where should Nominet direct the profits from holding auctions for expired domain names, or charging for drop catching connections?

    I’d like to add a few words on that.

    In the event that Nominet goes ahead with one of its chosen options, I believe that ideally Nominet should distance itself from the distribution of these funds. I think a separate body should oversee funds distribution. Personally I should like to see those funds directed towards collaborative work with existing charities, aimed at using technology to solve problems and helping to increase digital access for marginalised communities and individuals. Nominet should be applauded for some of its recent initiatives, such as its collaboration with the Samaritans. However, I do think that the financial windfall from any new model (if that happens) should be channelled to a Trust that is distanced from Nominet. I believe that Nominet should continue its own public benefit work, but avoid all charges of profiteering by making the new revenue source accountable to a separate and independent Trust.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2020
  21. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Retired Member

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    5. Do you see the launch of the .uk second-level domains as a success?



    - summary answer -



    I think it’s obvious that the primary motive for launching .uk was the increased revenue that could be gained by pressurising millions of people to double up and cover their existing .co.uk presence on the web. It was launched as a money making project.

    However, millions of .co.uk registrants decided not to register the .uk – even when given a generous 5 year period to do so.

    By the summer of 2017, three years after their launch, .uk domains were flat-lining. The largest registrars were undoubtedly hoping for a long-term windfall from .uk (indeed, one wonders whether they were champions of the project when it was proposed, because they stood to make the most money from it, along with Nominet themselves).

    And then, wondrously, Nominet announced a ‘free promotion’. GoDaddy’s owned company 123Reg, and Namesco (and yes, those were the companies with directors on the Nominet Board) took this ‘gift from heaven’ as the chance to mass-register over a million domains between them, even though these were actually ‘fake’ registrations in the sense that the so-called ‘registrants’ had not asked for these domains, and the Registry-Registrar rules prohibited registrations without consent.

    Nominet had promised the public that after 5 years, all unclaimed .uk domains would be made available to everyone. But with weeks to go Nominet, who already knew that other large registrars might follow the precedent set by their directors’ companies offered yet another ‘free promotion’, and this time Fasthosts and Ionos1&1 accepted the open door and copied their rivals, mass-registering more than a million more essentially ‘fake’ registrations. The .uk registrations were now ‘peaking’ at 3,600,000.

    However 2/3rds of these were ‘zombie’ domains. People had not asked for them and did not want them. These figures could only go in one direction… and that was a huge dump.

    When one of my rival candidates said, in answer to this question, ‘.uk was very successful in the numbers registered’ I find it hard to believe they realise the scale of what went on. About 80,000 domains were eventually bought when the 5 year period was up – but over 2 million more were unavailable because they’d been mass-registered. The agreed process had been nuked.

    Now fast forward to this September 2020, and what we are going to see is well over a million more .uk names being dumped, because the Fasthosts group’s mass-registrations are also unwanted, were never requested, and they will have disappeared into nothingness, which was actually what they were all along: mere ‘zombie’ domains with ‘ghost’ registrants.

    By mid-September .uk registrations will have plummeted from a peak of 3.6 million (64% mass-registered and not requested) to little more than 1.3 million.

    This was a poorly judged policy in my view, and I wouldn’t call the first 6 years of .uk a success.