20i Domains

Why were .co.uk registrants obliged to pay twice if they wanted .uk ?

Discussion in 'General Board' started by Siusaidh, Aug 5, 2021.

  1. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 2019
    Posts:
    1,051
    Likes Received:
    355
    Good morning,

    I'm trying to get a handle on the reasons why registrants of .co.uk domain names have to pay a kind of 'protection payment' for the .uk domain if they want to protect their brand from confusion.

    As things stand, because of the introduction of .uk, registrants now often end up paying twice as much (effectively the cost of a .com) to protect their brand. I'm trying to understand what the original member feedback was on this, or whether Nominet just went ahead because for them it was a money spinner?

    Was popular member opinion in support of this? (I was a bit busy in my nursing in those years, so sorry for not being on the ball about it.)

    Even now, wouldn't it be fairer, and in the best interests of the public/registrants/ordinary users, if pairs of .co.uk and .uk were simply charged as a package (50% off each)? Or does the UK domain name system simply exist to grab as much money for Nominet as possible?

    Andy Green, the new Chair, in his web meeting with members, portrayed Nominet as awash with money... 'What do we do with all the money?' he asked.

    If so, and if the introduction of .uk caused brand protection issues and double costs for many, and indeed will, year after year...

    Should members call on Nominet to 'couple' .co.uk and .uk in a single price package, either for future new registrations where both are available, or for all existing pairs?

    I'm especially interested in the history, and whether Nominet ignored member feedback or actually found it was what people wanted (that is, paying double... seems unlikely).
     
  2. Domain Forum

    Acorn Domains Elite Member

    Joined:
    1999
    Messages:
    Many
    Likes Received:
    Lots
    articles.co.uk
     
  3. ian

    ian Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2008
    Posts:
    4,184
    Likes Received:
    313
    It was a cash cow for Nominet, nothing more, and has led to constant confusion and very little uptake in .uk. Having said that, protecting your brand for £9.36 a year isn't exactly an issue; it is more of a problem for those with large portfolios.
     
    • Agree Agree x 6
  4. martin-s United Kingdom

    martin-s Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 2012
    Posts:
    3,467
    Likes Received:
    259
    That's what Nominet relied on. It's not much of a tax, so why doesn't it matter? It matters because there should have been a complete acceptance at the start that they are not two different domain names. They are one domain with two extensions - the normal one and a short one (should acceptance grow).
     
  5. ian

    ian Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2008
    Posts:
    4,184
    Likes Received:
    313
    I agree, I was making a specific distinction between the cost of protecting a brand versus a portfolio.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  6. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 2019
    Posts:
    1,051
    Likes Received:
    355
    On another forum (Discourse) one view expressed was that the whole thing was driven by money, that most people opposed the project, and that it disregarded registrants.

    In contrast another person argued:

    "This was done in the best interest of future registrants that would otherwise be faced with a situation where all good names were gone. Giving registrants more domains to choose from is in their interest. Even existing registrants were presented with the opportunity to upgrade their domains with shorter versions that may have already been reserved at the time they started looking for their perfect domain and had to settle for a longer, suboptimal name previously. Offering more choice is a benefit for registrants. No one was forcing anyone to do anything? What percentage of registrants were medium to large corporations that needed to protect their brand? It is incorrect to suggest it was only about money. The answers to that are plentiful: fending off the competition of new registration choices, reducing scarcity of available domain names, enabling choice, conforming with international domain name standards, and many more reasons."

    Personally I believe the driving motive was an extra wave of revenue for Nominet, and I think today, that remains the case. New registrations of domains where both .co.uk and .uk are available could be coupled as a single domain package, and charged as one, but public service in my view takes second place to 'how much money can we make out of people?
     
  7. diablo

    diablo Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 2005
    Posts:
    2,046
    Likes Received:
    135
    If it was genuinely about more choice, there would not have been a five year RoR period.

    It was clearly about revenue generation with the expectation being .co.uk registrants would be willing to stump up a few more pounds every year to protect their online presence (and of course a few more pounds times millions of registrants equals a bigger cash cow).
     
    • Agree Agree x 3
  8. getmein United Kingdom

    getmein Active Member Exclusive Member

    Joined:
    Sep 2008
    Posts:
    306
    Likes Received:
    19
    They said it was about choice - done to foster an innovative uk web space where new registrants could find new, previously unavailable names. A uk web space, so innovative that even the registry itself had become an incubator/investor in cutting edge ideas. If I was being charitable I'd say at the time they didn't think it was only about increasing revenue - perhaps they considered the release of gTLDs was expected to have a big impact on domain usage. Perhaps they thought many new customers would choose names in the new strings so they should expand choice (and at the same time increase substantially the baseline annual income for Nominet just in case the UK registry gravy train was soon to come to an end, so that they could ensure a very well paid, multi-decade sunset for their bloated, executive cost base). They must have had a strong conviction in the impact of gTLDs given that they doubled down in the gTLD space by providing registry services to some of these new strings. Seen against the failure of many of these new strings, .uk was a remarkable success (financially for Nominet if not in terms of their talk about 'choice').

    Judged several years later - I think it's brought almost no new real choice to the UK namespace for new registrants, existing registrants by and large took up their rights or they have been warehoused. Did they really think it was going to end differently?


    Nominet would argue they are not a monopoly - because registrants may have choice initially to choose from different options. But once a web presence has been established on a domain, the pricing power for the registry begins to behave as if they were a monopoly - they need to be very sensitive of their privileged position. Assuming they see themselves as a commercial but altruistic oligopoly they should begin to wonder how they can reduce the cost burden on registrants. I think they should be looking to return money to registrants by way of lower fees. Re-coupling the costs for pairs is likely more complicated than simply reducing registrations costs across the board for both .co.uk and .uk.
     
  9. martin-s United Kingdom

    martin-s Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 2012
    Posts:
    3,467
    Likes Received:
    259
    If they wanted to expand the name space, they needed to avoid overlapping with .co.uk and using a new extension entirely. They didn't achieve in expanding anything, they just complicated it. Naivety or greed?
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  10. JMI

    JMI Active Member Acorn Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 2015
    Posts:
    582
    Likes Received:
    92
    Now your on the RAC you can find out about getting us all a refund?
     
  11. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 2019
    Posts:
    1,051
    Likes Received:
    355
    I'd certainly be in favour - if only, initially, to reverse the last price hike. The new Chair suggested that Nominet was awash with money. 'What do we do with all that money?' he asked. The previous Chair/CEO seemed to know the answer to that question: charge registrars even more.

    Maybe, as an incoming Chair, who says he wants to change the culture/direction of the Company, a good early gesture would be to slash that last price hike... for a start.

    As I've no doubt you know, the UKRAC is deliberately created to be 'advisory'. In addition, attempts have been made to box us in about what we are allowed to talk about. Domain prices have been defined as 'out of scope'. Initially they weren't, but under the Chairmanship of James Bladel, the design group was persuaded to change that, and now we're told that is 'out of scope'.

    That said, this is not North Korea and I will discuss whatever I think is relevant to the UK Registry. We do at least have all 6 seats on the Council held by people who were actively in support of the EGM and the Resolutions (both of them - though one was in my view spuriously blocked).

    Anyway, these are my views. It looks like we have our first meeting on August 27th. We will always benefit from as much member feedback as possible, even though I know there is scepticism about the whole UKRAC construct, and whether it is just a PR job to give the 'pretence' of engagement and little else.
     
  12. martin-s United Kingdom

    martin-s Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 2012
    Posts:
    3,467
    Likes Received:
    259
    You can't be serious. Prices are out of scope? If that's true then UKRAC is even more of a toothless fudge than I'd have guessed. That's pathetic.
     
  13. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 2019
    Posts:
    1,051
    Likes Received:
    355
    That's what I think too.

    In the initial remit for the UKRAC, elected members were given a specific right of "Involvement in the annual .UK registration fee review."

    However, it seems clear to me that between January and May this year the Board decided to control UKRAC tighter, listing subjects that were "out of scope" including governance (likely to be a huge issue coming up, as the new Chair admits) and - on domain prices:

    "Decisions on price setting, specific amounts, or setting/limiting future rates of increase" were also ruled out of scope though the Board may consult us if they wish.

    In addition they have imposed a Director, parachuted in as Chair of UKRAC, and the elected UKRAC members can't choose their own Chair. This Chair can close down meetings if he/she thinks we are straying in to 'out of scope' areas.

    That is totally unacceptable, and at the first meeting most of us want that changed. However, we cannot change these terms ourselves. We can only make a 'request' to the Board and hope they will accept our request.

    It's as obvious as the light of day that domain prices are relevant to the success of the UK registry, as is good governance and Nominet's wider activities if they lose the company money (like the £7,500,000 that went out, without a penny return, on automated cars, spectrum white space - both abandoned - and CyGlass which is losing the company money yet cost it £4-5million) and all these things like domain prices, governance, and wider activities of Nominet are disallowed as "out of scope".

    James Bladel (GoDaddy VP and Nominet Board director) chaired the design group as these changes took place, but I'm afraid I cannot endorse some of the changes that were made.

    I guess it will be an interesting first meeting, because it cannot be right for the Members' Council (which members democratically voted for) to be 'steered' by a parachuted in Board Director.

    We also need to be properly involved in the design of the new Forum, and basically we must have the right (this is not North Korea) to discuss what we like, and to publish what we want, on the Members' Hub (which at the moment is a one-way information stream from the Board and the Executive).

    Going back to domain prices, it is not sufficient to 'shadow' or 'compare' UK prices with .com's, when Verisign are increasing their domain names 7% a year in coming years. On the contrary, Nominet CAN afford to lower UK registration costs. They choose not to. It has to be hoped that the new Chair, Andy Green, will change culture and mentality, but there are challenges ahead.

    Personally, I want Simon Blackler on the Board, if only he would stand.
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2021
  14. webber

    webber Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 2019
    Posts:
    479
    Likes Received:
    130
    While there is only anecdotal evidence that some of the big registrars are getting refunds and Nominet won't deny this, I don't think we mortals can expect equal treatment.
    But we can demand a return to the the previous ethos of a not-for-profit company performing these services on a cost-recovery basis and therefore an equal treatment of members.
    Personally I don't think it would be too much to ask
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  15. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 2019
    Posts:
    1,051
    Likes Received:
    355
    Absolutely right.

    To be honest, there is no financial reason why the last rise in domain prices should not be reversed.