Tuesday, 10 April 2018 11:02

Some auDA members call for CEO, 3 directors to step down


A decision by auDA, the body responsible for the .au namespace, to change domains from .com.au to .au has riled members of the organisation to such an extent that they are now calling for the chief executive and three board members to resign.

Jim Stewart, chief executive of digital marketing company StewArt Media, and one of those who has signed a letter calling for a special general meeting of auDA to discuss the position of CEO Cameron Boardman, told iTWire that no logic or business case had been advanced for the change which, he said, would in no way help businesses. A number of other changes have been proposed as well.

(iTWire's Stephen Withers has a detailed comment piece here looking at the changes).

The letter, signed by Stewart and two other auDA members, Joshua Rowe and Paul Szyndler, and dated 7 April, pointed out that as per the rules, a meeting needed to be called within 21 days of a letter that had the necessary number of signatures — there are 319 members and 5% or about 16 signatures are needed — being received. Szyndler is a former senior auDA executive.

Such a meeting is required to be held within two months of such a letter — such as the one submitted — being received.

Twenty-two identical letters were attached from other members, all seeking a vote on four resolutions: a vote of no-confidence in Boardman and the removal of Chris Leptos, Sandra Hook and Suzanne Ewart as directors. A detailed explanation of the reasons for asking for the special general meeting has been published at this website.

Stewart said members had been promised a business case for the change but thus far nothing had materialised. He said it was somewhat illogical to first decide on a change and then try to advance a business case to justify it, agreeing that it was akin to putting the cart before the horse.

Some of the reasons advanced for the change were that .au would be more memorable, that it would give people more choice and everybody else was doing it, with the last reason citing the UK and New Zealand.

But Stewart claimed in the UK, the .uk names were being given away free as there was no take-up.

“Boardman has provided industry with no business case for a major reform that is likely to have significant negative consequences and there has been very little consultation with industry to discuss this critical change," he said in a statement. Anyone who moves from .com.au to .au will have to pay for the new domain all over again.

“Most people don’t fully understand the implications. For instance, a competitor may secure your domain name without the dotcom. When the changes come into effect, any company can register say commbank.au or bhpcom.au, causing confusion and cyber security issues.

"If a company was able to register their name.au and just switched it on that would be a disaster, you would lose all your Google search traffic. By switching your current domain name (for example ‘.com.au’ to ‘.au’) you’re effectively creating a new website.

“This means you run the risk of disappearing from Google searches. Imagine if you were an Australian retailer, what would that do to your business?" he asked.

Stewart said, in his experience, changing a domain for a moderately well-known site would mean that about eight weeks would be required to catch up with traffic.

He pointed out that the Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy, Ed Husic, had spoken in Parliament recently about the risks of Australian businesses switching domain names.

“Husic said organisations that have registered their business after April 2016 would have to reapply and potentially fight it out to claim the equivalent .au domains, which could cause significant financial and time costs to small businesses," Stewart said.

auDA has four directors from the supply side, four from the demand side and three industry figures. At the moment, Stewart said, there four directors from the supply side, two from the demand side and the three industry directors.

One director, Luke Summers, submitted his resignation to John Swinson, the chair of the 2017 policy review panel, on Saturday, saying he no longer had confidence "that the panel can proceed in a manner that is in the best interests of the Australian Internet community".

Apart from this change in domains, Stewart said there were also "what some members deem to consider poor governance processes ahead of a major industry reform without presenting a industry impact assessment or a solid business case".

iTWire has contacted auDA for its take on the issue and is awaiting a response.

Update, 5.25pm: auDA chair Chris Leptos responded to iTWire's request, saying the organisation could confirm that a small group of members had called for a Special General Meeting.

"Under the Corporations Act 2001, just 16 signatures are sufficient to call an SGM at auDA due to its small membership base of 319. This is the second SGM to be called in nine months," he said.

Leptos said the auDA Board remained committed to ongoing reform and policy development informed by consultation with members and other stakeholders.

"auDA’s Board and management are focused on the critical projects currently underway, including preparing for a landmark transition to a new registry and awaiting the findings of a federal government review into the best framework for managing the .au domain with responsibilities to more than 21.18 million Internet users in Australia," he added.



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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.



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