Wednesday, 18 April 2018 06:35

auDA dissidents seek business case for switch to .au

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The man leading the push for the resignation of auDA chief executive Cameron Boardman and three directors of the organisation, including board chair Chris Leptos, claims the main issue facing auDA, the change of domains to .au, "looms over our heads like an approaching storm".

Jim Stewart, the chief executive of StewArt Media, said in a letter that a recent newsletter by an individual he characterised as the new "independent" chair, was "frighteningly naive and uninformed and provided no confidence that the man at the top, nor the CEO for approving the publication, know what they are talking about."

Stewart's letter came in the wake of an article in Fairfax Media that detailed the findings of a review commissioned by Boardman in 2016 by an advisory group, PPB, which alleged financial irregularities in the past, but before a report about a federal government review, the results of which are set to be made public today.

Last week, Leptos said that the practices of several former auDA directors had been referred to the police in Victoria.

Dissension in the ranks of auDA, the body that administers the Australian domain namespace, came to public light earlier this month when Stewart led a call for the ouster of Boardman, Leptos and directors Sandra Hook and Suzanne Ewart. The main issue that has riled members is the decision by auDA to effect changes in domains from .com.au and similar suffixes to .au, a move for which auDA has produced neither a business case nor an explanation that is logical.

Leptos disclosed last week that the necessary letters to request a Special General Meeting for this purpose had been submitted and the needed resolutions proposed.

In what he called his 150-day report, Leptos briefly referred to this request saying he would advise the membership further "once the logistics for the meeting have been confirmed".

In Stewart's letter, he quoted this recent statement by Leptos: "The auDA board recognises that .au domains are being challenged on one flank by global domains such as .com, and on the other flank by commercial platforms such as mobile apps, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and whatever comes next. To maintain and promote the operational stability and utility of the .au namespace in this environment we will need to provide a state‑of-the-art service offering, and a twenty‑first-century governance structure."

He said this made no sense. "Saying that .au domains are being challenged by global domains and flanked by commercial platforms such as mobile apps, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter just doesn’t make sense," Stewart wrote.

"Using this argument to support the introduction of direct AU registrations shows a disturbing lack of understanding and ignorance of how the Internet is used for business."

Stewart pointed out that domain suffixes such as .com.au, .gov.au, .edu.au, .org.au, were used for Australian organisation Internet addressing for things such as websites and email. "It makes no sense to say they are competing against Amazon and Twitter. Domain names are simply addresses. Amazon is a business that provides many different services including hosting," he said.

Many .com.au sites were hosted on Amazon, Stewart said, but were in no way competing with Australian domain names. "It's like saying Wagga Wagga is competing with David Jones Department Store," he said. "Twitter is a live open messaging service one to one or one to many. How it is in any way competing with .au domain names is a mystery known only to auDA."

He also cited a number of other points made in the same newsletter:

A commitment to a $12 million multi-year investment in co-operative marketing to promote the benefits of the .au namespace; this, Stewart described as "a $12 million spin job to make a donkey look like a race horse makes $11,000 at Disneyland look like a drop in the ocean by comparison. Just show us the business case for introducing .au domains."

A reduction of at least 10% in the wholesale fee for domain registrations and renewals: "It’s been reported that auDA have reduced the costs of registering a domain by 60% with a new supplier. We only get 10%? Clever move I guess when you think that every organisation with a domain name will now need two to protect their security and competitive advantage and members are doubling their revenue."

Co-ordination with federal agencies to secure the .au namespace from external threats: "At least they are cognisant of the threats although it is impossible to protect Australian businesses from the increased threat of authentic looking domain names," he said.

Stewart said the only thing he wanted to see was a business case for the switch to .au. "Quite simply, I understand why it makes sense for the auDA members who sell domain names. It will double their revenue. However, I can’t see a single benefit for the average Australian business."

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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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