Transparency Fail – Nominet’s Registrar Meeting On Direct UK

Lesley Cowley - Nominet CEO

Lesley Cowley – Nominet CEO

Today Nominet held their annual registrar conference. Unlike other year’s there was only one topic on the agenda:

The Direct UK Consultation.

I wrote about my issues with the proposal a while back and Edwin Hayward has collected pretty much all references to it in both blogs and mainstream media here.

While I was not able to attend in person I was trying to follow the meeting remotely. To start with Nominet decided for some bizarre reason that remote participants had to register in advance in order to “attend” remotely. As I was travelling for the last few days I hadn’t registered, but fortunately another registrar was able to email me the login details, which I then shared with a couple of the other EU based registrars.

The meeting’s format was decidedly odd. Nominet’s Lesley Cowley gave a very articulate opening speech which explained the thinking and rationale behind the Nominet proposal. While the thinking and rationale in my view is flawed, Lesley is a very good speaker and always a pleasure to listen to, even when I disagree violently with what she’s saying.

By some odd rationale, that wasn’t clearly explained, they had a “panel” on the stage, though it wasn’t terribly clear how the members of the panel had been chosen. They weren’t Nominet’s senior staffers, so they weren’t going to be in a position to answer any of the tougher questions. The Nominet staffers appear to have been mostly seated in the first row..

So what actually was discussed?

The format, as already mentioned, was a little odd.

They seemed to be trying to break the proposal out into blocks, but this was pretty hard to follow. From what I was able to gather both from the comments of attendees on the microphones and those tweeting from the meeting, the general feeling was that Nominet was only paying lip service to consultation. If you had issues with the proposal they’d let you have your say before trying to move on to someone who was more supportive, or simply give a quite dismissive acknowledgement of the concerns. At no point did they seem to make any real effort to allay any of the real concerns that were being expressed.

While a lot of those present from the registrar community were not opposed to the concept of registrations directly under .uk it was pretty clear that people weren’t overly happy with the proposed methodology of doing it.

For example, Nominet say they have market research on various aspects of their proposals, but they won’t publish it (??).

They also claim that they’ve received a lot of input, but they aren’t going to publish or share what they’ve received to date. While I can appreciate that they might have concerns about “privacy” in other cases where there is public consultation the “raw” input has been shared. In ICANN’s public comment system all the comments are made public as soon as they’re submitted. As one speaker said, being able to see what others are saying is very educational, as there are angles to the proposals that people might not be conscious of.

Several of the attendees expressed concern about how having both a .uk and co.uk could cause confusion. They cited the launch of .co as an example, though it wasn’t really clear, to me at least, what the connection between .co and .uk would be.

Others expressed concerns about how existing domain holders could be put at a disadvantage by rights holders and auctions for the assignment of names.

The discussions around security were quite revealing. At time of writing Paypal has published DS records for their co.uk (paypal.co.uk), but eBay hasn’t. None of the major banks have either and to make matters worse, at least in terms of perception, Nominet’s main domain doesn’t even have DS records! If you’re going to push DNSSEC you’d have expected them to “start at home”. Also, as at least one speaker pointed out, setting up direct.uk registrations as being “secure” could have a negative impact on the millions of existing co.uk registrations. Someone also pointed out that the “trust mark” and other security concepts could lead to a false sense of security.

From listening to the questions being asked by attendees and the fluffy and evasive answers being provided by those answering today I got the distinct impression that Nominet is only going through the motions of consultation. The vibe from the meeting’s chair was very negative and dismissive of anyone questioning the proposals and it came across as being more of a monologue than actual dialogue a lot of the time.

Nominet staff informed those of us attending remotely that a video of the event will be made available at a later date, so hopefully the audio quality will be better on it than it was remotely.

Nominet will be holding a couple of more meetings on the proposals before Christmas, so if you can attend then I’d urge you to do so. Full details here.

 

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