Fresh DRS faces for a long-standing service

23rd October 2019


Nick Wenban-Smith
General Counsel and Head of Stakeholder Relations

Do you remember turning 18? In many countries it’s the age at which adulthood is recognised, and as Nominet’s award-winning Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) hits this milestone, we are marking the moment with a cohort of new DRS Experts, bringing the total on our panel of internationally renowned Experts up to 47.

I have already been asked, why now? There are several elements to this answer. We are very fortunate to have accumulated a wealth of experience across the current panel, and part of the reasoning is to ensure that the benefit of that collective wisdom is passed on to the next generation. In addition, the introduction of new faces and minds is part of Nominet’s on-going commitment to high standards, reducing incidents of abuse across the .UK namespace and cementing our aspiration to be the best domain name registry in the world.

It is also important to recognise that the .UK namespace is still growing. The DRS was established in 2001 and the last set of new recruits were appointed in 2011. Since that time, the UK domain family has grown from 9.6 million to over 13 million domains under management (DUM). Encouragingly, the percentage of disputes has remained stable – around 0.007% of all .UK domains registered – but the ongoing rise in DUM has understandably led to a slight increase in the demand for dispute resolution. We are also conscious that the end of the Right of Registration period in June this year could result in an increase domain disputes in the coming months.

After open advertisement for interested candidates, selection was made on the basis of ability in three key areas:

  • Independence of thought and judgement
  • Ability to succinctly communicate a forensic and reasoned analysis of the case and decision made
  • An understanding and interest in the operation of the internet, and its role in society

Successful candidates all completed a test decision based on a hypothetical dispute in which a complex set of facts needed careful analysis, before applying the DRS Policy and explaining in plain English the rationale for their decision to the parties.

Our new panellists come from a wide variety of backgrounds, continuing a long tradition of diversity in the DRS; some Experts have engineering and technical experience, rather than just being eminent legal practitioners.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the selection process for those of us involved was meeting these talented people in the flesh (or by video call!) and finding out why they wanted to ’sign up’. While Experts receive some numeration for their work (in the form of the Expert fee), this is far from a full-time occupation and needs to be fitted into a busy schedule. Some applicants had come across the Nominet DRS in their professional work and been impressed by it, while others were attracted to the intellectual challenge of examining and deciding on cases. Wonderfully, many said they wanted to find a way to use their skills to give back, seeing the DRS as a means of achieving that in the digital age.

These are just the sort of people we are proud to welcome to the Nominet Expert community, and we hope this collective of new expertise, enthusiasm and commitment will support our ongoing work to refine and improve the service we offer. Personally, I am looking forward to working with all of them. I feel confident that this new blood will boost the DRS and maintain our superb reputation for fair, swift and affordable (court costs avoided in 2018 were over £6m) decisions over domain name disputes.

Keep an eye on the blog for interviews with the new Experts in the coming months.

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