Message from the Nominet Board

9th February 2021

Mark Wood

Mark Wood
Chair (until March 2021)

Dear Nominet Member,

As you may know, a group of members has requested an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Nominet membership with the aim of dismissing half of the Board members, including the entire senior executive team. Our bylaws obligate us to put this resolution to a vote and we are working out the necessary measures to do so.

I am writing today to voice strong opposition to this effort, but also to explain that we are implementing a suite of measures which directly address concerns raised by the membership.

Our view

Whatever the intention, the EGM proposal destabilises the organisation and, as a result, is not in the interest of members, registrars or registrants. If the EGM initiative achieves its aims, it will leave the company leaderless and facing an exodus of the highly-skilled staff we depend on to maintain the highly complex registry service we provide. It will erode trust and confidence in .UK, which is part of critical national infrastructure, and put Nominet’s independence at risk.

A positive agenda

However, we do recognise that the issues at the heart of the EGM reflect broader concerns among the membership about governance and members’ influence on the registry business.

The Board and the leadership team have in fact been working on a programme of initiatives over many months. We believe that taken together they offer solutions to the concerns we have heard ourselves and those spelt out in the EGM proposal.

Those measures, outlined below, include freezing .UK prices and increasing public benefit spending. They will be implemented in the days and weeks following the EGM, on the basis that the resolution is defeated.

  1. Scaling our commitment to Public Benefit: We have developed an effective public benefit programme which tackles some of the most important digital issues facing young people today. We are scaling up this work and will have committed £4 million by June, double the amount of last year. In future years we will devote 10% of revenues to public benefit initiatives, putting Nominet at the forefront of UK businesses committed to purpose and good causes.
  2. Freezing .UK prices for at least the next two years: Recognising the difficult economic climate for many businesses, we will implement a price freeze until at least the end of 2022.
  3. Addressing Board remuneration: We will likewise freeze board-level pay through the end of 2022.
  4. Investing in .UK infrastructure: running a secure and reliable internet domain space has become an increasingly complex task. We are investing £20 million over the next three years in our next generation registry infrastructure, drawing on our reserves for the funding.
  5. Launching a Registry Advisory Council (RAC): This will be a new body with members elected directly by different sectors of the membership. The RAC Chair will be a member-elected Non-Executive director on the main board, and its remit will include a key role in price setting and policy making.
  6. Improving membership engagement: We are launching a new Member Hub, giving members access to useful statistics and information. We also acknowledge that the decision to close the Nominet Forum, and the way in which this was done, damaged our relationship with some members in a way we had not intended. In conjunction with the RAC, we will therefore launch a well-governed next-generation member forum.
  7. Increasing financial transparency: From our next financial year, we will give greater clarity about the investment in, and performance of, the Cyber Business unit.

It is important to put these initiatives in context

I am proud that members and the wider internet community have been able to depend on the service we provide for every second of our 25 year history. That technical track record is matched by our commitment to providing outstanding customer service to registrars and registrants alike.

At the same time, we were amongst the first registries to explore cyber security as an essential capability for the organisation. We did so to safeguard .UK. Others have since followed suit. As a result of our efforts, we are now at the forefront of using the DNS to secure as well as connect.

Our work prompted the UK government to ask us to extend those defences across public sector communications networks, including the NHS. I hope that members are proud that Nominet has become a UK champion in this critical area and our technology is in demand. It is to the company’s advantage that we can generate new revenue streams by deploying that technology elsewhere. These revenue streams will help secure Nominet’s future.

There is not a binary choice between having a cyber security business and staying focussed on the .UK registry. Still, we recognise that doing both has created tensions between our core obligations as a membership organisation and our responsibilities to a growing customer base. This led the Board to develop the programme of initiatives outlined above.

Our message to members

I’d like to close by reinforcing a point that I made at the start of this letter: the stakes in this debate are extremely high for Nominet. Plunging our organisation into uncharted waters is not in the best interests of the members, registrars or registrants. Nominet is a highly complex business that requires experienced and high-calibre management.

For now, my message is quite simple: I believe that we have set the right course for Nominet, and shown a willingness to address concerns that members have. We will continue to do so while offering members the stability and service that they have come to expect from us.

In the comings days, we will explore our initiatives in greater depth on the blog and in email updates.

I welcome a good, robust debate on all these points, conducted in the right way.

And I hope that we can all keep in mind that we have a shared goal: to do what’s best for Nominet, our members, and those who rely on us.