The Trouble with Fake News

5th June 2019

Russell Haworth

Russell Haworth

Unfortunately, we’ve found it necessary to set the record straight on a Register article with some blatant inaccuracies about Nominet, our operations and our plans for releasing previously reserved second level domains.

The article contains basic factual errors and assertions that are simply not credible.

Our elected Board members (there are four) are chosen by our members, but do not need to be members (in contrast to the claim in the article, Namesco has one Board member, not two).

The notion that Board members, whoever they are, would be able to construct a system that works for their own benefit is risible. As with any professionally run Board, conflicts are managed appropriately. In this case, the elected members had potential conflicts, and therefore were not involved in the design of the system we decided upon. In any event, some of the businesses connected to our elected Board members are not even signed up to take part. We would have made this clear if asked.

The article asserts the system was a closed shop, open only to the chosen few. This is nonsense. It was open to ALL registrars, regardless of size or business model. Over 800 – of all shapes and sizes – have signed up to participate. They need to use our main EPP system; we acknowledge this a challenge for some but the code to do so is publicly available.

As any expert on the domain industry should know, virtually all .UK registrants go through a registrar to register their domain. As they do for any of the other top level domains. So the charge that consumers are somehow excluded from this process is misleading. Retail registrars are not in the business of paying for domains that their consumers will not want to buy. And in a competitive market-place, with a vast array of choice, domains are offered at competitive prices (frequently discounted or free), often as part of web hosting packages.

It has always been possible for registrars to pay for and register domains in their own name, this release is not a special case. But the number of domains that could carry a significant resale value is extremely small.

Now to the ‘windfall’ the article anticipates. Some context is useful here. There are around 2m short .uk domains registered since launch, five years ago. Those are a mixture of new registrations, and those taking up their right to the domain corresponding to their Registrants with rights have had five years to decide, with opportunities to get their domain for free. The fact remains that many customers are simply not interested. They’re happy with what they have already. That’s a choice for them – their existing domain will continue to operate as normal. So our own forecasts are, to put it mildly, a bit more conservative.  And we’re happy with that. Our priority has been the orderly end of the right of registration period, not maximising registrations.

I’ll end by correcting the charge that Nominet has pulled back from our public benefit programme. Not so. We did change our set up – bringing the programme in-house –  but the commitment hasn’t dwindled. Far from it. We now have an ambitious programme in place to use technology to help improve the lives of 1 million young people. New programmes include partnerships with the Samaritans, the Internet Watch Foundation and The Scouts. We fund this by running a commercially viable operation; it’s our profit for a purpose and we’re proud of it.