back to article UK net registry battles coup d'etat

Nominet, the not-for-profit registry for web addresses, is facing an attempted coup by a group of members who want to force its bosses to hand back millions of pounds in surplus fees. The company took the rearguard step on Monday of writing to all its 3,000 members encouraging them to turn out to vote in ongoing …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So, as a domain name reseller, can I assume that if Mr. Fox et-al win, and they manage to get back the millions of "overpayments", that they will be passing this money back to their customers?

    ...or should I not assume that? :-)

    I rather suspect the latter, in which case, I would rather the whole 15 million go to charity even if Mr. Fox thinks it's an "outrageous" donation to make.

  2. Jonathan


    Can someone please explain what the gist of this article is? I find it confusing as to what Fox et al want, and what the current Nominet board doesnt want.

    Is it something like this: Nominent, a not-for-profit group, has a large war chest that Fox et al believe it should not have. They believe it is charging higher prices than it could, or should, and thus want to take control of the group, turn it into a for profit organization, and lower prices.

    The current board are opposed to this... why?

  3. Kerberos

    Up the price!

    Domain names are too cheap. If the price was hiked to something like £30 per year per domain, with the bulk of the money donated to charity, it would pretty much kill these domain 'prospectors'.

    Sure it would cost a bit more to have a domain but it means that you actually may be able to get one you wanted. Pretty much every single decent domain name has been taken and is now a linkfarm/adsite. It really can't continue or startups in a few years will just end up giving out a server IP address as it will be more memorable than the massive domain name they will be forced to adopt.

    Cybersquatters & spammers are destroying the internet.

  4. Tom Ward

    Jonathan: the basic drift

    Nominet calls itself a not-for-profit. However, in 2007 they made an operating "surplus" of £3.7m, up from £2.7m the previous year. Nominet also has in the region of £20m burning a hole in its pocket. See this year's report:

    Fox, Davies, et al believe that Nominet should reduce this "surplus" by reducing the cost of registering names.

    The QC's advice notes that a distribution of existing funds wouldn't be possible under Nominet's current constitution. He says that Nominet would be able to run at a loss by reducing costs, but this would be risky if .uk fell out of favour. There is no comment on Nominet breaking even.

    Although Nominet states that they aim to "Achieve long term income and expenditure neutrality" and "Achieve long term cash flow neutrality", they appear to want to achieve this by spending several million a year on their pet charity, rather than by reducing the cost to registrars:

    Fox has attempted to turn it into a for profit some years ago, but as far as I've read, he isn't trying to this time.

  5. Tom Ward


    Yep, that could work, but wouldn't it be better if that cash went to HM Treasury rather than a quango?

  6. Matt Bradley


    I always find dealing with's a positive breeze compared to the mess that is .com registration. Nominet are doing a BRILLIANT job of keeping the .uk domain space regulated.

    The idea that Nominet could be captured and commercialized by what (on the face of it) appears to be a collective of cybersquatters and "opportunists" fills me with dread. We could very easily end up with another Versign on our hands.

  7. Scotty


    I wholeheartedly agree with Kerberos - "domainers" are a scourge on the internet.

    Having these guys on the board would be very dangerous.

    Reducing prices (which would seriously benefit "domainers", allowing them to expand their holdings further) would only be the tip of the iceberg - who knows what other changes (am thinking of loop holes like domain-kiting etc. here) they would introduce to the benefit of themselves and the detriment to most individuals and companies who genuinely require domain names.

  8. Paul

    New rule needed?

    @Kerberos - How about a new rule, something along the lines of "If a domain points to a linkfarm/adsite for 12 months it is automatically de-registered. The current owner is barred from reacquiring the domain"? I realise that is not foolproof but it is a starting point.

  9. Chris Brown


    Is it not slightly ironic that somebody who previously wanted to make Nominet a for-profit organisation, which would have inherently involved aiming to keep prices as high as possible, now wants an agenda that redistributes "excess profit" back to members, through lowering prices?

    Isn't that a mechanism that benefits the largest users of the service - cyber-squatters and domain campers? Is there the slight whiff of fiscal self-interest here?

    I'm with Kerberos - cheap domains cheapen domains.

    If Moninet [sic] want to spend their excess cash, massaging the Board's ego with charity donations isn't the way. How about throwing a nice annual Nominet Members get-together instead? They want more participation, well how about buying it with a conference with food, drinks and freebies? Nothing attracts a geek to a conference like the prospect of a plastic bag full of cheap USB-powered tat to litter their desk with. It's only the same concept as politicians using our own tax money to buy our votes at election time, but far more palatable...

  10. Rich

    Re: New rule needed?

    "How about a new rule, something along the lines of "If a domain points to a linkfarm/adsite for 12 months it is automatically de-registered"

    I like the idea but this would be difficult (impossible?) to police and administer. The policy adopted by trademark law could be a go-er though. Basically, if you are awarded a trademark, you can (of course) use it. However, if the use of that trademark lies dormant for (I think it's) 5 years then anyone else can challenge your right to it. This effectively prevents hogging of trademarks that you have no intention of doing anything with. In any case, the trademark has to be renewed every 10 years; this is to ensure that (a) the gov. gets some more money from you :-) and (b) that you're still interested enough in the trademark to keep it alive.

    For domains, I would think you would want to reduce the time limits to something like the one year that you suggested, rather than 5, but the principle could work. I think.

  11. brian

    @Tom Ward

    The phrase "Not for Profit" is a tricky one. It says nothing about turnover, simply that they do not make a profit. For example, they could give the "profit" to the directors as a bonus every year, thus making no profit.....

    I think I would rather see that profit reinvested back into the domain infrastructure and control or possibly running seminars, conferences etc up and down the country on a regular basis.

  12. Sooty
    Thumb Up

    how about

    investing the money in laying fibre.

  13. Ben

    Nothing new here

    A number of years ago, Nominet had exactly the same 'problem' of building up a surplus. It has already reduced the pricing of domain names to resolve this problem. If it reduced pricing much more, I suspect it would either start to make a loss or would be at risk of doing so were their running costs to change.

    Nominet should always have some surplus for unexpected cost increases and so that it can invest back into the system. Their current policy of managing the surplus would seem to be sound - put it into projects that benefit the domain community as a whole. One third of the surplus has already been allocated for these purposes.

    These three people just want to gain a windfall from Nominet - however, whilst they are 'members' through paying subscriptions, they are not shareholders and therefore should not entitled to any of the surplus.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    they live in the dark ages

    NOMINET live in some form of time bubble.

    you cant register an IDN - international domain name (xn--) with any

    NOMINET owned addresses (see their arcane rules) - hello? this is 2008

    for f***s sake.

    you cant use a direct TLD of .uk (every other country in the world

    does this) - those 5 or 6 that exist redate 1996 when the rule was

    changed to not allow .uk

    Theres still no real moves for .gb release - thanks.

    theres still no real move to give scotland and wales their country code names either.

    ..and dont even get me started on DNSSEC. back in late 2007 they published a 'positional paper' which started off bright - they believe that it should be done - but by the last couple of pages they finished with a dozen cop-outs and tried to infuse a simple matter into something far more awkward and custom. hello? RFCs?

    if .se can implement it then why are we so backwards?

  15. pctechxp virtually spam free

    A couple of years back I registered the .com and variants of my surname.

    I use the .com on my CV and contact cards and have paid for it up to 2017 but I find that it gets inundated with UBE.

    I cant remember ever having any spam via the variant.

    I'm convinced that this is because the .uk namespace is managed better than .com.

    Spam could be stopped overnight but it is not in ICANN's interest to do so because they make so much money from these spamvertisers.

    Long may Nominet remain as it is

  16. Bill Fresher
    Paris Hilton

    Darren Brown

    One minute he's making a mint from the Da Vinci code, the next he's trying to get on the board of Nominet... his life's following one very mysterious plot.

  17. Tom Ward

    Reducing prices?

    "It has already reduced the pricing of domain names to resolve this problem."

    The price of registering a domain name for two years - which forms the vast bulk of Nominet's income - has been constant at £5 since 1999.

  18. Andy Livingstone

    Don't be confused

    Simple maths, simple business

    Total Revenue less Total Expenditure = Profit.

    So by definition Nominet is a Profit making Entity.

    Of course they want to hide that fact and all their froth is merely to decide how best to do that.

    Sticking with simple maths, simple business.......align the revenue with the expenditure.

    What's so complicated about that?

    As for the accumulated profits, use them over a defined period of time to reduce charges.

    It is not the cost of a domain that drives the quality of service.

    That is a function of the quality of staff, for whom the cost is already fully covered within the expenditure.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Time for a management change

    It's not a war chest if they give millions away to charity. A not for profit is supposed to make no profit, not 5 million for charity. The board wants 'loyalty payments' i.e. to make a hefty profit then reward themselves with big wads of cash.

    So it's the old story, a few directors get comfy, start to see the money in the company bank accounts as somehow theirs, and can see the pot of gold growing, if only they can find a way to get control of it.

    Rule 6 appoints 2 'independants' who are chosen by the board, which in my book means they'll vote with the board, making the cash grab possible. But there should be no cash there to grab! And no excess of 5 million to give to charities, and no money to spend on campaigning to stay in power.

    Time for a board change.

  20. Ian Wild

    Surely cheaper domains = More domains

    Wouldn't cheaper domains result in people buying more, bundling them with products, more squatting etc etc?

    Surely then what would happen is that Nominet end up with more 'surplus', and the problem won't go away. On the other hand, finding a domain you want will be near impossible with the only way to be to buy it from a domainer, who will be the one making the real cash.

  21. mixbsd why?

    For all the pros and cons in this argument, what sticks out more is the .com registration for the campaign website. Since and are also registered, why bother registering and redirecting users to the .com equivalent?

  22. Dave Bell

    Something feels odd...

    How does the £15m compare to turnover? How many domain names are there?

    Anyway, I have my own domain name. Rather than the hassle of getting a bit of money out of Nominet and through the agent, why can't they just give people an extension on their registrations?

    I can see this idea involving money going mostly to a few big resellers of .uk domain names, who promptly lose most of it in administration costs. And nobody having to do anything even remotely dishonest...

  23. This post has been deleted by its author

  24. Tom Ward


    Dave, if you look at the link I mentioned above - - you can see that in 2007, the turnover was ~£15m.

  25. Hazel Pegg

    Hazel Pegg

    Take a look at for a few reasons why members should support the Nominet Board this time around.

  26. heystoopid

    It's Time

    It's time for a new broom to sweep out the deadwood at the top refusing to get with it , or have some forgotten the dirty doings of a one in twenty five computer selling company that commands approximately 15% of the retail value of all computers sold and whose bulk profits comes from selling DRM'd low bit rate music !

    Choices ?

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    data protection

    >>> The original design allowed the entire .uk domain name list to be stolen, and from that all names and addresses to be taken from the WHOIS. They couldn't implement it. Slow and dull writing a better RFC may have been, but it turned a design that none of the big european registries (who comply with data protection laws) could use into one that they can.

    this is complete and utter bullshit. anyone with a clue about data protection law knows that.

    there is *absolutely nothing* in the original dnssec specifications that doesnt comply with data protection legislation. or could be incompatible with it. if there was, sweden wouldn't have deployed it. no respectable company would ever dream of violating data protection law. or the rest of the laws that everyone has to obey.

    its the same brussels directive on data protection that applies in sweden and england. so if dnssec was legit for sweden it should be legit for nominet too.

    btw the new rfc nominet paid for isnt better, not by a long chalk. its riddled with kludges to work around hash collisions. it cant secure very long domain names either because hashes get added to the domain name instead of being in the data part of the dns record. nice. nominet spent there money well didnt they?

  28. David Pollard

    Fund the FIPR?

    Perhaps almost everyone would benefit were some of Nominet's accumulated surplus to be sent in the direction of the FIPR ( Although the FIPR's objectives are somewhat broader than just protecting the internet, their recent work in this area is excellent and benefits webmasters and browsers both.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What is this charity business?

    If they have cash to spend then they should be spending it on UK tech, hire a few people to work on bind. Make the root server infrastructure better. Fund some anti DNS hijacking solutions.

    Who on earth is running this in the UK? Any net head worth his salt would invest back into tech architecture - they have been given something precious and as custodians they should not be frittering the money away, on charity.

  30. Blitheringeejit

    @ Anonymous Coward - who IS running this?

    Fair question - because of the early history of internet development in the UK, Nominet's position is unique (in UK terms, I dunno about elsewhere) and somewhat anomalous. AFAIK there's no real politically-accountable oversight of Nominet, yet they effectively have a government franchise to run our TLD. That's not a comfortable situation, IMHO.

    The reason (as explained to me years ago by a Nominet person) is historical - Nominet (or rather its founder, Willie Black) set up .uk before the government had any idea of what the internet was, or how important it would become. When the government did recognise the need for a UK internet identity, it was much easier and cheaper for them to run with the existing Nominet one than to set up a new, official namespace of their own.

    Because of this (and unlike eg the .fr namespace, which I think is directly regulated by the French government) the UK government has no constitutional control over any part of the .uk namespace. AFAIK even its exclusive rights to use, etc are the result of a gentlemen's agreement with Nominet, rather than by any fundamental ownership mechanism (though I'm sure an ownership mechanism would be rapidly legislated if Nominet went rogue and tried to withdraw their use!).

    I think Nominet have done a good job so far, but the lack of any political oversight and accountability bothers me, and I think the critical strategic importance of namespace control makes a constitutional review of Nominet's nature and role long overdue. Of course I don't want the government running the UK namespace as a public-sector IT disaster area, but I don't want a bunch of commercial ISPs or anonymous suits in Oxford running it as a private fiefdom either. Whether for profit or not.

    What about other countries - can we do a survey of other national registry models to inform the debate on our own?

    As for the war-chest - anyone know how much fibre you can buy for £20m? It sounds like pocket-money in infrastructure terms - would it make a significant dent in our national bandwidth deficit? And if it was spent on fibre, who would own it?

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Charity business

    @Anonymous Coward

    Nominet is run by lawyers - that wouldn't have ever crossed their minds!

  32. Tom Kelsall

    How to stop the domainers?

    Surely it would be possible to draft either legislation or best practice rules for nominet to prevent cyber/domain-squatting? It really pisses me off that just about every domain name I tried recently had been "acquired" by a company which simply set the price according to how many people enquired about that name. They wanted to sell me one domain name for £10,000 when the small business I was buying for has a turnover currently less than £5000!!!

    It should be LAW that only nominet can sell domains; that domain reselling is simply not permitted. The price wouldn't matter then; you'd get the domain name you wanted from nominet and use it how you see fit; only downside is that you'd be stuck with it until it ran out. They should also allow registrants to extend their registration near the end of the two years if the business/web site was still up and running.

  33. Martin

    Nominet are crooks

    For every domain name I have ever bought in the UK I have paid my ISP to register the name and then a few months later nominet has sent me an invoice for normally about 10 times what I paid - none of which I have ever paid. Nominet are running an expensive service that on one needs and they are cashing in on the confusion of DNS registration. They should be forced to payback all the money they have demained over the years.

  34. Trix
    IT Angle


    I gather you don't know very much about how spam lists (other than the dictionary kind generated by botnets) are created.

    So you've handed around your business card with your .com address to all and sundry, who presumably enter the details in their contacts databases, and as likely as not, flog it off to anyone they can get a few quid from. Who then flog it off to other people they can get a few quid, dollars, rubles or yuan from. Ditto with your CV, especially if you've given it to recruitment agencies, who love flogging off their contact dbs.

    And you wonder why your unpublicised domain gets no spam? Just a hint, it's nothing to do with "namespace management" (since there is no such thing as it relates to email, and you can get just as easily spammed by someone from a .cn address as a .com).

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Jim and Gordon elected

    also, Resolution 6 defeated.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    Nominet needs a shake-up

    Nominet has a fundamental problem which is that it has three, conflicting roles.

    It is the regulator for an industry for which it is the monopoly registry and is also a registrar, competing with its own customers (though to be fair, not on price).

    The company should be split into a not-for-profit regulatory entity that can then tender out the technical operation of the registry to for-profit entities. It should not under any circumstances continue to operate as a registrar.

    This would ensure a more transparent and effective regulatory regime as well as providing incentives for technical innovation that do not currently exist. The current Nominet registry systems are a mess which they do not seem to have a good reason to fix (ask anyone involved in the move to EPP).

This topic is closed for new posts.