Nominet EGM News
On Friday evening, I became aware that there would be a call for an EGM at Nominet. After consideration, I've decided that it is something that I'll support.
As many of you know, I had my issues with Nominet in the past. There is zero ill will towards Nominet or their staff from my point of view. I'd happily say hello to everyone and have a friendly chat with whoever wanted a conversation with me. I don't spend time thinking about the past. This blog deals only with current governance.
On the 29th I got a message to say that there would be a call for an EGM, the numbers were already there to make this happen, and I was asked if I would support it. My natural response was to ask, what were this EGM's aims and who would be behind it? The broad answer was that the EGM aimed to restore Nominet to its original core purpose and that Sir Michael Lyons and Axel Pawlik were the individuals who would be the people to lead the company back to safe ground.
Restoring the Original Aims of Nominet
First of all, Nominet hasn't as far as I am aware, officially strayed from the core purpose. The original articles of association are the same. It's just that that senior management has, in my opinion, gone off on their own detail without authority from members, and nobody has stopped them. Since nobody has stopped them, there is a sense that this is the norm, but it isn't. That's something the EGM wants to, by the looks of it, wants to address.
What members think the original goals are
For me, and I don't think I'm on my own on this, the aims of Nominet have always been in my eyes to be something along the lines of this;
"not for profit but with a public purpose".
I always accepted that Nominet would make an operating profit on .uk domains; it would put reserves away for possible bad times, and when it felt comfortable with its balance sheet, it distributes money to good causes. The balance of operating profit versus public distribution was a discussable topic and something that a reasonable board and members would decide upon.
What wasn't a discussable topic in my eyes was that Nominet should be acquiring / operating "for-profit" gTLDs to make more money than it couldn't distribute anyway? Why? Why? Why?
To see what Nominet are involved in, click on the Gtld section of this link https://www.nominetstatus.uk (it's worrying, how did Nominet get involved in all of that? and why?)
Maybe the board's response will come back that Nominet hasn't been acquiring "for profit" gTLD's as they all make a loss. Do we need to go down that path and justify it?
Interests of Whom?
It's not in the member's interests, it's not in the interests of the UK's public, so whose interests is it in for Nominet to go outside its core .uk business to take on extra revenue?
These kinds of services should be bid for by Nominet members, not Nominet using Nominet members money to undercut Nominet members bidding to run these services.
I'm surprised the likes of GoDaddy haven't already had a word in Nominet's shell and told them to get off their turf.
The People Behind The Motion
I don't personally know the individuals involved, but I know their reputations and they are beyond reproach. I fully trust that these individuals have the core principles of Nominet at their hearts. Their stated goals seem to be in line with those of Nominet's founders.
For this reason, I fully support them.
Will the EGM succeed?
I think it already has; the numbers are already too high for Nominet's board to stay. In my opinion, it's already over. I don't know who the board is going to turn to for any support. Its pee'd off a lot of the members. The big registrars will be eyeing up the gTLDs run by Nominet and thinking that we could run those in a year or so.
I hope that Nominet is spared the battles of a bloody EGM. I think the board would do themselves great credit by thinking primarily about the company's interests and the public by standing down. The questions that they will need to answer at an EGM will be brutal, and the board answering with "no comment" or "that's commercially sensitive" will go down like a lead balloon. It will turn into a mocking session.
The signs that the board know it's over are also evident. Weird things have started to happen. The board was releasing board meeting minutes at around 22:00 on a Friday, only hours after hearing about this EGM. The Register reporting that when asked about the company helping members through Covid-19 issues, the board replied "he noted that the board had discussed such a measure "just this week." (I assume they mean costs / cashflow). After almost a year of shutdown? It just seems panicky to me.
Finally, CEO Russell Haworth saying that Sir Michael Lyons "should be ashamed of himself" for committing to help the company. That is not the conduct we should expect from someone in charge of delivering vital national infrastructure. I think that's something he will probably in time regret doing.
Overall it points to a board in trouble and in 3-4 days trying to right the wrongs it has done over the last 6-7 years.
Keeping it non personal
My view is that it may have been a mistake to bring in CEO Russel Haworth. It is not because he is a bad person, not because he isn't smart enough, but because they have appointed someone commercially minded, asked him to take a non-commercial company and run it as though it was commercial. I think it was unfair to do that to him. He was given tasks that he shouldn't have been given, and the problems grew from there. I don't blame him for doing what he was probably told to do.
Having been through these things, it's crucial that we keep personalities out of it and that we all remain civil and talk to each other. Work on the assumption that the other side (whichever side) has Nominet's best interests at heart.
I personally won't be getting involved other than this blog post. It's too easy to get sucked in and to start to see the other side as the mortal enemy, much too easy.