Wednesday, 29 July 2020 09:50

Time To Auction Nominet’s Drops? Sadly Yes

A fortnight ago Nominet announced a new consultation on proposals to change the way .uk domain names drop. The mention of auctions seems to have caused concern for many.

Declaration of interests

I am a drop catcher, over the years I have made good returns catching domain names. At the same time, I am also an end-user, buying domain names for development. I'd probably lose more financially than I would gain with auctions.

Background

Over the last 18 months, Nominet claim to have been receiving increasing complaints from members about the way domains drop. The complaints range from persons running multiple tag armies, to persons breaking the Acceptable Use Policy (AUPs) of the DAC and EPP.

As far as I can see, Nominet’s statement is true. I know from many members who have contacted me over the last two years with gripes about other members abusing the system. The tag armies are growing, as you will see in a following blog post, there are problems with the DAC and EPP. The more they catch, the more soldiers they can afford to deploy.

Nominet can fix the DAC and EPP abuses. I have no doubts that if they paid an experienced domainer £1000 he/she would go through those logs at Nominet and shut every hole. Nominet won’t do that, but the point is that someone experienced or competent could close these holes with little trouble.

That leaves the Tag Armies, and here I have sympathy with Nominet’s position – it can’t be fixed.

Tag Armies

In my book a Tag Army is one person controlling multiple tags. This is against Nominet’s T&C’s, so they put these accounts into the names of others.

Nominet rules are pretty clear on collusion; they state that “reasonable” assumptions of collusion are enough to warrant a finding of tag connection. But what is reasonable?

We all know of the large suspected Tag Army that is located in an Eastern European Country. Statistically is it is beyond doubt that this is a Tag Army. Because they have copied me in, I know of many that have complained to Nominet about it. But there are other Tag Armies right here in the UK, many others.

What do people expect Nominet to do?

It is OK saying ban them, OK fine ban who? These people are real, they will have real ID. The only signal that these people are sending off to suggest co-operation is that they are from this particular country. Do you expect Nominet to ban a whole country?

These people might be connected because they are friends, and there may be traceable links – OK, how many of us have friends that started in this business because we helped them? I used to work in the same office as a Nominet tag holder – were we colluding?

This week I heard the idea that Nominet should ban anyone they suspect of collusion and let the individual prove their innocence. OK, I’ll ban you reading this, now you go and show to Nominet that we aren’t connected. How do you prove that you never sent an email? How do you prove never spoke to the other person on the phone?

We have to get off this roundabout; you cannot stop collusion. I have heard every suggestion over 15 years and nobody has come up with an idea that I couldn’t circumvent in 20 seconds. We have to stop blaming Nominet for this, it isn’t their fault that people are abusing the rules. 

Possible Solutions

Nominet have proposed two new methods of releasing names after expiration. One where you pay for EPP connections and the second being an auction model.

Paid EPP Connections

I do not understand this model at all, I think Nominet let themselves down here. I don’t believe this is a serious suggestion.

First of all, Nominet would nullify all existing connections to catching. Immediately, catchers would have to fork out £720 inc vat just to be where they are today.

Second, page 17 of the Consultation has the following:

“Our assumption is that EPP connections for drop catching would be available at a price point of approximately £600 per six connections with a limit of no more than 10 batches per member. Even if all domains were released at one single point in time, our analysis indicates that having more than six EPP connections would not provide any material advantage. We therefore see no reason why any business/individual would need more than one membership to successfully participate in the secondary market.”

  • “£600 per six connections”makes sense and I understand that bit
  • “Even if all domains were released at one single point in time, our analysis indicates that having more than six EPP connections would not provide any material advantage”OK, so why limit is to 10 * 6 connections? Why not just let them buy as many as they want and waste their money?
  • “We therefore see no reason why any business/individual would need more than one membership to successfully participate in the secondary market.”Because you limited it to 10 * 6 connections? Multiple memberships mean that you can have as many 10 * 6 connections as you want.

There is no scenario where having multiple raffle tickets does not result in increased chances to win. This suggestion by Nominet is pointless, they may as well just stick with the current system.

Auctions

This is the only solution to multi-tagging. There is no point in having multiple tags. I prefer Nominet to run the auctions in-house in the same way that they did the two letters domains back in 2011. I wouldn’t feel comfortable if Registrars like GoDaddy got involved. I will write about the ways I think the auctions should work in another blog post. Otherwise, this post will never end.

Money from the Auctions

Yes, Nominet will raise a lot of money from the auctions, is this why they are doing it? I would say there is almost zero chance that Nominet is doing this for the money.

From what I know of Nominet over the years, they want a quiet life. Nominet is chugging along, those running it are getting paid very handsomely, they don’t come under political scrutiny, shareholders/members are quiet. Why would they do this, for what personal gain do the Directors get?

All this will do is bring attention to Nominet, that is the last thing they want. If they chose to go against the auction model, the money issue is probably the reason why.

AGM Motion

Sadly because of the above, I won’t be signing the AGM Motion. Ignoring the Tag Armies, won’t make them go away. They will end your ability to drop catch far faster than Nominet will. By the time Nominet would get round to implementing Auctions around February time, you may be begging them to bring them in sooner.

In my opinion, those who sign that motion should never again send another email to Nominet complaining about the “Tag Armies” issue.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I believe that auctions are the only way forward to a transparent method of releasing domains. It solves everything that Nominet members have spent years complaining about.

I acknowledge that people think this will end catching as we know it for the top end catchers, losing income for many. I don’t see it this way. I think there will be increased opportunities there for everyone. As it stands, because of tag armies, 99% of catchers have no chance of getting the better domain names. Nominet will be taking your “no chance” and in return give you a 100% chance of obtaining names that you want.