If you have a domain name ending in .uk it’s probably administered by Nominet (exceptions being .gov.uk etc). Nominet is a not-for-profit outfit set up in 1996 to manage UK domain names as the Internet expanded. Unlike certain other countries, our domain registration service as traditionally operated for the benefit of Internet users, which is as it should be.
Right now Nominet is holding a public consultation on changes to the terms and conditions for anyone registering a domain name. It’s mostly sensible stuff, like dropping the need for a fax number. But there are a couple of changes that do worry me.
First off, there is a provision in the old terms that if Nominet changed the T+C of the contract once it had started, the owner of the domain could cancel and get a refund. This is only fair; people registering direct with Nominet could be paying hundreds of pounds in advance and you can’t change the rules of the game once it’s started without consequences.
The plan is to drop this provision, with the apparent stated justification that they can’t remember anyone ever invoking it. Lack of use doesn’t mean the provision is wrong; it simply means that they haven’t upset anyone with a change in T+C enough to make invoking it necessary. One likely reason for this is the requirement for a public consultation before changing T+C.
The second problem is that they want to drop the need for a public consultation before changing T+C. This is all in line with “industry practices”, apparently.
Hang on Nominet, what have industry practices got to do with you? You’re not an industry; you’re a service run for the benefit of, and paid for, by Internet users in the UK. Other countries have domain registration services run on commercial lines, for the benefit of shareholders, and the last thing you should do is follow suit on their sharp practices. So why ask for permission to do so?
Nominet has been a beacon of how the Internet should be run, setting the highest standards in fairness and transparency. It should continue this way by setting an example of the highest standard.
Eroding the power of the stakeholders may be convenient from an operational point of view, and doing things properly may cost money (not something Nominet is short of). Dropping these awkward provisions may seem like a good idea at first glance. But for the sake of the wider picture, eroding the rights of domain owners would hardly be their finest hour. Unless, of course, the public consultation tells them to back off!
Here’s a link to the consultation. If you’re in the UK, your views count.