Future of “.au” domains still unclear as auDA members vote for special general meeting but government stays silent

The self-regulatory body that manages web domains in Australia looks set to hold a special general meeting after a petition from members, while the federal government remains silent on the results of its inquiry into the management of web domains despite closing submissions four months ago.

Conflict over the possible introduction of the “.au” domain has been heating up over the past year, with some members and stakeholders claiming auDA, the organisation that oversees domain name registrations in Australia, has not conducted a fair consultation process about the possible negative effects of a transition to these new web domains.

Critics of the proposal say businesses could be forced to fight it out to claim the equivalent “.au” domain address for their current websites, in the event that new sites had to be essentially auctioned off to new bidders.

Suggestions from auDA’s consultation about the rollout have included that “contested domains” could be thrown into a pool that forced businesses to claim websites via a lottery system: a suggestion that has been condemned by some small businesses who say the organisation hasn’t listened to their concerns that new domains could hurt a company’s current online brand.

For its part, auDA has previously told SmartCompany it welcomes more feedback from business owners and stakeholders about the issue and says there is no set decision yet about a transition to “.au domains”.

However, three auDA members launched a petition over the weekend to secure a special general meeting at the organisation to vote on a number of motions, including a vote of no-confidence in auDA chief executive Cameron Boardman.

Josh Rowe, a former director of auDA and one of the members who launched the petition, tells SmartCompany more than double the required number of members voted in favour of a special general meeting, with “well in excess of 10%” signing the petition.

In an email sent to members and stakeholders last night, the organisation’s chair Chris Leptos confirmed members had written requesting the meeting and said, “I will be writing to you further in relation to this development once the logistics for the meeting have been confirmed”.

In a statement provided to SmartCompany this morning, auDA confirmed a “small group” had pushed for the meeting.

“Under the Corporations Act 2001, just 16 signatures are sufficient to call an SGM at auDA due to its small membership base of 319. This is the second SGM to be called in nine months. The auDA board remains committed to ongoing reform and policy development informed by consultation with members and other stakeholders,” Chris Leptos said.

One key unknown in this equation is what the government will decide about who has the power to manage web domain registrations in Australia into the future. In November, the Department of Communications and the Arts launched a federal review into the management of .au domains in Australia.

Fifteen submissions were received, with consultation formally ending on January 12. But in the four months since, Minister for the Arts and Communications Senator Mitch Fifield has not confirmed when a report on the issue will be released. SmartCompany asked Senator Fifield for details about the release of the report, but did not receive a response prior to publication.

Stakeholders who have been following the issue tell SmartCompany they believe the release of this report is “imminent”, but that it may be held off until after auDA’s special general meeting.

Josh Rowe says he does not want auDA “to fail”, nor does he necessarily oppose the idea of “.au” domain registrations for Australian businesses. Instead, his concerns lie with the consultation process on these issues. He says a wider range of business stakeholders should be involved in any of these conversations.

“One way this could be resolved is just restart the consultation panel. Just involve more people. Have more small business representatives, and just increase the number of people around the panel,” he says.

NOW READ: “Really unfair”: Businesses argue consultation on .au domains ignored them, auDA says it wants SME views


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