A group of disgruntled members are calling for mutiny in auDA, the body responsible for administering Australia’s top-level domain.
Josh Rowe, Paul Szyndler and Jim Stewart are calling for a vote of no confidence in auDA CEO Cameron Boardman, and the removal of three directors: Chris Leptos, Sandra Hook and Suzanne Ewart.
The trio is petitioning members to demand a Special General Meeting for the resolutions to be raised.
Their dissatisfaction is focused on auDA’s handling of a major proposed shake-up which would allow registration of .au domains, without the need of .com before it.
The rebel group argues that registrants have not been contacted about the change, have not been shown any business case for it, and that the independent self-regulatory body is plagued by poor governance.
“Some people are for direct .au domain name registration, and some are against,” the trio writes on petition site grumpier.com.au. “Then there are the multitudes of registrants that wouldn’t even know it is on the horizon, because auDA hasn’t directly told them of the possibility; and how and why it would work if it was implemented.”
The trio also wants to know the truth about an independent review of expense management undertaken last year.
In late July last year, auDA held a special general meeting, with the board telling members that “high levels of expenditure on international travel and reimbursement arrangements with international bodies that lacked transparency”.
The lack of clarity about the report’s findings has given rise to a “whispering campaign” with ongoing rumours about “financial mismanagement”, the group say.
The trio also imply bias within auDA’s leadership ranks, asking “Have friends or previous colleagues of the CEO been appointed to plum positions within the organisation?”
“Without seeking to interfere with the day to day management of auDA, we, the members, want to be recognised as an integral part of the organisation; and our membership viewpoints treated with respect,” the trio write.
“Members of auDA should also have a right to be informed about basic decision-making processes of their board of directors, and the CEO/senior management.”
For the general meeting to be held, the 'grumpier' group must gain the support of five per cent of the auDA’s 319 members.
It won’t be the first time member action has troubled auDA’s leadership. In July last year auDA chair Stuart Benjamin resigned ahead of a special general meeting of the organisation that would have considered a no-confidence motion in Benjamin.
Running a risk
The auDA published an issues paper in October last year, asking for submissions on a proposal to introduce a .au environment without the need for .com, .net or .edu extension on domain names, enabling domains like www.cio.au or www.arnnet.au to be registered.
In January the body issued a discussion paper outlining the proposed reforms.
Along with direct registration, other proposals outlined in the paper include allowing internationalised domain by permitting the use of non-ASCII characters, such as Arabic, Cyrillic, or Chinese language characters – in .au domains.
Other proposed changes include strengthening public interest protections by restricting the use of certain domains in a bid to make it harder for scammers or cynical ‘squatters’ to take advantage of internet users.
Jim Stewart from the ‘grumpier’ trio said the implications of being able to directly register .au domains would create a SEO and security nightmare.
“Most people don’t fully understand the implications. For instance, a competitor may secure your domain name without the dot com," he said.
"When the changes come into effect, any company can register say commbank.au or bhpcom.au causing confusion and cybersecurity issues. If a company was able to register their name.au and just switched it on that would be a disaster, you would lose all your Google search traffic.
“By switching your current domain name – for example .com.au to .au – you’re effectively creating a new website. This means you run the risk of disappearing from Google searches. Imagine if you were an Australian retailer, what would that do to your business?"
Concerns have also been raised over the cost of .au domains.
It is a tumultuous time for the auDA, which has overseen the operation and management framework of the .au domain since 2000.
In October last year the Department of Communications and the Arts announced a review of the management of the .au domain “to ensure its fit for purpose in Australia’s modern digital landscape”.
“The framework that governs the .au domain was last reviewed 16 years ago and since that time the digital landscape has changed significantly. The review will examine whether Australia’s top-level domain, .au, is being managed consistent with Government and community expectations,” the review’s terms of reference states.
The review had been expected to be finalised early this year.
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