Responding to Nominet`s expiring domains consultation

If you want to save dropcatching and disincentivise cheating, make sure your voice is heard in Nominet`s consultation survey.

Let’s take a sober look first - Nominet is not offering dropcatchers many survival options. In fact, I believe their current objective is to get rid of us altogether.

I can understand why, as now it’s not just a [usual] public outcry on the unfairness of the domain release process, but a huge uproar among catching registrars themselves on how the whole process is being dishonestly disrupted by a shameless few.

Everything was chugging along pretty nicely until last July`s RoR release.

That landrush has not only attracted a whole new army of cowboys, but the way Nominet implemented it incentivised many existing registrars, who could not otherwise allocate maximum £££ for deposits, to quickly deploy their friends and colleagues, fearing to miss on that ‘historical’ grab of ‘unfathomable’ riches. (Something similar and much bigger might be happening at this exact moment as these people are getting even better prepared for September drops, aka ‘RoR`s Year After’). Those TAGs didn’t disappear after RoR and have continued to work daily on the “return on their investments”..

I believe Nominet is solely responsible for letting things get out of control and progress to that dire state this industry is facing now.

It could be very simple to screen new applications and ensure their Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) are thoroughly respected.

Both I and many other Nominet members have numerously observed and reported dozens of clear cut AUPs violations, but Nominet failed to take an action.

Why they fail to act and fail to screen? One doesn’t need to be a detective to see certain patterns in new TAG applications and these ‘new members’ should be meticulously questioned on their motives (and capabilities) of applying to become domain catchers and registrars.

I tend to believe it might have been Nominet’s goal to let this [naturally greedy] industry destroy itself from within. But what is greedy and what is not? A certain amount of greed is OK - stock markets can be pure greed at times - the problem only arises when that greed goes beyond all sensible limits. Greed creates bubbles and greed bursts them. Some of this industry’s players could not contain their greed and have it confined. Now it`s upsurge is aiming to destroy our craft and a whole secondary market economy.

Nominet? I believe Nominet is as greedy under Russell Haworth as the domain catching industry ever was. What was once a non-profit, is now a full-profit vehicle, with astronomical exec salaries and excessive surplus revenues idle of any good practical uses. (Look at Nominet’s accounts for 2018 : staff headcount increase compared to 2016 - 9%, payroll increase - 66%, CEO salary - 77%(!) increase to £692,000). What so special happened to Nominet in two years to warrant such payroll increase? Perhaps I am unaware, please enlighten me. For now it looks like a simple equation of too much money having no other uses and routes where to flow to.

(And this is a company which keeps pushing up domain registration costs.. and that .uk splitting fiasco, which in the name of progress and snappier domain extension should have been offered free of charge to all holders indefinitely (at least before it becomes apparent whether a larger majority moves to a shorter .uk or remains on Does Nominet really care about general public?? What kind of a leadership it has, the spirit is solely profit-driven?)

So yeah, Nominet wants to make it fair, now for a dropcatching industry. By starting auctioning expiring domains itself?

They should surely be worried about “Perception of profit raising”, numerously (and justly) dreaded in their consultation paper.

Because there are only three problems with domain deletions and they are easily fixable.

Problem 1: General Public (and their perceptions)

They want expired domains to be more accessible. Are deleting gTLDs more accessible? Perhaps there is such a perception, because most (if not 100%) of drops of any value are caught by public-facing domain backordering services. Any registrar can attempt catching. Everyone’s happy (public should not expect to get something desirable and contested by many any more easily). Everyone knows that for expiring .com’s/net’s/org’s you go to SnapNames, DropCatch, ..etc.

In the UK the industry has evolved almost to this stage by now.

There are several backordering services now, besides DomainLore and most contested domains already end up on public domain auctions. (Without those few which end up in a domain catalog called DAN. Now universally adopted as a cheaters hide-out. Sellers can transact anonymously there, without revealing any money trails. Thanks, Undeveloped (btw, your ‘DAN’ rebranding sucks).

So what else general public might want, when they can secure what they want at a market cost? Of course, someone somewhere will never be happy. There is no solution to make everyone happy and this consultation is neither seeking such a solution.

Think about it - what then Nominet is trying to fix by bringing auctioning to a registry level?? (aka “in house”). When did they do it before? Just when it was so lucrative not to do it.

It makes no difference for Ms Williams to compete in the auction on a backordering service or at the registry level.

(I envisage some credibility rhetoric: How certain it could be that there are no shills bidding in Nominet auctions compared to say, DomainLore? Does DomainLore have more incentives for achieving higher selling prices (generally receiving a 5% commission), than Nominet receiving 100% of it? Is that always certain that a registry with £692k salaried CEO can be more trusted in the transparency of their operations, than a small business or even an individual? There are enough examples of corporate fraud, past and present (hello, Wirecard) not to blindly believe that a corporation would always operate more honestly than a small business. That said, I am more than willing to have DomainLore’s pristine bidding records to be constantly & independently audited, if it would make the process more trusted by the general public).

Problem 2: Cheating registrars

Nominet has proven times and times again that they are unable to enforce their AUPs. Because of these inactivities this industry is facing an existential problem now.

What it would take for Nominet to solve it? Easy. Restrict Realtime DAC use to Accredited Channel Partner Registrars. This will immediately propel this industry from a pseudo-anonymous catching to a more professional level, where every catching TAG`s business is transparent, known and public facing.

Problem 3: Large registrars

Large registrars are overburden by their weight and lack of innovation. What they will always lobby for - is an even easier solution for themselves.

The expiring domains are already on their TAGs and they don’t want to see them leaving their TAGs after deletion.

Their ideal solution is to auction expired domains of their customers, to keep and keep earning. But this is not a honest solution. Domain registrants often blame their registrars for various mishaps in renewing their domains. How nice it will be when they are given new incentives not to renew for £5, but instead earn, say, £10k on that same domain when allowed to be auctioning it.

Unpaid domains must expire and be deleted without their original registrars having any advantage (or involvement) in the process. The abuse by larger registrars, which happened before and will happen again (maybe even more so often), should not be downplayed more than the abuse by smaller registrars.

Nobody prevents large registrars from participating in domain catching and establishing new backordering services. Right now their abilities are at a significant advantage with Time-delay DAC rules. But they fail to act on it. They do nothing. They want it even easier.

So why Nominet can’t easily fix those problems as proposed above?

The only explanation is - because they don't want to.

Perhaps by now you share my beliefs that Nominet is doing all of this having it’s own agenda and this consultation is merely a way to muffle those already high perceptions about their profit rising incentives.

Basically, the only viable option Nominet is offering us - anyone who still wants to enjoy dropcatching - is what they call an ‘Economically controlled access’.

Provided Nominet can’t prove me wrong and choose a non-disruptive solution to fix most of the problems they created, I am going to vote for that option.

Can this option stop cheaters and leave at least some elements of dropcatching fun?

I think it can.

But it must be implemented together with a deleting Option 1: “Specified times throughout the day”.

So about 5,000 daily drops will be deleting at a known time (matching original registration time, which Nominet keeps on record for every existing domain).

Sadly, it won’t be that much of a “technical race” any longer, because the lesser elements there, the less one can utilise his or her own distinct skills, to gain any advantage. I enjoy that in domain catching the most. (Anyone who says there should be a level playing field with no skills required is a total hypocrite. In any competitive industry, such as sports, one should advance by learning, practicing and improving and not just by receiving fruits of the accomplishments brought on a plate, offered equally to those who sweat out of their efforts and those who lay their asses on a coach doing nothing).

So there will be a domain dropping every ~17 seconds, but considering a skew in the registration times towards daily hours, I’d say every 10 seconds.

Knowing that the domain name you’re after drops precisely at 14:53:18 will allow any willing registrar to tune his catching system to the best of his abilities.

During RoR release it was important to have as many EPP connections as possible, because 1000s of domains were deleted at the same time and you needed one channel per one registration.

When there will be 1 desirable domain dropping at any given second, Nominet is correct to state that having numerous connections won’t likely provide much of an advantage:

We therefore anticipate that while publishing a specified or single time point at which a domain will be released will significantly reduce demand for the DAC, it will increase the demand for multiple TAGs and therefore connections to the registration system.

While our analysis suggests that targeted registration activity using only one connection can be highly effective at registering a domain name, in practice we see registrars attempting to submit multiple registration requests using multiple connections in an attempt to register their desired domain name.

But what they are also telling behind the lines is that some people are stupid and would anyway choose a sledge hammer approach.

For those having more money than skills or sense, instead of adding fake TAGs, they’re happy to be offering those surplus EPP connections:

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.

And I fully agree with that assumption. Anyone who purchases 60 EPP connections and fires 60 requests at the same second for a single domain name will likely cause more disadvantage to themselves, than increase chances of winning that lottery.

Yes, due to load balancing winning domain is not a simple first-in first-out process. You can send your request second and win. There is a certain element of luck.

But if Nominet configures their load balancers in a slightly more clever way than round-robin (heck, even with round-robin), sending any additional EPP requests after, say, first 12, will not provide significant advantage. Won’t likely provide any advantage. But will cost extra £4800 per annum. I’d increase that cost even further, to disincentivise purchasing those unneeded resources (those who want to purchase them will do it anyway - “live & learn”).

This should end cheating and all incentives to register additional TAGs and memberships.

Catches will be distributed much more evenly between all those who manage to send their registration requests in a batch of a first hundred.

And general public will happily rely on Domainlore, Catchtiger, and plenty of other established (and upcoming) domain backorder services, without any need for the registry to grab that part of the pie inhouse. A good economy consist of many well-functioning and time-polished parts. Domain registry should not attempt to be profiting from the every aspect of a domain`s life cycle, as it will eventually lead to some pitiful outcomes.

So, Nominet - fix the problem. Do not attempt to destroy a large echo-system, which steadily established itself around dropping domains. Especially during harder economic times. Count how many businesses rely on auctioning their catches. Everything already functions without problems in need of fixing, besides 1-2-3 mentioned issues.

And your lobbying larger registrars can already be part of that echo-system too, any second they begin to wish act so.

Don’t grab all that pie to them and to yourself. Having too much, you never know when you’ll choke on it.