All change at Isocnz

A new, competitive model for domain name registration was among the sweeping changes ordered at Friday's historic Isocnz AGM, which also voted no confidence in the board of Domainz.

Sweeping changes have been set in motion by Friday night's Internet Society of New Zealand AGM.

A group of members seeking change had nearly all its motions passed in the course of a lively five and a half hour meeting on Friday night, and nine new councillors were elected. Among other things, the meeting resolved:

• To introduce a shared DNS registry system (SRS) by splitting the Registry database function away from Isocnz's wholly-owned company Domainz, in line with the Isocnz working group report accepted at the meeting. Other companies will be able to compete with Domainz as a commercial Registrar.

• To commission an independent review of the widely criticised new domain name registration system introduced by Domainz in May.

• To deplore the defamation action taken by the Domainz CEO Patrick O'Brien against Isocnz member Alan Brown and the funding of the action by Domainz.

• To pass a motion of no confidence in the Domainz board.

• To seek closer ties with the US-based Internet Society (Isoc).

Isocnz's executive director Sue Leader released a statement on Saturday saying the changes voted on at the AGM would be "instigated in an orderly manner".

She says a project manager is to be hired to oversee the transition and a committee comprising council members, Registry and Registrar representatives will be established "to ensure good communications are developed during the process."

More than 60 Isocnz members attended in person, with others following the meeting via an audio stream and discussing it in the course of a marathon IRC, which was occasionally (and informally) reported back to the meeting.

The voting was a battle of the proxies, with those pushing for change, including Bob Gray and former councillors David Farrar and Peter Mott, eventually wielding around twice as many votes for change as were cast against.

Isocnz chairman Peter Dengate Thrush and his wife Elizabeth, who lost her post as a councillor, led the opposition to the proposed changes. Former Isocnz council chairman (and current chairman of the Domainz board) Jim Higgins, whose abrasive style has been has been controversial in the past, surprised many by voting in favour of a review of the Domainz registration system.

Farrar says he was flattered that many founding members of Isocnz voted in favour of change, including the organisation's founding chair (Roger Hicks), secretary (Donald Neal) and treasurer (Colin Jackson). "Domainz today is not what they wanted when they set it up."

Another member in attendance, Lin Nah, says many other foundation councillors also favoured change.

Farrar says the meeting delivered "a decisive mandate for change. The new council has the task before them to steer Isocnz on a new course where once again Isocnz will be regarded as the principal organisation representing the interests of Internet users and Internet service providers in New Zealand, rather than the situation in recent times where many have regarded Isocnz and Domainz as working against them," says Farrar.

"There are a huge range of issues for Isocnz to be involved with. These range from the international governance issues to computer crime legislation, to e-commerce, to telecommunication and internet access issues.

"With so much time in the past having been spent on issues surrounding Isocnz's performance as manager of .nz, many are looking forward to broadening the scope of Isocnz's activities. This bodes well for the future of Isocnz as a vital part of New Zealand's internet future."

There was considerable debate before the vote deploring Patrick O'Brien's defamation suit against Alan Brown, with some arguing in favour of freedom of expression in Internet discussion forums - where the defamation is alleged to have occurred - and others doubting the merits of the action itself.

Brown says O'Brien has not taken up the council's earlier instruction to seek alternative dispute resolution. He has a compulsory conference with O'Brien's lawyers on Thursday - the day before the new council has its first meeting. Brown says the case has cost his company, Manawatu Internet Services, as much as $200,000 in lost business and he had long planned to seek damages.

"A full backdown by Domainz and public apology by Isocnz now will go a long way towards reducing court costs and punitive damages later," says Brown.

Former councillor Jenny Shearer says she was delighted that a motion supporting the formation of an Isoc chapter in New Zealand was passed. She says the council has some more urgent matters to address but looks forward to progress within months.

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