Domainz rethinks price and policy

Lower average registration costs are being promised as a result of planned changes to processes at the national Internet domain name registry, Domainz. Among draft proposals are the scrapping of Domainz' controversial billing fee and unbundling of some services. But the registry is also providing for the likelihood of levies to fund the Internet's new global governing body.

Lower average registration costs are being promised as a result of planned changes to processes at the national Internet domain name registry, Domainz.

Among draft proposals are the scrapping of Domainz' controversial billing fee and unbundling of some services. But the registry is also providing for the likelihood of levies to fund the Internet's new global governing body. The final changes should be posted on October 1 to take effect on November 1.

Domainz chief executive Patrick O'Brien admits the billing fee, which was originally introduced to try and provide a margin for third-party domain name service providers, "has been a continual bugbear, both to customers and ourselves."

A Domainz working paper on the changes identifies two different kinds of domain name agents; the first "a small number of established billing agents managing substantial numbers of customers" and "operating almost as partners of Domainz".

The other is "a much larger number of smaller agents whom Domainz bills direct" and with whose customers it maintains a relationship.

The paper suggests that relationships with both kinds of agents need to be formalised, with criteria for partners "much more stringent" than for simple registrars, possibly covering aspects such as year 2000 compliance.

Pricing incentives for both types of agent are to be developed, but may not be in place by November 1 (in which case they will probably be backdated when they are introduced).

The unbundling of second-level name service reflects trends in Domainz customer base, says O'Brien.

"To register a domain name you must have two nameservers. What we currently do is if you only have one nameserver, we automatically give you the facility to have one of our nameservers - say NS1 at Waikato," says O'Brien.

"Only about 40% of people now use that. We're going to unbundle that, which means that we can reduce fees for the other 60% of people. So we're saying, where costs fall, we'll put a charge on it. If people feel they can do it themselves more cost-effectively, then so be it."

Costs arising from the so-called "new-IANA" called for in the US government white paper on Internet governance are not yet fixed, but it has become clear that country-code registrars in the Asia-Pacific region will be represented on the organisation - and will also be expected to help fund it.

" I have heard people from the States talking between $US3 million and $10 million as a budget," says O'Brien. "At that latter figure my jaw dropped. I'd be unhappy if we were funding that level of expenditure. We all know what a registry looks like, but it's going to be a research and development lab then no one wants to fund that, because all they should be doing is an administrative function."

Domainz' progress towards e-commerce has been slow, says O'Brien, partly because "the people paying the money, which is usually the accounts department, aren't that hot on e-commerce," says O'Brien, but emailing of invoices should provide operational efficiencies which will be passed on to name holders.

The last section of the Domainz working paper is headed 'Incentives to enforce more appropriate behaviours'. It notes that Domainz has gone from having only 40% of accounts paid on time to nearly 70% in 10 months, and is targeting 85% for the end of this month. It proposes a "collection fee" for late payers, a more proactive approach to collection and credit control and, possibly "positive financial incentives to encourage more appropriate behaviour in the management of domain names."

The registry is also likely to seek to strengthen its hand in dealing with name holders who "go to ground" because of pending legal action, and to enforce the contractural conditions of domain name registration.

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