A series of highly valuable .uk domains were sold off last weekend behind closed doors, circumventing the usual public process.
The addresses – which included sunset.uk, waterfall.uk and trending.uk – were due to expire imminently, after which they were supposed to become available to drop-catchers on the open market.
In this instance, however, the domains were sold off by domain registrar Fasthosts before ever becoming publicly available. In at least one instance, a Fasthosts customer was allowed to swoop in and renew an address.
After members of the community noticed the unorthodox transactions, Fasthosts was forced to rescind the sales and reverse any transfers of ownership.
.uk domain chaos
According to Michelle Stark, Head of Sales and Marketing at Fasthosts, the domain sales were a simple “mistake” – a product of “human error”.
She insisted the company had no intention of deliberately handing its own customers or affiliates an advantage in the process, but rather that one of many queries relating to the soon-to-expire domains was accidentally processed as part of a “one-off online transaction”.
Nominet, the body that regulates UK domain names, stepped in to explain the situation:
“An error in Fasthosts’ automated systems led to a small number of domains at the very end of the expiry period being renewed without the registrant’s consent and the admin contacts changed,” said the organization.
“We have intervened to ensure that any domains which have also been transferred to different registrars are reinstated to the correct registrant. Fasthosts has reversed the remainder this morning.”
However, the watchdog appears to have no intention of conducting an investigation into precisely how the public process was mistakenly circumvented.
The Nominet code of conduct committee – in place specifically to review incidents such as this – is supposed to meet at least every twelve months. However, the organization has repeatedly sidestepped questions about when the last time the group met and there is scant evidence to show a meeting of the committee has ever occurred.
The organization has also been under the spotlight of late over its decision to seize control of expired domains, which would have seen several millions of pounds funnelled into Nominet coffers, where before its members would have reaped the rewards.
Nominet was later forced to withdraw its plans after a consultation process made clear that many stakeholders were displeased with the change.
While the industry body has repeatedly stated its commitment to fostering a successful and inclusive UK domain market, smaller players could perhaps be forgiven for wondering whether the watchdog has their best interests at heart.
Via The Register