UK's internet registry prepares a £100m windfall for its board members – and everyone else will pay for it
Snouts in the trough for The Great British Brand Sell-off
Money, money, money
Since then, despite remaining a non-profit with a public service mission, Nominet has become an increasingly commercial enterprise, hiring an acquisitions expert as its CEO in 2014. It has expanded into commercial markets, raising the price of .uk domains by 50 per cent in order to fund those expansion efforts.
In 2017, an increasingly secretive board of directors stopped publishing its meeting minutes and conflict of interests statements. And in 2018, Nominet scrapped its charitable trust and pulled the money back into the organization. Meanwhile director and senior staff salaries have seen double-digit annual growth.
The decision to move from a third-level registry where all domains end in '.co.uk', 'org.uk' or similar, to a second-level one – with straight .uk domains – was controversial at the time and decried as a money-making scheme. The organization compromised by saying that any existing .co.uk domain holder would be given an automatic right over the same .uk domain for a period of time.
That time period will end next month. And so while the current .co.uk holders are still able to register their names, millions are not expected to, opening the floodgates to a long list of valuable internet addresses.
Nominet's system for releasing their names is unusual even within the diverse domain name market and, if Nominet's smaller registrars are to be believed, has been specifically designed and implemented to make sure that the dominant market players – who still posses an effective veto over Nominet's action and are heavily represented on its board – reap the lion's share of the rewards.
We have asked Nominet to reveal at what level the three registrars represented on its board – GoDaddy, Key-Systems and Names.co.uk – are registered within the new system: £450, £4,500, £45,000 or £90,000, and will add an update if we hear back. ®
Update: We're happy to clarify that Names.co.uk only has one board member at Nominet, and not two as first reported. Also, please see our followup article here.