UK registry Nominet has won two crucial votes at its extraordinary general meeting this morning - but only just.
In what the company's CEO Lesley Cowley called "a bit of a test", the request that the company be allowed to expand its business beyond running the .uk registry passed by just 0.97 per cent - a margin that may have come down to literally one or two of Nominet's 3,000 members voting.
That approval was hard fought for since under Nominet's current rules, approval required an unusually high 90 per cent in favour. Nominet also has a traditionally very low voter turnout. An extensive telephone poll by staff managed to double the normal numbers, but still only 20 per cent of Nominet’s 3,000 members participated.
A second vote to allow the company to hold electronic votes in future, which required 75 per cent approval, also passed with a virtually unanimous 96.66 per cent.
Chairman Bob Gilbert reflected on the company history before the votes were finalised: "When Nominet was formed in 1996, there were 100 members and everyone knew one another. Ten years on, the market is very different and the days of getting everyone in one room are over."
After the votes went through, Gilbert told us he was greatly relieved. Referring to an aborted attempt to make more sweeping changes in March at an earlier EGM - a move that was roundly defeated by members - he said: "I’m delighted that we’ve got the support and trust of our members back. And second, we’ve removed this inability to do certain things which has caused immense frustration."
Under the changes to Nominet’s Memorandum of Association, and Articles of Association, the company will be able to ballot its members electronically, as well as undertake "other registry services", which are stated as "including, but not limited to, ENUM, domain names, telephone numbers, internet protocol numbers, Autonomous System numbers, port allocations and digital object identifiers".
That will come into immediate effect when Nominet bids for the contract to run the UK’s ENUM service later this year. ENUM is basically a way to connect the traditional telephone numbering system with the internet’s domain name system and has the potential to revolutionise everyday access to the internet.
Some members remain concerned however that the changes may see Nominet compete with them in future by selling domain names directly to the public rather than through the registrars. Cowley and two members of Nominet’s Board refuted that by stressing it was not the intention nor the ethos of the company. "We are better at running events than we are acting as a registrar," Cowley quipped. "We run big databases, that’s what we do."
Cowley told us after the meeting was over that she was "excited, relieved and very pleased". The changes will "mean we can take Nominet forward".
It is measure of the constraints placed on Nominet however that Gilbert, Cowley and the Board members present all confessed that they had did not have any immediate plans to expand Nominet’s business because any plans would have been worthless had the vote not gone through. Gilbert told us that he had spent twice as much time trying to overcome Nominet’s constitutional issues as he had looking where the company was going. But now it was freer to move, he was looking forward to having "wider thoughts". And first up would be raising Nominet’s profile.
One of the more pleasant duties Nominet will have to deal with is consider what to do with the surplus money is had made over the years - which as a not-for-profit company it is not allowed to return to members. The funds - which stretch into the millions - will be used in the "interests of the .uk industry and of our stakeholders" Cowley said, although she confessed there were no plans in place. One hope is that the money will be put into a trust to encourage and foster training and development of the internet’s infrastructure in the UK.
For the moment, however, Nominet is just relieved that it has managed to scrape the 90 per cent approval to be able to consider more options.®