auDA’s big stick smashes Bottle – but who does it hurt?

Written on 15 April, 2009 by Jonathan Crossfield
Categories Domains

And the day started out so smoothly as well.

At midday today, The Australian Domain Name Administrator (auDA) announced to the Australian domain industry that they had terminated the accreditation of Bottle Domains, the domain provider set up by Nick Bolton of Australian Style.Yes, that Nick Bolton – this week’s media villain and alleged corporate greenmailer who scuppered his own resolution to resolve the debacle of BrisConnections after selling his own proxy votes for $4.5 million.

Makes it far easier to cast Bolton as the villain and auDA as the sword of righteousness when he’s already been attacked for his rampant capitalism in the press. But is that accurate or even fair? How is this an appropriate and constructive response that benefits the Australian domain industry? What about the innocent victims in all this – and there are a fair few thousand of them!Without going into details about security breaches and who did what when and reported which to who and responded how to wherever, the question still has to be asked whether stripping Bottle Domains of their accreditation is anything other than a ’scorched earth’ approach to registrars and damn the consequences. Whether Bottle Domains had breached their obligations or not, the ramifications of cancelling their accreditation causes far more damage to far more people and businesses.

Cove is a domain name provider that resells from Bottle Domains, and as such has suddenly found themselves reacting to a situation not of their making but with potentially serious consequences for their business model. They now have to find a new registrar that fits their current IT set-up or spend more money developing and tailoring their website to accommodate a new api or reseller arrangement. And they are only one of a number of resellers caught unawares.

Domain providers have been inundated with confused customers receiving emails from auDA regarding their Bottle Domains accounts, concerned whether this is a scam or whether they need to take action. As domain providers received notification of the major event at the same time as everyone else, they have been unprepared to provide the advice and service the customers need at a time like this.

And then there are the thousands of customers themselves, confused by media releases, auDA announcements and conflicting reports. Originally, the auDA announcement only covered Bottle Domains, prompting an announcement from BD this afternoon that .com.au domains could safely be transferred back to one of the other accredited businesses in the same group – the similarly named Bottle. Not long afterwards, News.com.au reported that Bottle and Domain Central may also lose accreditation, throwing attempts to reassure customers into doubt.

According to News.com.au, Chris Disspain of auDA says, “We are currently considering what, if any, action to take in respect to those two (other) registrars bearing in mind there is a continuity of management between them and Bottle Domains.”

Bolton is continuing to dispute auDA’s claims of wrongdoing. Earlier today, he commented to News.com.au that, “We are in state of disagreement with the position (of the) registrar and are taking measures to remedy the matter. We deny that there was a breach.”

Breach or not, the losers in this situation are those workers who risk losing their jobs in Bolton’s domain enterprises and Bottle Domain’s resellers if the situation isn’t swiftly resolved. Then there all the customers inconvenienced (to put it politely) by being forced to find a new registrar. Many will also feel the need to transfer hosting, if confidence in Bottle Domains suffers – a risky and time-consuming process that can be a real headache for small business owners with limited technical skill.

There is no doubt that Bottle Domains are not the only ones punished by auDA’s actions, making today’s announcement not only unfair but potentially damaging for the entire Australian domain industry and local online business.