Nominet is a multi-member organisation that handles every .UK top level domain registrant for what it claims is the benefit of small business, safety, best practices, governance and the overall web. Its real role casts a murkier shadow: effectively running a monopoly on the .UK domain without checks or balances in place.
A curious thing happened to one of our readers. The majority of this person's websites went down - all at once. He quickly got on the phone to make sure all the servers were up and running. They were fine. Next, he checked with Fasthosts. No problem there. He would have to talk to Nominet. For all of Nominet's talk about helping small business, it had suspended 50 of his domains without as much as a courtesy call and threatened to seriously damage the reputation of his company - including his top clients.
"I could have had my business taken away from me by Nominet," our source said. And although you can complain to Nominet, it would seem its say is final.
Nominet gave two reasons. First, it said his contact details were out of date. This was an email address for websites registered before the turn of the century with a dead email address, however, the contact telephone number was still in order. Second, there was some confusion - according to Nominet - about his HMRC partner status. But a quick search on Nominet's own WHOIS service turns up plenty of unknowns for big brands like Asda.co.uk and Amazon.co.uk, our reader asserts.
After over a week of queries, TechEye was finally given a response through Nominet's media representatives, Brands2Life. It was this damage-control blog post, written a year after the fact of it starting a "major initiative to spring clean" the information on .UK domain names. Why did Nominet not make its customers aware from the beginning?
This information was, apparently, made available somewhere within its sprawling website but at no point, as far as TechEye understands, was a conscious effort made to let its many customers know that a third party audit was being carried out by - we have learned - a third party credit ratings and business intelligence company, Experian. We have contacted Experian and are awaiting a reply.
Nominet's promise to us? Essentially, a spokesperson told TechEye that, considering the amount of domains it manages, there are cases which slip through the net. We imagine there are more than just a few disgruntled cases but are told that Nominet is always improving:
"We have got a team here looking at records so there will be different checks that will be put in place," the spokesperson said. "Without going into all of the detail they will have different processes as they are reviewing records, and different checks that they will make to try to avoid this sort of thing happening". What these details are, TechEye was not told.
As for our request for a personal briefing to answer more of our questions, at the Oxford Science Park, little has come of that so far.