Network: Nominet set to de-mutualise

Members of the cyberspace version of Companies House would like to cash in. By Andrew Mullins

THE 1,000 members of the organisation in charge of Internet addresses in the United Kingdom stand to make millions overnight if proposals to de-mutualise Nominet UK are accepted. More than 300,000 Internet addresses, or domain names, have been sold to firms wanting to set up their own website with an address ending "co.uk".

The number of new sites is climbing by 23,000 a month and each registration costs about pounds 80. The US equivalent of Nominet UK, Network Solutions, has a $2.2bn estimated value.

Two separate plans to end the non-profit-making status of Nominet UK are currently being considered by its members. "Nominet is a very `profitable' non-profit organisation and I would like to see the members benefit from that," said Alun Webber, a member who is behind one plan. "We've conducted a poll of members and two-thirds of the replies have been in favour of my plan."

Nominet UK acts like a cyberspace version of Companies House, ensuring that no two addresses are identical and opportunists cannot make large profits from registering the names of large concerns to which they have no connection.

Members pay a pounds 500 registration fee and a further pounds 100 each year for the right to purchase domain names for about pounds 20, which they then sell on. After two years, address holders have to pay another sum to keep their address, which is in effect rented much like a post office box number.

Bob Fox, managing director of Net Registrar UK.CO, is behind the rival proposal to de-mutualise Nominet. He'd like to go further than Mr Webber and float Nominet as a plc, rather than turn it into a limited company. Together with Steve Feigen, MD of Abacus Software, he will be standing for the board of Nominet UK at the annual meeting later this month. According to Nominet insiders, Fox is seen as less likely than Webber to succeed in his persuasions. Fox admits that his deal with a Colombian telecom company to supply Web addresses ending in "uk.co", rather than those ending "co.uk "as currently supplied by Nominet, has weakened his claims that he has the interests of members at heart.

Ivan Pope, chairman of Netnames, one of the larger members, and a founding director of Nominet UK, said: "My immediate response is that the carpetbaggers are among us. I suppose it's inevitable. It is an issue that has been raised before." But Pope is against the plan. "It would be dangerous to do this," he says. "We would be stepping into a minefield. We have an AGM coming up, and no doubt this will be the hot topic."

Not all member companies feel the same way. One Nominet UK member who did not wish to be identified, said: "I'm not wedded to the idea of a non-profit Nominet. If there was a resolution for conversion that meant a windfall payment, a lot of the smaller members would not think twice."

The decision to become a commercial company would be taken by a vote of members. One quarter of votes are on a one member, one vote basis. The rest are divided up using a formula based on how many domain names the member sold in the previous year. Fox would like to end this system and is proposing a total one member, one vote system, which would be reflected in the allocation of shares.

Both groups in favour of de-mutualisation have similar complaints about Nominet UK as it stands. "The people who run Nominet may not be fat cats, but they are pampered pussies," says Webber "You have to ask questions of any company that is spending as much on legal fees as it is on staff." Like Fox, he believes that Nominet is overly influenced by a clique of large Internet service providers.

William Black, MD of Nominet UK, says: "This is a national resource and we shouldn't abuse it. Even if the members decided to change Nominet into a plc, they couldn't get their hands on the money already in the company. I'm pretty sure that the Government will have something to say about this."

Nominet UK's role makes it a natural monopoly and those members against de-mutualisation believe the Department of Trade and Industry could step in and protect their current status. A DTI spokesman said: "Nominet is constituted as a not-for-profit company with open membership rules. Any change in [its] constitution would require examination by the competition authorities."

Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments