For those eagle-eyed users, you will notice that you are now visiting www.vk7ben.au and not vk7ben.id.au. This is the story about why.
In 2007, I acquired my advanced license and callsign VK7BEN. At this time I was quite big on websites and domains and having my own identity online. However it was not possible to own a .com.au/net.au/org.au domain if you were not a registered business or organisation. However you could register for an id.au domain if the domain name contained your your name or nickname. Beauty – VK7BEN could indeed be considered a nickname. I applied for the domain with this information, application was approved, happy days.
Earlier this year however the happiness came to an abrupt halt with an email from my domain registrar shortly after renewing my domain.
“AuDA Complaint – Action Required”
Within the contents of the email after the statement of AuDA Policy, was:
“While we do acknowledge that Ben is your first name, the link between yourself and “vk7” is unclear.
If you wish to maintain the domain name license, please provide a response within the provided 14-day notice period.”
OK, no problems. I replied back detailing that VK7BEN was my amateur radio callsign and was considered a nickname as that was how I was identified around the world with my contacts. And I thought that would be the end of it. Silly me.
The reply back was that in the previous 18 months while AuDA was in the process of establishing the ability to allow citizens to register a .au domain, they had updated the rules specifically around their definition of a nickname to NOT include nicknames that are parts of hobbies, and were now trying to retrospectively apply that to me. I was requested to supply evidence to show that the nickname “VK7BEN” was in use prior to the date of the email and I now had 7 days to resolve this before the domain was suspended, which would have resulted in the website and email address I had been using for the last 15 years to stop working.
It was a pity that the way AuDA communicated this policy change was to threaten seizing domains upon renewal, rather than contact registrants at the time the policy changed and give some time for people to adjust if needed.
At this point, in crisis mode, I took a three-prong approach.
- Provide requested information in the form of links to my online log books, along with news articles referring to me as “BEN VK7BEN” hoping that this would satisfy the requirements from AuDA.
- Register a new domain (vk7ben.au) and set up new email addresses, and then go through all my online identities (well over 600 accounts) and update my contact email where necessary.
- Reach out on social media to alert others of my plight, as I was not going to be the only ham radio operator in Australia with a .id.au domain:
On the first point, it took close to a week too complete going through and updating all those identities, and it also resulted in some very good cyber hygiene by reducing my online footprint.
- I went from over 600 login items in my password manager to some 300:
- Deleting duplicate credentials/old credentials
- Discovering some sites/services no longer existed so there was nothing to delete
- Annoyingly around 10% of the credentials wanted to send a confirmation email to my old email address before updating – while I can appreciate the security measure, that is a big problem if you have lost control of your mail domain.
- There are so many sites that still do no verification of an email address prior to linking it to an account. In my opinion it should be absolutely mandatory that you can prove control of the email address before you can link it to an account. My Gmail “SPAM” folder bears testimony to this.
- In more complicated cases where I had to reach out to a support person for assistance, a surprising number did NO verification at all when updating my details, they just assumed I was who I said I was and made the updates.
On the social media front, I was amazed and humbled at the immediate and massive amount of support that came my way. Notably I suddenly found people assisting me by mobilising their contacts, or writing to AuDA on my behalf requesting an explanation about how the situation had come to this.
In no particular order I would like to particularly call out and thank:
- Geordie – Who I have known as an acquaintance in Sysadmin/IT Advocacy circles for many years, who wrote to AuDA while ccing in ACMA, RASA, EFA and AuDA Steering Committee
- Stu– who reached out to the WIA and other amateur radio .id.au owners to make them aware of the issue
- Sae Ra – Who is on the AuDA Steering committee and reached out to offer assistance after reading my social media post.
Suddenly a week after this event started, it stopped. My domain registrar advised that AuDA had dropped their complaint and closed the ticket, no explanation provided.I won’t ever know whether the information I provided was enough, but I do like to believe that the attention the situation got and the emails AuDA received from the online community did make a difference.
So why the move to vk7ben.au after all this?
The problem I have is that whats to say this doesn’t happen again in a year? 2 years? 5 years? Do I want to spend another week updating contact information in case this happens again? The answer is no. the id.au namespace is now toxic to me (and during this situation I received messages that other people thought so too and were looking at moving off their .id.au domains so as not to suffer the same fate). the vk7ben.au registrant policies are more relaxed and if they were ever to change in way to duplicate this event, a lot more people would be affected causing a lot more noise – and I just don’t think that would happen.
So there is the Domain Saga, and welcome to my new home on the Internet, www.vk7ben.au