Feb 272013
bonuses, commissions and other incentives can distort a business

Beleaguered domain registration company Melbourne IT hopes the new breed of global top level domains will be its salvation after a decade of indifferent returns and a wallowing shareprice.

When the top level domains – known by their geeky acronym of gTLDs – were proposed five years ago they smelled like a revenue grab and so it has turned out.

To date 1930 organisations have applied for one of the top level domains, with a $135,000 evaluation fee that’s a juicy 260 million dollar pot to be shared between ICANN and the various domain registrars. No wonder Melbourne IT’s management is drooling.

One of the assurances of ICANN when the top level domains were announced was that trademark ownership would be part of the expensive evaluation process. That Melbourne IT is now spruiking gTLDs as a defensive intellectual property tactic is a notable backflip from ICANN’s earlier position.

The trading names aspect of the new global TLDs is going to be problematic for the registers and ICANN, a quick look at the applicant list for the new names sees domains like Tennis, Fail and Compare being applied for.

Good luck with defending those names in court – although having a spurious claim on the global use of the word ‘tennis’ will no doubt keep an army of Tennis Australia’s well paid lawyers occupied for years.

Even more delicious is Telstra’s claim to the domain name ‘yellowpages’. Despite being a declining business the Yellow Pages trademark is fiercely defended by various incumbent phone and directory companies around the world so it’s hard to see how that application will get passed without strong objections.

The real tragedy in the Melbourne IT story is how the company has gone nowhere for over decade after being the darling of the stock market when it was floated in 1998.

Melbourne IT shareprice

When Melbourne IT floated, it attracted controversy with it’s shares being priced at 2.20 and opening at $8.80. A stag gain of 300% for the insiders who got shares.

Despite the beliefs of those brainwashed by government privatisation campaigns in the 1990s, a staggering stag (pardon the pun) is money straight of the pocket of the listed company’s existing shareholders – Melbourne University in this case – and is evidence of either gross incompetence or malfeasance by the board and its advisors.

Given the Victorian government’s Auditor-General cleared the Melbourne IT board of any wrongdoing, the only explanation for the company’s botched float is gross incompetence.

The company’s share price since is clear evidence that gross incompetence remains a problem within the organisation’s leadership.

Whether the strong demand for global Top Level Domains can drag Melbourne IT out of it’s long term mediocrity remains to be seen but with the management’s track record it’s difficult to be optimistic.

Disclaimer: I was a director of a company that was a Melbourne IT reseller. There’s a long blog post in the poor, 1995 IT systems used by MelbourneIT and those might be related to the company’s poor performance over the last decade.

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