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.au's Reclusive Administrator Elz Deposed 180

Disco Stu writes: "The Sydney Morning Herald has the following story: 'The reclusive programmer Mr Robert Elz has lost control of Australia's domain name system to a private-sector body after the Federal Government rejected his request for the Government to take over the custodianship instead.' I've had to wait months for this guy to get around to approving domains in the past ... but I still can't decide if this is good or not." Sounds bad to me -- or at least Elz sounds good, principled and unconventional.
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.au's Reclusive Administrator Elz Deposed

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  • does this incluse all the .au domains?
    • Yes, I believe it does.
    • (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      One option would be for Australia to start from scratch with the .as domain name, and relinquish the .au domain to Austria, as drafted in this proposal [].
      • Perhaps you could explain why you think Australia or Austria should adhere to some document published by a department of a foreign government?

        As far as i know Austrians call their country Österreich, so why would they want to use .au anyway?

        • by jxxx ( 88447 )
          Agreed. This is English speakers subordinating
          the rest of the world.
          Thankfully there were no strange suggestions for France.
      • (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        and while we're at it, the USA can change theirs to .us
      • Oh, yeah -- I can just see trying to get all Australians and Austrians who already have nationalistic domain names to switch over to a new suffex! One of my former employers is relinquishing it's old Domain name next month. They started hounding customers to switch their email addresses almost 2 years ago (they're an ISP). They are STILL fighting to get people to switch.
  • Asking THIS federal govt to take responsibility for something which could be flogged off to some mates... you've got to be pulling my chain!

    Deposed by reason of insanity perhaps.
  • Aussie seems to have some wierd internet policies. First the pass big brotherish computer laws that basically allow computer spying, and now the refusal to maintain the .au domain system. I think this improper management of the internet gives greater calling for some global standards.. ones better than ICANN
    • > First the pass big brotherish computer laws that basically allow computer spying

      Just like USA (you do know what Carnivore is dont you?), and the UK, and russia, and china, and probably most countries.

      >and now the refusal to maintain the .au domain system

      It's being controlled by a commercial entity, to maintain it better (at least we dont go around thinking we are so good we dont need .au and take over .com like the US did, giving away domains on a first come first serve basis with no regard to trademarks)
    • Actually its my experience that whilst slow. Registering domain names in the .au space is handled much more thoroughly than in the .com or .org or .net space. You actually have to prove you are a commercial entity to get a .COM.AU, you need to prove you are non profit to get .ORG.AU, and .NET.AU only goes to networks. Its a huge ammount of work to enforce these rules which have completely gone by the wayside in the TLD managed by *commercial entities*. We should be saying "thank you!" not "thank god..."
  • Given the apparently poor track record of the Australian government on Internet, privacy, security, and free speech matters, it seems hardly surprising that they would hand off control of the domain to a private company, and that they wouldn't let anything interfere with that decision.

    But, then, does it really matter much anyway? doesn't seem like prime internet real-estate anyway and there are more TLDs on the way, as well as numerous "slightly used" .com domains.

    • Given the apparently poor track record of the Australian government on Internet, privacy, security, and free speech matters, justice, taxation, welfare, indigenous relations, Liberal party corruption....
    • I always thought Melbourne IT controlled anyway. Elz controlled the other domains in .au like,
    • But, then, does it really matter much anyway? doesn't seem like prime internet real-estate anyway and there are more TLDs on the way, as well as numerous "slightly used" .com domains.

      It matters a whole lot in the courts when it comes to trademark protection etc. As happened with the etoy/etoys saga, what would you rather be? An Australian company going up against a US company in a US court, or an Australian company going up against a US company in an Australian court?

  • by dustpuppy ( 5260 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @04:19AM (#2250527)
    I've talked to several web hosting companies in Australia who have hosted various websites that I have designed and which have involved domain name transfers or creations and none of them have ever had anything nice to say about Elz.

    The words: obstructionist, rude, arrogant, overbearing (and others that are unprintable) have all been used to describe Elz.

    Whatever people may like to think about Elz and his policies (some of which were good), the fact of the matter is that the Internet is not (and hasn't been for several years) a private little network which can be run by an academic with no connection to the real world.

    Whether we like it or not, the Internet is an essential tool for many businesses, organisations and people - it is completely unacceptable that it could take months for register a

    As far as I am concerned, and I'm pretty sure anyone who has had to liase with Elz would agree - it's a case of good riddance.

    • obstructionist, rude, arrogant, overbearing - you've just described Network Solutions!
    • He might have been all that ... but as to YAY ! i'd wait and see if you end up with the aussie equivalent of Network Solutions.

      Companies can be MUCH worse than a single human could possible be (well, maybe not in M$'s case ...), i think that was the reason they were invented in the first place :)

    • *sigh*

      Yet more crap about Elz and kre's had a fairly clearly defined policy about for a long time now, but it's still a common sight to see someone whining because "I need to get for me and my mates and kre won't let me. Waaah".

      Or the folks who don't follow the instructions and expect someone to clean up after them.

      No doubt we'll now see turn into the same sewer as .org, .net and the like.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        No, the problem is that he is, as others have noted, extremely tedious to deal with.

        He rarely responds to email and no every problem is with a -=> why do you think [] has not been registered?

        I put the initial request in during March. It is now August. You do the math.
    • Don't you bad mouth Elz. He singlehandedly save the face of Australians, in his honorable act of keeping from being used by any erotic business.

      You can see how nasty would sound and to what extend Australia's image would be damaged if this domain name is being used.

      But now I'm sure would be hitting another high bid in the auction....

      (ok, I'm just kidding, but there's really no one owns
    • Whether we like it or not, the Internet is an essential tool for many businesses, organisations and people - it is completely unacceptable that it could take months for register a

      And businesses should register a like all the other businesses, using their Business Registration Number that all Australian businesses are required by law to have.

      The domain is for non-profit organisations and Elz has never promised miracles with Reasonable requests are usually granted within a time frame that non-profit organisations can accept.

    • no, i would not agree. I've never had any trouble with him at all. For every single domain request I've made ('s, not, its taken less time to get the domain than it does for the clients to work out what domain they want.
    • on the few times i have had to register .au names i have been only inconvinienced by my own lack of ability to ensure the domains i were attempting to register were correctly in place and that the business reference numbers i were giving were given in their entirity in the correct forms. unfortunately the correctness that is required is much greater than that which is needed at This is to his credit. Once my servers were propagting the domain and my forms were filled in correctly it usually takes but a few hours before my application is sucessful not everyone who has had to deal with registering domains etc think he did such a bad job
  • Don't be too quick to crucify the governments actions. Just because Elz may have had some good policies, doesn't mean this change will be bad. Especially if it speeds up the assigning of domains. Face it, we can't really regulate who gets a domain anymore... besides, do we really want to? That would seem rather elitist of us...

    Also, it is quite possible that this company will do good for the .au domain, so lets not judge until we see some results... then we can raise hell... I promise ;)
  • comeon it's insane to leave a domain to the whims of a man. yeah he's served them well til now, but that was when the thing was small .. now you need to get things organized and leaving it to the whims of a man isn't the way to do it.
    This is a step in the right direction.
  • by dustpuppy ( 5260 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @04:31AM (#2250553)
    After reading Timothy's comment, I realised that he has no idea why Elz is detested by people who need to register or transfer domains.

    Let's face reality, the Internet is no longer a simple little network which is a curiosity. For many business/organisations/people, it is an essential part of their operations.

    The problem with Elz is not so much his policies, but his attitude and response times. It often took a couple of weeks for a transfer to occur ... if Elz felt like it ... sometimes it could take months. And if you got into an argument with Elz, you could forget about anything happening to your domain request for months and months.

    And if it was a once off case, people could turn a blind eye to the problem - but it wasn't a once off case. Ask anyone who actively has to deal with Elz on a regular basis and you will most likely hear a story of frustration and irritation.

    So, ignore the high moral ground that Elz has staked out by refusing to profit from the IPO of MelbourneIT - frankly I couldn't care if he did or not - the real reason Elz is detested is because as the domain administrator for, it is his responsibility to provide a certain level of service - he didn't do this and is therefore a hinderance to the further development of the Internet industry in Australia - good riddance Elz.
    • For many business/organisations/people, it is an essential part of their operations.

      As if that somehow legitimizes the attempt by the corporate world to choke the free movement of information in the net and make it more like a cable tv with informercials with which you can buy (buy, buy!, BUY!!!) stuff.

      Who gave them the permission to take over an academic/military born free network and turn it into a commercialized wasteland with nothing but ads and pay-for-access content?!

      • Who gave them the permission to take over an academic/military born free network and turn it into a commercialized wasteland with nothing but ads and pay-for-access content?!

        Uhh ... the US Government?
      • It's called the market, moron.

        The academic and military internet still exists. Except nobody uses it (just like nobody used it back in the good old days)
        • The academic military internet still exists, and is STILL used by a great many people. In many cases it also carries some of the commercial traffic that you seem so proud of.

          As for people not having used it in the past. I have used it since 1990. (Yes, that would be before Al Gore invented it.) I can remember quite a large and vibrant community on the net. The same community which gave birth to your precious Open Source software.

          What was the two worst milestones for the internet?

          1) When it became no longer illegal to play internet games like MUDs from Oz. I have not personally dealt with Elz, but he sounds like many of the obstinate Australians I have had to deal with admining MUDs.

          2) When http was developed. I would much rather see slashdot as a text file I could download via ftp. Or perhaps telnet into it.
          • You are unique. Very, very few people had even heard of the internet in 1990.

            You sound like a grumpy old man whose private club has been overrun by the dirty and commercial public at large.

            Your "large and vibrant" community consisted solely of computer science, engineering and math faculty and students, combined with a few defense contractors.

            After all, why should the public, whose millions or billions of tax dollars built the internet be able to enjoy the many advantages that it offers.

            Go to your favorite pub and drown your sorrows about the wane of text files and archie. Maybe the barman will care.
    • Have you any idea what you are talking about? domain names are not for businesses. They are registered free on behalf of non-profit organisations. The vast majority of non-profit organisations do not need domain names registered within a couple of days. With Robert Elz gone, I would not be surprised in auDA charged for or just deregulated them, being a bigger disservice to non-profit orgs. If you are a company and want service levels, get a, pay for it and get it quickly, leave for the non-profit people.
  • At last! (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by Dolly_Llama ( 267016 ) !!!

    At least its a little more appropriate...

    • a little more appropriate for... asstralia? /end bad pun
    • ISTR reading that the goatse guy is actually from Perth, Western Australia... in a thread about a week ago on /.
  • by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @04:34AM (#2250556) Homepage Journal
    This guy did the whole .au domain authority without making any money? He should of started a business off the get go. The best way to make the rules is to be the one in power, and now he is force to hand the keys to the kingdom over to IANA.

    The SMH link was down, check out the Australian IT news [] site out.
    • Because Robert Elz doesn't give a toss about money. Amongst other things, the guy wrote bits and pieces of BSD Unix, and could have walked out of his job at Melbourne University at any time in the last 20 years and earned many times the franky lousy salary he receives there.

      I've met very few people for whom money *really* doesn't matter at all to them. kre was one of them.

    • OK this is what I remember of my history of the internet in australia.

      Elz worked (works?) for a university in Melbourne and was involved in creating the first internet connection into Australia and hence all of the .au extentions. Because he works for the uni they are owned by the uni. But for a while Elz was in control of all of the .au extentions and getting a domain registered was Really slow.

      Then the uni decided to create a seperate company to handle the domain registering. They are called Melbourne IT and hold a monopoly over all etc. Elz remained in control of only

      This is why etc is so expensive, and is so slow to be registered.

      This is my understanding of what has happened. I suppose I should now read the article and see what they say.

  • On the web, everything is speed-of-light compared to old business ways. Why should anyone be stuck waiting for some guy getting around to accepting their registration? Now it'll sure be faster to get a domain!

    I'd be mad too if it took months just to get a tripod or geocities account.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Why should anyone be stuck waiting for some guy getting around to accepting their registration? Now it'll sure be faster to get a domain!

      Yeah... deregulation and privatisation is the only way to go if you want better and faster service. Just look how smoothly the UK railways work now years after the privatisation.

  • The key point seems to be this quote -

    >> ICANN said that as Internet names increasingly had commercial value, decisions could not be made on an ad hoc basis by individuals that were not formally accountable.

    As a starting position, that seems fair enough. Whether the new regime conforms to the "formally accountable" requirement is not clear to me.
  • From the article: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JoeShmoe ( 90109 ) <> on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @04:46AM (#2250582)
    ICANN said that as Internet names increasingly had commercial value, decisions could not be made on an ad hoc basis by individuals that were not formally accountable.

    Well if that isn't the pot calling the kettle black. What was ICANN's reason for now allowing the TLD iii? "It looks too difficult to pronouce." And who exactly is ICANN accountable to? Well...oh yeah, that's right no one.

    Give me a break. When was the last time there was a problem with the way this guy was running things? When was the last time you read a story about some lame cybersquatting issue from AU? I don't think I've ever seen one. And, to close with another adage...if it isn't broke, don't fix it.

    - JoeShmoe
  • by G-funk ( 22712 ) <> on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @04:54AM (#2250594) Homepage Journal
    Domain registration / administration in australia sucks. I'm happy about any change in who's in charge, it'd have to be really shitful to be any worse than Elz. Apart from the attitude, and delays that have been posted about here by others, the .au policy is downright terrible. You can't have any domain that's in the dictionary, or any suburb name as listed as having a postcode in the white pages. This basically means that no businesses can get their own name, making domain names redundant since you can't as easily guess them, and it's harder for clients to remember something that's not very similar to your business name, or just too damned long which is the approach many australian businesses have taken.

    Now if we could only do something about the BAS.
    • Sadly that is exactly what will happen - it will get worse. Elz's methods were draconian but at least he was consistent and not in the pocket of big business a la ICANN.
      With the governments record on this sort of action it will initially be handled by business partner (read family member) of the minister responsible. After this proves to be totally incompetent it will be transfered to Telstra and the fun will really begin.
      My biggest problem with Elz's reign as administrator of the .au was the virtual impossibility of registering if you were a sole trader (pretty common for IT consultants) - it was easier to go .com.
  • ICANN and ccTLDs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by anthony_baxter ( 48233 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @04:55AM (#2250598)
    Given the fights between ICANN and the ccTLDs about funding, isn't there a conflict of interest in ICANN being able to review the appointment of ccTLD managers?

  • Good 'ol Elz. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I work for a mediocre telecommunications company in Australia. I have had many a drawn out phone conversation with Mr. Elz regarding the abnormally long process of registering anything inb the .au domain that hasn't been given to a company to look after. (INWW, Connect, etc). I will give him this, he is extremely good at making his lack of performance seem completely damn reasonable and in fact, every body elses fault. Ten points for the pretencious so and so.
  • meta comment. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Error27 ( 100234 ) <error27@gmai l . c om> on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @06:01AM (#2250711) Homepage Journal
    I think if you link to old slashdot articles you should link to the part with all the comments.

    so instead of linking to:
    [] tm l
    you should link to:
    [] 24 8

    This makes it easier for those of us without karma to copy and paste one of the +5 insightful comments to the current discussion and thereby gleaning a little karma for ourselves. Or instead the insightful comments, someone could link to this [] comment and get modded +1 funny. ;P

  • by kimba ( 12893 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @06:56AM (#2250774)
    I'd suggest you read IANA's report [] which is a lot more comprehensive than the media reports.

    The news article says it is a private-sector body, but it is an open body formed of stakeholders including domain registrars, users, and Internet organisations (e.g. the Internet Society [] and Electronic Frontiers [] are on the board).

    I am on the board of auDA, elected as a user representative. I am not from a registrar or any commercial interest. I can say that everyone has the best interests of .au at heart and I think this is a very positive move.

    auDA's plans for .au are already available on the Internet and were formed through open public processes earlier in the year. The primary result will be competition in the domain registration area. Currently the domains under .au (, etc are run by parallel monopolies, but this will be opened up to a competitive environment under the plan. The competition report is here [].
  • by ColdGold ( 472258 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @07:40AM (#2250830)
    I'd like to speak in support of Mr Elz.

    I am Australian and I share a company with my wife. We use .com instead of because the au was just too hard to get. My wife owns the company but we wanted a different name because the company has changed in nature (from dtp to web animation). The registered name didn't suit.

    Anyone can have a .com. It is bloody hard to get a You have to show company papers and everything. To have a .au is a sign of respect in Australia and I think that it should stay that way. It is only because of Robert Elz that this exists. Now that he is gone we are going to see names like and Terrific...not!

    You don't live in Australia (mostly) but it is important to us to be proud and do things right. We make mistakes and our government (all parties fellers) does everything to make us seem like mental midgets. We still want to rise above our politicians and rise above our organistations who are a bunch of sycophants. Want to contribute as an equal partner to the world knowledge despite our IT organisations and despite our politicians.

    We think that we belong in the larger world but the people that we would have respected forty years are the ones who make us a laughing stock. Australians stand proud by the acts of individuals and are ashamed by the people who represent those individuals.

    Thank you Robert Elz. We respect what you have done and are grateful for your legacy.
    • You are confusing separate issues here. The domain is the only one affected by this change. I too have been on the receiving end of a long wait for a simple domain redelegation. As other posters have said, the critical factor here is that for whatever reason the service being provided was inadequately slow.
  • Try telling the person in charge of the company for whom you are doing the site that a site is going to cost four times the price of a com site when what he really wants is a and wants to pay a com price.
  • If Mr. Elz no longer has the .au domain, I say he should get .Elz to rule as he pleases! All those for, say ".Aye!"
  • There's nothing I could find on auDA's website [] about how they plan to manage when they get their hands on it. Indeed, it's still not clear how long it will be before the switch. I imagine that they will introduce charges for domains.

    Asking for domains has seemed like a bit of a lucky dip with Elz, and my experience agrees with earlier comments that sometimes he's prompt (2 weeks), and sometimes your request goes into a black hole.

    But anyone in a real hurry could get .org or or something if they had the cash.

    Robert Elz handled for free for all these years, and many non-profits were able to get their own domain name without the cost and hassle of startup and annual fees.

    Thanks Mr. Elz!

    • The company I work for provides free support to a Recently they had to switch ISPs in a hurry because their old ISP went belly up (the 0% telephone company). In defence of Robert Elz, the redelegation was done quickly (completed in about 1 day) however we didn't know if it would take a day, a week or a month. I think all concerned would have rather paid say $200 per year and had a guaranteed level of service rather than the uncertainty.

      You get what you pay for.

      • I agree there's often a tradeoff between money and performance.

        However, is for non-profit organisations. There are hundreds of non-profits in Sydney who are completely volunteer, and run on budgets of $1000 a year or less.

        $200 a year for a domain is a lot of money for them.

        Yet because is free, and because is grungy and volunteer itself, we've been able to host many websites. is in a similar situation.

        So, if some large non-profits want to pay $200 for an instant response, good for them. But please let there be a cheaper option (with slower response times?) for smaller non-profits, or they will not be able to afford domains at all.
        • Fair comment. The amount was just a number I typed off the top of my head. I think it would probably be a good idea to require the new service to provide a free service level.

          One of the major problems with Mr Elz was the extreme variation in service levels. I can appreciate that he was carrying out this work as a volunteer but as many other posters have pointed out the Internet has moved on from a situation where "it will happen sometime" is good enough.

  • Canada had a similar arrangement as Australia it would appear, with registrations happening through a guy at Simon Fraser University. Things could be very frustrating registering .ca domains; many people just gave up and went .com. Anyway, eventually they shifted control to a .com arrangement (more deregulation, really) and things are now very easy to register .ca. So I think the Aussies will find that this is a good thing.
    • It wasn't too difficult to register a .ca domain name, if you knew which buttons to push.

      I registered 2 of them. Basically, the requirements were:

      1 - You needed to have a trademark registered or some other proof that the name you're registering resembles your business name

      2 - Domain name cannot be the name of a city/province/territory (ie: cannot register

      3 - You needed to have a presence in multiple provinces to have a .ca-level name. Otherwise, your domain would fall under the province code's domain (ie: if I'm in Ontario). If you are a tiny little business with presence in only one city, then you had to take the city name with it (ie:

      It wasn't THAT hard... and yes, I did manage to get a .ca domain (without city and province in it), and it only took 2 weeks (because yes, the requests were reviewed by hand). The bonus for putting up with the red tape was that the whole thing didn't cost you a penny - the domain names were free. Now, sadly, they are not.
  • by Now15 ( 9715 )
    As an Australian and a domain name owner, I can say that I've been pleased with the way domain name registrations have been run so far. We're one of the few (the only?) country to have any sort of business name validation on our business domains ( and

    And we're the only one who's had a community domain that has been protected from big business (

    If any of this changes, I'll be severely disappointed!

    Simon Wright
  • Thank you for putting principles before profit.

    I salute you.

    (on a side note, I wonder if this means I'm gonna have to start paying for my domain
  • Bad Thing! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Macfox ( 50100 ) on Tuesday September 04, 2001 @12:27PM (#2251666) Homepage
    Not one post has bothered to note Elz served the Aussie internet for FREE for many years without credit.

    While his nazi like policies and repsonse times upset a lot of ppl, it did get the job done.

    You too would have the same attitude to idiots who go full-house into an advertising campaign only to forget about securing a domain, then hiring Melbourne IT students to sit outside Elz's door day after day demanding it be done NOW, till he delegates the domain. What would you do? Where does it stop? These are the ppl/orgs he has had to deal with over the years on a regular basis.

    Anyone who took the time to realize this was a free service, showed a little courtesy and got their nameservers setup correctly the first time got there domain delegated on time.

    It's a real pitty Senator Alston and his Liberal government cronies have failed to keep the namespace in responsible hands. auDA will never be able to provide the same service Elz has. Sure they claim to be non-profit, but that's also how the space started, which has now degraded into a $ driven "if you have enough money, you can get any domain regardless of the policies" domain.

    So before anyone else decides get on the "BAG Elz wagon", take a minute to think why the was managed in the way it was.

    • ...then hiring Melbourne IT students...

      Melbourne IT has students for hire? I can't see any of them here at my desk...

      Please, get it right. Melbourne IT is NOT Melbourne University.

  • Did anyone catch that the story was posted in the from the rug-out-from-under dept? Heh, from "down under"--no pun intended.
  • Disclaimer: I'm on the auDA Competition Panel.

    Truth: auDA is not a private body. It is a government institued body, funded by (well, this bit needs to be worked out, as per Southpark's "1. Underpants 2. ? 3. Profit!")

    kre, despite the incredibly long times it takes him to register, is actually a good bloke if you've met him. He's active in NetBSD development, and has a fair enough reason to dislike the media, as blatent unresearched and unprofessional misrepresentations like this prove.

    However, it is time to move on. munnari served Australia well, but now its time to have technical standards, high availability, consumer and privacy protection. auDA, through the names and competition panel have made these changes. kre had the opportunity to do so through his agreements with the various registries, but didn't. auDA will be forcing the issue.

    auDA has gone through two (and a bit) very open, accountable and public processes to determine what's right for the future. I think if you read our reports, the membership of each of the panels, how auDA's board is constructed, and contrast them to the kre way, there's a lot of change, but not a lot of philosophical change. But where there is change, it is for the better.

    For example, we recommended:

    • stringent privacy and consumer protection at all levels of competition
    • high availability by the registries
    • strong protection against domain squatters (particularly those in bad faith) as well as stamping out bad practices that NSI have been known to get up to (ie keeping expired domains from the available pool)
    • ... the list continues ...

    Read our reports to find out what we've changed. The executive summary is fairly accurate in each, so it shouldn't tax you terribly.

    Unlike most of you, I've had the chance to have lunch with kre, and he is no ogre. I publically thank kre for his stewardship of .au and the fostering of the Internet in Australia. But I also think it's time for .au to move into modern times.

  • I've written an essay on why this decision sets an awful precedent that will be exploited by ICANN. It's called, How ICANN Policy Gets Made (II) [].

    It will be interesting to see if any australians challenge this action by filing an ICANN reconsideration request [] during the next

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