"We have to keep SIDN on their toes"
Registrars' Association elects new Chair
The Registrars' Association (RA) speaks for the registrar community in contact with SIDN. Flip Keijzer recently completed his term as Chair of the RA Board, to be succeeded by Martijn Kamphuis. "Having big challenges ahead is what makes the job attractive."
Roelof Meijer, CEO SIDN, thanks Flip Keijzer during SIDN Connect 2017
Flip, what changed during your time as Chair?
Flip: "The RA's early years were characterised by conflict. The approach was confrontational. Over the last four years, we've sought to build a constructive relationship with SIDN. As a result, we've come to understand each other better. SIDN's become more accessible and less inclined to dig its heels in. But, of course, there are still issues that we profoundly disagree on. At the start of my term, we targeted cooperation on the topics where there was common ground. Success in those fields has provided a basis for tackling the more difficult issues on a constructive basis."
What issues have the RA and SIDN addressed together?
Flip: "The best example of cooperation is the Registrar Scorecard: an incentive programme whose development has been a real joint effort. Then there was the quality of the zone file updates and SIDN's communication about them. That's made a big difference to a lot of our members. With our input, SIDN has made some major improvements."
Looking back over the last four years, what are you proudest of?
Flip: "I'm proud of the relationship we've established between the Board and the wider membership. It's much better now than it used to be. I also take a lot of satisfaction from the Registrar Scorecard incentive programme. Since the 2012 introduction of the DNSSEC incentive, which is now part of the Registrar Scorecard, about 4.3 million euros has been returned to the registrars."
Martijn: "The incentive programme has proved a success for both sides. It's boosted the quality of the .nl zone and rewarded registrars financially. Because the programme's been so successful, we've asked SIDN to increase the Scorecard budget. And they've agreed."
What hasn't gone so well?
Flip: "Despite goodwill on both sides, relations were sometimes a little brittle. For example, there were several occasions when SIDN didn't involve us in important decision-making processes until late in the day. The creation of SIDN Fund being a case in point. The Fund does some wonderful work, but we don't see it as SIDN's role to finance that work. The same goes for the acquisition of Connectis. There was a lot of unrest in the registrar community when that was announced. Again, we weren't told until talks were quite advanced, and even then the information was sketchy. Of course, commercial negotiations are sensitive and confidentiality is important, but it wasn't a great example of constructive relations. What we really want is to be consulted about fundamental questions, such as whether SIDN should be making commercial investments at all."
What makes Martijn your ideal successor?
Flip: "Martijn's been on the RA Board for years, so he knows what's what. He's also someone who always seeks cooperation and looks for shared interests. However, he's not afraid to stand his ground when the situation calls for it. And, finally, he's a man of his word."
Martijn: "I know the hosting industry well, I'm familiar with the issues and I understand the relationship between the RA and SIDN. Also, I've had the benefit of watching over Flip's shoulder these past few years. So it feels like a natural progression to me, not a big shift. As Flip suggests, I'll be constructive wherever possible and critical wherever necessary."
What challenges await the new chair?
Martijn: "I see three big challenges. First, contact with our members. The registrar industry isn't homogenous. There are a handful of big players and lots of small ones. In recent years, we've seen numerous takeovers and some smaller registrars have switched to operating as resellers for the big boys. That's accentuated the disparity between big and small. Those developments make it harder for the RA to represent the interests of the industry as a whole. Second, there's the quality of .nl services. Quality levels are very high. And that means we have to guard against complacency. We have to keep SIDN on their toes, keep pressing them to raise standards even higher. The third challenge is ISDN's pricing policy. Where prices are concerned, we don't see eye to eye with SIDN at all. They want to diversify and not focus exclusively on .nl. From a commercial viewpoint, that makes sense. But SIDN isn't a commercial organisation; it's a non-profit foundation created for the specific purpose of managing the .nl zone and managing it well. SIDN is spending huge amounts on developing new business activities. But 99 per cent of its income comes through registrars. So, wherever possible, surpluses should be returned to the registrars. It might be possible to achieve that through diversification. But only if the new activities are closely related to .nl, which isn't the case with SIDN Fund or Connectis."
How positive are you about the future?
Martijn: "Having big challenges ahead is what makes the job attractive. Under Flip's leadership, a solid foundation has been laid. My aim is to build on that. I believe that progress is possible on all the issues we face. Even pricing. We recently submitted an advisory report on that topic. And there's an opportunity to move closer together. So we'll keep looking for the ideal middle course."