Continued cost management and strong domain registration growth are contributing to better financial performance at the IE Domain Registry (IEDR), its CEO has said.
Speaking to siliconrepublic.com, David Curtin said registration revenue increased in 2004, despite a price cut at the start of the year, and operating profits would show a “considerable improvement from the results of 2003”. The IEDR is to publish its full accounts for the year-ended 31 December 2004 within the coming weeks.
The registry recently revealed that the number of domain names registered exceeded 43,000 at the end of 2004, compared with approximately 35,000 the year before, while the number of new registrations was up 50pc year on year.
Curtin put the growth of registrations down to the buoyancy of the economy and the impact of flat-rate internet access and the rollout of broadband. He felt, however, that there was still a significant need for education about the value of a .ie domain name as opposed to a .com, especially among SMEs. “Most SMEs are not aware of the difference between the two. One of our challenges for 2005 is to get the message across to SMEs that if they have an e-commerce site and they want their customers to use credit cards online, they would be better off having a .ie address where the owner of the name can be verified as a local Irish company and not based in Russia or wherever.”
The IEDR’s improved recent performance stands in marked contrast to the financial and managerial difficulties that befell the domain registry before October 2002, when the then chief executive Mike Fagan was suspended amid accusations of bad management and counter-accusations of harrassment. Curtin, a chartered accountant and former Jefferson Smurfit and KPMG executive, took over as CEO in early 2004 after a brief period as interim CEO.
Last April, in a move that was seen as a means of bringing the IEDR to heel and averting any possible future crises within the organisation, former Communications Minister Dermot Ahern TD announced that the regulation and control of the IEDR was to be transferred to the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) and that legislation to effect the transfer was to be drafted by department officials. However, more than nine months later, it seems that little progress has been made on that front.
Commenting on the situation, Curtin said his understanding was the bill was still at the drafting stage. When put to him, he also agreed with the suggestion that the issue had fallen down the Government’s list of priorities now that the IEDR was clearly being more effectively managed.
“If you look at the reasoning for [the IEDR’s] inclusion in the Miscellaneous Provisions Bill we would contend that in terms of price, service and choice the consumer is getting a good deal and the registry is in good hands.”
Curtin added that the registry was currently in discussions with the department over the transfer to ComReg and that he still expected it to happen. “That would be my understanding. My information is that it is coming,” he said, adding, however, that he had received no revised timetable from the department since Noel Dempsey TD succeeded Ahern as Communications Minister.
Curtin made it clear that even if the IEDR was to come under ComReg’s wing at some future date, the company would retain full operational control of the business since it was, he felt, ComReg’s role to regulate businesses not run them.
Commenting on the current developments in the business, Curtin noted that the twin priorities for the year ahead would be to continue to reassure stakeholders about the stability and efficiency of the registry and to continue to introduce new services. The latter includes a new reseller console. This is a web-based application that allows internet service providers (ISPs)/domain-name resellers to see straight into the IEDR’s domain name database. This allows them, for example, to view all recent transfers of domain names to and from other ISPs and check account information. According to Curtin, the system is to be upgraded during the first quarter to give ISPs/resellers “interactive domain management capability” allowing them to pay the IEDR online for new or renewed domain name registrations as well as the ability to suspend/delete customers whose payments are in arrears.
Another area that has seen considerable improvement, said Curtin, is the domain-name registration process itself. Where once this took days the task can now be completed within the hour, meaning that ISPs/resellers can offer a very quick turn-around service to new clients.
Domain-name holders will also have been pleased by the price cuts that have seen the cost of web addresses falling by 22pc in the past two years. Curtin said that he “would not rule out the possibility” of future price reductions but that these would depend on the state of the profit and loss account.
By Brian Skelly