|Industry:||Registrar, Hosting, New gTLDs|
|Revenue:||$200.1 million (AUD) (2009)|
|Theo Hnarakis, CEO & MD|
MelbourneIT is a web hosting and Internet domain registrar company which also provides related online business solutions products and services. This Australian company was founded in 1996 by The University of Melbourne to work with the private sector on IT projects. MelbourneIT has been listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) since December, 1999.
As a domain registrar, MelbourneIT had a de facto monopoly on the .au domain for several years; and it was the source of half of its net income. It was one of the first five Testbed Registrars for the competitive Shared Registry System announced by ICANN in 1999. Melbourne IT started to register domain names under .com, .net and .org.
Headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, MelbourneIT has 18 offices in 10 countries and over 690 employees worldwide. As of October 25, 2010, MelbourneIT has about 4,291,483 domain names registered under its management.
The name MelbourneIT came from "Melbourne Information Technology International Pty Ltd" which was a commercial subsidiary of The University of Melbourne. The initial objective of the company was not merely to register domains but to demonstrate the University’s strategic leadership in working with industry and government in selected areas of IT. Robert Elz, senior system administrator in the University of Melbourne’s Computer Science Department was in charge of the registration process of the .au domain at that time.
An article published in the "Australian Financial Review" by Charles Wright made the authority interested in the commercial value of domain name registration. Eventually, conditions demanded that the process of .au domain registration be transferred to a capable, commercial institution. Thus, the administration of com.au fell to MelbourneIT via a non-exclusive license, to be reviewed after five years. In 1996, the Government of Victoria awarded a grant of $100,000 in return for registering a backlog of over 2,000 com.au applications free to the applicants. This money was used to build its first domain name registration software platform.
MelbourneIT started charging for domain name registrations in November, 1996; prices were generally $100 wholesale and $125 retail. They also introduced different pricing plans and different criteria for domain registration process during that period.
After enjoying exclusive right to sell .au domains for 5 years, MelbourneIT signed a license agreement with .au Domain Administration (auDA) on July 12th, 2001. It was reported that MelbourneIT's Chief Executive, Professor Peter Gerrand, claimed that the deal "extended MelbourneIT's guarantee of exclusivity." Later, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston announced that the claim was incorrect and the MelbourneIT's monopoly on .au domains will not be extended.
- 1996- The company was founded by The University of Melbourne to work with the private sector on IT projects. Professor Peter Gerrand was appointed as the CEO of the company.
- 1999- MelbourneIT was selected for the competitive Shared Registry System announced by ICANN, and started to register domain names under .com, .net, and .org.
- 1999- December, MelbourneIT began being listed on Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) with the ticker symbol MLB. The company formed an alliance with American telecommunications group NeuStar about that time.
- 2000- October, CEO Peter Gerrand left MelbourneIT and was replaced by chief operating officer Adrian Kloeden.
- 2003- MelbourneIT acquires New Zealand's domain name registrar, Domainz, for NZ$2 million. By that time, Domainz had more than 2.3 million domain names under its management.
- 2004- MelbourneIT acquires European digital brand protection company, Cogent IPC, for $4.5 million.
- 2006- MelbourneIT acquires the Webcentral Group for about $61.2 million. It also acquires a digital recording service provider for justice and public safety venues, called For The Record, in the same year.
- 2007- Melbourne IT acquires UK based domain management company, IDR Management Services. The acquisition has been speculated to be worth about $2 million.
- 2008- May, MelbourneIT announced the acquisition of Verisign's global Digital Brand Management Services business for $50 million USD.
- 2010- May, MelbourneIT acquires search-engine marketing business Advantate. Previously, Melbourne IT held 50% of Advantate's shares.
- 2013 - March, The company sold its Digital Brand Services division, which includes its backend registry contracts with 150 new gTLDs, to Corporation Service Company (CSC) for $157 million USD.
Currently, MelbourneIT has the following brands:
- Domainz - New Zealand's domain name registrar, which also provides internet services to small businesses to help them succeed online.
- For The Record (FTR) - global provider of digital recording and content management solutions for judicial and civic venues.
- Melbourne IT Digital Brand Services (DBS) - helps corporations manage, protect and optimise their brands online.
- Melbourne IT Enterprise Services - tracks record of delivering enterprise-grade internet and IT services to large organisations.
- Melbourne IT's Global Partner Solutions - supplies revenue-generating technical and support solutions for domain names and other value-added online SMB services.
- WebCentral - provides web hosting and internet services for enterprises and small business customers.
MebourneIT is also a new gTLD consultancy, and the week of the January, 2012, which was the launch of ICANN's new gTLD application period, it announced that it had been working with over 100 applications on behalf of various clients. MelbourneIT also noted that many of their clients are Fortune 500 companies or associated with the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). The latter fact is particularly noteworthy given the fact that ANA had led a high-profile anti-gTLD expansion campaign following the approval of the program, and was successful in achieving multiple hearings in the U.S. congress and other anti-TLD expansion forums and press.
In February, 2012, one of the first public Brand TLD ventures, StarHub, announced that it had partnered with MelbourneIT's Digital Brand Services to help apply for and manage its proposed .starhub TLD. Later that month, MelbourneIT revealed that they were currently working on 120 new gTLD applications, and that they expected to bring that number to 150 before the application window closed in just over a month. It was also announced that MelbourneIT was working as new gTLD consultants with the governments of the Australian states of Victoria and New South Wales, and with ARI Registry Services, to prepare bids for .melbourne, .sydney, and .victoria. The company ended up handling 148 applications, approximately a quarter of which came from Australian clients.
It November, 2012, it was reported that MelbourneIT was reviewing the possibility of selling some of its business units off in response to a earnings decline in 2012. One of the noted reasons for the decline was the consistently delayed New gTLD program from ICANN, which it attributed with a 10% decline in pre-tax earnings. The business units in question, and the foreign buyers that had been identified, were not specified. The sale of its new gTLD registry division was announced in March, 2013.
Comments on Digital Archery
Melbourne IT's CEO Theo Hnarakis criticized ICANN's digital archery system for determining the batches of applications for the initial evaluation of new gTLDs. His was concerned about the possibility that the batching system would favor the applicants for desirable gTLDs such as .web. He emphasized that Melbourne IT would prefer a batching process that "favor[ed] uncontested and uncontroversial strings." In addition, he encouraged ICANN to delay the implementation of digital archery. He said, "There seems to be a broad sentiment that this isn’t this best method, but people don’t want to rock the boat because they don’t want to see any further delay." Moreover, he pointed out that he doesn't care about further delays, and that his primary concern is to ensure that all applicants, and particularly brand applicants, have a fair opportunity in the batching process. 
Melbourne IT has proposed an anti-cybersquatting plan, called Minimizing HARM (High At-Risk Marks), which was inspired by the abandoned Globally Protected Marks List, ICM Registry’s Sunrise B policy, .CO Internet’s launch program, and recent proposals from the intellectual property community. The plan looks to protect trademarks from the outset, asking the Trademark Clearinghouse to flag a certain subset of trademarks meeting certain requirements as High At-Risk Marks, which would receive special protections. These protections include:
- Qualification for a “Once-off Registration Fee," which, like .xxx's Sunrise B, allows trademark holders to pay a one-time fee to block their exact-match domain names.
- Anyone attempting to register an exact-match domain name would have to have two sets of contact information verified before the domain name could go live.
- The Trademark Claims service, which alerts trademark holders when someone tries to register a domain containing one of their brands, would last indefinitely, instead of the standard 60 days after the gTLD goes into general availability.
- Rapid take down (within 48 hours) of a Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS) complaint, unless a Response Fee is paid, which would be equivalent to the URS fee paid by the complainant.
Trademarks must meet the following strict requirements in order to qualify for HARM:
- Proof that the company has trademark protection on the brand in three of ICANN's five geographic regions for at least five years.
- The company must demonstrate that their marks are particularly at risk for phishing and cybersquatting. One way to do so would be by having a minimum of five successful UDRP complaints or suspensions of infringing domains by a "top ten registrar."
- Marks will need to obtain a minimum total of 100 points, where one point is awarded for each legal protection in a jurisdiction, and for each successful UDRP, court action, or domain registrar suspension undertaken in relation to the mark.
Melbourne IT will be holding a half-day new gTLD trademark summit in Washington, D.C., on September 18. It will feature a panel, moderated by Melbourne IT Chief Strategy Officer and ICANN Vice-Chairman Bruce Tonkin, made up of the following representatives:
- Andrew Abrams, Trademark Counsel, Google
- James Bikoff, Partner, Silverberg, Goldman & Bikoff
- Steve DelBianco, Executive Director, NetChoice and Vice Chair Policy Coordination, ICANN GNSO Commercial and Business Users Constituency
- Dan Jaffe, Group EVP Government Relations, Association of National Advertisers
- Jon Nevett, Co-Founder, Donuts
- Russell Pangborn, Associate General Counsel – Trademarks, Microsoft
- Craig Schwartz, General Manager – Registry Programs, BITS/The Financial Services Roundtable
- Brian Winterfeldt, Partner, Steptoe & Johnston and Counselor, ICANN GNSO Intellectual Property Constituency
MelbourneIT won the "VMware Virtual Champion of the Year 2009" award. The company also won the "Microsoft Australia Hosting Services Partner of the Year award" for 2008; "Microsoft Asia Pacific Hosting Partner of the Year award" for 2007, 2005 and 2003; Name Intelligence Users Choice award for 2006 and 2005; Microsoft Global Hosting Partner of the Year award for 2005 and 2004; different AHRI and Deloitte Technology awards.
- ASX - Australian Securities Exchange
- Robert H'obbes' Internet Timeline
- 157 million CSC buys Melbourne IT Digital Brand Services Backend for 150 New gTLDs, TheDomains.com
- Roger Clarke's 'Brief History of the Internet in Australia
- Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
- Networking Insight
- Industry Search.com.au
- Web Host Industry Review
- The Sydney Morning Herald
- Melbourne IT involved in 100 gTLD Applications, DomainIncite.com
- StarHub to Acquire New Top Level Domain, CircleID.com
- Melbourne IT New TLD, DomainNameWire.com
- Wins Tender for Melboune and Sydney, ARIservices.com
- Australians fall behind domain rush, theage.com.au
- Melbourne IT May Sell of Businesses as ICANN delays Hit Bottom Line, DomainIncite.com Retrieved 26 Nov 2012
- Melbourne IT CEO calls for digital archery delay
- Melbourne IT Letter to ICANN Regarding Digital Archery
- Melbourne IT Suggests Special Domain Protections For “High At-Risk Marks” In New gTLD’s, thedomains.com
- What’s wrong with Melbourne IT’s new anti-cybersquatting plan?, domainincite
- Melbourne IT holding new gTLD trademarks summit, domainincite.com
- The National Business Review