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Life in the Channel Islands

Aurigny! Time for us to reclaim our name?

It’s actually quite sad.

Ask most people in the Channel Islands who, or what ‘Aurigny‘ is, and they will tell you it is an airline.

And if they happen to live on, or have regular connections with, Alderney, mentioning the name ‘Aurigny’ will often provoke a heated discussion about the state of the lifeline inter-island and UK air services, which appear to have been let wither on the vine, while the Guernsey-government-owned company expands jet services between St Peter Port and London.

There’s a feeling in Alderney that the needs of Guernsey finance moguls for connections to the City) are always taking precedence over the basic needs of ordinary Alderney citizens including the company’s recent experimenting with services to City Airport.

But ‘Aurigny’ is not an airline. The airline’s name is actually ‘Aurigny Air Services’.

‘Aurigny’ is our island’s name, in the original language of its inhabitants (which was called ‘Aurignaise’ ).

‘Aurigny’ and ‘Alderney’ are just two words for the same thing. (“Riduna” is the same thing, in Latin).

Aurigny Air Services was named after the Island when it was founded in the 1960s, because originally it provided inter-island and UK service to and from Alderney, for the benefit of the people of Alderney.

It later merged with Guernsey Airlines, then subsequently moved its HQ to Guernsey, following “nationalisation” — takeover in the early part of the century by the Guernsey Government.

The rise of corporate branding, and the decline of  Island French in the day-to-day lives of the Bailiwick’s inhabitants mean that a lot of people don’t even seem to know that ‘Aurigny’ means ‘Alderney’ For example: a couple of years ago someone sent a letter to me addressed, from France, addressed in French to : ‘M. ROBERTS Nigel, Boîte Postale 65,  Aurigny,  GY9 3JZ’,  Isles Anglo-Normandes.

It was severely delayed.

But not because it was addressed in French. After all, French is the official language of the international postal service).

But because someone in the sorting office thought it should be delivered to the offices of the airline, and not to the P O Box it was addressed to. Referring to the airline company as ‘Aurigny’ is a bit like referring to ‘BA’ simply as ‘British’.

Aurigny (Air Services) does seem to have lost its way where Alderney is concerned.

The current CEO in Guernsey, Mark Darby, is a good guy, who seems genuinely to want the best for all his customers, including Alderney.

But Mr Darby has a major uphill struggle: not only against aging tech (that is, our  beloved Trislanders who, despite the affection we all hold for them should have been replaced by Dorniers or similar 15 years ago) but also a studied indifference from the average man on the Forêt omnibus to the well-being of our Island, which some in Guernsey have liked to refer to in the past as the ‘Cinderella of the Islands’. (In the spirit of inter-island amity I shan’t repeat the well known rejoinder of Alderney’s first elected President, Toby Herivel here).

It’s time we followed the example of other minorities. We should reclaim our  name. Whenever the Guernsey press refer simply to ‘Aurigny’ we should correct them: it’s ‘Aurigny Air Services’

Even more, given the shocking state of the current service provided to Alderney by the Guernsey government airline, we should now demand it remove our name from its brand.

Tell the truth.

It’s no longer ‘Alderney Air Services’ and hasn’t been for over a decade It’s become Guernsey’s air service..

It’s about time the company’s Board and the Chief Minister owned up to this, and re-branded it.

Why not name it .. oh let me think . .   ‘Air Guernesey’ ?


Another reason ICANN should respect human rights

In a recent WIPO UDRP decision the learned Panellist explicitly recognised that fundamental rights (in the case, the right to freedom of expression) was not limited to the United States.

What is astounding about this, is that anyone could have ever thought otherwise!

The travails suffered by Europe in the 1940s resulted in a recognition of these fundamental values. (I see physical evidence of this every day — there is are three former forced labour camps within ten minutes walk of the Registry offices!).

It really is time for ICANN to stop procrastinating, and recognise that the entire set of values that are set out (inter alia) in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are “relevant” to its work.

Or is it the case that it is simply afraid that it is too high a standard for it to maintain?


What’s in a (domain) name?


Once I explain what it is I do for a living, people, particularly here locally in the Channel Islands often say to me “But which domain extension should my business or organisation be using for best effect?”.

What is interesting, is that the approach people have on the subject appears to be influenced by their age, length of time on the Internet and the locations where their business is targetting.

The thing to always bear in mind, is that a major (although not the only) use of a domain name, is as a brand.

A brand for a business, organisation or for a particular topic. You can see the thinking behind my choice of the brand here.

Because of the Crown Dependencies’ close links, both geographic, constitutional and economic, with the United Kingdom, before 1996 it was very common for those few Channel Island organisations that were on the Internet at the time, to use .UK domain names, and as what we now call “gTLD” names. (Usually .NET since the .COM usually belonged to an American company).

15 years ago, when we created the Channel Islands’ domain registry, there were only two ISPs (GUERNSEY.NET in Guernsey, and SuperNet (ITL.NET) in Jersey

Back then, even the Islands’ governments used to use .GOV.UK or X.400. (In fact we still maintain a legacy registration of the name GUERNSEY.GOV.UK with JA.NET on behalf of the States). Also, despite Guernsey not being part of the UK, because of the integration with the UK forces, the police continue to use GUERNSEY.POLICE.UK as well as various .GG names for other purposes.

(It’s perhaps worth noting that to some people outside, the message which the use of that brand appears to send out is that despite the Islands’ complete domestic autonomy from the UK, the forces of law and order are under significant influence if not control from London.)

Following the creation of the .GG,  .JE and .IM country codes on the Internet in 1996, and adoption by the International Standards Organisation (ISO) as official territorial two-letter ISO codes in 2006, Guernsey and Jersey (and the Isle of Man) has started to appear in drop down lists on websites as options. If you don’t see Guernse, Jersey and the Isle of Man, the website developer is almost certainly using out-of-date libraries.

This is all part of what our politicians rightly call “the emerging international personality of the jurisdiction”.

Publicity sticker for Guernésiais language bro...

Image via Wikipedia

What Montenegro did in a couple of years, we take 800 or so years to do!).

In general, this is A Very Good Thing.

But it’s left quite an interesting approach to using domain names.

Anyone who was at school after about 1998 naturally understands immediately that .GG  = Guernsey, and .JE = Jersey as they will have been familiar with and email addresses.

However anyone older than that may be subscribe to have the school of thought that was common in the early days after the Internet arrived in the Islands and took the pragmatic view that “we aren’t part of the UK, the .COM is in use by an American company. so let’s use .NET”. An example of that, already mentions, is (now owned by Wave Telecom).

Furthermore people who came onto the internet around in the dotCOM boom (and bust!) think that .COM is the be-all and end all when it comes to online businesses.

And then of course, there are the deliberate branding exercises.

Some companies want to be seen to be a global enterprise. They feel they have to  use .COM (if they can find one available or more likely,  are forced to buy one in the ‘secondary market’)..

Surprising to some of us, but some companies want to downplay their Channel Island connections.

After all, we have UK +44 telephone numbers. We have Royal Mail standard postcodes and even though we have our own Postal Administrations, our mail, from outside the British Islands is addressed to the UK.

Therefore it’s understandable  enough that some Channel Island companies, particularly those taking advantage of using Low Value Consignment Relief, may not want to highlight, or even may wish to obscure their Channel Island connections. A .CO.UK domain name is the natural choice for companies who want to pretend to be in the UK.

But a choice of domain name can have major implications. In a little know ruling, the European Court of Justice ruled that what domain name a company used for its website, and even whether it put its phone number on that website in internationa (e.g. +44) rather than national dialling code format, could have an effect on whether it was considered to be targeting customers abroad.
So I guess it’s only a matter of time before the UK Inland Revenue decides that a conscious choice to use .CO.UK is one factor leading to a UK tax bill of some sort.

And using overseas domains has all sorts of jurisdictional risks. I’ve written already about the risks of using unstable countries’ domains (BIT.LY etc).
And Alderney-based Full Tilt Poker found itself in some difficulty when they realised that the fact that the registry for all .COM domains is the the US made their domain subject to seizure.

At the end of the day, local companies should be proud of their origin, and for practical reasons as well as sentiment, should use the local domain.


Presidential Candidates Confirmed

At 4 pm yesterday, Alderney time, the nominations closed for the popular election of the Island’s next President.

The candidates are confirmed as follows

Bill Simpson – businessman, writer and previously Wing-Commander in the RAF

Stuart Trought – renewable energy expert

Paul Arditti – UK solicitor and States member since January

All three of the candidates are professional men.

All three have made promises that they had a contribution to make to the future welfare of the Island.

I am pleased to note that this election is not only contested, but even better by people of this calibre. At the last election, no one even bothered to contest it, thereby depriving the People of the chance to affirm their choice of the island’s First Citizen.

It seems to me that the choice of President can only be the candidate that can best represent the Island, keep the occasionally fractious States Meetings politely but firmly in line and carries no controversy or baggage that might interfere with those duties.

And although I have a relatively firm preference for one of them (and that is where my vote is going), I am not going to recommend which one you vote for, if you have a vote. (If you were to ask me privately, I would be happy to tell you.)

But do vote for whichever candidate you think has shown best their qualities, and  commitment to the role of First Citizen and your public representative.

And do make sure to express your preference by casting your own vote at the Island Hall on Saturday, the 11th June.



Alderney Presidential candidates emerge

The Presidential Election has been officially announced. It

will be on June 11th.

So far, two candidates have publi cly declared themselves.

First out of the gate was former Renewable Energy guru Stuart Trought

Then in last week’s Journal, former RAF Wing-Commander-turned-biographer William G Simpson (not the bloke from Fifteen To One — that’s William G Stewart!).

But the rumourmill has been in full swing since Sir Norman’s official retirement announcement. And people have been falling over themselves to declare themselves as non-candidates, too many to list. (For the record, I haven’t declared I’m not running!).

But recently more names are being suggested might enter the race.

It’s very likely that at least one more late-declaring candidate will appear (nominations close on 30th May) but if even just one of the dark-horse candidates submit papers then there will be an election with four, maybe five candidates. (UPDATE: another suggested name appears to have ruled themselves out).

But if there are four or more candidates, that could almost turn the election into a lottery.

No matter how efficiently the rumour mill works, it seems to me that any late-declaring candidates will have somewhat of an uphill struggle to get their message across, since both Trought and Simpson have been working hard for some time to raise their profiles and show off their merits as potential Presidential material.

It’s all a highly interesting development in what used to be one of the world’s smallest Parliamentary democracies (Sark is smaller, but has only implemented democracy in the last 3 years or so) since last time there was a Presidential Election, there were no other candidates and Sir Norman was elected unopposed.

This time half the Island could be candidates!

It might be more chaotic, but it’s healthy for democracy



Poker domain seizures in .COM

Greg Mueller Full Tilt Poker Pro

Image via Wikipedia

Last week a court in the USA seized control of the .COM domains belonging to several online poker sites, inlcuding Poker Stars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker.

On the face of the registration records, these domain registration were owned by organisations outside the USA, although there seemed to be some suggestion that one or more of them may have been ultimately controlled by US citizens or residents.

On the one hand, it is entirely right that the courtroom is the right place for decisions like this. No excutive agency, or a law enforcement body, or even worse, domain vigilantes should have such powers.

And the face that these recent temporary seizures were done through a Court is actually good news.

Democratic countries have something called the Rule of Law which protects personal property (which the bundle of rights under a domain registration contract undoubtedly is) and it should take a court order to seize things.

On the other hand, it seems that removing something which in e-commerce terms is equivalent to both the brand and the shop window of a business, is fairly draconian, and should be resorted to in the most egregious of cases. The commercial harm that, if only for a short time, a notice is placed on a company’s website stating it has been shut down on the basis of alleged criminal activity will not be insignificant.

The question which a British or European Court would probably have asked itself before granting a Prohibitory or Mandatory Order, is whether the requested remedy was proportionate.

Full Tilt Poker logo

Image via Wikipedia

Now it seems that at least some those domain names have been returned to use.

At the time of writing is forwarding to looks to be back to normal, although I understand from what I read at (Full Tilt is licenced here in Alderney) that they have suspended real-money play from the USA. Frankly, I’m surprised that an Alderney company ever allowed US players!

But there’s a big lesson in this episode.

And it’s something that has been obvious to those of us in the domain name industry for years, but self-evidently, it’s not something that the risk management people at online poker sites have ever considered before.

It’s not only ‘foreign’ ccTLDs like Libya that have jurisidictional legal risk to an online e-commerce business. Any company which uses a .COM, .NET or any other ICANN ‘gTLD’ domain name places itself at risk of losing its entire business and voluntarily puts itself within US jurisdiction.

And it’s not only criminal proceedings in above-average risk sectors (such as online poker) that are vulnerable.

Any non-country-code domain name can be disputed in an American court. And well established, legal businesses could find themselves on the end of an expensive, and inconvenient ‘reverse cyber hijacking’ attempt in a US court. It’s happened before, and it will happen again. In 1997the British owners of PRINCE.COM had to take swift  legal action in London’s High Court to keep their domain from an American company who, as an American company, believed they had a better right to it

Suddenly your local country-code domain name might seem like a much better to do business in.

And the long-awaited ICANN ‘new generics’ much less so.

Oh, and an amusing postscript and shameless piece of self-promotion.

The country-code for the Bailiwick of Guernsey, which includes Alderney, is actually ‘GG’ which is poker terminology for ‘Good Game’. I can hear Bruce Forsyth in my head already!





.LY prediction comes true

Coat of arms of Libya -- the

Image via Wikipedia

Several weeks ago, in one of my first articles on Notes from a Small Island I noted that there was systemic risk in using domain names registered in foreign countries such as Libya.

And by ‘foreign’, I don’t mean overseas, I mean ‘different – culturally, linguistically, and jurisdictionally’.

Libya scores pretty high in all those categories, and in view of the recent problems experienced by LETTER.LY I am not above a passing ‘I told y’all so’.

In summary, because of communication difficulties caused by the Libyan civil war, it appears that  this particular .LY domain registration couldn’t be renewed and went off the air temporarily.

Now both .GG and .JE (the Channel Islands) have their own a small share of’ domain hack’ registrations.

GG has several different flattering meaning in Chinese internet slang. It also means ‘good game’ to computer gamers and Internet chess and poker players. There’s even a Tennessee religious group. JE means ‘I’ in French, and both ‘you’ and ‘little’ in Dutch.

The registry welcome overseas registrants — there are no artificial restrictions on registration at all, although it’s important to note that we are not advertising or promoting the domains as anything at all other than the local official two letter codes for the Channel Islands. It is clear in the Agreement, that the contract of registration is under our laws, and our courts have jurisdiction.

Location map of the Channel Islands

Image via Wikipedia


Fortunately, we have had a stable system of government and an independent judiciary for many hundreds of years – as a common-law jurisdiction under the English Crown. This gives registrants, in the same way as international banks and others in the finance industry who open branches of their businesses locally, a large amount of comfort that our system is logical and predictable and operates under the Rule of Law.

But if a third party raises a dispute over a GG or JE name, you will either have to resolve it in our equivalent of the UDRP, or hire a local Advocate to represent you in court.

And that might be an inconvenience, to say the least, depending on where you are from.



Alderney Presidential Election

This very afternoon I received in my box, courtesy of the Guernsey Post, the April 2011 Presidential Newsletter.

COA Alderney

Image via Wikipedia


Sir Norman explains very well many of the subtleties of the
constitutional legal background to the appointment of the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Bailiffs of Guernsey and Jersey, and of our own Presiding Officer, the President of the States of Alderney.

But then he goes on to state that the President of the States ‘has a mandate’ (that is to say, a political role) because he or she is elected by the People, not appointed.

With respect to Sir Norman’s 10 year Presidential reign, the President’s role as ‘the States’ conscience’ does not derive from the relatively modern innovation of popular election (which has only been the case since 1948) but is inherited from the ancient customary law duty of the Juge (judge) in Alderney, the same duty being upon the Bailiffs in Guernsey and Jersey, to ensure that the States Members were fully informed of the views of the People. That duty came about in ancient times when the majority of Islanders could neither read nor write.

A former Bailiff, quoted in a case in the European Court, said: “In Guernsey, the Bailiff “is the Island’s chief citizen and representative”. Speaking of the casting vote, he went on to say “in Guernsey, in general, the Bailiff uses his voice to ensure a further investigation of questions on which the States are in doubt”.

It cannot be doubted that, in Alderney, that role is carried out by the President, and the Presidential office is the successor-in-law to the last Juge (Judge Sir Frank Wiltshire). Furthermore, it must be the case, as an integral part of the Bailiwick, that same constitutional conventions that applies to the Bailiff in Guernsey must apply to the President when carrying out the same role, such as when the States is faced with an equally divided vote.

Yet in his newsletter, Sir Norman goes on to set out the circumstances in which he believes when the President may take on a political role, although he says these circumstances are limited.

As respected scholar Peter Hogg wrote: “Conventions are rules of the constitution which are not enforced by the law courts. Because they are not enforced by the law courts they are best regarded as non-legal rules, but because they do in fact regulate the working of the constitution they are an important concern ….”

With very the greatest of respect, I feel that Sir Norman’s assessment of the circumstances a President may be political is entirely wrong.

The President should never take on a political role – his job is, above all — in the House — to keep the politicians in line.

And, in plain language, he cannot be a player as well as a referee.

Any time the President joins in to the political fray, it seems to me, no matter how infrequently, he diminishes the respect for, and effectiveness of the office. Fortunately that has not, so far as I can remember, happened on more than one or two occasions in the last 10 or 12 years.

Finally, there seems to be a contradiction in the Newsletter. If we accept after all that the President has any political role (although I say he should not have), it follows that any candidate for that role cannot be inhibited from campaigning for the office. Indeed to do so, would deny the very mandate that President Browse suggests that he has.

In any election it must be for the People, not an elected politician, no matter how respected, to judge if a style of campaigning is appropriate or not, using their ultimate power, that of their vote.

And, as a democracy, we should trust the electorate to decide who is the better candidate.

I therefore look forward to the May Billet and to learning who the candidates for the forthcoming Presidential Election in Alderney shall be.


Small Island – the movie

Dawn Over Braye Beach - Alderney

Image by neilalderney123 via Flickr

Since starting writing this blog, a number of people have asked me what the small island actually looks like.

So for anyone who is interested, please see the attached video prepared by the Tourist Department and

View the streaming video

Note: Since VISITALDERNEY.COM has done a revamp, the old link to the video is not working. As soon as I find it again, I will update this post.

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