Why we should have anything .au?

Written on 27 May, 2015 by Brett Fenton
Categories Domains Tags .au domain name auda domain names

Let’s face it, the policies and rules for .au domain names are confusing, arbitrary and burden the industry and users alike with pointless red-tape.

Our current system of names is nothing more than a cut and paste job based on the US-centric top levels created by Robert Elz nearly 30 years ago, at the dawn of the Internet age.

With the release of creative, new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) in the market, like .sydney, .guru or .website, this .au system may struggle to stay relevant. This was certainly a consideration of the operators of the .nz and .uk domain spaces in their decision to open up domains directly in the second level (that is, anything.nz or anything.uk).

auDA, as part of its periodic review of domain policy, has convened a panel to review existing policy and to consider the very important question of whether we should have registrations directly in the second level of .au. That is, just like the recent changes in .uk and .nz, we could register anything .au.

So why make the change? Why do we think it’s a good thing?

It isn’t just a case of following .nz and .uk; there are several compelling reasons for allowing direct .au domains.

Bypassing the .com.au or .org.au makes domain names shorter, snappier and more memorable.

It removes the constraints imposed by the current hierarchy of domain names, which can be very perplexing. For example, there are multiple options for each ‘user’ – .com.au or .net.au for businesses and .org.au or .asn.au for not for profits, which can also be businesses. Confused? Me too!. Unless .auDA removes the rules on eligibility for .net.au and .asn.au, these spaces are effectively redundant.

The current structure doesn’t offer many options for individual registrants who aren’t eligible for the popular .com.au. These registrants are restricted to the relatively unknown .id.au, which is broadly unheard of in the wider community. I use an id.au domain for my personal email, and I can’t tell you how many times I have to explain that yes, even though it ends in id.au, it is a valid email address. After pushing the space for well over a decade, there are just over 10,000 id.au registrations. This is a rounding error in the .au domain space of 3M domains. Ditto for the 4,000 asn.au domain names.

The hierarchy also fails to cater to groups within the national identity, such as indigenous tribes, which don’t identify as a .com.au or .org.au. And do we really need to discuss the failure that is the “community geographic domains,” which have managed to build less than 250 registrations over 7 years?

Finally, as I mentioned above, the market is changing fast. The 5 open spaces available in Australia in 2015 – .com.au and org.au, for example – have multiplied to over 500 new gTLDs of .shop, .cafe, .website and so on. In comparison to the fairly limited .com.au or .org.au, these new gTLDs allow for a degree of choice and flexibility which could potentially sideline the .au brand. The introduction of direct .au 2LDs would maintain the competitiveness of .au by combining its publicly acknowledged integrity and reliability with flexibility.

Who would this benefit? The most common answer is the Registrars. But let’s look at that the average price for a two year domain – around $25, and the wholesale price is a little over $17. So those registrations are worth $4 per domain per year. If you cost that properly including support and systems, there’s no profit in domains for registrars.

If it’s done right, the real winners are domain users.

  • It could provide choice to a large numbers of users who aren’t well accommodated by the current system.
  • It could simplify things greatly, especially policy and its burden on and cost to both users and the industry.
  • It could drive volume, which leads to economy of scale and lower pricing.

And let’s not forget that they simply present better. Shorter, simpler, less confusing.

What about existing domains?

The .nz model worked well and could be easily adapted to a release of .au. Alternately you could sunrise for ™ holders, then open the space to “first come, first served” after that. These are proven models that have been successful globally, so in reality it’s not an overly complex problem to solve.

This important opportunity for domain name reform is not limited to the introduction of new, direct 2LDs. It’s high time to shake up the arcane policy governing existing registrations. The current domain license period of exactly 2 years offers no flexibility. A period of 1 – 10 years would offer online businesses far more choice, catering to their individual needs.

auDA have given the public a clear chance to have their say on these and other important matters as part of the current policy review. You can complete a survey at  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/5XYL2WW

Or you can write you own submission answering the questions posed in the “Issues Paper” at http://auda.org.au/assets/pdf/2015npp-issues-paper.pdf

If you’re too time-pressed to write your own submission, we’ve written a brief response to the questions, answering them with what we feel is the best outcome for Internet users in Australia. You are more than welcome to download it and use as is, or edit to reflect your personal views. The pro-forma response can be downloaded here, or at the below link (or you can view the pdf version here).


Submissions deadline for responses to auDA is Monday 1st June, 2015. 





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