If you use an Australian domain name, then this applies to you.
auDA (the Australian domain name regulator) wants to introduce “direct registration”, and it is supposedly coming soon. Panels, public consultation, focus groups and roadshows have all been done. All boxes ticked as far as auDA is concerned.
The trouble is, a lot of SME’s wouldn’t even have a clue this is happening; and if they are aware; I’ll bet you bottom dollar that they don’t know all their rights and entitlements.
So I’ve put up some Questions and Answers to assist those not in the know.
Q & A
Q: What is “direct registration” – and how does it affect you or any other small business?
A: It is the ability to register an Australian domain name at the “second level” instead of the current “third level” e.g. yourname.com.au or yourname.net.au is “third level”; yourname.au is “second level” or “direct registration”. There are many who would welcome this; and equally, many who wouldn’t.
Q: If you currently use a domain name e.g. yourname.com.au, are you guaranteed of getting yourname.au?
A: No. auDA has an allocation process, and there may be other eligible candidates (including Government departments!). (See real life example below).
Q: Could a competitor of mine end up with yourname.au?
A: Yes, it is possible. (See real life example below).
Q: If I / we choose to be part of the allocation process, is it going to cost me / us money?
A: Yes. Unlike their counterparts in NZ and the UK, auDA intends charging a fee to anyone eligible to apply for allocation; and this fee could be ongoing year after year until someone “wins”.
Q: Who gets that money?
A: The supply side of the domain name business – auDA, Afilias (the registry operator), and registrars.
Q: Should I / we be successful in acquiring yourname.au, and decide to keep yourname.com.au as well, do I / we have to pay two registration fees every year?
A: Yes. If you don’t pay both, then one of the domain names will expire, and theoretically anybody (including your competition) can pick it up.
Q: How come I / we haven’t been told directly about this proposed process (and all the small print) by auDA or our registrar? They have my / our email address.
A: Now that’s a really good question! A few of us have been agitating for ages for that to happen.
Here is an example of what could happen
Sport.com.au is an extremely valuable domain name. But are the current registrants guaranteed of acquiring Sport.au? Unfortunately not.
These are all the entities that have the rights to apply for allocation; and yes, they all have to pay a fee if they want to stand a chance. And keeping paying that fee until attrition rules. Of course, the current registrant of Sport.com.au could try and do a “deal” with everyone else on this list. Good luck with that!
There is some good news
DoCA (Department of Communications and the Arts) have now requested auDA to consult further with business before they implement any changes to the .au landscape. The auDA Chair has committed to this on the 21st August 2019.
As an added factor, there will also be a complete new auDA Board in place come November, and that any big decisions should hopefully be reviewed with fresh eyes.
As always, happy to be corrected if I have anything wrong. Comments are also welcome.
Ned O’Meara – 10th September 2019
I have fought hard against direct registration over many years. This includes being a dissenting member of 2015 Names Panel. I was also the initial Demand Class representative of the PRP until I briefly became an auDA Director. But I also believe in proper process, and if this happens – including all registrants being properly notified – (and I’m on the losing side), then I accept that outcome.