Why you should vote YES to opening .au for direct registrations

Written on 03 September, 2015 by Brett Fenton
Categories: Domains | Tags: domain names

Over the years, there have been a number of discussions around whether or not the .au domain name should be available for registrations directly in the second level. An example of a second level registration would be companyname.au rather than companyname.com.au. This discussion has recently come up again, as .au Domain Administration Ltd (auDA) has proposed changes to the existing policy that would allow Australians to register .au second-level domains, and are asking for submissions or votes via an online survey before they make their final decision.

Why you should vote “yes”

Opening up registrations directly in the second level would be hugely beneficial for Australian businesses.

  • It would create more options for businesses
  • It would allow them to register names that were shorter and easier to remember
  • We receive a large number of requests for .au domains from our clients, suggesting that they would be incredibly popular, and the results of second level domains being made available overseas suggest the same.

How have other countries responded to this growing consumer interest in second level names?

In the last 12 months, for example, the New Zealand Registry Services (NZRS) and UK registry Nominet have opened up second-level domain registrations for .nz and .uk, and this has been extremely successful. At the end of July 2015, Nominet had seen a total of 382,648 registered second level domain names, while NZRS had a total of 94,823 at the end of June 2015. These numbers are continuing to climb, demonstrating clearly that there is both a need and want for the second level domain registrations.

This is a list of the top 20 ccTLDs (country code domain names) as of early 2014. Do you notice anything immediately obvious about the list?

Top Country Code TLDs

(Well, other than the #1 space being one you’ve never heard of. Tokelau is a New Zealand territory in the South Pacific and their domain space is used for free registrations. Don't believe me?

http://www.dot.tk/

Go ahead, register one, it only takes a few minutes.)

So, other than that: anything else? How about: in the top 20 spaces, .au is the only space that doesn't have registrations available directly in the second level. Some only have the second level domain space available, for example anything.de, but in other spaces like .uk, you are able to register in both the second (anything.uk) and the third level (anything.co.uk).

So why is .au the exception?

I continually hear the argument that if you have competing second and third level domains, for example anything.au and anything.com.au, it's "too confusing". I keep asking what exactly is "confusing", but thus far I've not had a sensible answer. I don't know about you, but if I want to go to a particular website, I'll either type it into Google and then click on the appropriate search result, or if it's something from print or TV media, I just type in the address directly. Am I missing something?

My usual response to this argument is that the .au space is already confusing. I can register anything.com.au or anything.net.au; both have the same commercial purpose and the same rules for registration. They are therefore two identical spaces, save for three little letters. Is there mass confusion in the marketplace? Has anyone gone to whirlpool.com.au when they wanted to participate in an online forum, only to find a white-goods website and become hopelessly lost and confused? Or did they just simply google the right address, and get right to where they wanted to go? Did it take more than 10 seconds for them to recognise the mistake and fix it?

You might say well, that's only one example. It is, but there are thousands and thousands of these, both in .au and in the global .net versus .com spaces, where for good measure you can also add in .biz and .info and so on. This argument is a red herring, put forward usually without any real thought by people who just don't want change.

The other area of resistance to the proposed change is from the 'domainer' community. Domainers buy domains purely to sell later at a profit, and monetise their domain portfolio through the traffic that arrives at the domain. You could say domainers have a vested interest in the discussion around opening up second level registrations as more choice in the marketplace could potentially make their existing .com.au domains less valuable.

Now is the time to take action

The existing second levels we have are nothing more than a historical hangover from the time when the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) delegated the management of .au to Robert Elz, who simply copied and pasted most of the gTLD (global Top Level Domains) model from the late part of the 20th century. It's a cumbersome system that is poorly understood by Joe Public.

I believe we should make it simple: let people choose whether they want a simpler domain or a more complicated one. Over time, the market and people exercising freedom of choice will decide what the better space is.

auDA are considering this change now and waiting on feedback from the public. If you want a simpler domain in .au, now is the time to head over to:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WKZZLPV

It will take you less than 5 minutes to complete the survey, and we strongly encourage people to vote to support the change - it's time the .au space joined the rest of the world in the 21st century!

Brett Fenton has been a director of auDA, is on a number of names panels and is currently the Chief Customer Officer of Melbourne IT Group. This opinion piece reflects Brett’s own views and is not necessarily reflective of the company’s views.