Could your business be affected by auDA’s proposed domain-name shake-up?

Are you an Australian business owner who has or is trying to establish a brand online?

According to a group of online-marketing and domain-name experts, growing or maintaining your presence online in Australia may soon become more difficult and expensive due to policy changes proposed by the Australian domain authority, auDA via a Policy Review Panel (PRP).

These changes will impact the way individuals and businesses register a domain online.


So what are the proposed changes?


The changes include:

  • Allowing non-ASCII characters (such as Cyrillic and Chinese characters) in domain names
  • Creating another way for individuals and organisations to register a domain direct to .au (as opposed to the many already available Australian domain name extensions such as .com.au, .net.au, .gov.au, .edu.au, .asn.au, .idu.au and others).

Why is auDA proposing these changes? 


auDA has pitched these changes via the PRP as a way of offering ‘choice’ as well as to ‘reduce confusion’ between various domains, but a number of experts warn this may not be the case.

Even on the auDA board, not everyone agrees the changes will provide a net benefit for Australian businesses.

Current auDA board directors Ned O’Meara and Nicole Murdoch have previously published their opinions on the matter online (their original site has since gone offline, and since we published this story Google has even taken down its cached version*), writing: ‘We … did not agree with the need for direct registrations… It will effectively be a “double tax” on existing registrants – and an unnecessary “cash grab” by some.’

A member of the auDA and the Australian Consumer Communications Action Network (ACCAN) and of auDA spoke with The Pulse after attending both the Sydney and Melbourne auDA PRP seminars.

“This process will make auDA, lawyers and a few, mostly supply individuals and their companies, a lot of money while costing the Australian business community a fortune and creating chaos, damaging the .au domain name extension and namespace globally, which is one of the most highly regarded, valued and secure.”

Brett Fenton, a prior Director of auDA who is currently Chief Customer Officer of Melbourne IT Group (a ‘supply-side’ business and reseller of domain names), is also on the auDA PRP panel.

Fenton appears to describe one of the major concerns and the damage it could do to existing .au domain name owners:

‘…opening up second level registrations as more choice in the marketplace could potentially make their existing .com.au domains less valuable.’


How could direct .au domain registrations impact your business?


Extra cost

In multiple submissions to the auDA and public media releases, businesses such as realestate.com.au, carsales.com.au and organisations such as ACCAN have described how the introduction of a competing domain name will represent an extra cost, while also opening up consumers to fraud.

Digital marketing expert and auDA member Jim Stewart attended the recent Melbourne PRP seminar. Stewart now actively recommends that his clients contact Minister Mitch Fifield to lodge their complaints and concerns about what’s being proposed and the process that has been followed by auDA and the auDA PRP.

READ: Help! Someone has registered my domain name

Fraud

“I tried to make the case to the panel that the introductions of a competing domain will cause businesses to simply go out and attempt to purchase defensive domain names, adding cost to their business,” said Stewart.

“If they don’t, they run the risk of having a third party start competing on their own brand name in search results and potentially defrauding their customers.

“This is already hurting the good reputation the .au name space and especially the valuable and respected .com.au has enjoyed for so many years.”


When will these changes come into effect?


Right now, these are proposals only.

Will Bond from the board of the auDA recently confirmed this via interview at Power Retail:

“… no decisions on implementation have been made and the Policy Review Panel is still developing its recommendations. The panel encourages feedback from all stakeholders on this issue, and the other issues raised in the recent Registrant Policy Issues paper, to ensure the best outcome for the entire Australian Internet Community.”

But with fewer than 100 people attending the PRP seminars, experts are concerned that a lack of scrutiny may allow the auDA to introduce these changes without obstruction.


How can you find out more or voice your opinion?


To share your thoughts with the relevant authorities, consider emailing auDA, the ACCC and the Department of Communications and the Arts (DoCA).

Contact auDA

Contact the ACCC

Contact DoCA

*A PDF screenshot of this webpage is the only currently available version, available here.