When Australian .au second-level domains, such as brandshelter.au, are released on 24th March 2022, it will open up a whole new namespace of shorter, regionally unique domain names for local products and businesses. This is a unique opportunity for brands and businesses looking to build or optimise their online presence in Australia. BrandShelter spoke with Leon Cavanagh, BrandShelter's Business Development Manager in Australia and New Zealand, about the benefits of having .au domains, how to register them and which role third level registrations play in this process.
BrandShelter: Leon, you are Australian, live in Sydney and have been working for nearly 5 years in the domain industry, how do you rate the launch of the .au TLD?
It’s a welcomed announcement. There has been a lot of public consultation carried out on the .au release, as far back as 2015 up until 2019.
I believe this will be a fantastic opportunity for businesses and brand owners. They’ve been waiting a number of years for this release with a few false starts but we are finally here.
The .au web address was born over 30 years ago. It was originally allocated by the IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) to a computer programmer at Melbourne University back in 1986. As the popularity of .com.au domains grew in 1996, maintaining these TLDs were handed over to a commercial department of the University. It wasn’t until 2001 that auDA (.au Domain Administration) was formed and ultimately took over operating the .au TLD. Fast forward to 2017 and Afilias Australia Pty Ltd was appointed to provide registry services to the .au domain as of the 1st July 2018. Australian domain name registrations has grown from about 270,000 in 2002 to 3.1 Million in 2018.
BrandShelter: That's a good point, the introduction of the .au TLD has been a long time coming, do you think it's even needed anymore?
For sure, Australia is coming in line with other Top Level Domains such as .us, .nz & .uk, it had to happen.
auDA has relaxed the requirements for registering a direct .au domain name making it more available to both individuals and businesses. This will make the launch of the direct .au a successful one considering how tricky the rules and regulations are with registering the existing 3rd Level domains com.au, net.au, org.au and so on.
All you require is:
Simply register a name of your choice, subject to auDA’s licensing rules and the Priority Allocation Process.
Existing Registrants of third .au domains will have Priority Allocation on securing their matching direct .au domain. This priority allocation will hold your namespace from general release for up to 6 months. If there are two separate registrants with the same third level domain name, then it’s decided from the point of registration of the initial third level domain.
And of course there are the advantages of a new name space.
BrandShelter: What do you mean by the advantages of a new name space?
Brand owners now have the opportunity to register shorter and more memorable domains names which don’t have to match their registered business certificate
I’ve been having conversations with Australian customers who are looking at abbreviations of their brands, snapping these up on the go live date of March 24th 2022.
This presents a great opportunity to brand owners to secure these unique and shorter domains for their brands and let's face it, everyone wants a shorter unique domain to identify their online presence.
And, of course, Brand owners that already own the third-level domain under com.au or net.au will be given priority allocation to secure the same namespace in the second level, locking out these domains to the general public release on the 24th of March.
If a brand owner doesn’t already own a third-level domain then this is a perfect time to register this, giving them priority allocation for the second-level domain.
BrandShelter: So, there are no restrictions on choosing a domain name in the .au namespace?
In contrast to third-level, second-level registrants can choose their domain name without being restricted by a trademark or business entity name. For example, it is now possible to register not only brandname.au, but also to register bestoffer.au. However, you must still have Australian presence to register a domain in the .au namespace.
BrandShelter: You mentioned a Priority Allocation earlier, what does this mean?
If you have already registered a third-level domain, you can benefit from auDA's Priority Allocation Process. Holders of a third-level domain can be prioritised through a “Priority Application” for a second-level registration. Depending on when you registered your third-level domain will dictate the priority category you are placed in and the probability as to whether you will win the .au domain. You can apply for this status within the six-month process in order to have a chance to obtain the matching .au domain.
BrandShelter lets you know what your priority category you would be in and helps you make a Priority Application.
BrandShelter: How do the Priority categories differ in the Priority Allocation Process?
A distinction is made between two Priority categories.The category assignment depends on the registration date of the corresponding third-level domain. Anyone who registered before or on 4th February 2018 is assigned to Priority category 1. In contrast, anyone who registered a domain after this key date is assigned to Priority category 2. Priority category 1 is ranked above Priority category 2.
BrandShelter: So, does it make sense to register a third-level domain in addition to pre-register an .au second-level domain?
Yes definitely. Anything that can help you secure the new second level domain name.
With help of a third-level registration, you can increase your chances of getting the matching .au domain. This is due to the six-month Priority Allocation Process, which prioritises third-level registrants for an identical second-level registration.
BrandShelter helps you with the registration of .au domains on third-level as well as with the pre-registration of .au second-level domains.
BrandShelter: And if I already have a third-level domain?
If you have already registered a third-level domain, you can benefit from auDA's Priority Allocation Process as described above.
BrandShelter lets you know what your priority category you would be in and helps you make a Priority Application.
BrandShelter: What happens if I have a third level domain and I don't apply for my second level .au name?
It will become available for registration on 20th September 2022 on a first come, first served basis. And as there are fewer restrictions, any entity or person with Australian Presence could register your string if you don’t.
With the cost of registering the new second level TLD, the same as existing third level .au TLDs, it’s a low cost route to securing your brand. As a brand owner you don’t want to be in a position of trying to acquire your namespace from a third party, following this release. An exercise which can be lengthy and very costly.
BrandShelter: If I have the same name in .com.au and net.au do I need to make a Priority Application on both?
No. You only need to make one priority application. You should, however, ensure that you complete the priority application on the domain name with the earliest registration date, which you can check on the WHOIS.
BrandShelter: What can I do if there are several third-level registrants of one name? Who gets the access rights?
If there are several third-level registrations for the same domain name, the priority categories will decide who gets the domain.
Consequently, you should first check whether there are other third-level registrants for your domain name and then apply for it in the Priority Allocation Process for the second level. The following criteria must be observed for this purpose.
Priority category 1 registrants have priority over Priority category 2 registrants.
If there are multiple Priority Applications with Priority category 1, the applicants must negotiate among themselves as to who will have the .au registration. They can contact each other using the publicly available contact information on WHOIS. In the case all applicants are able to come to an agreement, the respective domain will be assigned to the specific registrant. However, if the negotiations are unsuccessful, the domain name remains unallocated.
If there are several applicants with Priority category 2, the registrant whose third-level domain was applied earlier can register the .au domain. If only one applicant applies in the period, this will be allocated the .au domain at the end of the period.
This is also the perfect time for third level .au brand owners to make sure they have a consistent domain name strategy across these third level TLDs. If you have numerous registrant names across your third level .au domain portfolio, this will only slow down and complicate the priority allocation for the brand owner. We advise all brand owners to make sure they have the registrant details of their entire third level .au portfolio up to date and consistent.
BrandShelter: When will the namespace be released to the public?
The namespace will be released to the public on the 24th March 2022 on a “first come, first served” basis. Domain strings already registered at the third-level will be put on reserve and become available after the Priority Allocation Period completed on 20th September 2022, assuming no one with rights to those make a Priority Application.
BrandShelter: If my preferred .au name is not yet registered as a third-level domain, can I wait until March 24, 2022?
Having a third level domain before 24th March gives you priority access to the second level .au registrations.
If you have the ability to register in the existing names (e.g. brandshelter.com.au) and you want the .au this is a recommended strategy.
BrandShelter: What can I do if I do not have the ability to register the domain in the existing third-level domain?
We can accept the pre-orders for non-priority .au applications in General Availability.
You can place the order online, or your Account Manager or the Customer Success team can help you.
You can also consider registering a shorter more memorable namespace that is available.
BrandShelter: Anything else I have to consider to get my .au domain?
If you have already registered a third-level domain, ensure you have the same contact information across your existing domain names. This will help speed up your allocation of an uncontested .au string and avoid any issues in not being able to respond to negotiations on priority 1 conflicts.
Consider registering the third level .au namespace before 24th of March, giving yourself the best possible chance to secure the second level.
BrandShelter: Last question, which .au domain will you register?
Great question. I think I’ll be looking at some snappy shorter domains considering the relaxed restrictions, the sky's the limit!
BrandShelter: That sounds like a plan. Thank you, Leon, for the interesting interview and all the important information.
Leon is BrandShelter's Business Development Manager in Australian and New Zealand. Leon has been helping large corporations manage their digital portfolio and driving awareness of brand protection. Leon has over four years working in the domain industry with CentralNic and helps customers shape their digital strategy for the future.
Contact hilton get more information about .au domains, check the Priority status of your .au third level domains or to submit your pre-orders: firstname.lastname@example.org.