Australians can soon expect to see websites with a new domain address, '.au'. The national regulator for domains, auDA (.au Domain Administration), is planning to open up direct registrations for the domain address '.au', dropping the current requirement for '.com', '.net' or other similar prefixes.
auDA is near the end of a public consultation period for how the new '.au' addresses will be introduced and managed. A key issue for the review is the right of existing domain holders and businesses to the new addresses. Specifically, whether existing '.com.au' holders should have a first right of ownership over a '.au' equivalent.
Several other significant changes to domain registration in Australia may also be on the cards (see below).
However some domain registration requirements won't be changing. Unlike many other countries, Australia requires a valid ABN or ACN to register addresses like '.com.au' and '.net.au'.
The public and industry stakeholders are welcome to comment on the new domain implementation. The consultation period ends by the close of business on March 4.
Diversification of domain addresses
The new domain is arguably the biggest shake-up to web addresses in Australia since the original '.com.au' and similar domains were introduced over 30 years ago.
Opening the '.au' domain follows a recent push toward less traditional website addresses. Non-country aligned domains have opened up in recent years, including '.law'.
For users, the change will be simple. If you're looking for the Google Australia website, instead of going to 'google.com.au', you can go to 'google.au'.
Other non-traditional domains have been introduced in the past few years. '.sydney' and '.melbourne' became available in 2014, however uptake appears to be low.
Possible big changes to Australian domain names
The auDA's current public consultation is asking several big questions on the future of domain governance in Australia.
It asks whether '.net.au' and '.asn.au' domains should no longer be available; and whether state specific domains should also be made available, like '.au'.
Further details, including how to comment, are available at the auDA's 2017 Policy Review Panel page here.
It is not clear when direct '.au' domain names will be made available for purchase by the general public.