Direct .au registrations could harm Aussie brands
Australian businesses face substantial damage from changes to Australia’s domain name landscape which have been made without proper industry consultation, digital marketing and SEO agency StewArt Media has warned.
The .au Domain Administration (auDA) announced last week that the owner of any .com.au domain registered after April 2016 will not automatically have a claim to the .au version of the domain, regardless of trademark.
StewArt Media said it has confirmed that neither the Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry nor the NSW Chamber of Commerce were aware of the change to the domain registration process.
“auDA is forcibly implementing what they are calling ‘new direct AU registrations’, but changing domain names is dangerous and expensive territory for Australian businesses,” StewArt Media CEO Jim Stewart said.
“The question of who will have claim over the ‘.au’ domain name when ‘.net.au’ and ‘.com.au’ have already been registered is one of the many unanswered questions by the auDA ... the primary concern is the money and time businesses will have to spend to retain the value of their domain name once the direct ‘.au’ update is in effect.”
Stewart said that a member of auDA’s own policy review panel, Brett Fenton, acknowledged in 2015 that the move will devalue existing .com.au domains. But Fenton was specifically talking about companies that buy domains to sell later at a profit and monetise their domain portfolio through the traffic that arrives at the domain by accident.
“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,” he wrote.
Fenton’s argument for opening up direct .au registrations was that it would allow businesses to register domains that are 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,” he wrote.
He downplayed arguments that allowing competing second- and third-level domains would be too confusing for customers and said any mistaken visits to the wrong domain could be easily rectified for searching for the website name in Google.
“This argument is a red herring, put forward usually without any real thought by people who just don’t want change,” he wrote.
But Stewart said the threat of brand devaluation is real. “New businesses need to make a decision about their future brands. Will your .com.au become less valuable if there is a competing .au? One strategy to combat this is to register a TLD like a .com,” he said.
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