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.au direct registrations: a regrettable decision?

The news that auDA has decided to go ahead with direct registrations in the .au namespace is disappointing, but not surprising.

This time last year, auDA announced it was considering direct registrations (aka second-level registrations) in the .au namespace. This would allow the registrations of names such as itwire.au.

At the time, I asked 'Open second-level .au domains - cui bono?', concluding the real beneficiaries will be the domain name industry, due to the likelihood of defensive registrations.

And in August I explained 'Why I don't want direct .au registrations'.

The auDA board has accepted the recommendation of the 2015 Names Policy Panel that direct registrations should be introduced. With my comments interspersed, auDA says direct registrations will:

Make available domain names which are shorter, more appealing and more memorable
Shorter and more memorable, perhaps; more appealing, arguably; but also more confusing. And there's no additional value for all those people who reach websites via search engines rather than typing in a full URL.

Give Australians more choice in deciding what domain name to register
Not really, because the suggestion is that existing registrants will be given first chance at direct registrations.

Respond to market demand
Demand by registrants or by registrars?

Be more attractive to natural individuals than the current option, id.au
Perhaps, but there are a lot more people with the same name than there are companies, and competition will be even greater in .au due to to overlapping claims between business and individuals. John Bonds and all the other people with the surname Bonds would be in competition with the company behind Bonds clothing brand for bonds.au. They'd also have to compete with anyone with the surname Bond that wanted bonds.au, because bonds.id.au has been registered by a Bond, not a Bonds. Experience in other namespaces suggests that names in high demand in newly-created namespaces will be effectively allocated on the basis of who will pay the most.

Strengthen the “.au brand” in a globally competitive market
Given that .au is restricted to Australians and Australian businesses (though they may be foreign-owned), this seems completely irrelevant to the discussion.

Add value to all three main categories of users – registrars and resellers, registrants and ultimate users of the .au domain name system
Registrars, resellers and those who get around the rules intended to prevent the trade in domain names will benefit. The benefits for registrants and internet users seem illusory to me.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.