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Brands voice objections to top level .au domain introduction

Industry figures and brands are warning the proposed top level .au domain changes by auDA, the organisation responsible for Australian internet domains, may result in increased costs and devalued brands.

In the proposed changes, which are currently open for public comment, brands would be able to register top level .au domains such as mumbrella.au, fairfaxmedia.au or news.au. 

The changes would see existing .com.au domain holders competing for the top level .au domains, a situation which critics claim would add costs and provide little value to brands.

Former auDA executive director Josh Rowe: “There is no business case for opening up the .au domain name space.”

In its report recommending the changes, the AuDA’s policy panel said: “Direct registrations would create names which are shorter, more appealing and more memorable. They would make the domain name system simpler and easier to use.”

Former auDA executive director Josh Rowe disagrees with auDA’s claim saying: “There is no business case for opening up the .au domain name space for new registrations. In fact there are many issues which will affect every existing holder of existing .au domain names. The main issue which should concern readers of Mumbrella is the dilution of their .com.au brand.”

“The biggest concern for brands is their existing brand IP i.e. “acme.com.au” will suddenly be devalued by the introduction of the competing space of .au, where “acme.au” can be registered.

Rowe warns that if these changes go through, Australian brands will be forced to register the top level domain names just to protect their brands: “Three million current .au owners will have to cough up $100m in registration fees to defensively protect their brands.

“A hundred thousand .au names have conflicts … i.e. ‘acme.com.au and acme.net.au are owned by two different businesses’ … this will create a legal nightmare … something that organisations like REA Group and CarSales Ltd have both protested against in public submissions to auDA.”

Jason Blackman, the company’s chief technology officer, told Mumbrella: “We are not supportive of introducing new top level domains for .au.

“It seems the burden the introduction may cause to Australian businesses, who will need to protect their brand from cyber squatters, will far outweigh the limited benefits.”

Blackman and Rowe’s points are shared by Mark Crowe, managing director of Brand Finance Australia, who told Mumbrella: “Obviously domain names are integral to a brand’s identity.

“Any extension to the domain system will see brands seeking them for defensive reasons.”

When contacted by Mumbrella, auDA’s chief executive officer, Cameron Boardman, emphasised no final decision has been made on the idea as the organisation seeks further public comment: “auDA is not proposing anything at this stage. No model or implementation process has been decided.

“auDA’s board accepted, in principle, the Names Panel’s recommendation that implementation of direct registration be considered.

“The Policy Review Panel is considering the points raised in both the majority and minority reports, as well as submissions and input from a wide variety of stakeholders.

When asked why the organisation thought the proposal was worth adopting, Boardman said: “auDA considers direction registration to be worthy of consideration by the Policy Review Process because it could make the domain name system simpler and easier to use by creating names that are shorter, more appealing, and more memorable.

“Direct registration may provide a better option for entities that don’t fit neatly within existing second level domains (like .com.au or .net.au). Individuals, for example, may prefer to obtain a straight .au Australian domain name in a simple manner.

“Other jurisdictions, like the UK, Canada and New Zealand, have introduced direct registration.”

Rowe also criticised the auDA for not having an industry representative on the review panel, something acknowledged by Boardman.

“The Policy Review Panel contacted major business bodies in the country requesting nominees for a place on the consultation panel, however no one was put forward,” said Boardman.

“Nevertheless, the panel as it stands has received numerous submissions and other valuable input from business stakeholders from around the nation. The interests and views of Australian business will be a leading consideration of the panel as it formulates its recommendations.”

While the formal public consultations closed last week, Mumbrella understands there is a push within auDA’s administration to reopen submissions before the final recommendations are submitted to board in late August.

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