At a glance
By Abigail Murison
According to analytics company Contentsquare, 58 per cent of all online visits in 2021 were made on smartphones. In a mobile-first world where you’re typing with your thumbs, an extra four keystrokes in a website address can make a big difference.
However, until recently, the only option for Australian businesses and organisations was a website address that included a .com / .net / .org / .edu namespace convention before the .au internet country code.
That’s all changed.
In March 2022, Australia’s domain name authority .au Domain Administration Limited (auDA) opened registrations for the .au direct domain.
A six-month priority registration window for existing businesses wanting to secure their matching .au direct domain closes on 20 September 2022.
After that date, all .au direct domain names will become available to be registered by the general public.
Given the IP wrapped up in a website address, securing the .au direct domain equivalent is an important value preservation option for businesses, charities and other organisations.
“We’ve had over 140,000 people register for the exact match of their domain,” says Rosemary Sinclair FCPA, CEO of auDA, “but there are 3.6 million registered domains in Australia, so there’s a way to go.
“We’ve been working hard to get the message out. Trusted advisers like CPA Australia members can help let businesses know about the .au direct option.”
A question of trust
Sinclair, who is also a CPA Australia board member, says the .au direct domain isn’t replacing other website address options; rather, it’s a new member of the family.
Apart from providing existing Australian businesses with a shorter website option, it leverages the high level of trust in the .au domain.
“The robust licensing rules for .au mean that there are very low levels globally of abuse of the domain name system,” Sinclair says.
“Australians know that a .au website is a trusted website. That’s great for Australian commerce, because the business opportunities that flow from the consumers trusting a website are enormous.”
Affordable online presence
Sinclair also sees the .au direct domain as a huge opportunity for new Australian innovators, inventors, entrepreneurs and others with great ideas or a new side hustle to establish a web presence, without having to decide on an organisational structure or how their idea will be implemented in full.
“Someone can have a really good idea and come to us for a domain name in .au direct,” she says.
“From the user’s point of view, the website name is simpler, more memorable. We don’t have to figure out whether the organisation is interested in using .net.au or .com.au or .org.au, we can just go for .au.”
An estimated 86 per cent of Australians (22.4 million people) currently own a smartphone, and online shopping is expected to increase by 8.9 per cent this year.
Taking an idea online as early as possible can create value for the website owner and the community: making a business, not-for-profit or great idea discoverable and shareable.
Sinclair says auDA has deliberately kept the wholesale registration cost of the .au direct domain very affordable – less than A$10 per domain name per year – to ensure that price is not a barrier to existing or new businesses joining the .au domain name system.
While the domain registrars will add a mark-up for the additional services they provide, such as website hosting and cyber security, the retail registration cost will still be modest.
Consultation on introducing a .au direct domain began more than five years ago.
In 2019, Sinclair says the community agreed that Australia was ready for the new option. auDA then started work in earnest: from engaging with the registrars who provide domain name services, to the technology changes required to introduce a new domain, to undertaking communications in conjunction with domain-name registrars to raise awareness.
The economic and business response during the COVID-19 pandemic reaffirmed the need for a shorter, direct country domain.
“All around the world, domain authorities had record registrations of small businesses innovating rapidly and deciding to use a website as part of their delivery channel, information channel or their service channel,” says Sinclair.
“Watching this, we thought, ‘domain names are a lead indicator of economic activity, and while the economic impact of the pandemic is going to be bad, it might not be as bad as everybody thinks because of the new ways people have found of doing business’.”
Have the conversation
The new .au direct domain presents a great opportunity for business advisers to discuss the potential benefits of going online.
Says Sinclair: “If we think about the productivity and efficiency benefits of technology, there are really good reasons for people to get their domain name and start building their online presence at their own pace.
“It’s the journey that accountants and business professionals are on, and that all businesses should be on. We should be automating where possible, and the web has a huge role to play in helping us do that.”