• IT
  • Digital

New ‘.au’ domain names – 7 things your business should know

A woman in a pink top sits at a computer

If you run a business in Australia, you probably already have a website – or have at least thought about getting one.

Your website can be a great place to showcase what you do or what you sell, attract new customers, and create trust in your business.

Most businesses in Australia will have registered a .com.au domain name. You need to have a valid ABN to register one, so it’s a quick and easy way of letting your customers know that you are an entity with a presence in Australia.

But from March 2022 the way we register domain names in Australia is changing, and it’s the biggest shake-up to domain names in the last 20 years.

So, what do you need to know and what are the opportunities and risks for your business?

1. What are the changes to Australian domain names?

From 24 March 2022, Australians have access to shorter and simpler domain names with the introduction of direct .au domain names.

Previously, it was only possible to license lower level .au domain names, such as com.au, net.au, org.au, and so on.

This means you’re now able to register and use a shorter domain name, such as yourbusiness.au rather than yourbusiness.com.au.

If you already have a domain name ending in .au, and you registered it before 24 March 2022, the matching .au direct domain has been placed on a 6-month priority hold for you – meaning that you have the first choice to register it.

So, for example, if Joe owns joesbusiness.com.au, he has until 20 September 2022 to register joesbusiness.au as well.

After this priority period, the .au domain will become available to the general public on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.

It’s for this reason that the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) recommends that all Australian businesses with existing domain names register the .au equivalents.

In addition to protecting your cybersecurity, shorter and simpler domains can be helpful for branding and marketing, making them more memorable to your customers and clients.

2. Who is eligible for a .au domain?

To be eligible for a .au domain, you must have a current Australian presence. This includes:

  • an Australian registered company
  • an Australian partnership or sole trader
  • an owner of an Australian registered trade mark
  • an Australian registered charity
  • an Australian registered political party
  • a trust where the trustee is an Australian citizen
  • a foreign company licensed to trade in Australia
  • a permanent Australian resident or citizen (not supported at the time of launch)

A domain name ending in the .au namespace (com.au, .net.au, .org.au, .edu.au etc.) tells us that the business, organisation or individual using it has a connection to Australia. There are also specific rules around whether you can register domains in the .au namespace.

You’ll see businesses and companies using domains such as .com.au or .net.au, a charity using .org.au and governments using .gov.au, as some examples.

These rules are administered by the .au Domain Administration, known as the auDA, a not-for-profit organisation that works with a range of stakeholders including industry, government and the Australian and international community.

3. How much does a .au domain name cost?

auDA lists the wholesale price of a .au domain at $8.67 per year including GST. Registrars set the retail price so it’s worth shopping around to find a registrar with a competitive price and whose services meet your needs.

You should also be aware that the initial registration price may change or increase when it comes time to renew.

Generally, you can register a domain name for between one and 5 years, with extensions available if you continue to meet the eligibility requirements for the domain.

4. What action should you take?

Be prepared to register your .au direct domain by following these steps:

  1. Review your current domain’s contact information to ensure that everything is current and accurate.
  2. Check Whois lookup to ensure the eligibility info (that is, ABN, ACN, etc.) listed on your domain is current and accurate.
  3. Check if your domain is eligible for priority status by using auDA’s priority status tool.

Once you’re ready, you can apply for your .au domain through your existing domain name registrar, or by visiting any auDA accredited registrar. Read on for more information about this process.

5. How can you reserve a .au direct domain during the priority period?

The .au direct domain priority period runs from 24 March 2022 to 20 September 2022.

During this time, you can:

  • apply for the exact match of any existing .au domain name that you are the registrant of. If there is more than one claim to the same domain, such as the registrants of businessname.com.au and businessname.net.au both applying, these names will be allocated according to the Priority Allocation Process.
  • register new .au direct names that are not already registered in the .au registry (i.e. names are not registered in any existing .au namespace such as com.au or org.au etc.)

You can reserve your .au domain name through your existing domain name registrar, or by visiting any auDA accredited registrar.

Once your application is approved, you should be able to complete your registration and start using the .au direct domain shortly after that.

6. What are the benefits of a .au domain name for your business?

This new category of domain name allows users to register shorter, more memorable online names.

This can be good for your branding, marketing and advertising – after all, the more memorable your brand is, the better.

Registering the different variations makes it easier for people to find your website and provides you with the simplest website possible for your branding and marketing.

Even if you don’t plan on using the new .au direct domain name, registering it now ensures you have access to it in the future. This will also help you protect yourself, your business or your organisation from attempts at fraud or types of cybercrime.

7. What happens if your business doesn’t register a .au direct domain?

You don’t have to register the .au direct domain if you don’t want to. This process is optional and does not affect your existing .au domain names. Your existing name in the .au domain will continue to operate as it does today, provided you keep your registration up to date.

However, it’s important to consider the risks of not doing so, including cybersecurity risks.

Your domain name is an important part of your business – its identity, brand and marketing. If you choose not to buy your .au direct domain, then following the end of the priority period on 20 September 2022, it will become possible for others to register it.

It’s generally a good idea to register the different endings of domain names, such as the .com and the .com.au versions. The same thinking applies to new .au domains.

That’s why the ACSC recommends that all Australian businesses with existing domain names register the .au equivalents.

If you don’t register the .au alternative, it’s also possible that someone else could step in and take it. Consider this risk carefully and how it might affect your business and its operation in the future.

This could create an opportunity for someone to impersonate your business and conduct fraudulent cyber activity, such as creating a fake website or sending emails to people pretending to be your business.

Your clients might not spot that the invoice they’ve just received was from accounts@yourbusiness.au and not your actual email address accounts@yourbusiness.com.au.

Activity such as this can result in you and your clients losing money and it can also be a hit to your reputation and the level of trust your customers have with you.

Tracing cybercriminals can be difficult, and it can also be complicated to regain a domain name once it is registered to someone else, so as always, prevention is key.

The new .au domain names can be a good opportunity for you to secure a shorter website name for your business, helping you appeal to customers, create trust and improve your marketing.

However, it’s also important to protect your business, your clients or customers, and yourself during this process.

It’s important to use the priority registration period from now until 20 September 2022 to register any .au domains that you’re entitled to claim. This will ensure no one else can access them once the priority registration period ends.

Take this opportunity and secure your .au name through your existing domain name registrar, or by visiting any auDA accredited registrar – and share this information with friends and fellow business owners to ensure they’re ready as well.