Australian domain name registrations work differently to the rest of the world. We think better. The reason for this is because the Australian domain system offers a certain degree of user protection.

In Australia (or outside of Australia) someone cannot register a dot au (.au) domain without having an Australian Business Number (ABN) first. This needs to be registered through the proper channels set down by the Australian government. Either in your own personal capacity, in which you are limited to your name and exact line of business, or more flexibly, in a business name, whereby you have a bit more freedom to justify the domains that suit your business.

Straight away this eliminates potential businesses registering a domain name just for the sake of it, i.e. in case their business takes off, or in case they go into business one day, or to block competitors, etc. They have to be serious contenders who have already registered their business name in Australia. This system also protects existing and future Australian businesses to a certain degree, by getting the domain name that matches their business.

The way it works is that once you have your ABN, you are entitled to register dot au (.au) domain names for your business; however the domains have to be an exact match or have a close and substantial connection to your business name. The ABN’s are controlled under the typical business and company name protection laws, thereby not allowing two entities to register the exact same names if they are in the same line of business. These laws therefore filter down to the domain level.

In most countries around the world, almost any domain can be registered by anyone. This includes the world’s major commercial standard, the .com. What this means is that anyone, in their personal or company’s capacity can register a domain without justifying the need for it. This was a major occurrence around the .com era in 2000. People and businesses registering all kinds of domain names hoping that a company would eventually become successful enough to “need” it and not care what they pay for it! This practice still exists.

You get 2 types of ways this was, and still is, practised:

  1. The first approach would be considered as unethical by most, and actually was proven unethical in a lot of cases in courts of law. An example of this would be someone registering the domain name of a long standing business with a unique name, and that business had been around for a long time before the internet came into being. So a person registering this or trying to register it was clearly standing to profit from it. Free market right.

Yes and no.

That same person wouldn’t have been allowed to register the same company name, because it was unique and it was already taken, and it would be protected under company law. But just because domains were a new thing and someone beat the rightful owners to registering it first, is not necessarily the right outcome. So this is the reason for stating the authenticity of this practice. Generally you would be protected in this scenario, however most small businesses don’t have the legal means to fight and afford these types of battles.

2. The second approach is how a lot of businesses still make money today. By registering a domain that they think will have some relevance later on, or what they perceive to be a valuable domain name already. E.g. the domain name “doctor” dot something. They will then hope some medical related business will want that domain name and buy it from them. Another approach is to register close matches to existing successful businesses, hoping that a competitor, or that same successful business, will eventually want to buy it.

As you can see the second approach could be likened to speculating and purchasing hot property by purchasing a piece of land and selling it once it appreciates; or losing money if it doesn’t appreciate! This is an honest investment opportunity whereby you are willing to take a risk, as opposed to the first approach which is clearly trying to profit off someone else's property.

So getting back to the earlier point of the Aus domain system being a better system.

It definitely is better if you are a registered business already trading in Australia, because chances are, your dot au (.au) domain is still available for registration. However, if you are an international based business looking to trade in Australia, it may not seem as appealing as your Aussie counterparts may see it. There are still ethical ways around registering an Australian domain name internationally.

(Warning: This only applies for organisations that are serious about setting up an Australian internet presence legitimately!)

An option you can look at is registering a very closely related dot com (.com) equivalent and setting up your internet presence immediately at that location, i.e. website and email addresses. Then, while you are going through the formal business proposals and registrations, you can still grow your website and online marketing presence. Once you are eligible to register your dot au (.au) domain name, it can quite simply be pointed or directed to your existing site that is already set up. That way, you have all bases covered.

NewSprout is an Australian company offering website hosting, email services, domain name registrations, broadband internet and mobiles to business and personal clients. For more information visit