Aug 05 2007
When you first start blogging, more than likely you have no idea what you’re doing, whether your blog will be successful, or whether you’ll even stick with it.
You’ll probably read advice that it’s a good idea to start on one of the free platforms – like Blogger, WordPress or TypePad. It’s hard to dispute this advice, because they are an excellent platform for learning the ropes. However, for many bloggers there comes a time when they think, should I be thinking about my own domain?
Recently I’ve seen a couple of bloggers make this agonising decision. And it IS an agonising decision. The metrics used to determine how popular a blog is (and perhaps affecting your earning ability), are all reset. Technorati links, Google PageRank, Alexa Rank all fall to zero, and you have to start building them again. If you’re lucky, you can take your feed subscribers with you, otherwise you’ve got to cross your fingers hand hope they’ll update with the move.
I made this move three months ago – which I documented in the following posts:
Probably the most common regret from bloggers is “I should have done this sooner“. So if you’re just starting out or contemplating a move, please keep that in mind.
But moving on, you’re an Australian Blogger and you’re thinking about setting up your own domain. What are your options? I’ve written a little before about .com.au vs .com, and I suppose it really depends on what your focus is going to be. If you’re focussing on a global appeal, then there’s probably no need to look at the local options – just register a dot com or other variation, and you need not be particularly concerned where your blog is hosted.
Australian Domain Choices
Arising from discussion on “Why Australian Bloggers are “Under-represented“”, it became apparent that there is a bit of confusion about the domain registration options in Australia, and the rules behind each.
Domain name registration is policed by the Australian Domain Name Administrator (auDA). The auDA “…develop and implement domain name policy, accredit and licence registrars, implement consumer safeguards and facilitate the .au Dispute Resolution Policy.”
Registry – this is a data base of all registered domain names. The registry is AusRegistry, but they do not have direct contact with people who want to register a domain name (called registrants).
Registrars – are businesses who are accredited to issue licences to registrants, and they determine if the application adheres to policy rules. Registrars have access to the registry, so they can process registrations (and renewals) from registrants (clear as mud 😉 )!
See auDA for a list of accredited registrars.
Resellers – may be appointed by registrars to handle customer service. The are not licenced or accredited, nor do they have access to the registry. They process registrations and renewal through their registrar.
So here I will attempt to outline the rules and regulations of registering domain names in Australia (the .au domain – called a “ccTLD” – is broken down into second level domains or 2LDs). I am going to skip over dot org dot au (.org.au – as these are for registered charities and “not for profit” organisations) and dot asn (.asn – as these are for incorporated associations).
dot com dot au (.com.au) and dot net dot au (.net.au)
To be eligible for these domains you must meet one of the following criteria.
- a ) an Australian registered company; or
- b ) trading under a registered business name in any Australian State or Territory; or
- c ) an Australian partnership or sole trader;
- d ) a foreign company licensed to trade in Australia; or
- e ) an owner of an Australian Registered Trade Mark; or
- f ) an applicant for an Australian Registered Trade Mark; or
- g ) an association incorporated in any Australian State or Territory; or
- h ) an Australian commercial statutory body.
To register one of the above domain names you will need to provide an ABN, an ACN, or your registered business’s identification number (see the Business of Blogging for more information about ABN’s and business registration). Furthermore the domain name must;
a) exactly match, acronym or abbreviation of the registrant’s company or trading name, organization or association name or trademark; or:
b) be otherwise closely and substantially connected to the registrant.
dot id dot au (.id.au)
To be eligible you must be one of the following
- a ) an Australian citizen; or
- b ) an Australian resident.
Further requirements for the .id.au domain names
a) exactly match the registrant’s personal name; or
b) be an acronym or abbreviation of the registrant’s personal name; or
c) be otherwise closely and substantially connected to the registrant, because the domain name:
(i) is derived from one or more words of the registrant’s personal name; or
(ii) includes one or more words of the registrant’s personal name; or
(iii) is a personal name by which the registrant is known.
Dot id.au domains are cheaper to register than .com.au and .net.au, and registrations for all .au domain names are issued in 2 year blocks. I visited half a dozen or so registrars and found 2 year prices ranging from $45.95 (NameScout) for .com.au and $28.95 for .id.au up to $140 and $99 respectively from Melbourne IT. This would suggest it pays to shop around.
Note: I also came across a few websites selling “au.com” domains. I couldn’t find out too much information about this, but I’d suggest avoiding it, as it would be awfully confusing.
Registering a domain name is a separate process to hosting a website. You do not need to use the same company who you register the domain name with, to host your website. Without going into too much depth, a host is someone who provides a computer (also known as a server) that is connected to the internet, and the files that make up your website are hosted on that computer.
Make sure you keep emails sent to you regarding your domain name registration (and print hard copies and keep them safe). You will be issued a registry key, which is like a password. Having this key allows control of your domain.
You should also ensure that you keep all your contact details up to date, or else you won’t get notification of a pending renewal. Also, make a note of when your domain is due to expire, and don’t rely on being contacted when your renewal is due. You don’t want the registration to lapse.
If your registration does lapse, your website will no longer appear on the internet, and you will have a 30 day period in which to renew your registration.
Rod, a regular commenter here (no link supplied), pointed me to some interesting policy considerations regarding Australian domains.
a) the registrant must not, directly or indirectly, through registration or use of its domain name or otherwise, register a domain name for the purpose of selling it; and
b) the registrant must not in any way transfer or purport to transfer a proprietary right in any domain name registration.
2. PROHIBITION ON SALE OF DOMAIN NAME BY REGISTRANT
2.1 There are no proprietary rights in a domain name. A registrant does not “own” their domain name, instead they hold a licence to use the domain name for a specified period of time and subject to the licence terms and conditions.
2.2 Because the registrant does not have a proprietary right in the domain name, it is not legally possible for the registrant to “sell” the domain name. By offering to sell their domain name to another party, the registrant is in breach of the Registrant Agreement.
2.3 It is possible for a registrant to transfer their domain name licence to another party, but only in the circumstances set out in auDA’s Transfers Policy (Policy No 2004-03). A registrant who attempts to “sell” their domain name licence should be aware that such a transaction will not fall within the circumstances set out in the Transfers Policy, and therefore the domain name will not be transferred to the other party.
It seems there are certain situations that do allow for the transfer of a domain – usually associated with the sale of a business, or because of a legal requirement (eg a dispute). So technically, you are not able to sell a domain, but you can sell a business and transfer the domain name licence (provided the new registrant meets the eligibility requirements).
What is somewhat contradictory is that the NSW Office of Fair Trading, for example, states that “If your business trades only via the internet you do not have to register and display a business name in New South Wales”. But if you don’t register a business name, you would have to apply for an ABN (in order to meet the eligibility requirements for a .com.au domain name). You could apply for an ABN if you are trading under your legal name, which would mean that you could technically only register a .com.au or .net.au that contained your name, or a derivative of it. Obviously this would seriously reduce the number of “John Citizens” who you could potentially transfer your domain to (ouch, my head hurts).
Long story short, if you think you might be able to “transfer” your website down the track, it would be a good idea to register a business name, so you have something to sell.
WIPO have heard 35 disputes from the .au domain since 2002, and found in favour of the complainant 20 times (57%). A few of the most interesting:
Whitepage.com.au (in favour of complainant)
Seekbusiness.com.au (in favour of respondent)
Yellowbook.com.au and Yellowbook.net.au (in favour of respondent)
Truelocal.com.au (in favour of respondent)
Looking a little further into domain name registration on the .au country domain level (also referred to as ccTLD), makes me appreciate a little more the flexibility afforded global domains (gTLD), which are managed through Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
.com, .net, .info, .biz and .org global domains can be registered by anyone, there are no restrictions. And it appears you can “sell” these global domains.
Whilst they do not identify the country from the URL, these domains can still be hosted in Australia, thereby appearing in “pages from Australia” searches. So if Australia is your target audience, I’d recommend paying a little extra and hosting here.
Have I missed anything (apart from pretty pictures)?
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