Sometime this year, Australia will see the launch of a local version of British newspaper The Guardian.
But readers might have a bit of trouble finding the website, as both guardian.com.au and theguardian.com.au are already registered to legitimate businesses with no relation to the famous newspaper.
Guardian.com.au is owned by Guardian Safety Systems, which makes safety gear for industry. TheGuardian.com.au, on the other hand, belongs to a regional paper owned by rival Fairfax.
At least it’s a problem The Guardian has had to navigate before. Guardian.com is owned by a manufacturer of safety glass, meaning readers wishing to read the British institution must go to the less memorable www.guardian.co.uk.
The Guardian isn’t the only media company to find its entry into Australia encumbered by local businesses.
Business Insider, which recently launched a local version, had to content with NSW Central Coast media start-up Business Insider Pty Ltd. The American Business Insider successfully forced the Australian start-up to change its name, while also taking down its website at businessinsider.net.
Technology expert Paul Wallbank says it’s not just overseas companies who left their domain-name purchases too late.
“My favourite example is The Sydney Morning Herald. They didn’t grab the smh.com domain in the early days, so it was taken by a hospital in the United States.”
When it comes to domain names, Wallbank says businesses have to move early.
“They do have to make those projections as part of their business plans. If you’re intending on starting in the UK or the US, you should look into the domain name over there even when [expanding] is just an idea.”
Plenty of entrepreneurs who’ve made a fortune online already do this. For example, the founder of SEO business SponsoredLinX, Ben Bradshaw, recently told SmartCompany he has the rights to 1100 domain names. He registers business names as soon as he has an idea for a business he’d like to pursue in the future.
Last year saw record prices reached for Australian domains changing hands. But not all domains are snapped up by those wanting to speculate on their value. Plenty are grabbed just for a bit of fun.
For example, the Australian Christian Lobby, which briefly hosted its website at www.australianchristianlobby.org, this weekend saw that website purchased by students who satirically rebranded it as the home of the Australian Cat Ladies, a fake lobby group dedicated to the advancement of cats and their owners.
With only so many words in the English language, there are bound to be more and more instances of legitimate businesses with similar business names vying for the same memorable domain, Wallbank says.
One solution to the predicament is to change the way people are searching for websites.
“The biggest solution is coming in the way we use ‘search’ functions,” he says. “Domain names still matter, but they’re not as important, because people find it quicker to search the web.”