The number of registrations on Australia’s country code domain has hit two million, with internet entrepreneur Fred Schebesta urging start-ups to register multiple domain names as competition grows.
AusRegistry, the registry manager for designated second-level domains, was not able to identify the exact holder of the two millionth domain name because the total includes new registrations and those that lapse in what is described as a “five steps forward, two steps back” motion.
However, the milestone does indicate that Australian businesses, which make up almost 86% of .au domain names, prefer local internet real estate.
The milestone also places the .au domain in the top 10 largest country codes in the world, highlighting the strength and stability of the namespace.
Schebesta, who has started several online businesses, including creditcardfinder.com.au, says as registration numbers continue to increase, start-ups need to act fast if they are to secure a domain name that reflects their offering.
“Domain names with keywords in them perform better for small businesses that are trying to get traffic and make sales,” he says.
Schebesta says bigger businesses can get away with less obvious names, but start-ups should stay as close as possible to their actual service.
“If you don’t get an unbelievable domain name that matches your keyword spot on, don’t worry… You learn to hussle more when you’re not in the kill zone from the beginning,” he says.
Schebesta says start-ups should register as many domain names as they can because they won’t necessarily be successful in securing their favourite.
Software start-up 365cups, which allows customers to place a coffee order on the internet or via their mobile phone, says it went through about 80 names before it was successful.
“Obviously, we needed to buy the domain name and all these cool names that we came up with were all bought with placeholders,” co-founder Simone Eyles told StartupSmart.
“So we had to keep going and going. The 365 refers to the internet – it’s there every day of the year. We’ve had a lot of really positive feedback about our name, which is great because it was such an agonising process.”
According to AusRegistry chief executive Adrian Kinderis, the .au domain has the highest penetration rate in the world for regulated namespaces with restricted eligibility when Australia’s population is taken into account.
“The .au domain has become part of the fabric of doing business in Australia,” Kinderis says.
The .au Domain Administration, the non-profit-manager of the .au space, says Australians should be proud of the milestone.
“There were only about 275,000 .au domains registered when auDA introduced a new competition model in 2002,” says auDA chief executive Chris Disspain.
“Now we are celebrating two million registrations and this wouldn’t have been possible without the policy reforms and marketing activities auDA have implemented, or without the technical and operational expertise AusRegistry has brought to the industry.”
Australia’s tight rules for domain name registration were devised by a University of Melbourne computer engineer and lawyer, Robert Elz, who connected Australia to the internet in the late 1980s.
Elz later handed over the management of Australian domains to a university spin-off company, Melbourne IT, which later listed on the ASX and continues as an internet services and hosting company.
The boom period of the internet in the late 1990s featured accusations of cyber-squatting on domain names, especially in the .com namespace, but Australia was largely immune from those difficulties because of Elz’s rules.
According to Melbourne IT chief technology officer Glenn Gore, Australian businesses on the web were perceived as trustworthy.
“It was good for business in how people trust those companies using a .com.au address… [because] you know that it was not some fly-by-night operation. There has to be a real business behind it,” Gore says.
Elz handed over policy and regulation to auDA, and in 2002, AusRegistry won a tender to manage a fully independent registry of .au domain names.
Over the past decade, the auDA board has gradually relaxed the controls of internet name management and sales in Australia while still maintaining the integrity of the system.