.com or .com.au?

When deciding what type of domain a business should register, remember that the more, the merrier. PAUL WALLBANK

Paul Wallbank Tech Talk blog

By Paul Wallbank

I was asked during the week what type of domain a business should register; a .com or .com.au.

This is one of those “how long is a piece of string” type questions. Different businesses have different needs. For some, an Australian domain is the way to go, for others a .com is a better choice. Personally I think you should register both if they are available.

The attraction with .com domains is they can be ridiculously cheap and with no rules on eligibility; you can just grab them. This ease of registration is also a downside as many of the good names have been taken.

For businesses just operating in Australia, a .com domain on its own can be a problem as Australian web users tend to automatically tag the .au on the end of most addresses. When Telstra rolled out Bigpond with the bigpond.com email addresses, users tagging .au on the end was a very prevalent reason for emails being rejected.

If you are only operating in Australia, then the .com.au is probably the best bet. Another advantage with the .au domains is they are much more tightly controlled, which means it’s more likely the name you want is available.

Keep in mind too that every country has its own domain. So you need to tailor your domains accordingly. For instance, if you are selling into NZ, South Africa or China, registering the .nz, .za or .cn domains is necessary too.

There is also the option of alternate domains such as .net and .biz if the more common domains are taken. Because these are lesser used, many web surfers tend to assume addresses are .com or the commercial domain for their country, such as .com.au or .co.nz.

If you find a domain name, it’s worthwhile checking if a similar business already owns the .com. I had this problem myself with the pcrescue.com.au domain where pcrescue.com was owned by another computer support business in the US.

To compound the confusion, there was a software product called PC Rescue. Googling for PC Rescue bought up our business first and our American namesake second, which meant both of us had a regular stream of cranky customer billing and support requests for the software product, which appeared at number eight.

So it’s worthwhile doing a good web search on your name before registering any domain, just to avoid any confusion or the risk of stepping on another enterprise’s trademark.

So the .com.au domain is important, as is the .com, and registering both should be a high priority. If you find all the domains are available for your business or product then you should register in every country you intend to operate to protect your name.


Paul Wallbank is Australia’s most heard computer commentator. For the last 10 years he has been the resident computer expert on ABC Local Radio and has written five computer books. Paul founded and built up a national IT support company, PC Rescue and has a free help website at IT Queries. Today he spends most of his time consulting and advising community and business groups on getting the most from their technology.

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James Scholes writes: Technically, .com (and .net and .org) should only be given to people who can prove that their usage will be international in nature. Unfortunately, America got there first, and suddenly everyone wants a .com.



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