seo, Technology

Small businesses face expensive fights for “.au” web addresses as experts sound warning over new domain changes

Emma Koehn /

Website domain experts have warned small businesses may have to spend significant time and money fighting for the “.au” web address for their businesses, with the body overseeing domain registries in Australia still considering how new website addresses will be claimed when the top level “.au” domain is introduced.

The regulatory body that oversees domains in Australia, auDA, has spent the past few months holding public forums to discuss the upcoming rollout of the “.au” domains, including how businesses will be able to claim the equivalent “.au” address if their business currently uses a website that ends with a “” suffix.

Jim Stewart, an SEO expert and chief executive of StewArt Media, says he was present at a public hearing on the issue two weeks ago, and while there is no strict timeline for the implementation of  “.au” domains, he believes the discussions currently being had spell bad news for small businesses.

My main issue with all of this is that there’s been no studies to say why we need it [the new .au domain] — and no data on why we need it. The problem associated with the change is that businesses could lose their brand at a ‘.au’ level,” he says. 

This is because current discussions on the topic suggest not all businesses that have a “” address will be able to automatically claim the same address with a “.au” ending, Stewart says.

Instead, he says he has heard discussions from auDA about businesses having their websites fall into a pool of “contested” web addresses.

One suggestion for the rollout of the new domains is that businesses and organisations that have held their “” address since before April 2016 would have first chance to claim the equivalent address in a “.au” structure.

However, Stewart says at the public hearing this month, the prospect was raised that businesses that had registered “” or “” addresses after April 2016 would not have automatic rights to the new “.au” domain. Instead, they could have to apply to claim the “.au” equivalent of their current “” site.

“Basically, this means that domain names registered before April 2016 are more valuable than those bought after,” Stewart says.

Stewart says if someone else were to buy that “.au” address first, businesses would have to bid to buy it back directly.

When contacted by SmartCompany, auDA said it was still “developing its recommendations” on how claiming .au sites would work, and invites feedback from the general public on the issue.

In a policy meeting on February 1, the auDA policy review panel agreed that organisations that had registered a “” domain before April 18, 2016, should be eligible for priority registration for claiming their new “.au” domain.

According to the meeting minutes, the panel also discussed what would happen for other businesses wanting to claim a domain name, or if more than one business wanted to claim the new domain address.

One model suggested is that if a business wanted to claim a domain but didn’t have “priority” access to claim it, they would have to register for a “lottery ticket” to claim it.

If more than one party registers for a ticket, the idea of mediation between the parties was floated as a way of working out who ultimately can claim the address.

Stewart says suggestions like this present incredible complexities for small businesses to deal with at a time where auDA has not shown why Australia needs to roll this new domain class out this year.

They’re asking how we should implement this, while we’re asking for a business case at all for it,” he says.  

Challenges raised by transferring sites

Stewart also warns that the introduction of the “.au” domain will mean challenges for businesses that want to stay at the top of Google search results.

“With this new domain space being introduced, it’s going to mean there are multiple domains with the same key words in them, which hasn’t been done before,” he says. 

SMEs also have to take significant care that they don’t inadvertently lose search traffic if they incorrectly migrate their site to a new “.au” web domain in future, because this is a difficult process, says Stewart.

“If they don’t do that properly, they can lose all their search traffic,” he says.  

Search engine optimisation and website experts stand to gain work from the changeover, but Stewart says that comes at a cost to the ecosystem overall.

For us, we’ll make money from it — but it’s the wrong thing to do,” he says.  

Know more on this topic or have thoughts on how it might affect your business? Email [email protected]

NOW READ: Government launches review into .au domain governance as auDA considers changes that experts say could cost SMES “literally millions”

Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is SmartCompany's senior journalist.

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  • Michael

    What a load of bollocks!! Firstly; why change something that is functioning!? Secondly if there is a valid justification, then someone who owns a domain should automatically own the .au domain. It smacks of an idea hatched in a pub after far too many beers.

    • vright

      totally agree. A rip off of the highest order.

  • Craig Heppell

    Seriously?! Someone stands to make some serious coin out of this. They obviously have never heard the term – IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT!

    • Jim Stewart

      Exactly @craigheppell:disqus .com has over 100 million domains 2.5 mill. We’re not running out!

  • Snoopy

    This is all about raising money for Domain Registrars and auDA, they will make tens of millions out of people buying matching .au domains for their’s domains and also money from the lottery tickets they plans to sell for the contested domains.

    Many small business will find themselves in a lottery under the current proposal, especially if they own a good domain name.

  • Robert Kaay

    Well done Emma and Jim for helping expose these crazy discussion points attempting to be implemented across our trusted Australian domain name space by the PRP. Over two million Australian businesses are about to get a massive shock, unless we continue to expose what is happening. For those still unsure about the details, I have written many articles over at

  • Very very concerned!

    This really a MAJOR CONCERN for all .au businesses.
    I do not believe that Australian businesses are informed about what auDA is proposing. What are the reasons behind doing this auDA? It seriously affects all businesses by creating defensive registrations (a double tax?) and creates uncertainty as to whether a business’ brand will be compromised. Who gets (the or the and – the same questions. It is common knowledge the dominant and most aware extension in Australia is Why disrupt this and cause confusion and chaos in our ecosystem? If this is not a money grab, then why not give the .au extension to the for free for the option to use? It should not have been introduced, the major stakeholders are being ignored and the push behind this seems to be from the registrars. BE CONCERNED PEOPLE and MAKE SOME NOISE!
    Here’s the document:
    Written submission opinions to [email protected] are due by Friday 2nd March, 2018.

    • vright

      I’m with you. I agree. A blatant grab for money. No value in it at all.

  • vright

    A grab for money. Creating a domain that doesn’t exist as a way of making money. disgusting.

  • No_luck_needed

    When are the “.au” being released? Is there a date or is this just a discussion still currently? Extremely alarming to say the least.

    • Jim Stewart

      They did say maybe next year but no fixed date. They are only talking about implementation not why they are doing it

  • John Naismith

    Somehow we have to get every business with a domain to email Mitch Fifield [ [email protected] ] letting him know that Australian businesses don’t need or want .au domain names.

  • Tom

    You corrupt wankers, Australia is not the lucky country anymore, impossible with so many corrupt knobs ripping people off….go die in a hole you worthless idiots. I hate this world, corrupt government, corrupt companies….GTH!!

  • Con Artists

    How many lawyers are linked to Auda and on the Board who will make money out of this mess also maybe?

    Maybe that affects their vote if they can bring it in and make a mess then be paid to help people?

    This is a massive scam… The deeper we look the dirtier it looks.

  • Randy

    shameful of to be creating such a mess and not changing their ways.

    Is it all just money for them?

    Why does the AUDA CEO Cameron Boardman even get a performance bonus? Bonus on what? More insane profits as a “not for profit”? It is certainly not on customer satisfaction which is dismal!

    • Jim Stewart

      he gets a performance bonus? I there a public source for that?

      • Crocket

        “Stuart Benjamin stressed the importance of a performance bonus being part of the package, to ensure the CEO performed.”

        • Cleaning uo the dirt

          Oh another Liberal Party Member from the Mentone Branch like Minister Mitch Fifield and others…


          JOBS & Auda chair paid JOBS FOR THE BOYS?

          • Jim Stewart

            oh geeze, I’d rather not. I just want them to give us a business case and then hopefully the dots won’t matter. But it does not look good from a outsider looking in.

          • Matt C.

            Doesn’t look good from any view, inside or outside!

          • Matt C.

            Doesn’t look good from any view, inside or outside!

          • Matt C.

            Doesn’t look good from any view, inside or outside!

          • Matt C.

            Doesn’t look good from any view, inside or outside!

        • Jim Stewart

          ok that is a little troubling

          • Virtual Bricks

            No use with Fifleld doing anything…. This is is why the problems are not being fixed

            How many past and present Directors or staff of auDA are members of the Liberal Party and knew each other to get the job, become members, become Directors.. become suppliers to to Auda?

            This is a major issue just starting to be investigated

        • Nicky

          OMG – seriously?

          Performamce bonus to have 95% auDA staff turnover and completely destroy the good reputation of the .au all within 2 years?

          What a great performance of destruction of not only auDA reputations iut staff lives and millions of .au businesses!

          What is the CEO’s bonuses and why?

          How much is he paid? My dog can do less damage and better for a walk and bowl of chum every day!

    • Jim Stewart

      he gets a performance bonus? I there a public source for that?

  • Danielle

    How about this for some background on

    It is fairly clear they are very hard to get the truth out of and there are plenty more FOI’s people could post if needed to show they are not “accountable and transparent” at all!

    • Ben

      What the hell is this stuff. This looks pretty serious now.

      FOI’S that really raise some questions and have hard data and facts?

      WOW. That stuff makes me wonder who is making money of us for our .au domain names.

      I better check my credit card to see what we are paying them.

      How much do they make off our company each year? Now we will look back and find out!

  • Justin

    No wonder a lot of auDA Directors resigned before.

    auDA is not good to have on your CV or Linkedin!

  • Mick Dundee

    “Let’s PUSH this in” Brett Fention …Melbourne IT group…Tppwholesale… Netregistry… Netfleet…..

    Disgusting abuse of market power and all the whole with someone on the Auda Board and Panels!

  • Casper

    All Australians know,,,,, etc !

    Who lied saying we are running out of domain names and we need another extension? Pure Lies!

    Do Not Muck This Up and PRP too many Australians ( and foreigners who know it) need it to stay as it is!


    So, whilst they might want us all to move on…let’s not forget this:

    GEORGE PONGAS was employed at AUSREGISTRY and at the same time was on the AUDA board when the decision was given to award Ausregistry the contract which they onsold for $118m. CONFLICT OF INTEREST???

    This contract expires on the 30th June, and the new winner has won the bid at a 60% reduction in costs but now AUDA is trying to work out how to keep costs where they are so are trying to retain the profits to advertise the new .AU. AUDA should be a not for profit organisation but is believe to have $20Mill in reserve – some say for the upcoming CLASS ACTION which they are preparing for.

    George resigned in Dec last as things are getting a bit hot…now ausregistry has lost contract then there will be some scrambling around….

    The whole .au was a money grab because they thought they would get the contract.


    Connect the Dots..

    Ausregistry on the auDA Board 15 years

    Melbourne IT on the auDA Board 15 years

    “Melbourne IT made its own big domain-name business buyout when it spent $50.4 million to acquire Netregistry in February last year. It also spent $15.5 million buying Canberra hosting and domain registration business Uber Global in February this year.”



  • Julian

    Happy with my thanks.

    The more I read the more this looks like a cash grab and total rip off by these people working togetherto con us all.

    No idea who they where until now but I’m not happy they have all been making money of us for so long and them getting rich of the scam.

    Thankfully it looks like some people have the balls to do something about it.

    Great story Emma!

    Thank you SmartCompany.COM.AU

  • .au PUBLIC meeting 7 March

    Lawyers are rubbing their hands maybe? Will any lawyers benefit from the mess being created?

    Interesting to see this meeting has 3 members of auDA or the auDA PRP speaking to about the .au.

    Why has auDA not let members and the public know? The agenda includes

    ” topics of discussion such as policy review panel, direct registrations, the domain name after market,
    the auDRP and trends and current issues in domain name arbitration.”

    Public can buy a ticket and attend. Not sure if they are taking any audience comments or questions.

    Victorian Twilight Seminar

    Wednesday, 7 March 2018

    6:00 pm Arrival and refreshments for a
    6:30 pm Presentation

    King & Wood Mallesons
    Level 50
    600 Bourke Street

    Watch this (domain) space: developments in the .au policy review
    panel, direct registrations and domain name disputes and arbitrations

    This presentation will be an interactive discussion seminar. All presenters will share their knowledge and views on topics with members, and will cover topics of discussion such as policy review panel, direct registrations, the domain name after market,
    the auDRP and trends and current issues in domain name arbitration.

    John Swinson, Partner, King & Wood Mallesons ( auDA PRP)

    John Swinson is a partner of King & Wood Mallesons, and is the Chair
    of the auDA 2017 Policy Review Panel. John is also a panelist for WIPO
    under the UDRP and auDRP, and has decided over 300 domain name ownership

    The Hon Neil Brown QC, Victorian Bar

    Queens Counsel in Australia, The Hon Neil Brown QC has had a long and
    distinguished career in government and the law since 1964. Previously a
    Minister in the Federal Government in Australia in charge of portfolios
    in Attorney-General’s, Communications and Employment and Youth Affairs.
    He has appeared in all Australian jurisdictions with experience in
    commercial, intellectual property, town planning and taxation matters.
    He is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Murdoch University in Western
    Australia. A qualified arbitrator and mediator, The Hon Neil Brown QC
    practices in international and domestic matters in the commercial,
    communication, intellectual property and governmental fields. He is a
    leading arbitrator and adviser on internet domain name disputes.

    Professor Andrew Christie, The University of Melbourne ( auDA PRP)

    Andrew Christie was appointed the foundation Chair of Intellectual
    Property at the Melbourne Law School in 2002. He is a member of the
    panel of neutrals with the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center,
    Resolution Institute, and the Asian Domain Name Dispute Resolution
    Centre. He has served as a panelist in approximately 200 domain name
    disputes, and has authored some of the most cited decisions.

    Erhan Karabardak, Director, Cooper Mills ( auDA Director)

    Cooper Mills’ Erhan Karabardak is a technology lawyer and Trade Marks
    Attorney. Erhan is also active in the domain name industry and
    represents domain name registrars and resellers, and has advised some of
    the world’s largest domain name registrars. Erhan is recognised as an
    expert in domain name law and has run some of the leading cases in the
    area. Erhan is also a director and board member of the .au Domain
    Administration (auDA), Australia’s domain name regulator, and is the
    former Chair. He is also a Director and board member of the Asia Pacific
    Top Level Domain Association (APTLD), which represents ccTLD operators
    from around the broader Asia Pacific region.

    $45.00 Members (incl. $4.09 GST)

    $60.00 Non-Members (incl. $5.45 GST)

    Thursday, 1 March 2018 (by facsimile, email or on-line)


    To register for this meeting, select from one of the below methods:

    1. Post/Fax this PDF form back to IPSANZ

    2. Register Online

    Cancellations / Refunds

    24 hours notice in writing must be given of a cancellation.
    Unless 24 hours notice in writing is received by the Secretariat, no
    refund will be possible.

  • Tigerlilly

    When is the next public auda meeting to discuss this?

    Do they send us an email or how do we know?

    • Jim Stewart

      No we don’t know. I’ve emailed them with several questions and have not heard back.

  • Tigerlilly

    When is the next public auda meeting to discuss this?

    Do they send us an email or how do we know?