WHEN Lloyd Borrett set up a website in the mid-1990s for a local computer company, he had to move overseas to find a suitable domain name – well before it was fashionable to do so.
The restrictions on Australian domain names meant that he could not reserve expert.com.au for Expert, an IT business later acquired by Indian outsourcer Infosys for $31 million. Similar generic names such as florist.com.au or computer.com.au were not for sale.
”Basically, any word in the dictionary was excluded,” said Mr Borrett, who now works for anti-virus and security company AVG . ”So I went to Norfolk Island instead and registered expert.nf because they had just opened up a registry there.”
The Australian rules were gradually relaxed and the trade in domain names ending in .au has boomed.
Last night, total registrations on Australia’s country-code top-level domain reached 2 million, indicating that Australian businesses, which make up almost 86 per cent of .au domain names, prefer local internet real estate. Almost a quarter of a million .au domains have been sold this financial year.
The domain registry manager, AusRegistry, was not able to identify the exact holder of the 2 millionth domain name because the total includes new registrations and those that lapse in what is effectively a five steps forward-two steps back motion.
The milestone does not mean there are 2 million Australian websites, because many of the .au domains registered are inactive, or are used to redirect web traffic to other sites. Also, many Australian residents, companies or organisations maintain websites on the global generic top-level domains such as .com, .net, .org or .info. There are more than 93 million domains registered on the .com top-level domain alone.
Germany manages the largest country-code top-level domain, with 14.1 million, followed by Britain with 9 million registrations.
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 late 1989.
Mr Elz, an academic who now lives in Thailand, later handed over the management of Australian domains to a university spinoff 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 cybersquatting on domain names, especially in the .com name space, but Australia was largely immune from those difficulties because of Mr Elz’s rules.
Australian businesses on the web were perceived as trustworthy and still are, said Glenn Gore, the chief technology officer at Melbourne IT.
”It was good for business in how people trust those companies using a .com.au address,” Mr Gore said.
”If it ends in .com.au, you know that it was not some fly-by-night operation. There has to be a real business behind it.”
This did not mean Australian domain name policies were without controversy. Many webmasters complained of high costs to register an internet name and third-party resellers of domains were frustrated by the rules.
Mr Elz handed over policy and regulation to a new domain name authority, Australian Domain Administration Ltd, known as 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.
”The biggest reform milestone was introducing the new registry in 2002, said Paul Szyndler, auDA’s general manager of public affairs.
From then on, anybody could set up a business to sell the domain names and the competition led to large price falls for those setting up websites.
Story by Glenn Mulcaster www.smh.com.au
Tags: domains, internet, marketing, news, research