'First come first served' may be inappropriate for direct domain registration

Australians will in the future be able to use .au straight after their domain name, providing simplicity and greater choice to businesses and individual website owners, but some issues need to be addressed first.

There are a number of issues that need careful consideration before the .au Domain Administration (auDA) direct registration policy is implemented, according to chair of the Policy Review Panel John Swinson, such as whether priority should be given to existing domain name holders and how that priority should be determined.

The auDA recently announced it was seeking feedback on how best to implement policy for the registration of domain names directly before the dot in .au, otherwise known as direct registration.

The board of auDA had approved direct registration in April 2016.

Swinson told ZDNet that the existing approach of "first come, first served" might not be appropriate when implementing the new policy.

"The basic rule about domain names is ... if you want a domain name, you see if no-one else has got it, and if no-one else has got it then you're entitled to register that domain name and use it, provided you're not infringing someone's intellectual property," Swinson said.

"When you bring in something new like .au direct registration, you need consider how are existing domain name owners impacted by this new domain name [policy] in Australia.

"Let's say there's johnspizza.com.au and someone else owns johnspizza.net.au, who gets johnspizza.au in that circumstance? Or, let's say you had a Mona Vale golf club domain name, a Mona Vale garden service domain, and a Mona Vale public school domain. Who's entitled out of those to get monavale.au?"

Additionally, Swinson said auDA is looking to better understand whether people should be allowed to register certain domain names such as "court.au" or "police.au".

"We might want to reserve some [domain names] for future use in, for example, the law enforcement space," he said.

Whether some words or alternate spellings of existing words should be completely prohibited such as "au.au", "com.au", and "comm.au" is also a consideration to potentially reduce the likelihood of confusion.

The auDA has assessed how the UK and New Zealand have implemented a similar policy, Swinson said, but is looking to find out whether there is a more efficient way to do so in Australia.

"I think we can learn by what other people have done and do it better in Australia. That's what I'd like to see," he added.

In addition to simplifying domains for businesses that have an Australian connection and following global trends, Swinson said direct registration will give additional options for those who have missed out on their preferred domain names.

"For some names, all the domain names have gone. So if you're coming out with a new business, other people might have already registered that. There are certain words, as you can imagine, that two or more people are legitimately using ... this is opening it up to allow more possibilities for domain names," he said.

"It doesn't mean the .com.aus are going to go away. They'll still be there; it's just creating additional opportunity."

The auDA is taking a phased approach to the consultation process, with part two set to examine and develop the policy rules that apply to second level domain name registration as part of its review of existing policies.

The Policy Review Panel is inviting responses to its Issues Paper from internet users, including domain name registrants and business owners, by November 10.

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