The website of Australia's annual Linux conference has become temporarily inaccessible scant months before the event because of policy confusion over whether or not it is allowed to use its long-standing domain name.
Linux.conf.au is the only active site in Australia to use a .conf.au web address, which was designed for conferences but has not been available for new registrants for some years.
An unexpected server configuration change is believed to have rendered the site inaccessible. Attempts to visit the site result in an "address not found" error message.
Organisers of the next Linux.conf.au event, which will take place in Hobart in January 2009, have been forced to utilise an alternative address as the outage coincides with the main registration period for the conference.
"Don't let a mere domain issue deprive you of the chance to attend," an RSS posting (which points possible attendees to the alternative marchsouth.org domain) earlier this week noted.
The registries for the vast majority of Australian top-level domains (such as .com.au and .net.au) are now managed by AusRegistry under a contract with the Australia Domain Names Administrator (auDA). However, .conf.au remains under the control of Melbourne University computer technician Robert Elz, who originally set up the Australian domain name policy.
Similar incidents have occurred with previous events. "When we tried to get this sorted out last year auDA assured us it was all under control," said Donna Benjamin, who helped organise last year's conference in Melbourne. "The truth is it isn't."
auDA officials did not respond to requests for comment on the current policy. In 2006, auDA said it was actively exploring the possibility of more actively promoting the .conf.au domain, but there has been little evidence of subsequent activity.