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2LDs boost .au’s growth

Kevin Murphy, March 28, 2022, Domain Registries

Australian ccTLD registry auDA has been reporting registration volumes growing much faster than usual in the days since it started selling .au domains directly at the second level.

The company is currently reporting a grand total of 3,492,366 domains, which is up by almost 78,000 since March 24, when 2LDs went on sale.

Normally, .au rarely grows by more than about 500 domains per day.

Right now and for the next six months, all 2LDs have been reserved for the owners of their exact-match third-level domains, so there’s not the same kind of rush you might expect in a first-come, first-served scenario.

.au names available today

Kevin Murphy, March 24, 2022, Domain Registries

Australians are able to register domain names directly under .au for the first time today, after ccTLD registry auDA liberalized its hierarchy.

Second-level names under .au will at first only be available to existing registrants of matching third-level names in zones such as .com.au and .net.au, under a priority allocation process.

This process lasts for six months and allows domain owners to claim their matching 2LD more or less immediately, assuming there are no other registrants with matching rights.

In cases where more than one registrant applies for the name domain — such as when example.com.au and example.net.au are owned by different people — a contention process kicks in.

Registrants with reg dates before the cut-off of February 4, 2018 get priority over those with later dates.

If there are only registrants with names newer than the cut-off date, the oldest one gets priority.

If there are only registrants with names older than the cut-off date, they’ll have to come to a bilateral agreement about who gets the name. If they can’t come to a deal, the name stays reserved, and the applicants will have to renew their applications annually, until only one applicant remains.

There are no auDA-backed auctions envisaged by the process.

Any domains that are unclaimed at the end of the priority process will be released into the available pool on September 20.

It’s a much shorter grandfathering period than other liberalized ccTLDs, such as Nominet, which gave .co.uk registrants five years to claim their matching 2LD, and it will be interesting to see what impact this has on uptake.

Direct .uk domains became available in June 2014, and six months later barely a quarter million had been registered, against over 10 million third-level names.

As the five-year priority window drew to a close in 2019, there were about 2.5 million .uk 2LDs, but this spiked to 3.6 million in the final month, as registrants waited until the last minute to claim their names.

That turned out to be the peak — .uk 2LDs stand at fewer than 1.4 million today, compared to the 9.7 million third-level names. It’s still quite rare to spot a direct .uk name in the wild here.

One interesting kink in the priority process is that auDA, which has stricter rules than many other ccTLDs, will check that anyone who applies for a 2LD is in fact eligible for the 3LD they currently hold, which could dissuade applications.

.au currently has 3.4 million third-level domains under management.

auDA ramps up marketing for direct .au launch

Kevin Murphy, February 7, 2022, Domain Registries

Australian domain overseer auDA has started national advertising for its second-level .au registration launch next month.

The organization said today it has started running television, radio, outdoor and digital ads, and will continue to do so through to November.

Second-level .au domains become available March 24, on a first-come, first-served basis if there are not already matching third-level domains.

If there’s a matching .com.au or .net.au, registered before February 4, 2018, applications for the 2LDs will be handled via a priority allocation process that runs for six months.

auDA’s marketing campaign focuses on five keywords that have a general meaning in English and also a unique or somewhat distinctive meaning in Australian English: station, pavlova, gummy, stoked and stubby.

A “gummy” could mean a type of confectionery, but “gummy.au” could refer to a type of shark that stalks Aussie waters, for example.

Microsites have been launched for each keyword, but they’re not all resolving for me yet.

Second-level .au names coming next March with tight deadline

Kevin Murphy, August 19, 2021, Domain Registries

Australia will soon become the latest country with an historical three-level ccTLD structure to offer second-level domains directly under .au.

Local registry auDA said today that direct SLD regs will become available next March.

It’s not the first country to do this — Australia follows the UK and New Zealand in de-emphasizing .co.nz and .co.uk in favor of SLDs.

But it’s giving registrants a much shorter deadline to claim their matching domains.

Unlike the UK, where registrants had five years to grab their matches before they became generally available, Aussies will only get six months.

Existing registrants will get first refusal on their matching domains. In cases of contention — where the .com.au and .net.au are registered to different people, for example — the registrant with the oldest domain gets priority.

Australian presence rules also apply.

Argentina will use a lottery to decide 2LD landrush

Kevin Murphy, September 18, 2019, Domain Registries

Argentina has become the latest country to allow its ccTLD registrants to register domains at the second level.
NIC Argentina announced last week that in addition to third-level domains such as example.com.ar and example.net.ar, you’ll be able to buy example.ar too.
While it’s following in the footsteps of the likes of .uk and .nz (and soon .au), Argentina is taking a slightly different approach to grandfathering and conflicts.
First, the priority registration period is pretty short, at least compared to the five years .uk registrants got.
If you already own a .ar 3LD, you only have until November 9 to get your application in for the matching 2LD.
In the event that more than one application is received from eligible registrants, the winner won’t be decided by auction, but by lottery.
The City of Buenos Aires Lottery will conduct the raffle, randomly assigning priority numbers to applicants to determine who gets first dibs on their domain of choice.
It’s the first time I’ve seen a domain contest settled by lottery since the process ICANN used to assign priorities to new gTLD applicants back in 2012.
From November 25 until January 23, the .ar process will enter a landrush phase, during which anyone can apply for any available 2LD they want by paying a non-refundable application fee.
The fee is ARS 200, the Argentine peso equivalent of $3.50, so the registry can hardly be accused of greed.
Again, competing bids will be settled by the same lottery process, with the winner having to pay the standard ARS 340 registration fee (the equivalent of $6) to claim their domain.
After February 23, it’s open season, with every domain in general availability.
.ar currently has just shy of half a million domains under management, and hasn’t seen any significant growth in a couple of years.
It will be interesting to see how popular the 2LD offer is, and what impact it has on domain growth in the industry overall.
Argentina allows .ar registrations from non-residents, but it does not appear to be a simple process.

Second-level .au names delayed

Kevin Murphy, August 21, 2019, Domain Registries

If you’re champing at the bit to grab yourself some second-level .au domain names, you’re going to have to wait a little longer.
Australian ccTLD manager auDA said today that it is delaying the controversial release by three months, to give it more time to carry out public outreach.
In a statement, interim chair Suzanne Ewart said that “it is critically important that the changes are widely understood, backed by an education program and supported by robust business processes throughout industry.”
The original plan had been to been to make 2LDs available in a staggered manner starting at some point in the fourth quarter. The delay will push the release into 2020.
The proposed launch has been controversial among the domain investment part of the auDA membership, which largely believes that it could lead to confusion with the existing three-level structure of the .au space.

1.8 million UK grandfathers die after Nominet deadline hits

The deadline for registering “grandfathered” second-level domains in .uk passed this morning, leaving at many as 1.88 million names unclaimed.
From June 2014 until 0500 UTC this morning, anyone who owned a third-level domain in zones such as .co.uk or .org.uk had rights to register the matching 2LD under .uk.
Those rights have all expired now, and all the unclaimed 2LDs will be returned to the available pool next month.
Four days ago, Nominet said that there were still 1.88 million rights that had not been exercised. That’s from the over 10 million 3LDs whose registrants were initially given rights.
In March, 3.2 million names were still unclaimed. It seems about 1.4 million names have been claimed, or expired, at the eleventh hour, almost all in June.
One way of looking at it is that the owners of almost one in five .co.uk domains either decided they didn’t want the matching 2LD, or were unaware that it was available.
But about half of the original domains with rights have since dropped, so the portion of current 3LD owners now at risk of confusion with their 2LD match could actually be more like four in 10.
At the end of May, 2,439,181 .uk domains had been registered (including non-grandfathered domains) and there were 9,729,224 names registered at the third level.
The 1.8 million unclaimed names will now be the subject of a landrush.
On July 1, Nominet will start releasing the names in batches, alphabetically.
Accredited registrars will start slamming the registry — Nominet has set up a separate set of EPP infrastructure purely for this expected onslaught — with requests to register the most-valuable names.
Some registrars have been taking pre-registrations and will auction any names they successfully claim to the customers who put in pre-orders.
After a week, any names not already claimed by registrars will be released to the public, again in batches, starting from July 8.
The system has been criticized by smaller registrars, many of which believe Nominet is giving its larger registrars a much better chance at winning the good names simply because they have deeper pockets.

auDA reveals cut-off date for 2LD priority

Australian ccTLD manager auDA has revealed how old your .com.au domain has to be to qualify for priority registration of the matching second-level .au domain.
If you registered your current domain before February 4, 2018, you will get “category 1” priority. Names registered after that are considered “category 2”.
The categories will come into play when auDA makes direct 2LDs registrations available at some point in the fourth quarter this year.
Category 1 domain owners will have until April 20 next year to catch their match, then category 2 owners get until August 1.
It’s a much speedier process than the five-year grandfathering period Nominet offered in .uk domains.
After the priority periods are over, all unclaimed .au domains will be released to the available pool.
Brand owners, domain investors, and actually basically anyone who owns a .com.au or .org.au domain has a little over 13 months to make their mind up whether they want to run the risk of confusion with a third-party owner of a very similar domain.
Pricing is the same as third-level domains, so opting in to the 2LD basically doubles the price of participating in .au ownership.
auDA’s draft rules for the process can be read here (pdf).

Smaller registrars say .uk release is biased towards the Big Boys

A group of small .uk registrars have complained to Nominet that the imminent release of three million second-level .uk domain names is biased towards their deep-pocketed rivals.
So far, 33 registrars have signed a petition, penned by Netistrar’s Andrew Bennett, against Nominet’s rules.
On July 1, the registry plans to start releasing .uk 2LDs that are currently reserved under its five-year-long grandfathering program.
These are domains that match existing third-level domains in .co.uk, .org.uk, etc.
The 3LD registrants have until 0500 UTC on June 25 to claim their 2LD matches. A week later, Nominet will start releasing them in alphabetical batches of 600,000 per day, over five days, to the available pool.
It’s going to be a little like “the drop” in gTLDs such as .com, with registrars all vying to pick up the most-valuable names as soon as they are released.
In the gTLD space, each registrar is given an equal number of connections, which is why drop-catch specialists such as SnapNames own hundreds of registrar accreditations.
Nominet’s doing it a little different, instead throttling connections based on how much credit registrars have with the registry, which the petitioners believe rigs the system towards the registrars with the most money.
According to the Nominet, registrars with £450 of credit get six connections per minute, rising to nine per minute for those with £4,500, 60 per minute for £45,000 and, at the top end, 150 per minute for registrars with £90,000 stashed in the Bank of Nominet.
Larger registrars with multiple Nominet accreditations, known as “tags” in the .uk space, will be able to stack their connections for an even greater chance at grabbing the best names.
Registrars such as GoDaddy are already taking pre-orders and will auction off the domains they catch to the highest bidder, if there are multiple pre-orders for the same names, so there’s potentially a fair bit of money to be made.
The small registrars say these credit-based rules are “disproportionately unfair” to their business models.
They point out that it doesn’t make much sense to rate-limit connections based on their proven ability to pay, given that there’s no link between how many they plan to register in the crucial first minute after the drop and how many they intend to register overall.
Nominet says on its web site that the tiers as described are provisional and will be firmed up the week of June 24.
The petitioners are also bothered that Nominet has not made any EPP code available to help the smaller guys, which have fewer engineering resources, to adjust to this temporary, time-sensitive registration system, and that the release plan was not communicated well to registrars.
They further claim that Nominet has not conducted enough outreach to .uk registrants to let them know their grandfathered rights will soon expire.
Many well-known brands have yet to claim their trademark.uk names, they claim.
Nominet has previously told DI that it planned to advertise the end of grandfathering in the press and on radio in the run-up to the release.

Second-level .au domains ARE coming soon

Australian ccTLD manager auDA has given itself approval to start selling .au domains at the second level for the first time.
auDA said today that it plans to lift its third-level-only rule in the fourth quarter this year.
The date of October 1 has been penciled in, but auDA said it will release more details as the time approaches.
There will be a grandfathering policy in place for existing registrants of 3LDs under the likes of .com.au and .org.au, but its deadlines are much tighter than the policies in, for example, .uk.
Under the published rules (pdf), registrants who owned 3LDs in .au before a cut-off date will get first dibs on the matching 2LD.
That priority period will end April 1, 2020.
After that, registrants who bought their .au names between the cut-off date and now will get also get priority, until August 1, 2020.
The cut-off date has yet to be determined by the auDA board of directors.
After the priority period is over, all unclaimed domains will be available to register by anyone.
You’re basically looking at six to 10 months of grandfathering rights, compared to the five years Nominet offered in when it made direct 2LD registration possible in .uk.
The 2LD policy has been four years in the making, and has courted controversy along the way.
Domain investors in particular have complained, worried that 2LDs will cause confusion and dilute the value of their 3LD investments.