.au is the Internet country code top-level domain for Australia. It was first created on 5 March 1986. Domain name policy is managed by.au Domain Administration. As of July 2018, the registry is currently operated by Afilias.
The domain name was originally allocated by Jon Postel, operator of IANA to Kevin Robert Elz of Melbourne University in 1986. After an approximately five-year process in the 1990s, the Internet industry created a self-regulatory body called.au Domain Administration to operate the domain. It obtained assent from ICANN in 2001, and commenced operating a new competitive regime for domain registration on 1 July 2002. Since this new regime, any registration has to be ordered via a registrar.
Oversight of.au is by.au Domain Administration auDA. It is a not-for-profit organisation whose membership is derived from Internet organisations, industry members and interested individuals. The organisation operates with the endorsement of the Australian Government and with the delegated authority of ICANN.
Policy for.au is devised by policy development panels. These panels are convened by auDA and combine public input with industry representation to derive policy. The day-to-day operation of the.au registry technical facility is tendered out by auDA. AusRegistry has performed the registry role since the initial tender in 2002. In December 2017, Afilias won a competitive tender process to take over the running of the registry from AusRegistry. The registry does not sell domain registration services direct to the consumer, rather consumers who wish to register a domain must do so via a domain name registrar. After the industrys liberalisation in 2002, there is an active competitive market in registrars with a variety of prices and services.
In 2008 auDA changed its longstanding policy and allowed changes in ownership of.au domains. Although the secondary market was initially slow to take off there have recently been signs of increasing maturity in the.au aftermarket culminating in the record $125.500 sale of investmentproperty.com.au. The auDA ISS is a world-first industry initiative aimed at improving the security of.au registrar businesses, protecting.au registrants and enhancing the overall stability and integrity of the.au domain space. auDA introduced the ISS in October 2013 as a mandatory requirement, and all accredited registrars must be certified as ISS compliant within 24 months. Discount Domain Name Services DDNS, Cheaper Domains and Information Brokers, part of the Total Internet Group, are the first three auDA accredited registrars to achieve ISS compliance.
The naming rules for.au require registrations under second-level categories that describe a type of entity.com.au, for example, is designed for commercial entities. This follows a similar allocation policy to that formerly used in other countries such as the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
Registrations are currently permitted below a second-level domain, such as "yourname.com.au". In April 2016, auDA announced it would introduce registrations directly at the second level, such as "yourname.au". Direct registrations were due to be implemented in 2017 although due to an ongoing debate on how cybersquatting would be mitigated with the release of the direct second-level registrations has led to a delay, with a new estimated implementation of the first half of 2020.
Registering a domain in the.au namespace requires registrants to have either an exact match or a "close and substantial connection" to their desired domain name. This "policy rich" approach to the name space, begun by Robert Elz and continued by auDA, has meant the.au domain space has avoided the cybersquatting and other illicit uses of domains prevalent in other more permissive domains.
Registration of a.au domain is completed through a reseller, known as a registrar, with the registry acting as the wholesale provider. auDA manages domain name policy as the ICANN and Australian Government-endorsed manager of the.au DNS.
3.1. Registration Second-level domains
- .edu.au – Educational institutions see Third-level domains, below
- .csiro.au – CSIRO Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
- .gov.au – Governments and their departments see Third-level domains, below
- .com.au – Commercial entities
- .id.au – Individuals by real name or common alias
- .asn.au – Associations and non-profit organisations
- .net.au – Commercial entities historically only ISPs, but the use has been broadened
- .org.au – Associations and non-profit organisations historically only for organisations that did not fit in other categories
3.2. Registration Community geographic domain names
Introduced in 2004, "community geographic domain names" CGDNs are intended to be used for "community websites that reflect community interests such as local business, tourism, historical information, culture, sporting groups, local events and news" of a local community. These domains are managed by the.au Community Domains Trust auCD on behalf of auDA. The funding of auCD was provided from a ballot of locality names in the.com.au and.net.au domain spaces; previously, any locality with a postcode had been restricted from being registered as a commercial domain name.
CGDNs use the state or territorys common abbreviation as the second level of the domain. For example, a community based in Victoria would receive a domain ending in.vic.au, a Northern Territory community would use.nt.au, and so on. The third level of the domain must be an addressable locality within that state or territory, of the form townname.vic.au. Where a name is duplicated within a state – for instance, between a smaller town, and a suburb of a larger town or city – the locality name may be suffixed with the name of the local government area, town or city to which it is associated e.g. suburbname - cityname.vic.au.
Holders of CGDNs must be "a legally registered, not-for-profit entity; and representative of the local community for the purpose of holding the domain name licence." In particular, commercial entities and local governments are not permitted to hold a CGDN in their own right; they are however permitted to hold membership in such entities set up to hold a CGDN.
As of November 2009, the auCD site claims 91 active CGDNs across Australia, with a further 115 either approved or awaiting approval.
In addition, a number of temporary CGDN sites were activated for communities affected by the Victorian Black Saturday bushfires of February 2009, run either by "community members" or auCD itself as a waiver of usual policy. These domains are due to expire at the end of June 2010, unless transferred to an eligible holder.
3.3. Registration Third-level domains
The use of.gov.au as a second level domain is for Australian Federal government and for its initiatives, while the use of a third-level domain, being an Australian state abbreviation, is an identifier that the domain belongs to either the relevant state government or a local government inside the state. The.edu.au is also split up into state-based categories in most cases.
auDA has delegated responsibility of the.edu.au domain to Australian Information and Communications Technology in Education Committee AICTEC, which formed a specialist sub-committee.edu.au Domain Administration Committee eDAC.
Schools use a domain name that reflect their locale, and these state-based third-level domains are managed independently by the states. For example, a school in Western Australia would register schoolname.wa.edu.au. Similarly, replacing the bold part of these domains, Victoria would use.vic, Queensland would use.qld, South Australia would use.sa, Tasmania would use.tas, Northern Territory would use.nt and the Australian Capital Territory would use.act. However, after a change of internet services in Queensland State Schools their domain names were changed from schoolname.qld.edu.au to schoolname.eq.edu.au. This is not the case for private schools in Queensland. Often, domains can even contain a fourth level: for instance, a NSW public school might have the domain schoolname.schools.nsw.edu.au.
Tertiary institutions are typically exempt from requiring state-based distinctions. For example, Edith Cowan University in Western Australia has a domain of ecu.edu.au rather than ecu.wa.edu.au, Monash University in Victoria uses monash.edu.au rather than monash.vic.edu.au. This difference can be associated with states having responsibility for primary and secondary education while the Commonwealth has responsibility for tertiary education; tertiary institutions often having a presence in multiple states.
3.4. Registration Historic second-level domains
Some second-level domain names are no longer actively used. Whilst registrations are grandfathered for some, no new registrations are accepted.
- .oz.au – Historical domain name for Australian sites. Australias original top-level domain for use in the store-and-forward Internet messaging system MHSnet was.oz. The top-level domain later officially became.au and those domains in.oz were moved to.oz.au. As of April 2011, many subdomains under cs.mu.oz.au and ee.mu.oz.au are still in use within the CSSE and EEE departments of the University of Melbourne.
- .otc.au – A mapping domain for X.400 addresses; was obsoleted by telememo.au. Has since been deleted
- .telememo.au – A mapping domain for X.400 addresses. Has since been deleted
- .gw.au – Gateways and miscellaneous AARNet routing equipment. Has since been deleted
- .info.au – General information. Has since been deleted
- .conf.au – Conferences and other short-lived events, now only exists for linux.conf.au.
- .archie.au – Host of the Archie information service of the early 1990s. Has since been deleted
4. Other Australian domain names
.au is not the only top-level domain name assigned to Australia. Some Australian territories have their own ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 code, and therefore have their own ccTLD as well:
- .hm – Heard and McDonald Islands
- .cc – Cocos Keeling Islands
- .nf – Norfolk Island
- .cx – Christmas Island
As the appropriate authorities were late in recognising the need to manage these, most were registered by entrepreneurs for use as vanity domains unrelated to the locale they serve.cc, for example, is now operated by VeriSign.hm represents a nature preserve with no human inhabitants.
There are also two geographic top-level domain names assigned to Australia in which are used by individuals and businesses within a particular region, they are:
- .sydney – for New South Wales registered businesses, entities associated with the state of New South Wales or Australian citizens and residents with a New South Wales address.
- .melbourne – for Victorian registered businesses, entities associated with the state of Victoria or Australian citizens and residents with a Victorian address.