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.