Last April, we wrote a post that referenced a faction among auDA’s membership that had concerns about the proposed availability of second-level domains.  Despite these objections, the launch appears set to move forward.

The auDA Policy Review Panel, an oversight committee within the .au registry, released a report last week with recommendations for changes to existing protocol. Based on published commentary, this panel’s reccomendations are highly likely to be followed.

In addition to the main topic of the second-level launch, there were a couple interesting changes proposed:

— Australian trademarks held by non-Australian entities should grant entitlement only to register exact-match domains.

— Registrant updates should no longer reset the subscription period.

Of most relevance to the domain name industry are the panel’s conclusions regarding the availability of second-level domains, for example mydomain.au.  After detailing seven advantages to such a launch and four negative ones, the panel eventually concludes that opening registration to the second level will be a net positive, provided certain conditions are met:

— The strict local-presence requirement enforced for .com.au should also apply to .au registrations

— There should be a six-month period during which only the registrant of a third-level domain can register its match directly under .au.  For example, in this period the registrant of acme.com.au could register acme.au, but others could not.

–In the event of multiple, matching third-level domains, for example if both acme.com.au and acme.net.au exist, the second-level domain acme.au will be locked until one party choses not to exercise their claim to that domain.

— The registrant of a third-level domains should have priority to register its match directly under .au only if the existing domain was registered on or before February 4, 2018.

Somewhat buried within such technical details is a key tidbit:

“The implementation process should not be drawn out. Ideally, the implementation process should be completed in less than a year.”

No dates are mentioned, but this would suggest that we could see the first second-level .au registrations at the beginning of 2020.

In broad strokes, the priority period will be of most interest to those that manage corporate portfolios.  Defensive registrations of key brand names under .au are advisable.

Domain warehousing remains prohbited under auDA policies, so investors face an uphill battle in profiting from the second-level .au launch.  Furthermore, it stands to reason that most attractive strings are already registered under .com.au, therefore entitling the registrants of such names to secure the valuable .au names first.

Facing these conditions, perhaps the best strategy is to create a wishlist, recheck availability of wishlist domains at the conclusion of the priority period and secure those names for which a priority claim was not exercised.  Of course, measures must be taken to avoid running afoul of auDA warehousing policies.

Toweb will naturally be offering the relevant services starting on launch day, both to priority and non-priority applicants.  Once dates are confirmed, they will be published on this website.

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