.au Domain Administration

From Academic Kids

.au Domain Administration (auDA) is the manager of the .au domain, which is the country-code top-level domain for Australia. It is a not-for-profit organisation, whose membership is open to organisations or individuals who have an interest in Australian domain name matters.

Contents

Early History of .au

The operation of .au began with Robert Elz of Melbourne University. He devised the original policies, and was responsible for the day-to-day operation of the domain. All services were provided free, however toward the end of his management there were often long delays and what many considered bizarre decision-making.

In 1996, the operation of the popular .com.au sub-domain became too much for him to accomplish on a voluntary basis. He decided to give its operation exclusively to the commercial arm of the university Melbourne IT for a term of five years.

The service was run on a for-profit basis, although many felt the service provided for the price charged was mediocre. Many also argued that Melbourne IT had no right to charge for services that had been previously provided free, ultimately resulting in a class-action lawsuit filed by ISP iiNet on behalf of all domain holders.

Disenchantment in the way .au was run also grew when times taken to process registrations or updates to domain names in other areas (such as .org.au) ballooned to months or even years.

Birth of auDA

In recognition of the deteriorating state of .au, the Internet community - primarily through several key industry associations and personalities - held a series of forums to work out a way forward.

The result of this period of collaboration was a new self-regulatory body called Australian Domain Name Administration, or ADNA. It had an ambitious task to quickly take control of .au and operate it for the public good.

ADNA, however, was structurally flawed. The board's composition was dysfunctional, and it was easy for individuals to disturb the process. There was also a lack of buy-in from key segments of the Internet community, with a feeling the process was not open enough.

After two years of work, ADNA was recognised as a failure by most parties, and the Internet community regrouped. It asked the Australian Government for assistance, acting as a facilitator to help bridge the views of the community.

With the government on board, the organisation was renamed to .au Domain Administration (auDA) and adopted a new constitution, procedures, and board.

Preparing the new regime

The inaugural board of the new organisation was elected in April 1999, and began the task of trying to help mould a new framework for the .au industry.

It began by signing memoranda of understanding with the existing registry operators, providing seed funding that allowed it to commence full-time operations and hire staff.

As part of the process, the organisation was required to obtain a reassignment of .au from ICANN. As part of this process, it was controversially required to sign a contract with the organisation - the first such country to do so.

auDA's structure saw that all major policies, such as how domains are allocated or how the industry was structure, was given to ad-hoc policy development panels. These panels called upon experts from all related fields to sift through public comment and devise policies. The auDA board was left to ensure that these panels followed due process, and that their conclusions were sound.

The key panels of auDA that shaped the current .au landscape is the Name Policy Panel of 2000, and the Competition Panel of 2000. The latter concluded that the .au space should be as open as possible, with competition at both the domain name registry and the domain name registrar levels. The Name Policy Panel saw naming policy remain mostly unchanged, with the exception of the .id.au sub-domain which was liberalised.

Resulting from the call from competition, the operation of 5 key .au registries - .com.au, .net.au, .org.au, .asn.au and .id.au was put to tender. The winning bidder(s) were to operate the registry for four years. One bid, encompassing all five registries, from AusRegistry won.

Go-live

The new regime of competition and name policy began on July 1, 2002. With relatively few teething problems, and a huge increase in domain registrations, the new environment was hailed a success.

auDA also focuses its work on trying to reduce the ongoing incidence of fraud in domain name registrations. High profile cases have been brought against companies that try to trick consumers into unnecessarily registering domain names, by sending false invoices with unreasonably high prices. It scored a major success in early 2004 when a joint action with the Australian government saw key purveyors of this practice restrained by the federal court.

In mid-2004, there was considerable disruption to the .au space when some legacy domains unexpectedly expired. auDA had been announcing the renewal policy for over two years, but did not succeed in contacting some of the registrants. This resulted in chaos as registrants needed to quickly reinstate their domains when they were switched off.

Structure of the organisation

Membership is open to auDA, and members nominate and elect representatives to the board of directors.

The board is ultimately responsible for directing the organisation, and is selected through a vote of its members in three distinct categories:

  • Supply class members are companies that sell domain names or related services
  • Demand class members represent end-users who purchase or use domain names
  • Representative Association class members are organisation that take an interest in domain issues (such as ISOC).

These three groups each have one third of the contestable board positions. This breakdown is aimed at providing broad balance of opinion to the board from different sectors of the local Internet community.

The chairmanship is currently filled by an independent third party.

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