Regional businesses trump cities in domain registration

Liz Tay | Jan 19, 2012 6:30 AM
New gTLDs yet to impact .au demand.

A larger fraction of businesses in remote Australia have registered .au domain names than those in major cities, domain name regulator auDA has reported.

According to a Deloitte report commissioned by auDA in September and released this week, more than two in three businesses in “very remote Australia” own .au domain names.

The ratio was slightly lower in major cities, with .au domain names for just over six in ten metropolitan businesses.

Deloitte highlighted the finding as “somewhat surprising”, noting: “Typically rates of connection to the internet are lower in very remote Australia, which affects the overall lower access to quality internet services in these regions".

Report authors speculated that those remote businesses may be more reliant on communications technology in their operations.

Alternatively, results could reflect the relatively low number of registered businesses in those areas.

AuDA commissioned the Deloitte report following its tenth year of managing the .au domain range, amid major changes in the international top-level domain (TLD) regime.

According to the report, Australian domain hosts and registrars generated $269.6 million last year by registering a total of 2.3 million .au domains.

By comparison, there were about 300,000 registered .au domains in December 2002.

A further $205.1 million was generated by related services, including web design and infrastructure, Deloitte noted, estimating a demand for 4326 full-time workers in the overall domain industry.

As of last August, almost 60,000 new domain names were being registered each month, with .com.au accounting for 85 percent of all registered .au domain names.

Deloitte warned the future of .au domain names would be affected by consumers’ increasing reliance on search engines, social media and group buying sites for finding information.

International domain regulator ICANN’s introduction of non-Latin ‘Internationalised Domain Names’ and generic TLDs (gTLDs) could also affect demand, the report noted.

Last week, ICANN began accepting applications to register new gTLDs that would allow domains to end in .music, .canon or .berlin, for example, instead of the usual .com or .com.au.

The Victorian and NSW Governments planned to register .sydney, .melbourne and .victoria top-level domains according to a request for proposals in October.

Melbourne IT, a vocal supporter of the new gTLD regime, said last week’s opening of applications had no impact on the demand for regular domains.

“As the new gTLDs don’t go live until 2013, organisations will need to use the existing space until then,” a spokeswoman noted.

AuDA spokesman Paul Szyndler said .au domain registration prices had been trending down in the past ten years, from about $140 to $30 for a .com.au domain.

He speculated that business name gTLDs like .ibm or .apple, and industry- or interest-specific domains like .sport would have little impact on demand for .au domains.

But state-run domains “may have an impact”, he said, adding that it was too early to predict their success.

“A great many possibilities must be realised before we would see .au take a hit in demand,” Szyndler speculated. “That said, we and our board monitor developments closely."