How to screw the auDA for fun and profit
Recently, the auDA (Australian Domain Administrator) updated their rules regarding the registration of names in *.au. Among them are some changes to the policies on domain monetisation.
But in the end, these rules don’t matter at all – because of the way that auDA policy works it is trivial to squat domains even when it violates auDA policy.
How it works is very simple – it is to do with the way the auDRP (Dispute Resolution Policy) is enacted.
In the policy, it requires the services of an independent arbitration panel. The complainant must pay a fee of 2000$ for a 1-member panel, or 4500$ for a 3-member panel. The complainant may ask for the domain license to be revoked, or transferred to them in the case that they are eligible. The worst that can happen for a defendant is that the domain is taken away from them.
As a result, a nefarious party may register large numbers of domain names hosting adverts on them (so as to satisfy that the use of the domain is “relevant”). They could use common types of businesses, or locations of businesses, things that people are likely to type into their web browser and add .com.au on the end of.
The extremely cunning will go a step further, scraping business names from sources like the Yellow and White Pages directories, or the Australian Business Register, and directly target businesses. There’s already people out there doing this with Adwords listings trying to target traffic from competitors.
They could then offer listings on the site or to buy the domain outright for several times the registration cost (say, 1000$ to have the domain transferred to the business), and it would be still cheaper than dealing with the auDRP, even though it is in clear violation of policies.
Basically, the auDRP is a huge joke when it comes to domain squatting of this nature. The only people who can afford to deal with it are big business (so registrations of micosoft.com.au or gogle.com.au will never be a problem), but small to medium businesses, often those that have a poor or non-existent internet presence get the short straw.
What’s more is some of these tactics are actively being exploited today. There exists a company who operates over 2,500 “business directory” sites using generic names, that are “Copyright 2011 example.com.au” who sell listings on these sites at 75$/yr – more than what it costs to register a .com.au domain for two years! This is being operated by Ollority Pty Ltd, who in turn seem to be owned by Online Marketing Group Pty Ltd, who are in turn owned by Fairfax (one of Australia’s largest media companies).
This kind of wholesale pollution of our country’s ccTLD needs to be stopped. Unfortunately there’s a lot of money in this industry, and I don’t think that those companies are going to go away quietly.
Google managed to establish themselves as a household name of the first place you go on the internet when looking for anything. They beat other search engines and directories by offering very good quality results in a lightweight, no-nonsense format that was accessible. They beat business directories like the Yellow Pages, who deliver printed directories every year to every person with a telephone line, who have been a household name for decades.
I have nothing against people starting up a business directory. You just shouldn’t resort to pollution of our country’s domain namespace in the process.