The Australian Domain Name Administrator (auDA), which is responsible for regulating the .au domain space, is introducing an official Domain Drop List to alert the public when an expired or deleted domain name will be back on the market. auDA is also changing its policy so that all expired or deleted domain names will be purged at 1.00pm AEST, rather than at a random time.

This means that registrants will need to be vigilant about renewing their domain names on time as attractive domain names are likely to be snapped up quickly if allowed to expire.

Domain names in the .au space can be renewed in the 90 days prior to their expiry date and within the 30 day grace period after the expiry date. On the expiry date the domain name will be removed from the DNS so that it will no longer work on the Internet, which is an excellent reminder to some registrants that they have not paid their renewal fee. However, it is not always effective. Registrants do not always have active websites at their domain names as they may be holding them for future use. Also, not all registrants regularly check their websites, for example, if a large company had several domain names linking through to a central website, it may not come to their attention for several months that one of those domain names is no longer working. Drop lists reduce the likelihood that the domain name will be available for the original owner to re-register when the loss comes to their attention.

Domain drop lists are not new - there are a number of unofficial lists available on the Internet - but now that auDA is providing an official list we can expect the practice of picking up dropped domain names to become mainstream.

So what should registrants do to protect themselves?

  • Make sure that your Registrar has your correct email address for renewal notices as they won't chase you.
  • It is a good idea to make your contact email address one that automatically routes to several people to avoid all your renewal notices going to someone who is on leave or has left the company.
  • Keep your own independant record of the expiry dates of each of your domain names.
  • If you have a law firm keeping track of your trade mark portfolio, ask them to manage your domain names as well.

One helpful change in the new auDA policy is that Registrars are now allowed to offer a "domain sync" service, where registrants can change the individual expiry dates of each of their .au domain names so that they fall on the same day, as long as that date falls within the 2 year registration period of each domain name. One renewal date is much easier to keep track of than several so if you have a large portfolio of .au domain names you may wish to ask your Registrar whether they intend to introduce this service.

These changes will come into effect on 21 March 2010. For more information see the auDA website.