What is a domain?
A domain name is also called a web address, URL or web name, and is a unique way of identifying (or for people to find) your business on the internet. For example, getstarted.com.au is a domain name or web address.
From your web address, you can host your website, usually with ”www.¢ in front of it, at say www.getstarted.com.au. Further, you can use your domain for your email needs, such as firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can still connect your computer to the internet without having a domain name, look around and go to other business websites (by connecting to the internet through your ISP, and surfing using your web browser) - but other people on the internet cannot see your website or email you at your business email address (unless you have registered your domain license, and have a website and email address hosted).
A web hosting company “hosts” your website at your domain address on their web server, so it can be viewed from the internet 24 hours a day. Much like paying rent for the right to stay in a place, you must pay hosting fees to have your website and email “hosted” on a web server so it is always visible to the internet. (Get Started provides this hosting service too, but we do not provide the services of an ISP, that is, enabling you to connect to the internet.)
Without a domain name you cannot have your website and/or email working at a name that reflects your business name (you can still use an email address like email@example.com – but it is not as professional as firstname.lastname@example.org)
What is a domain license?
You never actually “own” a domain name, you have to license it. An Australian domain name licence - the .au space (e.g. for .com.au, .net.au, .org.au etc) - must be renewed every 2 years, whereas generic top-level domain licences (also called gTLDs or TLDs) can be registered for anywhere from 1-10 years. The licensing rights and policy for the .au space is administered by a not-for-profit government endorsed industry body, called auDA (.au Domain Administrators) – read more about them at www.auda.org.au. Their job is to set license policy for each of the .au domain extensions, and monitor the Registrars who grant a license to applicants (called Registrants).
Who is AusRegistry and what is the Registry?
The .au Registry is the central database which stores all approved .au domain licenses. This is important as the web servers on the internet rely on this .au Registry database to find a .au website someone is looking for when they type in, say www.getstarted.com.au.
The simplest way to quickly describe how the underlying internet works is:
1. In your web browser you type in a domain name or web address, like www.getstarted.com.au
2. Your web browser asks a domain name server near it “is this domain name valid, and if so, where on the internet is the web server which hosts this website so I can talk to it?”
3. The domain name server tells your browser which web server on the internet to then talk to – or it will tell it the domain name is not valid or registered (this means the domain name does not exist in the central .au Registry)
This all sounds rather complicated and slow, but what is called the Domain Name System (DNS) is a very powerful piece of technology, invented decades ago, and it provides the platform for the power and speed of the internet – to connect to a website half-way across the world quickly and simply, by entering in a real-world domain name. AusRegistry is the business responsible for maintaining the .au Registry database on the internet. They cannot be a Registrar or Reseller of .au domains, so good segregation of duties and responsibilities is maintained. While there are a few Registrars and thousands of Resellers, there is only one .au Registry operator in the world – AusRegistry.
Who is auDA?
Put simply, auDA sets the rules for who can own a domain license. They also accredit or appoint registrar licenses to the few .au Registrars that exist in the world. If auDA finds a Registrar is continually breaching the rules around appointing domain licenses, they can remove the registrar license from the offending Registrar. Further, auDA appoint the sole Registry operator, currently AusRegistry.
How do I register, renew and manage my domains?
For more information on registering, renewing and managing your domain names, see here.