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Open Universities Australia makes the cut in .courses domain bid

Open Universities Australia has made the list in a lottery draw held by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers…

ICANN ICANN is the body that defines policies for how the "names and numbers" of the internet should run.

Open Universities Australia has made the list in a lottery draw held by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to help assign new generic top-level domains.

Open Universities Australia is seeking the domain names .courses and .study in a domain name land grab that is attracting millions of dollars of investment by major brands around the world.

Initial applications for a generic top-level domain cost US$85,000, with consultancy fees estimated at between $50,000 and $100,000, and annual fees of US$25,000.

Nearly 2,000 companies and organisations have applied for a generic top-level domain, and yesterday ICANN held a “prioritisation draw” to determine the order in which initial evaluation results are released. The draw is important because it helps determine who gets priority in a process expected to take months and potentially years to finalise.

Open Universities Australia saw its application for the .study domain win the top spot among Australian universities in the draw, with a ranking of 349. Its application for .courses also made the top 1,000 at 954.

Open Universities Australia chief executive Paul Wappett said it was a good result that the organisation’s applications were in the top half of the priority ballot.

“At this point we haven’t received any notification from ICANN of objections or contest against our applications and look forward to receiving the final outcome next year,” he said.

Monash University also performed well in list of universities being drawn from the ballet box, with a ranking of 338 for its application for .monash.

La Trobe University drew ranking 802 in its application for .latrobe, while Bond University fell outside the top 1,000 drawing rank 1,145 for its .bond application.

“For some organisations in the lottery it’s about protecting their existing brand, but for others it’s about developing a brand and looking for new opportunities,” said Dr Mark Gregory, senior lecturer in electrical and computer engineering at RMIT University.

“Those that can capture the keyword early on are going to do very well out of this, more so than the brands, it’s the ones that get the .study, the .select, .ceo – they’re there the ones that are going to be the big winners out of this.”

However Dr Gregory flagged a potential competition issue for Open Universities Australia in any bid to dominate online course-related domains.

“You are going to have organisations that are bidding to cover off all the domain names in a particular territory like that.

“The comment I would make is: Is that good for competition and ultimately would they be in breach of Australian competition laws?”

Dr Gregory said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission may need to be consulted before organisations could proceed down the track of owning multiple domain names in one area.

“I don’t think they’ve thought that through yet,” he said.

However Bruce Arnold, lecturer in law at the University of Canberra, said the likelihood of competition being a major issue was remote.

“The institution that’s missed out is quite able to get out there and market itself quite effectively without using that domain name, and indeed that’s what they’re doing.

Mr Arnold said he was sceptical of the hopes being placed on generic domain names like .courses or .study, with support for brands more likely to come on the basis of the experience delivered by the brand.

“What we’ve seen with roughly two decades of ecommerce is businesses are living or dying on the basis of behind the scenes delivery. If something goes wrong do they make the problem go away quickly, do they deal courteously with consumers when there’s a complaint, are their terms and conditions fair, does the service stay online.”

Mr Arnold said in the next ten years .monash is probably likely to be seen as more credible than .course, .education, .university, or .study.