Building on analysis of .au domain name registration data and geographic, economic, and technical information, this research presents a contemporary atlas of Australia's online landscape and maps out digital business intensity and clusters of technological innovation.
The Atlas of Australia Online 2023 report was commissioned by auDA and conducted by League of Scholars in collaboration with researchers from CSIRO’s Data61 and the University of Technology Sydney.
On 4 December, auDA CEO Rosemary Sinclair AM sat down with lead research partner Professor Paul McCarthy, University of New South Wales School of Computer Science and Engineering, to discuss key findings from the report.
Key findings include:
Domain name registration is a leading indicator of broader innovation and digital transformation activity across the economy.
Registering a domain name is often synonymous with registering a business.
“We found that domain registrations were coincident with business registration. So, in other words, people register a domain name and a business at the same time”, explains Professor McCarthy.
While this is not surprising, one of the more astounding findings according to Professor McCarthy is that there's a slight lag between businesses registering a trademark, and then later, a patent.
According to Professor McCarthy, “this is telling us that domain name registration is the first action in a cycle, and can be a leading economic indicator, and might be useful for a whole range of other economic prediction activities.”
Australian domain names have a strong global impact, with higher network centrality than most of Western Europe and higher than most OECD countries
Australia punches above its weight when it comes to the online landscape. Home to just 0.3 per cent of the world’s population, Australia accounts for 1.7 per cent of the global economy. Australia’s disproportionately high contribution is also evident in the online landscape where the .au domain occupies around one per cent of the world’s domain names.
In addition to being over-represented when compared to population, .au domain names have a strong global impact.
As Professor McCarthy explains, “Australia's web is among the most central in the world in terms of top level domain, and it ranks sixth in network centrality as measured by harmonic centrality.”
The idea of network centrality is to measure the overall centralisation of a network. It measures not only the number of domain name registrations, but also how each website associated with a registered domain name is connected to the rest of the web. Put simply, it is the measure of distance between your domain name and every other domain name on the web.
Harmonic centrality as a measure of network centrality can be used to rank individual domain names within a network, or as a collective measure of an entire domain name space to understand its centrality within the global network of the world wide web.
Australia’s ranking shows that “the .au is trusted, a trusted source of information of commerce in the web, and it's central to the global web”, Professor McCarthy adds.
Australian Digital Business Intensity is not population dependent
While .au domain name registrations correlate with population, Digital Business Intensity (the concentration of domain names as a proportion of businesses) is not population dependent: Sydney metro has the most registered businesses, but Brisbane metro has the highest Digital Business Intensity.
The research shows that some regions have a higher level of domain name registrations, even after adjusting for population. Outliers like Karratha and Torquay, with high levels of digital adoption, appear to reflect circumstances that have encouraged digital activity, such as tourism, and industry-specific activities like mining etc.
Higher levels of Digital Business Intensity correlate with higher levels of socio-economic advantage, education and occupation. For policymakers, such findings provide greater insight into Australia’s digital divide challenges.
Digital Business Intensity can be used to analyse the success of digital policies
Digital Business Intensity further presents an opportunity for governments and policy makers to consider investing in and encouraging growth through innovation and entrepreneurship.
This report provides an additional layer of analysis, enabling deeper insight into the picture of businesses online.
Findings could also encourage policymakers to continue driving activity that reduces a digital divide. As Rosemary emphasises, “the combination of internet connectivity, the digital policies supporting innovation and entrepreneurship and domain names are key to deliver economic and social outcomes.”
There are eleven distinct Technology Tribes across Australian websites
Clustering analysis of Australia’s most significant domain names and websites – also referred to as the .au100K – reveals eleven ‘Technology Tribes’ and provides insight into the technological composition of the Australian internet, including dominant technologies.
More precisely, the websites of the .au100K collectively use 13,000 different technologies. Examples of the technologies include enterprise software products, content management systems, web-analytics tools, payment gateways and many more.
Each Technology Tribe has its own ‘signature’ technologies that are used by the majority of organisations belonging to the tribe. This reveals how organisations use their online presence (for example for e-commerce).1
As noted by Professor Paul McCarthy, such findings create learning opportunities for organisations. By recognising the technology stack of the .au100K and their technology usage patterns, small organisations could learn how to utilise and adopt such technologies.
Why these key findings are important
These key findings provide a comprehensive overview of the Australian internet landscape as a rich and varied place.
Innovation drives economic growth and an atlas approach provides opportunity for location-based insights.
Domain name registrations can also be tracked in almost real time by organisations like auDA, allowing more timely insights into economic activity.
1The analysis looks at technologies underpinning websites rather than content of websites.