It's easy to feel lost in the terminology surrounding the Domain Name System (DNS). There are many acronyms and phrases that can be difficult to understand. Here we break some key terms down to help you more easily navigate the .au domain.
Knowing the difference between registrants, registrars, resellers, and the registry is important in order to understand how domain names are accessed and licensed by the those looking to use them.
auDA (pronounced ow-DUH) develops and administers the rules for the .au domain. It is a not-for-profit, endorsed by the Australian Government to make sure that the .au domain remains a reliable, secure and trusted for all Internet users.
A registrant is someone who licences a domain name. Registrants do not own a domain name, rather, they hold a licence that allows them to use the registered domain name for the duration of the licence period. To use an analogy, this is like getting a new phone number when you take out a phone plan. You do not own the number itself but you pay a fee to effectively license that number for a designated period of time. During that time the number (or domain name) will be associated with you and only you.
Registrars are companies accredited by auDA to offer .au domain name services to the public, including registering and renewing domain name licences. Using our telco example from above, registrars are similar to telecommunications companies. They interact directly with customers and enter into contracts with them. Registrars enter into contracts with registrants to license them domain names, while a telecommunications company enters into contracts with its customers to provide a telephone service. Only accredited registrars have direct access to update registry data.
Resellers are businesses that provide domain name registration services to the public but are not accredited registrars. As they aren’t accredited, they do not have direct access to the registry data so they act as a middleman, registering domain names through an accredited registrar.
But how do we keep track of which domain names are currently registered? How do we make sure that multiple people aren't allocated the same domain name?
We do this through the registry database, which is a database of all licenced domain names and associated information, such as the name and contact details of the registrant and registrar. Selected registry data is publicly available via the WHOIS tool, which allows people to find information about a domain name licence (“WHOIS” the licence holder).
Understanding who is behind a domain name and being able to verify their eligibility to hold a .au licence through the public WHOIS data is important to support the integrity of the .au domain.
Learn more about the .au domain name system on the .au blog.