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Company Spends Thousands On Flowers, Hoping To Get The Domain Name They Want

Every day, a new bunch of flowers arrives at an office in Sydney, the latest installment in a campaign for a superannuation firm hoping to secure a domain name owned by someone else.

“Future Super, a superannuation fund, currently exists online at myfuturesuper.com.au. They want to get a URL name that is more accurate and exactly matching their company name.

The only problem is, someone else -- with a legitimate claim -- already owns the domain they want.

That someone is not currently populating the URL with any content, and the site sits blank. That someone works at another superannuation fund, with an office just down the road from Future Super's Sydney CBD premises.

So every business day for the last four months, that someone has been hand-delivered a fresh bunch of flowers and a poem from Future Super, as the firm hopes to encourage the owner to part ways with the domain.

"Hopefully us being lovely leads to him accepting our offer," said Future Super's Brett Morgan.

"If he's happy to hand it over, that'd be amazing, or if he wants to sell it. We're just trying to get him to come to the table."

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Future Super has documented the months-long campaign on Instagram, with flower-laden employees posing for photos en route to the office. Each bunch costing upwards of $20, the company has spent thousands on its campaign.

10 daily has contacted the domain's owner for comment.

How does the domain system work in Australia?

While a marketing expert tells 10 daily that having your domain name exactly match your business name can be a crucial boon to a company, there is no obligation for someone to sell a URL they own -- even if they're not using it.

There is a complicated set of rules that govern how domain names are bought and owned, and Australia is about to undergo its biggest URL shakeup in years.

Photo: Getty

"For a .com domain, it's basically first-come, first-served. You can register a name, and if you're willing to renew it, hold onto it," Nicholas Smith, principal at Nicholas Smith IP and Litigation, told 10 daily.

"For .com.au, it's a bit more restricted."

While registrars such as GoDaddy are the vendors where domains are purchased, other bodies regulate that system.

Internationally, the .com domain is overseen by the  Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Most nations have domestic bodies to manage each specific 'country code'. In Australia, it's is overseen by auDA, the .au Domain Administration, endorsed by the Commonwealth government.

To buy a .com.au domain, someone needs to have a connection with the name -- for example, holding a matching trademark or registered business name. This is in part meant to deal with 'cyber-squatters', shrewd internet users who buy up names en masse, in the hope that they will be worth something someday.

It also combats those who would look to register domain names which are very close to that of popular sites, in the hopes that internet users will mistakenly navigate to the site -- which may feature online scams or other undesirable content.

It's easy to buy up, and sit on, domains. Photo: Getty

It can cost as little as $10 a year to register and own a domain, so it can be a high-reward play.

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Cameron Boardman, auDA's CEO, said certain domains -- such as australianarmy.com.au -- were prohibited under various business and commerce laws, and that .com.au domains could only be registered by Aussie citizens or permanent residents.

Can someone make you give up a domain name?

Sometimes.

Australia has a system known as the .au Dispute Resolution Policy (auDRP) to "transfer a domain to a legit registrant if certain elements are proven", Smith said.

Boardman said the auDRP process can be used to complain about domains used to deliberately mislead users, or if a registrant doesn't have rights to use the name and another applicant does. If the complaint is upheld, the domain goes into a "daily drop list" in a marketplace, where anyone can pick it up.

"We're introducing laws around deceptively similar names," Boardman told 10 daily, such as those sites which are set up to take advantage of misspellings of popular sites.

"If we're satisfied on the evidence, or on a law enforcement request, we remove it from the registry and then permanently delete it, so it won't be available to buy."

What's changing?

Boardman said a major update is coming to Australia's domain system -- the introduction of the simpler .au domain, as opposed to .com.au or .org.au or .net.au.

The .au URLs will be available to buy from around October, with auDA currently working behind the scenes to develop frameworks to govern the new domains.

"There will be no replacement of .com.au, that will continue, existing sites will continue," Boardman explained. He said the new domains will simply give Australian residents and businesses more opportunity to get a name that they need, and that Australia was one of only two OECD countries to not yet institute this kind of domain system.

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"We have to look at how the internet has evolved. Individuals are buying domains in a personal capacity, or for a home business. It's giving more availability, additional choice and flexibility," Boardman said.

Already, domains like nationalpark.au, parliament.au, election.au, police.au and minister.au are being reserved for future use.

The .au domain will be available by year's end. Photo: Getty

Current domains will continue unaffected, but if two current domains share a name -- using a hypothetical example, xyz.com.au and xyz.co.au -- then the owners will have to agree on which of them gets to use xyz.au, otherwise that new domain will be permanently locked.

Boardman said this was being done to ensure a "no-harm principle" to existing domain name owners.

"This will be a very clear, public, national ad campaign," Boardman said.

Why is it important for businesses?

Morgan said Future Super's efforts to cajole the man into selling the domain have so far proved unfruitful, but that they were being "persistent" for commercial reasons.

"Having the right domain name keeps us on brand. It helps alleviate any confusion on behalf of our members trying to find the website, and having the right domain is crucial to running a legitimate business," he said.

Photo: Getty

Dr Edwina Luck, a senior lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology's business school, said there were legitimate commercial reasons why a company would look to secure a web domain exactly matching their business name.

"Otherwise you're confusing people," she told 10 daily.

"People don't have enough time in their day to think and make sure the name is right... it could cost customers. There are a million companies out there."

She added that having a domain name that matches a business name also goes to legitimacy and trust in the company.