A domain registrar acts as the middleman between the registry operator and a registrant; the person who has registered a domain name.
In relation to Australian domain names, the .au name space is controlled by Afilias Australia Pty Ltd*; the registry operator for all Australian top level domains (TLDs). These are: asn.au, .com.au, id.au, net.au and org.au. It is also the operator of second level domains (2LDs): act.au, nsw.au, nt.au, qld.au, sa.au, tas.au, vic.au and wa.au, along with edu.au and gov.au.
However, Afilias does not offer services directly to the public. Through .au Domain Administration Limited (auDA), it provides accreditation to registrars so that those companies can offer registration services to the public.
A domain name registrar acts as a manager of web addresses and makes them available on the Internet in accordance with the guidelines of auDA, or in the case of .com, .net and .org addresses, ICANN.
The registrar pays fees to the registry operator for each web address registered through their service and depending on the registry operator; an annual fee. Additionally, the domain registrar also plays a role in dispute resolution processes, such as cases regarding cybersquatting; where there are accusations someone has registered a web address in bad faith or is ineligible to.
Bearing in mind that nobody can actually "buy" a domain name in Australia (or elsewhere for that matter), just the rights to lease it; a registrant can be viewed as a tenant, the registrar the property caretaker and the domain registry, the property owner.
Domain registration services that are not accredited by organisations such as the auDA or ICANN, yet offer web address registration are often resellers. The resellers are an additional middleman between the registrant, registrar and the registry operator. There are also other important differences between registrars and resellers you should be aware of.
Domain registrars sometimes also offer additional services, such as web hosting; making the task of registering a name and setting up a web site a one-stop-shop type process. It's important to understand that web addresses and hosting are two separate services - and the availability of hosting is something worth considering when choosing a registrar.
*In December 2017, Afilias Australia Pty Ltd was appointed to provide registry services for the .au domain space from 1 July 2018, taking over from AusRegistry.
How to register a name: Enter your choice in the search tool and click 'GO'. If after the check the domain names search results show your choice is available, you will then have the option to proceed to purchase registration; which is a very quick and easy process - start a search and find your ideal website address now.