UK: IN .BIZNESS: Top Level Domain Names - Does Reality Match the Hype?

Last Updated: 14 December 2001

Article by Jonathan Ebsworth and Giles Bennett

Now that the new top level domains are coming on-line, Jonathan Ebsworth and Giles Bennett examine whether reality has lived up to the hype.

Readers may recall our previous article (.dash), which looked at domain names in general, and the seven new top level domains ("TLD") which had then been created, focusing on .biz and .info in particular. Since then, both of these two have gone live, and a further two have been released from the starting gates - .name and .museum. Are these new domains the momentous step forward we were warned to expect?

.biz

Of all of the new top level domains, .biz (and its registry NeuLevel) has probably had the roughest time of all. It first extended the deadline for pre-registration by trademark owners from 6th August 2001 to 8th August 2001. It subsequently decided to extend pre-registration for all-comers by ten days (as a result of the events of 11th September 2001) to 21st September 2001. Finally, whilst the original deadline for "going live" was 1st October 2001, this was then extended to 23rd October 2001 and subsequently to 7th November 2001.

As if this wasn’t enough, Amazon.com alleged (at the end of July) that the domain name allocation and registration plan (which had been approved by ICANN) was in violation of various federal and state lottery laws, primarily because an application / processing fee of $2.00 did not guarantee any form of success, and consequently had an element of chance to it. To add insult to injury, it also threatened legal action if NeuLevel didn’t alter the plan to one which would ensure (surprise, surprise) Amazon.com ended up owning Amazon.biz.

Litigation by third parties against ICANN and NeuLevel followed, which resulted in a preliminary injunction being imposed on NeuLevel preventing activation of those .biz domains for which there were multiple applicants during the pre-launch phase (which is in the region of 20% of all of the names applied for). As a result, these did not go live on 7th November 2001, but will come on-line as and when the legal proceedings are resolved.

In terms of pure numbers, NeuLevel’s figures indicate that 160,000 .biz domains were pre-registered and successfully activated on 7th November. Whilst NeuLevel’s prediction of many millions of registrations within the first few months might be slightly optimistic, using .info as a guide, we could expect to see something in the region of 1,400,000 registrations being made between 7th November 2001 and 21st January 2002.

.info

Leaving aside pseudo TLD’s offered by new.net (as briefly discussed in .dash), Afilias (the Registry for .info) has the proud distinction of being able to say that it has registered the first new TLD since .com was introduced. Following a sunrise period to enable pre-registration for trademark owners (during which 52,000 applications were made), open registration began on 12th September 2001, and between then and the start of real-time registration (on 1st October 2001) a further 300,000 registrations were made. The balance (148,000 registrations) have been made since that date. These figures contrast dramatically to the performance of .com, .net and .org during the month of September, which had net registrations (ie. new registrations less expired names) of 196,833. Real-time registrations are now proceeding nicely, and already it is number seven on the leaderboard for the most domains for each top level and country code domain. In case you were wondering, the leaderboard looks like this:

Position

Domain

Registrations

1

.com (International)

22,373,097

2

.net (International)

4,244,092

3

.co.uk (U.K.)

2,703,274

4

.org (International)

2,688,657

5

.nl (Netherlands)

672,233

6

.it (Italy)

537,909

7

.info (International)

c. 500,000

8

Argentina

375,659

Figures from Domainstats.com, correct at time of writing.

 

.name

Governance of the .name TLD has been given to the Global Name Registry. Unlike other domain names, which are www.name.com, as this is designed solely for individuals, and to enable a maximum number of people to take advantage of it, the domain name is actually in two parts. GNR envision them being used along the lines of www.giles.bennett.name, or www.g.bennett.name.

To facilitate registration they set up two separate periods - the Startup Phase and the Live SRS Phase.

The Startup Phase was itself sub-divided into two periods:

  • The Sunrise Phase ran up until 12th November 2001, and during this time two intellectual property protection products were available (at a surcharge).
  • Defensive registration, which itself had two levels of protection:
    • Premium, which protected nationally registered trademarks which are not personal names (such as IBM) by blocking any registration containing the trademark – be it www.ibm.*.name, or www.*.ibm.name.
    • Standard removed exact names from the .name domain space, such as www.coca.cola.name or www.ibm.thinkpad.name.

  • NameWatch was the second intellectual property protection product, which monitored famous names, trademarks, etc., and alerted subscribers to any registration of a .name including those words, to enable preventative strikes to be taken against potential cyber-squatters.
  • The Landrush Phase was the second phase of the Startup Phase– this enabled pre-registration of .names (either direct with GNR or with nominated registrars) up until 22nd November, at which time the first batch of pre-registered domains was processed.

After the end of the Startup Phase there will be further registration, with batches being processed at regular intervals up until Spring 2002 (as currently envisioned) from which point a .name will be able to be registered in real-time (ie. the Live SRS Phase) through the various accredited registrars.

.museum

.museum is unique amongst the seven new TLD’s as it is the first to be released which is restricted to a very specific market – in this case museums, museum organisations and individual members of the museum profession. The sponsors are the inventively named Museum Domain Management Association (or MuseDoma for short) who signed their Sponsorship Agreement with ICANN on 17th October 2001. Domain names should take a form along the lines of www.name.science.museum or www.name.location.museum (giving, for example, www.ffestiniog.railway.museum, or – avoiding the guidelines - the elegant www.the.british.museum).

From 30th June 2001 to 31st October 2001 MuseDoma accepted preliminary applications for .museum registrations, and published a list thereof on 8th November 2001.1 Thereafter, requests for names will be accepted from 21st November 2001 onwards. Given the likely safe-guards which MuseDoma will need to put in place to ensure that applicants for .museum domain names are genuine museums or related bodies / persons, it is highly unlikely that any form of real-time domain registration will be viable. Whilst technically possible, it is unlikely that either of the other new sponsored (and restricted) domain names (.aero, .coop) will permit real-time registration.

Summary

The new TLD registrations are well underway, and whilst they have not attained the heady heights originally suggested, there is little doubt that preliminary sales are impressive. There are several possible reasons for this:

  1. A large number of existing .coms are purchasing their corresponding domains in .biz and .info as a purely defensive measure.
  2. Other organisations are taking advantage of the availability of the new domains to re-brand, or convert to a more subtle domain name – like the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority, which in the past laboured under www.mtahq.nyc.ny, but has converted to mta.info.
  3. Applicants are fed up of the unavailability of worthwhile .com names, and are seeing .biz or .info as a commercially acceptable alternative.
  4. Speculative purchasers are buying large tranches of the new domains in an effort to sell them on later at substantial premiums, when, as with .com, viable .biz and .info names become scarce.

The jury is still out, it would appear, on whether there is any real on-going shift away from the original TLD’s, and it will doubtless be some time before clear indications emerge one way or another. Nonetheless, the implications seem to suggest that the .com cache has certainly been diluted.

FOOTNOTES

1) There is a list available at http://index.musem/ of all of the registered primary domains, with each sub-domain listed thereunder.

© Reid Minty 2001

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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