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vol. 2, no. 2
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Tim Oake questions the value of top-level domain real estate

Some of you may have noticed that the non-profit organization responsible for the Internet address system – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) – approved three more top-level domains in April 2005. For the uninitiated few, a top-level domain (TLD) is the last part of an Internet domain name. Most commonly, these are country code TLDs – like .uk, .nl and .de – and generic TLDs – like .com, .net and .org. Largely for historical reasons, some countries combine the two types – such as .co.uk and .com.au – while others, such as the Netherlands, usually just use the country code.

The three most recently designated TLDs are .jobs, .travel and .eu. The first two are known as ‘sponsored TLDs’, the idea of which is to allow site addresses to indicate to visitors what they’ll find there. Millions of people use the Internet to find jobs and to organize their travel arrangements. The .jobs domain is sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management, which says it found little consistency in how businesses post job openings on their websites. Many employers post openings somewhere on their corporate sites, but naturally they choose different schemes to do so. The new suffix could eliminate much of the hassle involved in posting and finding vacancies, as job seekers could go to www.abnamro.jobs or www.philips.jobs, for example. Registration for .travel domain names will be restricted to authentic travel firms; presumably they will need to be members of established travel industry associations. The third is a new country code TLD for companies and organizations that operate on a pan-European basis.

I’m quite doubtful about the likely success of these new TLDs. The main reason is that when we talk about the Internet we say “dot com”. When we’re unsure of an exact address for a business site, we at least know it’s likely to either end in .com or .nl if it’s based in the Netherlands, for example. For that reason, we usually

list our site with a .com ending, but we’ve also registered the .nl TLD, so whichever address you type in, you’ll come here. Many Internet users in the Netherlands just assume they end an address with .nl, and many internationally operating companies register multiple sites with the country code TLDs for where they operate, usually in the local language. If you went to university in the States, you probably got used to .edu, whereas the URL of my own alma mater is lse.ac.uk.

The numbers speak for themselves. There are around 35 million .com addresses, while Germany’s .de and the UK’s .uk follow some way behind in second and third place. The ICANN introduced seven new TLDs five years ago: .biz, .info, .aero, .name, .pro, .coop and .museum, but I can’t remember ever visiting a site with any of those name endings. There was plenty of press coverage when .biz was added in 2000, but few companies seem to have taken the bait, and I don’t blame them. True, you’re more likely to be able to choose a name you’d prefer with a .biz ending, but it has neither the cachet or the presence in the public consciousness.

Unusual country code TLDs have been marketed in a similar way in recent years. The two best known were chosen for the connotation their two-letter codes have - .tv and .nu. The island of Tuvalu’s ISO code of .tv appears to lend itself to use by businesses in the television industry of course. Its 11,000 residents leased it to a marketing company for 12 years for $50 million, but my guess is that the islanders got the best of the deal. The 1,200 residents of Niue, nearby New Zealand, may be pleased that over 100,000 .nu registrations have been made. They’re mostly limited to Swedish and Dutch registrants, in whose languages ‘nu’ means ‘now’, but since the scope for finding appropriate names with .se and .nl endings is relatively wide, I’d argue that they would almost always make better choices.

The fifth Client & Partner Briefing argued that propaganda was replacing informed and informative PR in the European technology patents debate.

Our fourth Client & Partner Briefing looked at the communication of corporate citizenship - the value in values.

In the third Client & Partner Briefing we discussed the blogging phenomenon and the rise of the corporate weblog.

The second Client & Partner Briefing presented our views on why 80% of CRM projects have failed in the Netherlands.

Our first Client & Partner Briefing addressed the thorny question of whether or when -ise or -ize word endings should be used.

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