Domain names think locally, act globally

With the pool of available dot-com addresses dwindling, one of the largest countries in the world and one of the smallest are marketing their own country codes.

The American dot-us extension is open for business on April 24 and Ottawa-based registrar will begin selling addresses to Canadians. Dot-tk, meanwhile, is the code for the tiny South Pacific island of Tokelau (pop. 1,500). Starting Thursday its addresses are being marketed internationally by Dutch corporation Taloha Inc., which means “”hello”” in Tokeauan.

The dot-us registry, operated by Washington, D.C.-based NeuStar Inc. was previously limited to 4th tier addresses — addresses that require city and state, like “”No one used it. There were less than 10,000 in use,”” says Internic president Rob Hall. “”They tend to be hospitals, libraries, individual towns.”” Beginning next month, those restrictions will be removed and dot-us will be a standalone address.

Right now, most people tend to think of a dot-com address as being American, says Hall, but that could change if dot-us comes into its own. “”What we’re seeing is more and more companies saying, ‘I’m going to use my country code sites to direct advertising and pricing to the people that country. That way I find out how many people are coming to the dot-us site,'”” says Hall.

However, in order to qualify for a dot-us domain, you must be able to prove a connection to the U.S., such as citizenship, affiliation with an American company or ownership of an American trademark. The goal for Internic, says Hall, is to market the address to Canadian companies so they can direct potential American clients to a tailored Web site with American marketing material.

He expects companies to begin registering dot-us addresses as soon as they become available, if only to protect their names.

Dot-tk, on the other hand, doesn’t have quite the international caché. Dot-tv — the country code for another Pacific island, Tuvalu — has made a killing by marketing its name as dot-television. But the only thing dot-tk stands for is “”te kopen,”” which is Dutch for “”to buy”” or “”for sale.””

To get past this problem, domains are being given away for free, says Dot TK spokesperson Hans Bouman. “”What Dot TK is trying to do with this extension is get a critical mass so it will be totally accepted that you can have URLs ending in dot-tk,”” he says. There are now 140,000 dot-tk addresses registered — none of which are owned by the citizens of Tokelau, who share only four phone lines between them.

“”Of those 140,000 registered, quite a lot are from Holland,”” says Bouman. “”This is one of the last great extensions on the Internet. If you look at dot-info, dot-biz, dot-shop, you always have to buy it. Finally there’s a free domain name that’s unique.””

In order to turn a profit for Taloha Inc. and the people of Tokelau, Dot TK is also selling a DNS service for US$35 a year and have set aside 55,000 trademark names belonging to Fortune 500 companies, which they can then register for themselves at a cost. The company may have already gaffed, however, since appears to link to a Dutchman’s homepage.

The rush to capitalize on extensions other than dot-com has hit fever pitch, says Hall. “”There’s only about 220 of them (country codes) and I’m not sure how many of them are very useful,”” he says. “”I think you will see more specialized ones. So, where does it end? That’s a huge debate right now in the industry.””


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