April 18, 2001
New top-level domain names, such as .shop, are available or will be soon
If you have a Web site or plan to build one, one of the first things to consider is your domain name the address users type into their Web browsers to access your site. Besides the tough decision of what to name your site, you have to decide what "dot" ending, technically called top-level domain, you want. Until last year, there were few choices .com, .net or .org and eventually .cc, .ws and .tv endings became available as well.
Today, however, you have more choices for your domain name. Last November, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which assigns domain names and decides what top-level domains exist, agreed to add seven new dot endings .aero, .biz, .coop, .info, .museum, .name and .pro. Unfortunately due to a long approval process, these top-level domains aren't expected to be available until the second or third quarter of 2001. In the meantime, you have to wait. Be careful the Federal Trade Commission has issued a warning about a new scam targeting would-be Web site owners, offering them the opportunity to preregister new top-level domain names. The FTC says people should avoid any domain-name preregistration service that guarantees particular top-level domain names because ICANN has not authorized any company to pre-register the new top-level domains.
Waiting around for ICANN's new dot endings to be approved isn't your only option if you want a non-traditional dot ending for your site. Another company, New.net Inc., is offering 20 new top-level domains .shop, .mp3, .inc, .kids, .sport, .family, .chat, .video, .club, .hola, .soc, .med, .law, .travel, .game, .free, .ltd, .gmbh, .tech and .xxx. These top-level domains aren't approved by ICANN and can't be accessed by most Web browsers without a special plug-in.
New.net offers the new dot endings because it was tired of waiting for ICANN to approve more descriptive top-level domains. So the company sold its own top-level domains for $25 per year and devised a plan to let people download a browser plug-in to access sites registered through New.net. New.net also formed alliances with Excite@Home and Earthlink to allow users of both Internet services hassle-free access to New.net domains. More than 16 million people have downloaded the plug-in, and New.net hopes its domain names will soon be recognized universally across the Internet.
If you're launching a new Web site soon, you're better off sticking to a traditional ICANN-approved top-level domain. Your customers won't have trouble accessing the site, and you won't have to wait for new ICANN ending to be approved. If you're interested in a New.net domain, keep in mind that some potential customers may not want to download the necessary plug-in to access your site.
For more information about New.net domain names and to keep updated on how many users can access its domains, visit www.new.net.
If you have concerns about the pre-registration scam, visit the FTC's site at www.ftc.gov or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.
- by Julia M. Duncan