Country Code Top Level Domain Names
How to Grab the Domain Name You Want -- and Protect It Throughout the World.
By Robert W. Bly, author of Internet Direct Mail: The Complete Guide to Successful e-mail Marketing Campaigns (NTC Business Books)
Although the supply of desirable domain names with the .com extension is dwindling, the availability of country code top-level domain extensions -- extensions based on individual nations (e.g., uk for United Kingdom) -- has created a whole new inventory of available domains. Businesses that cannot get their desired domain name with a .com extension can now register that domain name with an alternative extension. Large corporations that want to protect their brand identity and establish a strong local Internet presence in nations worldwide are urged to register their URL with all available country code extensions.
The Master of Your (Web) Domain
According to a recent article in CIO magazine, there are more than 550 billion individual pages posted on the World Wide Web. Network Solutions, a major online registration service, registered 840,000 domain names last year alone.
Although the Internet presents users with a wonderful tool for research, entertainment, communication, and commerce, we are faced today with the problems of clutter and overload. There is too much information for the consumer to digest, too many Web sites competing for his attention, to many online stores and brands competing for his dollars.
For this reason, online marketers are -- quite appropriately -- incredibly choosy about the domain names they adopt for their Web sites. The domain name is an essential element -- perhaps the most essential -- in establishing and communicating an online brand.
Businesses tend to gravitate toward a particular domain name for three major reasons. The first is that the domain name relates well to their positioning and branding. The domain name might be a variation of their product name or product category.
The second reason is association: The Internet marketer believes Internet surfers would go to the name when looking for information on that specific topic. For instance, a porn site operator might register www.topless.com based on the assumption that Web surfers looking for a porn site would try that URL.
The third factor making a URL desirable is memorability: The Internet marketer believes that visitors will find the domain name easy to remember. †This is the reason why a printer with a four-color press might register the domain name www.colorprinting.com.
Whatís in a (domain) name?
Americans have always been fascinated by names, and itís been long-established that someone or somethingís name influences how people react to it.
When I grew up in Paterson, NJ, there were many physicians in town, but only one that virtually everybody knew by name. And that was because of his name: Dr. Dokter.
My high school friend constantly took ribbing for his name, Henry Fink. So did my sister-in-law before she got married, Arlene Lipschitz.
Some names connote power, and some donít, even though the name was given long before the person formed his or her personality. Examples? Ruth vs. Bambi, Percy vs. Rocky.
Certain names are memorable; others make us laugh. In his book Remarkabilia, author John Train lists some of the -- absolutely real -- people he has found: Kitty Peed, Verbal Funderburk, Moon Unit Zappa, Herman Sherman Berman, and Evan Keel. I once had a colleague whose husband was Vartan Vartan.
Sometimes the reason why a business chose a certain name seems either a mystery or a mistake. Believe it or not, thereís a restaurant on the West Coast called Ure A. Pigg. And donít forget the law firm of Lawless & Lynch.
So ... what makes for a good name on a Web site? Debate rages, but here are three criteria that are hard to disagree with:
∑ Memorable. Why is an online bookstore called Amazon.com? Simply because itís easy to remember. Same thing with a portal called Yahoo.
∑ Logical. Another tactic that works is to select a name that logically ties in with what you do. Examples: Printing.com for a printer and flowers.com for a florist. Or, simply make the domain name the same as your company name. IBMís domain name is IBM.com. Sprint Graphics, a New York City printer, uses www.sprintgraphics.com.
∑ Short. Some marketers prefer longer domain names because they can be more descriptive. For instance, one printer has a Web site www.printingforless.com. It gets a message across, but will you really remember that when you are online and need printing? Although domain names can be as long as 67 characters, shorter -- like www.printer.com -- is better. Think about the Web site URLs you can recall off the top of your head without going to your book marks. How many of them are more than one word long? Itís no coincidence that one of the most popular online retailers is www.amazon.com.
As for what not to do, just a couple of tips:.
∑ Try to avoid having ďandĒ in a domain name. I can never remember if itís Barnes&Noble.com or BarnesandNoble.com. I bet lots of other folks canít either.
∑ Having the last letter of your first word the same as the first letter of your last word also creates problems, because people canít figure out whether to use the letter once or twice. To convert my name into a domain name, would people be more apt to think www.bobly.com or www.bobbly.com. I solved the problem by registering the shorter and simpler www.bly.com. People frequently comment on how easy it is to remember.
∑ Make sure your URL is easy to say. People should remember it if itís repeated on TV commercials, plastered on billboards, or sung in a radio jingle. Sheraton had great success promoting a toll-free reservations number with a catchy TV jingle. Can you remember? ďEight-oh-oh, three-two-five; three-five, three-five.Ē
You canít copyright, patent, or register human names and book titles, which means multiple people can have the same name, and different books can have the same title.
But domain names, like phone numbers, are unique. So when in doubt, it pays to register any name you might want and hold it, rather than risk letting it go to someone else.
Will we ever run out of good domain names the way we exhausted the supply of available 800 numbers? Network Solutions registers a new domain name every 3.9 seconds. So the shorter, more logical-sounding .com domain names are rapidly being taken.
But there is another solution: Registering the same domain name you wanted as a .com with an alternative extension. These alternatives include Top Level Domain names (TLDs) and Country Code Top Level Domain (CCTLD) names. The latter are available on the Network Solutions site www.idnames.com.
Top Level Domain Names and Country Code TLDs
Right now, the major domain name suffixes -- the letters after the last period -- are .com, .org, and .edu. These suffixes are called top-level domains (TLDs).
At a recent meeting in Japan, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) said it will create new TLDs to be determined, making many more domain names possible. They are even running radio commercials advertising the new TLDs on the Howard Stern radio show!
If www.consult.com is taken, maybe you can grab consult with one of the new TLDs when they become available. But as always on the domain name front, itís first come, first served.
A far bigger inventory of alternative extensions is the CCTLDs -- Country Code Top Level Domain Names. These are extension you can get based on the name of the nation from which the domain originates. But in dozens of cases, you do not have to have a physical presence or even operate in that country to use their domain name extension. CCTLDs are plentiful and available for registration even as you read this paper.
There are 243 country-specific domain extensions (like .de for Germany, .fr for France, .jp for Japan, etc.). These domains have been in existence for many years, but in the past several years have become popular in local areas and as a way for cybersquatters and potential competitors to cause confusion in top Internet markets. In fact, total registrations in country-specific domains have increased from just under 1 million in 1998 to nearly 4 million in early 2000, a jump which until last year had gone relatively unnoticed.
One possible reason for the rapid increase is because ICANNís dispute policy is not used or adopted by any country-code as of this writing. Each country is free to register domain names in any manner they see fit. In fact, a 1999 study concluded that only half of the top 25 country-code registries even have a formal dispute policy. The half that does have a policy merely state that "all disputes are between the parties." In summary: "See you
The delegated 243 country-code domains are not all controlled by sovereigns, although a fair number of these CC domains are issued by tiny islands that barely qualify as nation status. Typically, an Internet entrepreneur with deep funding approaches the nation, offering to market its CC TLD for domain name registration in exchange for part of the revenues -- which these poor nations sorely need. Itís a win-win situation for the entrepreneur, the domain name buyers, and the country.
The country-code domains can be classified as follows: Of the 243 assigned country codes, 184 are actively registering names. Of the 184 active country-codes, 100 are classified as "restricted" and require a local presence and/or specific legal documentation in order to register (China, Japan and France, for example).
The remaining 84 are classified as free market or "unrestricted." Anyone from anywhere can register, just like in the .com, .net and .org domains. No local presence is needed. Examples include the United Kingdom, Mexico, Denmark, Israel and South Africa.
To further confuse you, some countries require that applicants register in specific sub-domains. In other words, in the United Kingdom, one must register as "name.co.uk"; the .co being reserved for commercial interests in the United Kingdom domain. It would not be possible to register as "name.uk."
In other countries, like Mexico, one must register as "name.com.mx", the .com part having nothing to do with the well-known .com generic domain. In Germany, there are no sub-domains, so all must register as "name.de." These naming conventions have not stopped an onslaught of registration and marketing activity in these domains.
The .us domain
Why donít more organizations register a CC TLD in the United States (.us) domain? Because the .us domain is among the least marketing-friendly domains on the planet.
All domains registered must be "geographically specific." One must register as
name.city.state.us. It is not possible to register name.us. Obviously an address like name.city.state.us would be certainly hard to market and remember. Thus the .us domain is seldom used by serious marketers and has little commercial value.
The .cc domain
You may have heard about the .cc domain. Contrary to some reports, it is not new. It has been around for years, just like .com and the other 242 domain extensions. What is new is how itís being marketedóas an alternative to .com for those that could not get their choice of names in the .com domain.
The .cc country-code is delegated to and associated with the Cocos and Keeling Islands, located 1,000 miles northwest of Australia in the Indian Ocean. The .cc domain has attracted a small number of registrants compared to "name-brand" country-codes like Germany and the United Kingdom, places where people actually live and buy things over the Internet.
One possible reason is simply because .cc is not memorable to the general population. It has little brand awareness compared to .de, .co, .uk, or .com.
Other actively marketed CC TLDs
Because many nations actively market their own country code domains, or have Internet entrepeneurs do it for them, certain names are becoming more visible and popular than others.
Moldova, for example, is fortunate to have as its domain extension .md. This domain extension is, for obvious reasons, a popular choice with medical and health care Web sites.
The small island nation of Micronesia has the extension .fm, which is naturally appealing to FM radio stations establishing their own Web sites.
Western Samoaís .ws, which has the same initials as Web site (WS), is being touted as a direct substitute for .com.
Niue, another small nation, has the domain .nu, which connotes ďnewĒ and is being marketed on that basis.
The small nation of Tuzalu is actively marketing its CC TLD, .tv, especially for new economy and media-oriented Web sites.
Other aggressively marketed CC TLDs include Romania (.ro), Russia (.ru), the Dominican Republic (.do), Mexico (.mx), and Tonga (.to).
New non-CD TLDs
ICANN plans to introduce a new group of TLDs, not affiliated with specific countries, later this year. These include .biz, .info, .aero, .pro, and .museum.
More Country and Even Planetary TLDs?
The inventory of CC TLDs can increase as more nations switch from restricted to unrestricted status, or as more small islands gain sovereign status that letís them establish their own unique domain name extension. Any time the Internet extends into a new country, it creates the opportunity for yet another CC TLD to be established and offered on the market.
An article in CIO magazine (February 15, 2001, p. 139) reports that the Internet will soon be extended to Mars, Jupiter (and its moon Europa), and other planets via wireless communication with spacecraft that have landed on those bodies and are transmitting data back and forth to Earth. It may one day be possible to get a domain name with a planetary code (PC) top level domain as well as a country code (CC).
The CCTLD as a dot.com alternative
There are two major applications of CCTLDs. The first is as a dot.com alternative.
Say you want to register a particular domain name, but all desirable variations of the name with a dot.com extension have already been registered. You want that name, but you donít want to pay through the nose to buy out one of the current name holders.
With 84 CCTLDs to choose from, you can still have the name, only with an extension other than dot.com. For instance, if cupajoe.com is taken, you may still be able to get cupajoe.ru (Russia), cupajoe.mx (Mexico), or cupajoe.do (Dominican Republic). You can use these names as you would any regular domain name; your Web site need not be linked, controlled, reviewed, or otherwise involved with the country from which the extension comes.
The CCTLD as a global Internet branding tool
If you are a large multinational corporation (or plan on becoming one), you may want to consider registering your domain name with all 84 of the unrestricted country-code domains available.
There are two major reasons to do so. The first is worldwide brand protection. Most major brands are multinational, and obtaining a URL that closely identifies with the brand name is an increasingly important part of the overall brand marketing strategy. Making sure you own your brand-related URL in every domain worldwide enables you to carry your brand image on the Web everywhere in the world people buy your product.
The second reason itís important to register all CCTLD variations of your URL is to establish a local Web presence in every country where you market or might market your product some day. If customers can find your Jolt-brand soda in the US at www.jolt.com (this is a made-up example), you want to make sure Russians also get onto a Jolt soda Web site when they try www.jolt.ru.
For a small business, registering your URL in all CC domains may be cost-prohibitive. But for a multinational corporation, the $19,000 fee -- a typical cost to register a domain name in all available CC TLDs -- is often peanuts compared with the expense of a law suit involving domain name or trademark infringement.
Just as some entrepreneurs hogged toll-free vanity numbers (800-HEATER, 800-FLORIST, etc.), cybersquatters today buy and hold domain names for the same reason: To hold them for ransom and make a high profit offering them to the highest bidder. You can sue someone who has co-opted a domain name that is identical to your product or brand name to get it back, but why not avoid legal action by grabbing it first, if itís not too late? You can search to see if anyone has taken your domain name, in any country, on www.idnames.com.
Large corporations often register their URL in other country-codes in order to extend and reinforce their brands. They want first crack in Internet markets where the local population may be typing in local domain name addresses when looking for information or products.
You can register one name in all 84 of the unrestricted markets for much less money than it would cost to prosecute just one domain name infringement case. It's a lot easier to register first than try to recover a lost or stolen name; especially when you consider the amount that many online marketers are spending to promote and protect their brands as trademarks. Coke and Pepsi, for instance, spend over $100 million annually to promote and reinforce their brands. Others, like Chrysler and Gerbers, literally have billions invested in brand name equity.
Registration in restricted country-codes is important too. If you have franchisees or licensees in restricted countries like France, Australia, or China, a local representative may be able to register in that country because they have a local presence. But what happens if your business arrangement goes sour? You may be forced out of the market, as your local rep may likely have all rights to the domain name. †
Registering your domain names online
A number of Internet services enable you to self-register domain names online. For instance, Network Solutions, a Verisign company, offers TLD registration on www.networksolutions.com and CC TLD registration on www.idnames.com.
The Internet makes many business processes more efficient, and domain name registration is no exception. Consider the advantages of registering domain names only through one of the popular online services vs. manually:
∑ Free searches. The registration sites allow you to do instant searches that show which domain names are already taken and which are available. This can save hours of time-consuming search engine research. At www.idnames.com, you can also search to see whether a potential domain name is trademark-protected.
∑ Quick and easy processing. Online registration can be completed and submitted with a few key strokes and mouse clicks. Anyone can do it.
∑ No paperwork. The online registration service handles all the paperwork on their end. There are no documents to review and sign.
∑ No legal fees. You do not need an attorney to register a domain name online, which saves you the considerable cost of attorneyís fees.
∑ Round the clock service. Online services allow you to register domain names 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in any available domain in the world.
∑ Credit card payment. You can pay by entering your credit card information, eliminating the need to write a check or purchase order.
∑ Instant registration. As soon as you click SUBMIT and your transmission is acknowledged, your domain name is registered and no one else can take it. Itís yours.
When it comes to registering domain names, the smart bet seems to be, ďAct now.Ē
Itís not a case of ďuse it or lose itĒ -- domain names are inexpensive enough that you can reserve the ones you think you might need now, then use them when you need them -- or not at all. The danger in not reserving appropriate or potential names now is that someone else will take them, and you will forever lose the ability to get them.
New companies are forming and taking names at a frantic rate. The number of new federal trademark applications filed has tripled over the last 10 years, with 290,000 federal trademark applications filed in 2000. ďThe mathematics of names and URLs make it more difficult than ever to find a new corporate name,Ē reports Infoworld magazine (February 26, 2001, p. 79).
Checking availability and which domain names are already taken is quick and easy online and costs you nothing. Domain names with country codes can be reserved at a nominal cost per name and an affordable cost for a group of names covering all available unrestricted country extensions.
Of all aspects of corporate identity, URLs -- which are one-of-a-kind -- are the most vulnerable, but also the easiest to protect, and early registration is the key.