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    Internet domain name land rush looming

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2010 First published in Business in Vancouver May 25 - 31, 2010  issue #1074

    High Tech Office column

    t’s easy to take domain names for granted. You type, say, into your browser, and a few seconds later, Business in Vancouver’s website opens up. But behind the scenes, there’s a lot going on. For example, your request for goes to a server running a database that translates into a numeric Internet address: something like

    Also behind the scenes: a network of domain name registration services making it possible for organizations and individuals to get the use of their desired domain names. Or at least to try to get their desired domain name. According to, there are nearly 113 million domain names registered, 84 million of them ending in .com. You want to register, say, Forget about it!

    Domain names can be bought, traded and sold. Recently, sold for US$1.25 million, though fetched a mere $400. Domain name registrars sit in between those wanting to use domain names and the organizations that manage the so-called top-level domain names – the last group of letters in a web address, including the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) for .ca, and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which is in charge of .com and others.

    Hamburg-based Hexonet is a domain name wholesaler with a recently opened B.C. operation that resells domain names and provides services to registrars and web-hosting services.

    I spoke with chief strategy officer Robert Birkner at the company’s Surrey office. He foresees an increase in the number of top-level domains (TLDs in the trade), triggering a land rush of domain name registrations.

    According to Birkner, some country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs) have been popular recently, allowing businesses new possibilities for memorable web addresses. Montenegro-based .me and Tuvalu’s .tv have been registered for websites by businesses that may have had little idea where Montegro or Tuvalu are.

    Birkner predicted that a new generation of TLDs including company names, city names and generic descriptors will open up the possibility of web addresses ending in .ibm, .paris, or .wine.

    He said ICANN is drafting specifications for these sorts of so-called generic TLDs, and that he expects that they will be accepting applications for them in 2011.

    This could result in new web addresses like or Should Business in Vancouver (or your company) register its own TLD? Should the City of Vancouver try to get .vancouver?

    Birkner expects anywhere from 200 to 500 for these upcoming generic domains, which he predicts will sell in the neighbourhood of $185,000 each; popular TLDs may be put up for auction. Buyers would, in some cases (think .ibm or .biv), keep the domain for internal use, while the owner of a term like .wine might profit selling names for websites ending in that suffix –, anyone?

    While some of these new TLDs may prove popular and effective, Birkner fears that others might not be around five years from now. He points out that much of an earlier round of TLD expansion a few years ago failed to catch on. Proposed domains like .travel and .jobs were simultaneously too generic and too restrictive.

    In the mid-1990s, some people, anticipating the Internet boom, registered company names and trademarks, selling them to the trademark holder or its competitor. Now, trademark holders have the right to domain names using their trademarks, and there is a dispute-resolution mechanism in place should conflicts arise. Despite this, according to Birkner, trademark holders are not thrilled with the proposed expansion in TLDs, fearing a new generation of squabbles.

    For more on Hexonet’s perspective on what changes in domain names could mean for you and your business, visit The domain name industry heavies will be coming to Vancouver June 8-10 for the TRAFFIC Domain Conference and Expo. More information about that is available at www.targetedtraffic.comFavicon

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan
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