Move over, .com. There are two new suffixes in town, and they’re generating some serious buzz. This month .info went live, and the beginning of October brings .biz to an Internet near you. More are on their way; last year the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers approved the development of seven top-level domain names. The others are .name, .pro, .aero, .coop and .museum. The new domains will be operated by Newtown, Pa.-based Afilias and Sterling, Va.-based NeuLevel.
But things have changed since .com and .org made their debut. Once, cybersquatting was the easiest way to make a buck in the new economy. All you had to do was register a domain name that an individual or a company would find desirable?such as www.coke.com or www.money.com?and then sell the name for many, many times what you paid for it. But with the new domain names, cybersquatters may have to start working for a living. Both companies that operate the new domains have taken steps to minimize cybersquatting. Afilias, which will operate .info, held a “sunrise period” in June and July during which only customers with a nationally registered trademark could apply for a .info domain name. Such actions were not necessary when the first top-level domains appeared in the 1980s. “There’s been a repurposing of what [the Internet] has been used for,” says John Kane, marketing task force leader for Afilias. “It was imperative that we have a sunrise period.”
NeuLevel, the company in charge of the .biz domain, allowed businesses to submit a trademark claim (for a fee) prior to the application process. Most likely these precautions won’t eliminate cybersquatting altogether, but the registries hope they will make it much trickier.