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Wednesday, 7 November, 2001, 17:12 GMT
New domains taking hold
Workers clearing the rubble in New York
One .info site is helping the World Trade Center relief effort
The internet's new domains are steadily becoming serious rivals to the net's more established names.

European companies and organisations in particular are turning to the .info and .biz suffixes because there are so few .com names available to use.

Many businesses are buying up lots of new domains to make it easier for customers and consumers to find information without having to wade through one cluttered site.

Afilias, the company behind .info, is also pushing on with efforts to take domains away from those who falsely claimed them.

Name calling

The .info and .biz names are the first live internet domains of the seven that Icann, the net's ruling body, approved in November 2000.

Last month, .info operator Afilias faced criticism for its handling of a so-called "sunrise" process that was supposed to let only owners of trademarks register new .info domains.

Grand Central Station in New York
New York commuters can consult a .info website
This restricted application system was intended to stop the cybersquatting that has plagued other domains.

However, one study of the .info domains registered during the sunrise period showed that up to 25% of them were bogus. The study showed that many generic words that could never be trademarked had been accepted as .info domains.

To retrieve some of these domains from speculators, Afilias will launch a "mass challenge" in December. Roland La Plante, a spokesman for Afilias, said it was expecting to challenge the owners of more than 10,000 names.

He said that over 500 challenges had been mounted against .info speculators, and more than 450 of them had succeeded in wresting control of a domain away from the squatter.

Buyer beware

Some .info names registered during the sunrise period are already being offered for sale on net auction sites.

Mr La Plante warned that anyone contemplating buying one would be wasting their money.

"The sunrise names are all locked at the registry end," said Mr La Plante. "They are not available for transfer for 180 days if registered on or before 31 August."

The date on which .info names were registered can be discovered using the "whois" search service on the Afilias website.

Some .info websites are now live and show how the new domains are starting to be used.

Car maker Subaru has started registering one .info domain for each of its vehicles. One of the first is a site about its WRX 4-wheel drive vehicle.

Another .info site brings together information about relief efforts established in the wake of the attacks on New York's World Trade Center.

So far over 500,000 .info domains have been registered. By contrast there are over 25 million .com domains.

Open for bizness

Also this week, 167,000 pre-registered .biz domain names were switched on. At the same time, Neulevel, the .biz registry operator, started taking applications on a first-come, first-served basis.

Doug Armentrout, chief executive of Neulevel, said new registrations were running at 36,000 per hour when the application process was opened on 7 November.

European .biz applicants
Germany - 38.2%
France - 8.2%
UK - 7.8%
Sweden - 7.1%
Italy - 6.8%
Denmark - 5.8%
Switzerland - 5.7%
Netherlands - 5.7%
Spain - 4.1%
Norway - 3.7%
The .biz registry is open only to companies and looks set to avoid the speculators that have caused problems for Afilias.

If more than one person applies for a .biz domain, all those expressing interest in a name are told about rival claims.

Mr Armentrout said this had already caused many people to drop speculative applications and had removed the potential for conflict, and possible legal action.

Domains wanted by more than one applicant were awarded on a random basis.

"Randomisation was as fair a method as we could come up with to allocate these domain names," said Mr Armentrout.

He said Neulevel was developing technology that would make .biz domain names easier to find in search engines. He said it was already working with net search companies on ways to annotate information kept about domains.

Both .biz and .info domains are proving most popular with European firms. Both Neulevel and Afilias said the majority of applications were coming from outside the US.

See also:

12 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
New net domain 'fiasco'
25 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Step up for .info domains
29 Sep 01 | Sci/Tech
Internet ranges in new domains
30 Oct 01 | Americas
Sitting ducks on NY underground?
07 Sep 01 | Sci/Tech
Net body grapples with people power
19 Jun 01 | Sci/Tech
Novel net domains court controversy
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