Page last updated at 10:43 GMT, Wednesday, 3 December 2008

New domain to be web's phone book

Mobile phone, BBC
The .tel addresses will be reachable via mobiles too

From 3 December companies will be able to buy addresses associated with a new web domain.

Called .tel, the domain is intended to act as a universal contact point rather than as a hook on which to hang websites.

Owners of .tel domains will be encouraged to populate it with details about how they can be contacted.

The domain is designed to work on the web and with mobile phones such as the Apple iPhone and Blackberry.

"All other top level domains like .com use the net's domain name system in the same way," said Kash Mahdavi, head of Telnic which runs the .tel registry. "They all store IP address and they are all about websites."

By contrast, he said, .tel had been designed to act as a repository for all a company's or individual's contact details. A .tel domain, said Mr Mahdavi, could feature phone numbers, e-mail addresses, GPS data or buttons that kick off a Skype call.

Mr Mahdavi said it had some similarities to the Enum projects that aim to bind phone numbers and e-mail addresses into a unified contact system.

The flaw, he said, with Enum was that it demanded people be on the web. By contrast, .tel will work with many different devices such as smart phones.

Phase one

Owners of .tel domains will be able to manage their contact details via a simple dashboard and surrender as much or as little information as they desire, said Mr Mahdavi.

He added that .tel domains have a "friending mechanism" that will grant close friends access to private areas that give more ways for a person to be contacted.

"It will become their place on the cloud," said Mr Mahdavi.

Access to the domain is being granted in three phases. The first begins on 3 December and is the "sunrise" phase for trademark owners to get domains related to their brands.

The second phase begins on 3 February 2009 and is a "landrush" phase open to anyone though domains will be on sale at a premium.

The final general availability phase starts on 24 March 2009 when the domain will be open to all comers.

Phil Kingsland, director of communications for Nominet, the firm that manages the .uk domain, notes that a number of new domains will go online when a new process for allocating them rolls out next year.

"Businesses will need to be aware of the potential uses of .tel and how it can work for them," said Mr Kingsland.

"They should have a clear and robust domain name strategy in place, so that when new top-level domains such as these come onto the market, they are ready for them."

Mr Mahdavi would not be drawn on the final price for a .tel domain but said it would be in line with that charged for other domains.

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