Two years ago I wrote in this column about
the domain hustle.
Its getting worse. There are more oddities
increasingly complicated and often ridiculous. Internet domain
merchants seem desperate. In the growing (and unbearable)
flood of spam there are domain offers for 14 or 11 dollars.
The new top level domains were seen as an
urgent need and a great innovation. So far they are remarkably
unsuccessful. From a recent update of the worldwide domain
survey we learn that there are 8,000 internet hosts on
.biz domains and 5,600
on .info (as compared
to a total of 162 million hosts of which, for instance,
43,800,000 are .com,
7,400,000 .edu, etcetera.)
For the other "new" TLDs the numbers are
tiny: just over 100 .name
and .coop (less than ten
No great number of companies (or other organizations) have registered
domains in the new categories. And even fewer are using them.
It isnt easy to estimate how much money has
been wasted on the new TLD adventure (two hundred
were submitted, seven approved) but it adds up to several million dollars.
Irrelevant? Yes. But not for lawyers and corporate legal
departments. Furious battles have been fought over domains
that nobody really wanted. With bizarre consequences,
including conflicting decisions while a law court decides
one way, some arbitration body takes an opposite view, the
issue remains in mid air and everyone is disappointed.
There are weird case histories. Heres
one example. A company called Ada Inc. registers the
But there is a claim by Wanna Inc. that owns a product
called Ada and fears that Ada Inc. will use
that name to sell gadgets. The implication is quite ridiculous,
because any such activity would be incompatible with the nature
of the Ada company (and in the unlikely case that it intended
any such exploitation it could easily to so with one of the
ada-dot-something domains that it has been using for years and were
never claimed by Wanna or anyone else). At the end of an exhausting
procedure and lots of fuss neither of the contenders obtains the
ada.biz domain, which remains
temporarily parked with a supplier, who (prompted by
Wannas hysterical fears) sets up a small and unsuccessful online
shop selling Ada gadgets. Several other cases are just
as stupid as this, if not worse.
Disclaimer: this is a true story, but the names
are imaginary. Anything or anyone, anywhere, actually called
Ada or Wanna has nothing to do with this case.
On the other hand, some companies, sometimes, arent as careful
as they should. A sound and reliable organization (quite experienced in the
use of the internet) absentmindedly allowed one of its domains to expire.
It was squatted by a merchant of sexually explicit materials.
In their desperate search for something to sell, some spammers came up
with the idea of offering .us domains to the
Chinese. It dont work, so they tried to sell them in other countries
around the world. Again, they failed. There are nearly 1.9 million internet hosts
on .us domains, but the number hasnt
increased after they were offered outside the United States.
Other attemps based on the idea of using existing TLDs
to convey a meaning arent very successful. For instance
7,800 hosts on .tv are many for Tuvalu, a tiny
archipelago in the Pacific, but few for television stations around the world.
There are 5,300 hosts on .ws (Samoa) that maybe
someone uses to mean website. A larger number (but small for
global use) is 20,000 on .to (Tonga).
Other attempts to sell geographic TLDs to
mean something else are total falures. There are 670 hosts on
.fm (Micronesia but could it fit a radio station?)
129 on .cd (Congo but someone thought
it could mean compact disk) 59 on .sr
(Suriname or could it mean senior?) Etcetera...
In a few cases, someone may have made a profit. Selling
thousands of Tuvalu domains to broadcasters or television services could have
generated over a hundred thousand dollars of income (for a broker in the United States.)
But such isolated episodes are irrelevant in the general picture.
Of course its reasonable to protect well-known names from unwanted
parasites. But otherwise most of the fuss on domain names is a waste of time.
Having a meaningful domain name may, perhaps, help a bit for
a startup. But does it really matter? If one competitor has a name that fits his intention,
while another hasnt, but offers better content and service guess who
is the winner? One example is enough. Amazon doesnt sound like a bookstore
(and there is no .books TLD,
though it was submitted).
There is a monumental waste of time and energy (not only in the internet)
on all sorts of marginal or irrelevant issues. It pays to concentrate on what really
matters: quality, care, relations and service.