You just decided to take your company online. Everything’s set except for registering a domain name. Not a problem, you say? Think again. Unless doleful.com, jejunum.com or unctuous.com accurately sum up your company, you may find registering a desired domain name more difficult than expected.
Why would any company consider doleful, jejunum or unctuous as part of their domain names? Because that’s all they have to choose from. Recently, Wired News checked the 25,500 standard dictionary words and found out that only 1,760 were free in the extremely popular .com domain.
As more and more people and companies hop onto the Internet, .com domain names are becoming scarcer. In addition, the growing number of “cyber-squatters” has also contributed to the dearth of .com domain names. Cyber-squatters are people who have stockpiled Internet addresses derived from popular words with the intention of selling them later on for big money. Since it only costs $70 to register a domain name for two years, the profit margin for a cyber-squatter can be immense.
So, what can you do if you find your desired domain name taken? You can register a variation of the desired name, purchase the name outright, try to wait out the existing owner or register the name in a different domain.
Register a Variation. By slightly alternating its name, a company can avoid purchasing the domain name from a cyber-squatter. If you can think up a variation that still adequately reflects your business, this may be the best solution. However, variations are often non-intuitive and harder to remember, and anything that makes it more difficult to reach your Web site is a definite drawback. Some companies find this solution unappealing solely on principal — it’s their name and they refuse to alter it.
Buy It. This may not be viable solution for many companies. Purchasing a domain name can cost thousands of dollars. Several newspaper articles have stated that high-end five-figure sale prices are not uncommon. If you decide to purchase a domain name, you must first find out who owns it. You can do this by visiting Whois.Net, a domain- based information services Web site [http://www.whois.net] or Network Solutions Inc. (NSI), the domain name registrar [http://www.networksolutions.com]. Simply type in the desired domain name followed by .com in the search box. If the domain is unavailable, the search will bring up a profile, including contact information, of the person or company that owns that domain name.
After you discover who owns a domain name, you’ll need to see whether they are willing to sell. Be prepared to haggle — when Steve Forbes attempted to register Web sites to promote his presidential campaign, he found sites like www.forbes2000.com already taken. Rick Segal, a Cincinnati-based Internet marketer who worked with the Forbes campaign to obtain the sites, told The Associated Press that he purchased the rights to three Web sites, including www.Forbes2000.com, for a total of $6,500, a price he called “extremely reasonable.”
Wait. Companies can attempt to wait out cyber-squatters. Domain names must be re-registered every two years or they will be forfeited. By frequently checking Network Solutions or Whois.Net, companies can pounce on a desired domain name once it becomes free. Recently, NSI purged 18,000 domain names because the registrants had not paid on time.
Companies can also wait for the opening of new top level domains such as .web and .biz. However, the Internet community has demanded more top level domains for years. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit group taking over domain name administration for the U.S. government, has promised to address this issue for some time, but no concrete steps have been taken.
Register in Other Domains. For companies looking for a more creative solution, they can register their desired Net addresses in other domains. Small countries such as Tonga, Turkmenistan and Niue are offering alternatives to people and companies that have been squeezed out of the Net as .com domain names have been snatched up.
The aforementioned countries allow users to register in their domain space — .to for Tonga, .tm for Turkmenistan or .nu for Niue. By registering within these countries’ domains, companies are able to get the shorter, catchier name that was taken in the .com domain. The obvious drawback is that many companies prefer the more familiar .com designation.
Niue has been the most successful of the countries. The tiny island nation is registering Internet Web sites under the .nu address for US $25. An American, Bill Semich, who realized that the world’s biggest domain name (.com) was running out of addresses, organized the project.
In January, after only 18 months as an active TLD, .nu domain usage has swelled, making .nu the sixteenth most popular domain name in the world. The company that maintains the registry, .NU Domain Ltd. [www.nunames.nu], has registered 30,000 .nu domain names on the ‘Net, with registrations of .nu domain names doubling in the past six months alone.
“Companies from all over the world are registering .nu domain names,” said Semich, president of .NU Domain Ltd. in the United States. “.nu appeals to a variety of companies for a variety of reasons — the uniqueness of the .nu domain name, lack of availability of their preferred names in the .com domain, and trademark issues seem to be the most compelling reasons for the success of .nu.”
Companies that have registered in the .nu domain include Coca-Cola, Goodyear, Visa and Dell.