Dotcom could fall into disuse

Updated: 2011-12-09 10:17

By Gao Yuan (China Daily)

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Companies likely to join the race to add a new suffix to domain names

BEIJING - Dozens of Chinese businesses are likely to join about 1,000 global corporations in a pioneering project to have their company names affixed to the end of Internet domain names by 2013, replacing the suffix .com.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the global Internet regulatory body, will start to accept applications to register new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) - including Chinese character domains for the first time - on Jan 12, 2012. About 1,000 applications will be processed in the world.

"The gTLD program is going to be a brilliant opportunity for Chinese companies to create new business models on the Web," said Xiaodong Lee, who will become vice-president of ICANN on Monday and lead the organization in the Asia-Pacific region.

So far, the Chinese electronics manufacture aigo Digital Technology Co Ltd is the only company that has declared plans to apply for the new gTLD.

The current naming system allows the use of fewer than 25 top-level domain names, including .com, .org and .net, and non-Latin scripts are excluded.

"Latin script has long dominated the naming system of the global Internet, and making the Internet completely accessible to speakers using other scripts opens the door to greater harmony," said Rod Beckstrom, president and CEO of ICANN.

Internet domain names have become scarcer since the old Internet Protocol (version 4) address pool was exhausted earlier this year.

"There are about 100 million Internet addresses in use currently, and new buyers are finding it hard to get an address they like," said Lee.

But the high cost of registration and an unclear profit model has resulted in investors becoming hesitant to join the scheme.

It costs applicants at least $185,000 to go through the registration process, plus $25,000 in annual membership fees, while registering a domain name ending with .com costs less than 200 yuan ($31) in China.

The expense could be even higher if two companies attempt to register the same domain name, because ICANN has to decide which applicant is the more eligible, according to Lee.

"The cost for registration will not be a problem because many Chinese companies have deep pockets," said Hu Qiheng, director-general of the Internet Society of China.

ICANN executives also admitted the business model has not had enough time to develop. "The new domain name system will make it possible to enable companies to give every customer a secondary domain under the gTLD purchased by the company," said Lee. "But the development of detailed business models is left to the domain owners."

Another thorny question comes in making sure the new domains accord with Chinese laws and customs, according to Hu.

The use of domains such as .gay has aroused oppositions in some Islamic countries.

"Organizations applying for gTLDs concerning sensitive topics, such as Chinese place names, should apply for an endorsement from the local government," said Lin Xiao, deputy director of telecommunication resources at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

The first Chinese gTLD is likely to go online in 2013, said Lee.