Naming the Future

In the past year, the business of registering Web domain names has opened up considerably. The accreditation of more than 70 registrar companies by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has challenged the dominance of Network Solutions (NSI).

In the past year, the business of registering Web domain names has opened up considerably. The accreditation of more than 70 registrar companies by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has challenged the dominance of Network Solutions (NSI). And today, Secretary William M. Daley of the Department of Commerce announced a tentative agreement between the Department of Commerce, NSI, and ICANN to let all interested players participate in the name game.

Today's resolution brings to an end NSI's refusal to recognize ICANN's authority over the shared domain name registry. NSI will now provide equal access to the shared registry to all ICANN-accredited registrars. Registration fees will be lowered, and the period of registration will also be adjusted. "The important thing is that this has been done through agreement rather than litigation, avoiding the significant economic disruption that would have been caused by continued instability and controversy," said Daley.

100-Year Registration
These organizations are concerned with registering domain names ending in .com, .net, and .org, but Tonic Corp. is taking a different tack. In partnership with the island nation of Tonga, the company runs the .to Tongan domain names. A major concern of those who registered domain names was the fear of losing them through the biannual fee process. Tonic offers extended leases of from 1 to 100 years on the .to domain name of your choice.

"There are too many stories of people losing their domain name because of not getting their bill or not sending payment in time," says Eric Lyons, Tonic's president and CEO. He says that the .to domain names are a great opportunity for small businesses that can't get the domain names they want. A one-year registration in the .to domain costs $50, rising incrementally to $2,500 for 100 years. Tonic also offers an e-mail name service that lets you brand your e-mail accounts to your specific domain.

No-Cost Domains
Meanwhile, iDirections.com is taking another approach with its NAMEzero domain name and personal portal service. The company is offering to pay the registration fee for your own .com, .net, or .org domain name as well as provide the portal and e-mail services related to the domain for free.

"If you already have a free e-mail account or free Web page you can immediately integrate them into your domain. Or you can start from scratch and build your page in any way you want," says Bruce Keiser, cofounder and president of iDirections.com. The service will be funded in part by small advertisements that will appear on your portal page. iDirections is also seeking e-commerce partners and will participate in some targeted advertising provided it's approved by users.

Your personal domain's portal will have an application toolbar about 1.5 inches high at the bottom, with buttons for software applications, online shopping, e-mail, and instant messaging, as well as a small advertisement space. Keiser says that if you work within the portal, the toolbar will remain with you throughout your online session. If you go to a different Web address the toolbar will disappear.

NAMEzero works with any Web browser and requires no special software. The service is now accepting preregistrations. A portion of those preregistered will participate in a prerelease version of the service soon. The full service is expected to go live by late November.

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