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Domain names get rock 'n' roll with .mu

Can sex sell domain names? The entrepreneur behind the .cc domain is using bikinis, guitars, and race cars to sell .mu Web addresses

Entrepreneur David Sams will try to put sex appeal into a suffix Monday, when he begins registering domain names that end with ".mu". The new .mu top-level domain (TLD) is geared towards the rock 'n' roll crowd or, as Sams puts it, "the 18-to-24-year-old music lifestyle crowd".

SamsDirect .MU hopes to register 100,000 Web addresses in its first 12 months. A standard domain name costs $50 a year. Users can also register for a personal domain name, such as johnsmith.mu. Although that service is free of charge, Sams said there is a $4.95 fee to verify a person's identity.

The effort has the unmistakable glitz of a former television "marketing architect" who claims his work at TV production house King World helped Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, and Oprah rule the TV syndication world.

The Web site for the new .mu address, www.dot.mu, is sprinkled with bikini-clad models -- one posed on all fours -- together with a guitar, a speeding car, and the slogans "the domain that rocks" and "because .com is for old people".

Anybody offended by his approach might as well get used to it because Sams is becoming a major player in the top-level domain space. He is one of a new breed hoping to capitalize on what happens after the dot.

Aside from .mu, his company has registered 400,000 addresses with the .cc TLD, which was originally the Cocos Islands' domain. He's looking at three other new TLDs to register in the next year or so.

He also claims to be working with three of the seven companies negotiating with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) for the right to register domains under seven additional TLDs.

Domains for dollars The TLD field was getting crowded, even before the Icann began considering additional TLDs.

Sams was one of the first to discover that country codes of far flung island nations like the Cocos Islands, (.cc) and Mauritius (.mu) can earn millions for him and his employees.

Another company, Dot TV, paid the South Pacific islands of Tuvalu $10m for the right to register .tv domain names. Sams declines to discuss his deals with the Cocos Islands and Mauritius. What he will say is that he's planning to roll out three more country codes turned general purpose TLDs in the coming months.

Another player is .ws (Western Samoa), which last week celebrated having registered 100,000 addresses, according to Robert Blodgett, vice president of Website.ws.

With such a crowded field trying to attract customers, TLDs are starting to scream for more attention. Some analysts estimate that there could be half a billion domain names registered within the next few years.

Most of the demand will likely be in the personal Web site space, analysts say. Country-code-turned-sex-machine .mu hopes to address that need.

"Software is easier to use, digital cameras are everywhere," Blodgett said. "It's getting easier to create your own Web page."

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