Gold rush expected for .eu sunrise period

When .eu opens for business next year, there is likely to be a gold rush for domains not seen since the height of the dot-com boom

The sunrise period designed to give European trademark owners first pick at relevant .eu domain names is expected to attract a gold rush of registrations not seen since the days of the dot-com boom.

"We will have more than 300,000 registrations when the button is pressed," said Markus Eggensperger, legal director of Lycos Europe’s domain business, speaking in London on Wednesday. "I could imagine a million domain name registrations pretty quickly," he said, adding that the volumes expected will be "incomparable" to anything seen in the industry since the boom of the late 1990s. "The .info and .biz domains have about 1.3m domain name registrations, they were not a huge success."

Although EURid, the organisation that will run the .eu domain, is putting a process together to deal with disputes, there are still concerns over how well it will work on the day.

The .eu sunrise period, which is expected to kick off in late summer or autumn 2005, will come in two stages. During the initial two-month sunrise period, organisations who can prove ownership of a trademark registered in any of the 25 European countries will be given a chance to acquire their .eu domain names. After that, any person or organisation with an 'official address' in an EU country will for two months also have precedence. Once that two-month period is up, registrations will be open to all-comers.

Asked whether he thought EURid would be able to cope with the rush of trademark registrations during the initial two-month period, Eggensperger said it was hard to be confident. "They have a shortlist of three validation agents, but only a huge and experienced organisation will be able to deal with the volumes."

The sentiment is shared by Dr Willie Black, chairman and founder of Nominet, which runs the .uk domain. "I do wonder how many speculators will be trying to get in on the quick kill,” said Black. "We sold 250,000 .co.uk domain names in one month when people heard about other folks who were selling registrations for huge sums. When the gate opens a lot of people will be trying to get their good time."

Organisations looking to register during the sunrise period will have to provide documentary evidence that they own the trademark, and decisions will be based on that evidence alone.