The company has administered registration of .name domain names since 2002. But because it registered these addresses using an extra dot--for example, www.jane.doe.name--they never really took off. The extra dot in the Web address caused problems for Internet service providers that sent e-mail connected to the domain names, said Hakon Haugnes, president of GNR.
"ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) and ISPs had asked us repeatedly to change the way we registered users," said Haugnes. "So we have. Now ISPs have full control of the IP addresses."
GNR's new second-level Web addresses will combine first and last names just before the dot, as in www.janedoe.com.
Despite the lackluster adoption of the original .name service, Haugnes believes that there is pent-up demand for personalized e-mail addresses. Most personal names with a .com or .net suffix have already been snapped up by companies.
"This domain is exclusively dedicated to registering people's names, and not companies' (names)," he said. "It's important for people to have personalized e-mail addresses, so friends, family and colleagues can get in touch with them."
However, other companies have found it difficult to make money in the domain registry business. In October, VeriSign sold its Network Solutions domain registration business for roughly $100 million to Pivotal Private Equity, a Phoenix-based venture capital firm. The company still maintains its .com and .net databases, which it acquired almost four years ago from Network Solutions, a private company, in a deal worth $21 billion.
"I think personal domain names are a big potential market," said Bret Fausett, a partner at the legal firm Hancock Rothert & Bunshoft. Fausett has worked closely with ICANN and represented many individuals in domain name lawsuits for several years. "If Global Name Registry can offer value-added services, like digital identity or spam control, that might help. Then again, all they may need is some strong marketing."
The move to second-level domain names could help GNR pick up more licensees by making it easier for people and ISPs to work with .name Web addresses and e-mail addresses.
ISPs maintain databases of what are called first-level and second-level mail exchange files, which essentially are lists of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses used to deliver e-mail to specific destinations. The first level of mail exchange files is the last part of the Web address, such as .com or .net. The second level is the word or phrase immediately to the left of the dot, so site addresses at this level would look like www.janedoe.com. Global Name Registry has been registering domain names with a third-level mail exchange--www.jane.doe.name, for example.
Because ISPs typically only hold records for the first two levels of mail exchange addresses, GNR maintained the third level for .name. When ISPs had to route traffic to or from a .name Web site, they had to go through GNR's system. This caused some technical difficulties, which led to many ISPs not supporting the .name domain, according to Haugnes.
Since traffic destined for these third-level Web addresses was already coming through the GNR network, the company was able to map easier-to-use e-mail addresses to the more complicated domain names. For example, www.jane.doe.name could be mapped to the e-mail address email@example.com, and these existing e-mail addresses won't have to change now that the third-level has been eliminated, according to Haugnes. The only difference will be in what happens in the back end. ISPs will now handle the routing without having to go through GNR's network.
GNR has about 100,000 registered owners of third-level domain names. Those people will be able to maintain those Web addresses if they want, according to Haugnes.
Unlike e-mail addresses from free services like Hotmail.com and Yahoo.com, .name e-mail addresses can be used for life. Individuals can license the use of a domain name from more than 60 accredited registrars worldwide for up to 10 years. (A full list of registrars with .name products can be found on GNR's Web site.)
VeriSign, which operates the .com and .net databases, also manages and provides the technical infrastructure for the .name registry.
The wholesale price to register a domain name for one year is $6, Haugnes said. But prices for the customer will vary depending on which registrar sells the license. Some may choose to bundle the domain name with other services. Haugnes expects the new .name Web addresses to cost between $10 and $35 per year.