Are you frustrated trying to find just the right name for your Web site? Is every .com name you' ve wanted already taken? You' ve now got two new options: .info and .biz. But should you use them?

A bit of background: The Internet naming system is based on Top Level Domains (TLDs), which are indicated by suffixes. These are somewhat like area codes for phone numbers, only they' re meant to indicate the type of Web site. The first ones were .com (commercial), .org (organization), .net (network), .edu (education), .gov (government), and .mil (military).

Because the Internet was originally designed to enable military and government communication systems to survive a nuclear attack -- not as the place to conduct everyday business -- no one ever imagined we' d run out of .com names. But just as there' s been a need for many more area codes, the Internet has needed additional suffixes. To respond to this need, the Internet' s governing body authorized additional top level domains. Two of these are now available:

  • .info - for any purpose
  • .biz - to indicate the site is a business.

Coming soon are two others:

  • .name - to be used for an individual' s Web site. All sites will follow a required pattern of first name.lastname.name. In other words, my personal site would be rhonda.abrams.name.
  • .pro for specific professions. The first three will be for accountants - cpa.pro, attorneys - law.pro, and doctors - med.pro.

Just because these new suffixes are now available, it doesn' t mean you should rush out and get one. After all, it will take time before customers or other users become familiar with these new extensions.

What won' t you be able to find with these new top level domains?

  • Very popular names: If you thought you missed out on your chance to get flowers.com or shop.com, you' ve also missed out on your opportunity to get flowers.biz or shop.biz. These types of generic names were preregistered by those who already have highly-valuable Web sites and want to protect them or by cybersquatters who hope they' ll be able to sell them.
  • Trademarked names: Don' t think you' re going to be able to own mcdonalds.biz or nike.info. Even if you somehow manage to register a trademarked name, unless you can show a legitimate claim for such a domain, the trademark holder can keep you from using it.

What are these new suffixes good for?

  • A straightforward but uncommon name: If you want a name that was already taken as a .com site, you may be able to find it with a .biz or .info suffix. While you' re not going to secure plumbing.biz, you might get jacksplumbing.biz or jacksplumbing.info.
  • A name you' ll use with only a few people: The biggest drawback to these new suffixes is getting people to remember to use them. If you can easily teach people your correct address, you shouldn' t have a problem.
  • A name a competitor might use: If you' re afraid your competitor might use the .biz or .info variation of your company' s Internet address, you might want to snap it up first.
  • A name you' ve got a lot of money to promote: Hey, if you' ve got a huge advertising budget, you can get customers to remember just about anything. The fact that the suffix is new and different might even be part of your marketing strategy.

If you' re trying to decide whether or not to register a new name, here' s my advice:

  • if you can find a reasonable .com name, use it. Customers are used to .com addresses.
  • if you' ve got a few extra dollars, go ahead and register a .biz or .info name. Verisign is running a special -- $45 for two years registration -- on these new suffixes.

Only time will tell whether we' ll all get used to checking domain suffixes, just the way we do an area code. Until then, many people may be confused by the new ones. Since I have millions of readers, if I said my web address was www.Rhonda.biz, some people would probably mistakenly type in the .com suffix and find a graphic artist in Phoenix. Nevertheless, I' ve registered that name anyway -- just in case. In the meantime, I plan to keep using www.RhondaWorks.com.

©Copyright Rhonda Abrams, 2001

Rhonda Abrams writes the nation' s most widely-read small business column and is the author of " The Successful Business Plan: Secrets and Strategies" and " Wear Clean Underwear: Business Wisdom from Mom." Her newest book, " The Successful Business Organizer" has just been released. Register for free business tips from Rhonda at www.RhondaWorks.com

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