In the beginning there was dot-com, designed to denote a commercial enterprise. It's been the best-known way to conclude a Web address. During the 1990s, entrepreneurs and speculators snapped up so many dot-com combinations that the registries administering Internet addresses feared a dearth of names in that domain.
So the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees Web addresses, created a batch of new domain names. Two of them ( dot-biz, for businesses, and dot-info, for informational sites) debuted last year. Another one ( dot-us, for the United States) went live in April. The rest -- including dot-coop for cooperatives, dot-pro for professionals, and dot-name for individuals -- have been or are being released throughout 2002.
Meanwhile, a Sherman Oaks, Calif., start-up, New.net Inc., has broken ranks with the Internet community by introducing nearly 30 new unofficial domain names. Among them: general business designations such as dot-inc, dot-llc, dot-llp, and dot-ltd; industry references such as dot-agent, dot-law, and dot-med; and lifestyle choices such as dot-family. (Although New.net names aren't part of the ICANN-endorsed domain-name universe, the company says they are accessible to 121 million Web users through their Internet service providers.)
All of which must leave entrepreneurs -- many of whom have already registered a variety of dot-permutations for their companies -- with questions such as "Do I now need to shell out for all those domains?"
"A domain is more than just your location in cyberspace," says Martin T. Focazio, an E-commerce consultant. "It's your brand." And the dot-com domain remains the most important place for establishing that brand on-line. "It's still the prestige address," says Sean Carton, chief experience officer at Carton Donofrio Partners Inc., an advertising, brand-consulting, and Web-development company in Baltimore.
So why bother registering anywhere besides dot-com? Because, Carton says, if you don't stake out your turf in other domains, a competitor might grab the territory first. For that reason, some entrepreneurs register their names in as many domains as possible. Others pick and choose.
Spending every last promotional penny protecting domain names often doesn't make sense, says New York City marketing consultant Larry Chase, author of Essential Business Tactics for the Net.
If you go for just one domain name, make it dot-com, Focazio says. And if your first-choice name was taken last time you looked, check again. Thousands of previously registered names are being freed up monthly as their original registrations expire without being renewed. If you still can't get dot-com, Focazio says, dot-net ranks as "a distant second choice." Choose dot-info for sites that only offer information.
And what about dot-biz? Currently, most dot-biz names appear to belong to companies that are selling dot-biz names, Focazio says, adding, "I'm beginning to think dot-biz is the Florida swampland of the Internet."
Anne Stuart is a senior writer at Inc.
How to Become the Master of Your (Preferred) Domain
To find out how to register for the three classic domain names, below, visit ICANN at www.icann.org.
dot-com (intended for businesses only, but open to all)
dot-org (intended for nonprofits only, but open to all)
dot-net (intended for companies with big networks, but open to all)
To register for the newest crop of names:
dot-coop (restricted to cooperatives, such as utilities and credit unions): National Cooperative Business Association at www.nic.coop
dot-biz (restricted to businesses): NewLevel Inc. at www.nic.biz
dot-info (intended for information sites, but open to all): Afilias Ltd. at www.nic.info
dot-name (restricted to individual names): Global Name Registry Ltd. at www.nic.name
dot-pro (restricted to professionals, initially doctors, lawyers, and accountants): RegistryPro Inc. at www.nic.pro
dot-us (intended for any U.S. resident, business, organization, or government agency): NeuStar Inc. at www.nic.us
The Whole New Business Catalog
Please E-mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.