We knew the domain we wanted and put it on the registration application," says Shawn Carpenter, sales and marketing director at Sonnet Software, a $2.5-million company in Liverpool, N.Y. The company assumed that it would be able to register "sonnet.com." It assumed wrong.

Doug Bray, a technical staffer, asked Sonnet's Internet service provider (ISP) how to file for the domain. The ISP offered to handle it for him. "Normally they charge $50 for it," he says. "But since we signed a few years' contract with them, they waived it." A representative at the ISP -- Dreamscape Communications, in Syracuse -- did a quick search while Bray was on the telephone and saw that "sonnet.com" was already taken. Bray was surprised and frustrated. "We had to go back to the drawing board to think of new names," he says.

A few days later, armed with several options, Bray tried again. The company's second choice, "sonnetusa.com," wasn't taken, so Dreamscape quickly filed the paperwork. In two weeks, Sonnet was officially awarded the new domain.

To help promote its online presence and build awareness of the somewhat awkward URL, Sonnet printed up business cards that list information for "Sonnet Online," including the company's e-mail address, Web site URL (www.sonnetusa.com), and traditional address and phone number. Carpenter says that getting the word out immediately helped publicize the domain name. "We took the cards right away to our first major trade show, and we got a lot of hits after that."

Carpenter admits that it probably hurts Sonnet not to have "sonnet.com" as a domain. "I know some customers have taken a guess at our e-mail address and sent questions to 'sonnet.com," he says. But the business cards have made a difference. "They got the 'usa' out there."

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