it’s easy to DIY your domain name (1998)

So many things on the Internet are as long as a piece of string. With the facts ever changing and numbers growing I lose track of how many things well deserve this unit of measure – wrote Roger Frost in 1998.

Take the number of ‘domains’ – branded sites with names such as www.panasonic.com or www.panasonic.co.uk – which make finding the Web sites of big corporations very logical. The US agency InterNIC which allocated over 80% of new names world-wide, say they registered 125,000 new domain names each month last year. This year the piece of string will stretch to a couple of million new names. That’s quite a lot every day and close to a doubling every year.

The naming business, where you can bid for a unique Internet name much like a car number plate, has caused upsets. To date, InterNIC has dealt out the names ending in .COM, .NET and .ORG, where COM means commercial, ORG means non-profit and NET means some form of Internet service provider. Companies outside the US will have found .COM names hard to get. Instead they have used local agencies to get their country specific name suffixes such as CO.UK or its equivalents in Europe such as .NE or .DE. In the heirarchy of things-Internet, a .COM suffix has a certain prestige: firstly it signifies a company trading internationally, secondly current Web browsers default to searching for a .COM suffix if you don’t bother to provide it. Thirdly, of the 1.7 million registered domain names over 1.5 million of them are .COM.

The good news is that as of April, the naming agencies are seriously opening up to overseas requests for the .COM suffix. InterNIC shut shop in December to reopen as WorldNIC with a more worldly outlook. Another supplier Virtual Internet (www.vi.net) has opened a London office to handle the expected rush.

The unresolved grief is that a lot of .COM names will have already been taken. Some will have hope in proposals for brand new sets of domains, called top level domains, which include .firm, .store, .nom, .web, .rec, .info, and .arts. Whether these could erode the status of .COM to make everyone happy has to be tested. In any case, large organisations tend to grab every version of their name. A celebrated case of one that did not is space agency NASA – their official site, www.nasa.gov had no connection with www.nasa.com – a porn site which has now been unplugged.

Still, how much a name costs can be as long as a piece of string. The cost of holding a name for two years is around $50 per year. This seems to be the lowest price with the most basic level of service. You can also find added-value resellers who bundle in free email addresses – if your web space is www.tvproduction.com, they can provide e-mail addresses to say, boss@tvproduction.com or accounts@tvproduction.com. Incidentally, these can be used as aliases to your usual mailbox. One of the reselling agencies is ‘Secure your domain’ who charge an extra $59 for their service. Parting with the money is unusually easy – you pop along to the site, test if www.yourname.com is available and a fill in a form. Another firm, based in Australia, trades under the alarmingly familiar name of Internic Software (www.internic.com) and charges $250 for the two year rights to a .com name. The site is littered with ‘warnings’ saying they are no relation to the US agency (www.internic.net). Not everyone, I suspect, will read this as a warning that they are about to pay over the odds.

New hopes for fast delivery of multimedia content continue to appear. The flurry of stories about delivery through the electrical mains have yet to bear cheap enough fruit. But before anyone tries something similar down the gas pipes, Adaptec, a major networking company are producing a satellite signal receiving card for the PC. This contender for a mass market claims to receive digital video and Web content at up to 45Mbps. That’s over a hundred times the speed of a modem, or in lengths of string units better than most rates on the planet. Called the Satellite Express card, it will support digital video broadcast protocols and handle signals from the EUTELSAT satellite network.


Names

www.secureyourdomain.com (COM names)

www.worldnic.com (COM names)

www.nominet.net (UK names)


.tm domain opens for business

Roll up, roll up for a chance to grab an exclusive name for your Web site. Netnames, the Internet naming registry is now taking orders for ‘.tm’ – a new ‘top-level’ domain for International trademarks. It is likely to be welcomed by those who sought the well established ‘.com’ suffix, but found US companies quicker on the mark. Stories that already one multinational has missed its chance to register can’t fail to drum up business as Netnames adds that they will not be involved in resolving disputes over trademark names. Anyone thinking of registering names like Sony, Esso, or British Telecom, and then asking for a ‘pour boire’ will need to ‘pense encore’.