EU domain name launch shakes up Internet

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EU domain name launch shakes up Internet

By Steve Galloway

eu domainsThe public launch of “.eu” domain names on April 7th marks an important horizon for Europe’s internet users.  The new domain type, or “extension”, is intended to bolster online accessibility to pan-European e-commerce. 

158,000 applications received in the first month are already being processed under an exclusive “sunrise” phase open to public and private sector organisations that can successfully claim prior rights to title.

Worldwide domain name statistics are difficult to measure. The .com extension accounts for about 33 million domains.  Europe’s largest domain extensions by country code are Germany, (.de, 5.6 million), and Britain (.uk, 4.6 million).  There are over 300 domain extensions globally.

.eu is already reshaping the Internet’s domain name status quo, and is poised to join the big players in record time.  A sunrise period began in December 2005, allowing those with trademarks, and other protected rights to make advance applications. “Landrush”, earmarked for April 7th, signals the date when the European public can buy.

Belgian based EURid was charged by the European Commission in May 2003 with overseeing .eu.  The non profit company handled up to 60 applications per second during the first few days of sunrise trading, according to EURid’s web site.

In comparison to .eu’s intake of 158,000 protected rights applications during its first month, Nominet, the non profit body responsible for .uk, granted about 85,000 .uk registrations in its first year (1996).  The retail market for domains is far more accessible than it was 10 years ago.  Even so, retail markets in many European countries are not so highly developed.  EETT, Greece’s Telecoms regulator, oversees about 40,000 .gr registrations, although the country enjoys better access to domain names following relaxation of rules in 2005.

Despite its infancy, .eu is already a significant player among a field of over 300 domain extensions. A number of factors will fuel its growth. 

A primary factor is the registration process.  End users can acquire and pay for domain extensions like .com, .net, .org, and .uk within a matter of minutes.  In  European countries where domains can take up to 28 days to register, .eu’s instant availability is bound to appeal.

Another factor is the sheer size of the market that .eu addresses.  Even in northern European markets where country code domain ownership is comparatively saturated, businesses are keen to acquire .eu namesakes to protect brand names. Coupled with an eager eastern European market, .eu’s prospects are bouyant. 

As at the middle of January, Germany accounted for about a third of .eu applications (50,000), followed by the Netherlands (22,000), France (19,000), and Britain (15,000), according to EURid

The public cannot directly buy .eu domains until April 7th.  Meanwhile, EURid has sanctioned “pre-registration” facilities via its agents.  Pre-registration allows individuals without a claim to a prior right to make a provisional application to take title of a domain.  The risk is that, in the case of multiple pre-registration applications, EURid domain will be assigned randomly, which could mean loss of fees (typically between e10.00 and e25.00).

About the writer:
Steve Galloway is a director of UK based Internet Service Provider (ISP) ComStation.co.uk, which trades in the UK and Eastern Mediterranean.

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