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Dot-names marry e-mail and ego

January 7, 2002

Things move quickly in cyberspace -- so quickly that millions of people could lose the rights to their names on Jan. 15.

That's the day the Internet ushers in a new kind of address, based on people's personal names. Thousands of Canadians have already put in their bids, via a preregistration program. And those who don't register stand the chance of losing a coveted personal address to people whose names are similar to or identical to theirs.

Sometimes called vanity addresses, the new form uses a person's name, followed by the ".name" suffix. They differ from the familiar ".com", ".org" and ".net" addresses because they appeal directly to the ego.

The dot-name system also has the advantage of offering e-mail addresses for life, meaning users will not have to change e-mail addresses when they change Internet providers.

And when people discover this, said Robert Hall, president of, an Ottawa-based Internet name-registration company, demand for them will soar.

He recently opened shop for those who want to preregister their names, and said that since Dec. 17, "tens of thousands" of people have laid claims to their dot-names.

The new addresses take the form of a first and last name separated by dots and ending with .name. An individual can therefore register a domain called, with, say, as the e-mail address. The system is based on a "three-level" naming system, meaning that two dots are necessary within the address.

"Top-level" domain names -- everything to the right of the last dot in an Internet address -- have been in short supply as the Internet has grown. Seven new top-level domains have been added to accommodate the demand: ".biz" (for businesses), ".info" (for databases and such), ".pro" (for professional people, such as doctors and lawyers), ".aero" (airlines), ".coop" (for co-operatives), ".museum" (for accredited institutions) and ".name."

The .info domain, Mr. Hall said, which became available in October, started with 150,000 registrations. It has tripled in less than three months.

If that's any indication, Mr. Hall said, demand for .name addresses should be wild.

"I believe it will be the most popular thing on the Internet," he said. "Once it catches on, you'll see a big upswing."

Internet analyst and writer Rick Broadhead speculates that there may well be a stampede. "The prices of registration have come down dramatically," he said, "and most people will think that if it's only $25 or $30, they might as well register their names before anyone else does."

But, he added, the .name domain is "not as sexy" as the .com domain, one of the oldest and most sought-after Internet commodities.

"Dot-name doesn't resonate with me yet," he said. "It's like asking the phone company for one of those toll-free 800 numbers, and they give you one starting with 877. It's also toll-free, but it doesn't have that identity. People know what an 800 number is."

Still, enough people will want such an address that there are bound to be conflicts over similar names.

To counter that, rules have been put in place by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which administers the system.

The name must be one by which the person is commonly known and therefore has legitimate rights to; the name can be in any combination of first, middle or last names, in any order; initials can be used, but single initials cannot be used on the second level; and numbers can be used on the second or third level.

Using the name of a character from fiction is also allowed, but only if the registrant owns the rights to the character's name. So those who want to register or are advised to forget it.

Those who want to lay claim to names already registered by other people have the option of challenging them at any of the dispute-resolution services provided by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) or ICANN.
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by JACK KAPICA. Copyright © 2002 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc.


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