Doctors, lawyers and accountants this month can begin using a new "top-level domain" called .pro that promises to offer themâfor a priceâa more professional online home than todayâs ubiquitous .com Web addresses.
New domains arenât new. Companies today can replace their "dot-com" addresses with alternatives, including .biz, .info, .TV and more than 40 others. However, .proâoffered by RegistryPro.com and its registrar partnersâdelivers a few new twists that should appeal to b-to-b marketers.
Most significant, companies requesting a .pro domain must verify their eligibility by proving their membership in industry associations or licensing organizations. That added level of authentication is important for professionals who want to demonstrate their proficiency to potential customers.
In addition, each new .pro domain comes with a digital certificate that can be used to encrypt and validate a companyâs Web and e-mail communications, potentially adding new levels of privacy and security to the online business conducted by doctors, lawyers and accountants.
"I think the âcredentialingâ part is very interesting," said Rick Kean, executive director of the Business Marketing Association. "Thereâs been so much push back lately [against Web-based marketing] because of spam and all the junk thatâs out there that, if there was some way to get businesses authenticated and authorized, that would be a giant step in the right direction."
Initially, RegistryPro.com is offering professionals access to new so-called "third-level" domains that identify their practice and the industry in which they operate. For instance, lawyers can register companyname.law.pro; accountants, companyname.cpa.pro; and physicians, companyname.med.pro.
Chicago-based law firm Ladas & Parry registered ladas.law.pro and aims to establish the domain as a secure channel for communicating with clients.
"The Internet is a bit of a Wild West environment," said Paul McGrady, a partner at Ladas & Parry. "A lot of lawyers are searching for ways to solve that problem and alleviate some of that risk. .Pro could potentially offer a solution."
Though the new domain was just launched June 1, early returns indicate that professionals are registering domains both for their own businesses (such as KPMG.cpa.pro) as well as trying to win the land rush to own prize names such as wills.law.pro or criminalattorney.law.pro, said Michael Delciello, general manager of RegistryPro.com.
"The value here is the ability to for a professional to verify their identity on the Web," Delciello said. "If you look at the three industries involvedâdoctors, lawyers and accountantsâwhat more personal, confidential information do we hold [as consumers] than our medical, legal and financial information?"
Added security assurance
The .pro domain should also help professionals more securely exchange b-to-b information. For instance, when a doctor or lawyer has to exchange medical or legal records with a colleague, a .pro-based e-mail address can add a level of assurance that they are dealing with another licensed professional, Delciello said.
New domain names such as .pro are authorized by Internet Corp. for Assigned Names & Numbers (ICANN). ICANN originally granted .pro to registry Register.com, but RegistryPro.com, a subsidiary of Chicago-based Hostway Corp., acquired .pro from Register.com earlier this year for an undisclosed sum.
Under ICANN rules, RegistryPro.com cannot sell domain names directly. Instead, it works with Internet registrars that in turn sell the domains to individual registrants. There are almost 200 Internet registrars worldwide; RegistryPro.com today works with about 20 registrars, including Register.com, DomainPeople.com and Name.com, to deliver .pro domains.
Prices for a .pro domain typically are about $250, but individual registrars are free to price them as they like. At that price, .pro domains cost well more than .com domains, which can be registered in some cases for $10 or less. But the added legitimacy of a .pro address will pay dividends for both businesses and consumers alike, RegistryPro.comâs Delciello said.
Currently, .pro is available in the U.S. and only for the three initial professions. However, RegistryPro.com expects to expand globally as well as add additional professionsâpossibly architects, engineers or financial planners, to name a fewâin the near future, Delciello said.
Domain regulatory body ICANN is currently considering 10 additional domains, with a decision expected by fall. Some of the domains under consideration include .mobi (for mobile phone Web sites), .jobs (for job listings sites), .mail (for use by e-mail marketers), .tel (for telephone companies, .travel (for travel firms), .post (for the post office) and .xxx (for sexually explicit content).