Eminent domain?

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Despite the dot-com drop, the marketer of the top-level domain ".biz" is forging ahead with a worldwide initiative to tout its technology and to persuade businesses they need another Internet domain name on top of those they've already secured.

Neulevel, an Internet registry, will administer the database of dot-biz names issued by 80 worldwide registrars. They hope to appeal to businesses that want to hit the Web with names similar to their own but may have missed adding ".com" in the Internet land grab. For multinationals with established trademarks, the issue will be whether to shell out for names they may not need but don't want competitors, mischief-makers or others to land-even temporarily-until the courts pass the name back to them.


Neulevel, of course, is bullish about the market's potential. "Whereas people associate dot-com with the Internet today, in the future, dot-biz will be synonymous with business on the Internet," said Mark Carr, the Sterling, Va.-based company's director of market development.

Executives said their registry ultimately could contain domain names for the 62 million worldwide businesses and that registrars have received more than 1 million inquiries since January. While observers suggest those numbers might be lofty, they agree the seven new designations about to be added to the Internet nomenclature-.biz, .info, .pro, .name, .museum, .coop, and .aero-will be a boon to organizations looking for logical Web addresses.

Its branding effort is being handled by Interpublic Group of Cos.' Mullen, Wenham, Mass. Print ads will run this month through next year in newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times as well as in legal and professional publications from around the world. Direct mail, email and Internet ads will accompany.

The account has been estimated at about $20 million. Mullen and Neulevel executives would not comment on the budget.

Registrars-such as Register.com-set fees, with Neulevel receiving $5.30 per domain name registration and additional fees depending on the services it provides.

The dot-biz designation goes live Oct. 1. Neulevel is a joint venture between communications clearinghouse service provider NeuStar of Washington and Australia's Melbourne IT. Executives say their virtual real estate and associated technology could be used for consumer communications as well as business-to-business applications that eventually could, for example, perform enhanced database searches and allow someone to reach a cellphone by logging into an Internet address.


Jim Hartrich, senior VP-group account director for Mullen, said most demand would come from outside U.S. borders. Anecdotes bear this out.

Scott Kraft, a partner at the Sterling Group branding consultants, said he's not been asked to buy a domain name in six months.

Jack Trout, president of strategist Trout & Partners, said a dot-biz designation seems redundant, especially for corporate behemoths.

"The main players are there [on the Internet], and even the non-players are there, and even players that are [less] than that are there. Anybody who is anybody is there," he said.

Burkey Belser, president of the Washington branding consultant Greenfield-Belser, however, said he urges clients to register for their dot-biz and dot-pro names regardless of whether they have the other designations. It's a defensive move for big-name businesses and an open door for smaller entities frozen out of having the dot-com, dot-net or dot-org tacked onto their name.

But Mr. Kraft said he tells clients-established and start-ups alike-not to bother with the dot-whatever registrations.

"For current domain holders, it feels like extortion," he said. "It's like the companies that hold the rights to sell domain names are holding you at gunpoint and saying `now you have to pay us more.' It's a cost of doing business, and [they've] just upped that cost ... thank you very much."

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