Dreams of domain name glory

Few Australian companies have registered for a top level domain name, but those who have hold big plans for their use. But are their expectations realistic?

Here’s a riddle: what do a physio in Western Australia, iiNet ,Webjet and the Australian Cancer Research Foundation have in common?

Aside from being based in Australia, all of these groups were recently revealed to have paid just under $200,000 to purchase their own ‘slice of the internet’; a top level domain name.

A top level domain name is the suffix on the end of a web address, like .com or .au. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which controls domain name registration, recently gave companies around the globe the ability to invent and purchase their own top level domain name, all for a hefty application fee of $US185,000 and an annual ongoing payment of $25,000 per year.

The release of applications this week showed only 44 applications for a unique domain name were made in Australia. Compare this to the 911 applications in North America and the 675 applications from Europe and it becomes apparent that there is something strongly deterring Australian organisations from seeking a domain name.

Perhaps it's the price? Perhaps it's the risk that a unique domain name won’t result in anything tangible? Perhaps it's too soon to tell?

Rather than dwell on the negative, Technology Spectator spoke to four unique domain name bidders to find out what made them want to invest in a word.

.iiNet 

For internet services provider iiNet, a $US185,000 price tag wasn’t a high enough cost to stop them being at the cutting edge of the internet.

According to iiNet’s operations manager, Roger Yerramsetti, the ISP invested in the domain name so it could “keep its options open” and stay ahead of this potential internet trend.

“Anyone who’s got in now will have a two to three-year head start,” he says.

Despite the head start, Yerramsetti says the company doesn’t have a “killer idea” as to how they are going to harness their .iinet domain name. “But it will come to us at some point,” he says.

In the meantime, Yerramsetti says iiNet is happy “playing in an area that nobody else thought was an opportunity”. No other telcos in Australia signed up for a domain name.

He says the biggest risk to their domain name venture is that they will need to make sure that all of the websites they tweak to use .iinet are also backwards compatible, meaning they will accept the suffix .com and .au as well.

Getting users to learn to add ‘.au’ to iiNet’s addresses was enough of a challenge, he says. 

.Webjet

The primary motivation for travel website Webjet in investing in a domain name wasn’t to do with marketing or trying to appear innovative. In fact, the website moved to buy the domain .webjet in a bid to stop cybersquatters from stealing its website address.

Managing director of Webjet, John Guscic says the site was constantly battling cyber criminals from China, Sweden and South Africa who would continuously set up websites with similar addresses to try and coax settlement money out of the company.

In the past, Webjet would pay up to $10,000 to close down each cybersquatter that successfully outmanoeuvred its legal attempts to bar them.

For Guscic, stonewalling cyber criminals' efforts to pilfer off his brand is enough of a reason to invest in a domain name.

The continual payoffs were getting costly for the website, and a once-off investment in a domain name is expected to eliminate that problem, as cyber criminals don’t have the ability to mimic a unique top level domain.

When asked whether search engine optimisation – one of the more commonly accepted reasons for purchasing a domain name – filtered into his company’s decision, Guscic said it did not.

“If people are searching for your brand, they’re going to find it anyway,” Guscic said.

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