While new registrations of existing Internet domain names are falling, pent-up demand for new names and services could help drive interest in the seven new global domain names, two of which went live last week.
Top-level domain (TLD) operators for dot-aero, dot-biz, dot-coop, dot-info, dot-museum, dot-name and dot-pro said the new handles will give businesses a second chance to grab the names they really want.
"Good names are very hard to find within [existing] TLDs," said Douglas Armentrout, CEO of NeuLevel, which operates the dot-biz domain. "Just the fact that good names are available . . . we will see some explosive growth."
Dot-biz and dot-info are now online, but the only Web addresses Internet users will initially find with these suffixes will be ones belonging to the operators of the two generic TLDs [gTLDs] — NeuLevel and Afilias. The general public will be able to register dot-info names in September and dot-biz names in October.
The other gTLDs are still negotiating contracts with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the Internets domain name management body.
Still, as many as 2 million dot-biz names have been preregistered, according to reports from companies that sell registrations to the public, Armentrout said. He also estimated that 15 million dot-biz names will be registered by 2005, while dot-names operators expect 10 million registrations by that time.
Total new registrations in dot-com, dot-net and dot-org fell from 5 million in the first quarter of 2000 to 3.1 million names during the same period of 2001.
While some of the drop may be due to the shrinking availability of good names, some analysts said with the crash of many dot-com businesses, speculators have been unable to resell domain names for as much money as they received during the height of the Internet boom, providing less incentive to register new ones.
Observers said some of the growth in the new domains will depend on the types of services offered with the gTLDs. "The whole purpose of TLDs . . . is to enable a new set of services targeted at distinct communities," said William Whyman, president of the Precursor Group, an independent investment research firm.
For example, dot-names operators plan to offer e-mail forwarding and other services aimed at providing users with a "digital identity."
Dot-biz may have a unique way of expanding its reach among businesses, some observers said. NeuLevel has established a lottery system that essentially gives businesses with the same name equal chance at registering it as a dot-biz domain name.
But the system has come under fire by intellectual property interests who prefer a "sunrise period," like the one offered by dot-info that gives trademark owners an opportunity to register their names before the general public has access to the process.
New gTLDs have not been added to the Internets root system since the 1980s when the most popular ones, dot-com, dot-net and dot-org, were introduced.