Mining the Internet with Domain Names

By Sandy, John H. | Information Outlook, November 2000 | Go to article overview

Mining the Internet with Domain Names


Sandy, John H., Information Outlook


A GREAT DOMAIN NAME IS THE KEY TO ESTABLISHING A STRONG PRESENCE and making the riches of the Internet more accessible. Indeed, a domain name is akin to the Location of a premium piece of real estate. Only, in this case, the location is a virtual home in cyberspace. Emphasizing the importance of a domain name, a broker of domain names at iDomain.com recently said, "The Internet is not really about technology--it is about marketing yourself and your products."

A high-impact domain name can be a short-cut to branding, a process important in marketing a company or organization and its products. With a solid name, it's easy to reach new and existing customers. Accordingly, many companies are willing to spend huge sums of money to acquire and promote a good domain name. But finding the right name is not always an easy task. The explosive growth of the Internet leaves fewer good names from which to choose.

Choosing a Name

Choosing a good domain name is a critical step in getting started on the Internet. While many businesses and organizations are already on the Internet, millions more are signing on each year. Latecomers to the Internet soon discover that most high-quality domain names are already taken. Jill Serjeant, author of a Reuters News story (7 January 2000), reported "some 97 percent of the words in Webster's Dictionary have been registered, and the total number of domain names in the United States has swollen to six million from one million in three years." The competition to register domain names is intense, with approximately 10,000 new names being registered each day, according to iDomains.com.

As of July 2000, DomainStats.com reported 13,072,946 registered InterNIC domains. Of this sum, .com accounted for 9,482,427 (72.5%), .net 2,265,298 (17.3%), .org 1,318,818 (10%), .edu 5,637 (.04%) and .gov 730 (.006%). During the same period, statistics showed 17,804,717 domains, worldwide. It's not surprising that for many businesses and entrepreneurs the search for a domain name is like looking for the proverbial "needle in a haystack."

To some observers, the frenzy to register domain names is a reminder of the California gold rush days of 1849. Whoever thinks of a great domain first and stakes a claim with domain name authorities (gets it registered) is the owner. In many cases, individuals have registered hundreds of names, hoping to sell them later at a high profit. Owners of generic names, especially if the name is related to an entire industry, such as milk.com, have reported huge offers to sell.

Occasionally, like early-day mining claims, disputes occur as to the rightful owner of a domain name. Fortunately, for many companies, their names are protected by intellectual property laws, specifically trademark. But not all names are protected, particularly if they are words of common usage. A major U.S. company recently challenged an individual on the use of the term Ajax (a character from Greek mythology) in a personal web site, but upon further investigation, quit the challenge.

The Domain Name System (DNS)

An understanding of the domain name system is important for selecting a domain name. The domain name system is set up to make regular words map to IP (Internet Protocol) addresses. An IP address is a series of numbers used by networks to connect all computers on the Internet. A domain name may be up to sixty-three characters, consisting of letters, numbers, or the dash symbol. In the world of computer networking, the web address flyhigh.com becomes the IP address 125.133.4.4, for example. But it's the domain name that people use when looking for Web sites or sending e-mail.

Domain names are organized hierarchically. At the highest level is the top-level domain (TLD). Three TLDs are commonly used worldwide: .com, .org, and .net. Just below the TLD, reading right to left is the subdomain. A business might choose redbuffalo.com as its domain name, for example.

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