Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Making A Name for Yourself on the Web

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Making A Name for Yourself on the Web

Article excerpt

Domain names may seem inconsequentially geeky, but their impact is profound, cutting to the very identity of Web-based enterprises. A lot is changing in the world of Web names, including the introduction of free domain-name services.

A domain name, most commonly, is a Web site's address expressed in an easily recognized way, as in "Yourmane.com." Anybody can obtain a domain name for a site, from multinational companies to grade-school children.

Problems arise when individuals obtain domain names similar to trademarked business names. In the past, "cybersquatters" would buy and sit on these names in hope of selling them for big bucks when companies later created Web sites. Regulations now prevent this, but they haven't stopped squabbles.

Internet toy retailer eToys.com offered to buy the domain name of Swiss artists' collective Etoy.com. When Etoy declined, eToys.com went to court. Also, e-Cards.com called in the lawyers against Ecards.com.

According to the rules of the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit corporation responsible for domain-name management, a trademark owner can confiscate a domain name that someone else is using "in bad faith," for example, by holding it "primarily for the purpose of selling" it to a trademark holder.

A free-speech issue arises with bona fide parody sites. Individuals critical of companies or their products have created Web sites expressing their views, often giving their sites monikers along the lines of Companyname-sucks.com.

Proactively, some companies have registered these names themselves. Verizon Communications, the company created from the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE, owns Verizonsucks.com.

In response, one parodist registered the domain name Verizonreallysucks.com, which got the attention of Verizon's lawyers. Typically when confronted by a well-financed legal team, parodists throw in the towel.

In the above case, the parodist registered the domain name VerizonShouldSpendMoreTimeFixingItsNetworkAndLessMoneyOnLawyers.com. Verizon gave up.

Despite silliness such as this, domain names are serious business. Recently Mortgage.com sold its domain name for $1.8 million. Earlier, "business.com" sold for a hefty $7.5 million. The typical cost of buying a domain name already owned by someone else is several thousand dollars.

To facilitate the sale of domain names, Register.com, a reseller of Internet domain names, just launched a service that lets you bid for any of the 20 million names already taken. …

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