Domain name for Asia up for grabs

The so-called landrush for the latest domain name suffix - .asia - has begun.
DotAsia, the organisation overseeing the registration, is expecting huge demand for the first domain name extension for the Asia Pacific region.

But some in the industry are concerned about the proliferation of domain name suffixes in recent years.

While others think that the business of buying domain names has become more about protecting brands than promoting them.


Work to create the .asia domain began in 2000 with the DotAsia Organisation winning official approval to set up the domain in 2006.

A so-called sunrise period, where companies can reserve domains to match their trademarks, has been ongoing since October.

Now the process has been opened up for anyone to register and the first .asia domains will go live on the internet in March.

Thomas Herbert, a product manager from UK hosting firm and registrar Hostway, believes the nature of buying domain names has changed, largely due to the lucrative businesses of cybersquatting.

“People are willing to pay big money for a domain and with domain name reselling on the increase, it has become a matter of protecting your trademark,” he said.

As well as cybersquatting there can be legitimate battles over suffixes.

For example, in the sunrise period for the .eu domain, there were some 95,000 conflicting claims for domains.

The domain was applied for by car maker Volkswagen, fashion house Ralph Lauren and sweet manufacturer Nestle.

To limit squabbles and cybersquatting this time around, the DotAsia Organisation, has put in place certain rules.

Companies must be already registered in the Asia/Pacific region to qualify and if there are any conflicts of interest, the domain will be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Such restrictions are likely to increase as more domain names come online, thinks Mr Herbert.

Leona Chen, spokeswoman for the DotAsia Organisation, anticipated plenty of interest and hoped the suffix could have as significant an impact in Asia as .com has globally.

“We are ready for something big. All of our people and systems are in place and we look forward to the commencement of the .asia landrush,” she said.

Too many?

UK domain name registrar NetNames pointed out that the number of firms registering interest is considerably lower than for the sell-off of the eu domain in April 2006.

“Only 30,780 applications have been filed for .asia domain names so far compared with 330,000 at the same point in the launch of the .eu domain name,” said Jonathan Robinson, chief operating officer of NetNames.

He advised firms to get onboard quickly.

“Once it starts, there’s far less protection for companies’ trademarks and its open season on the .asia domain name for cybersquatters, online speculators and competitors,” he said.

According to a report from Nominet, the overseer of the .uk registry, there is an active market in buying, selling and storing domain names, with sales regularly exceeding 100,000 and peak values reaching more than 1m.

While some of these resales are legitimate there was also a big market for speculators, said Nominet chief executive Lesley Cowley.

She was concerned that a sudden leap in the number of domain names could leave companies confused as to which ones they need to register for.

“The current process being developed by Icann (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) means there could be a couple of hundred or even thousands of new suffixes to bid for by the end of the year,” she said.

The .asia domain name extends to some 70 countries, from the Middle East to Australia. 60% of the world’s population lives within the Asia-Pacific region and there are 400 million internet users.

Other regional suffixes for Africa and Latin America are expected to follow.