VeriSign begins taking applications for .biz

VeriSign Inc., the company which oversees the .com, .org and .net domain names and will do the same for a number of soon-to-be-added domains, said Tuesday that it would begin taking applications for the upcoming .biz Top Level Domain (TLD) immediately.

The window for applying for names runs from June 19 to Sept. 25. After Oct. 1, .biz names will be open for immediate registration, like .com or .org domains are now, VeriSign said.

Businesses and individuals are currently able to file applications for the .biz name of their choice, though for now, these are only applications and are no guarantee of securing a name, the company said. Instead, the company will take as many applications as are submitted for each name, at a non-refundable US$5 per application (with volume discounts resulting in a $3 per application fee after 100 applications), and will then parcel them out between Sept. 25 and Oct. 1, after which the fees will be eliminated.

After Oct. 1, the company which will control registration of .biz names, NeuLevel Inc., will award the names. If multiple applications are received for a particular name, the name will be awarded to an applicant at random, VeriSign said. Each applicant is permitted as many applications for a single domain as she wishes, and submitting multiple claims will increase the odds of winning the domain in a random drawing, VeriSign said.

It's necessary to use an application process to help control the speed of the new TLD launch, said Marcello Hunter, director of retail at VeriSign. Registries for other TLDs have had a lot longer to deal with administrative issues and don't have the kind of pent-up demand the new TLDs do, he said. Using an applications process will keep the registries from being overwhelmed, he added.

But, the applications serve other function than just a safety valve. First, they are the result of NeuLevel's negotiations with ICANN -- the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the body which oversees the Internet -- for the right to be the .biz registrar, Hunter said. Secondly, they will provide a source of income that will help NeuLevel operate. The applications also help set the stage, and the resolution process, for any disputes that may arise.

Filing applications for domain names is the second of three steps to actually instituting the .biz TLD as a real address on the Web, VeriSign said. The first step came in May when VeriSign began to take trademark claims from companies that wished to preemptively protect a trademarked term in the .biz domain. Such an application costs $89 per term submitted, with applications taken from May until August 6. Trademark filings only guarantee the right to a speedy, 30-day arbitration if need be, according to the terms of the filing posted on the Network Solutions Web site; Network Solutions is a VeriSign subsidiary. Applicants will be notified if they have chosen a name already claimed in this process, though they will be able to proceed with trying to register it, Hunter said.

The applications help "balance the rights of trademark holders and the general public," Hunter said, but they also help resolve disputes between equal parties.

"Two genuinely legitimate interests could have interest in the same word. Simply claiming a trademarked term doesn't mean you're automatically entitled to the .biz name," he said, offering the conundrum posed by whether Delta Airlines or Delta Faucets ought to receive the address.

While VeriSign is offering applications for .biz domain names, ICANN issued a warning against the same practice in late March, cautioning potential applicants that there was no guarantee they'd recieve the names they paid for. An ICANN spokeswoman said Wednesday that the organization had no comment on VeriSign's plans.

Even though an application may not lead to a .biz domain, there are some good reasons to apply, said Diane Cabell, the director of the clinical program in cyberlaw at Harvard University's Berkman Center for the Internet and Society.

"If you've got the money and want to leverage the odds, most people would be crazy not to (apply)," she said.

Applying may not make as much sense for companies, however, as they are likely to already have a .com domain and wouldn't need a .biz, she said. Whether to apply or not depends on factors such as how common your company's name is and how aggressive it is in protecting its trademarks, she said, though Cabell "wouldn't recommend it for most clients."

This sort of process is likely to appeal to people who think that getting short, easy-to-remember domain names will translate to financial success, in the same way it did for some .com address holders, Cabell said. Of course, this is not necessarily true, she added.

"The world doesn't need another Yahoo," she said.

Despite all the questions surrounding the roll-out of the new TLDs, the opportunity to add new addresses is an exciting one for VeriSign's Hunter.

"We're eagerly anticipating the availability of these names," he said. "For us, it's just an opening up of the market."