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What You Should Know About Country Code Domains

This article was written by an unknown author from CyberAtlas News and posted at the dotcom.com site: http://www.networksolutions.com/landing/P19C202S144N0B11A1D26V1

Country Code Domains -- Preserving Your Identity

In addition to the popular generic .com, .net and .org domains, there are 243 other country-specific domain extensions (like .de for Germany, .fr for France, .jp for Japan, etc.) known as "country-code top-level domains" (ccTLDs). These domains have been in existence for many years. However, in the past several years they have become popular in local areas and as a way for cybersquatters and potential competitors to cause further confusion in top Internet markets. In fact, total registrations in country-specific domains have increased from just under 1 million in 1998 to nearly 4 million in early 2000, a stunning increase which until last year had gone relatively unnoticed.

One possible reason for the rapid increase is because ICANNs dispute policy is not used or adopted by any country-code as of this writing. Each country is free to register domain names in any manner they see fit. In fact, a 1999 study concluded that only half of the top 25 country-code registries even have a formal dispute policy. The half that do have a policy merely state that all disputes are between the parties. In summary: "see you in court."

For the most part, the delegated 243 country-code domains are not controlled by sovereigns. Many are run by educational institutions, non-profits and entrepreneurs. The country-code domains can be classified as follows:

Of the 243 assigned country codes, 184 are actively registering names. Of the 184 active country-codes, 100 are classified as "restricted" and require a local presence and/or specific legal documentation in order to register (China, Japan and France, for example).


The remaining 84 are classified as "unrestricted" -- anyone from anywhere can register, just like in the .com, .net and .org domains. No local presence is needed. Examples include the United Kingdom, Mexico, Denmark, Israel and South Africa.

To further confuse you, some countries require that applicants register in specific sub-domains. In other words, in the United Kingdom, one must register as "name.co.uk"; the .co being reserved for commercial interests in the United Kingdom domain. It would not be possible to register as "name.uk". In other countries, like Mexico, one must register as "name.com.mx" -- the .com part has nothing to do with the well-known .com generic domain. In Germany, there are no sub-domains, so all must register as "name.de". These naming conventions have not stopped an onslaught of registration and marketing activity in these domains.

Generic Domains (gTLDs): 
  • End with .com, .net, or .org
  • Are not affiliated with any country
  • Are 'Unrestricted' -- anyone from anywhere can register

Country-Specific Domains (ccTLDs): 

  • End with two-letter extensions like .au (Australia), .cn (China)
  • Include examples like your name.de (Germany)
  • Are operated by separate registry authorities in each country

There are 184 active country-specific domains. Of these,

  • 100 are restricted and require a local presence and/or specific legal documentation
  • 84 are unrestricted -- anyone from anywhere can register, just like in the .com, .net and .org domains

The Highest Risk to Your Brand

The 84 unrestricted country-code domains pose the highest risk. Many people register for defensive reasons -- to protect themselves from cybersquatters. Others are registering in country-codes in order to extend and reinforce their brands. They want first crack in Internet markets where the local population may be typing in local domain name addresses when looking for information or to buy.

You can register one name in all 84 of these markets for less money than it would cost to prosecute just one domain name infringement case. Many companies find it a lot easier to register first than try to recover a lost or stolen name -- especially when you consider the amount that many online marketers are spending to promote and protect their brands as trademarks.

Registration in restricted country-codes is important too. If you have franchisees or licensees in restricted countries like France, Australia or China a local representative may be able to register in that country because they have a local presence. But what happens if your business arrangement goes sour? You may be forced out of the market, as your local rep may likely have all rights to the domain name. It's something to think about.

Lesser-Known Domain Names

.us

We get inquiries about registering in the United States (.us) domain. Why not register my U.S. based company in this domain you ask? Because the .us domain is among the least marketing-friendly domains on the planet. All domains registered must be "geographically specific". One must register as name.city.state.us. It is not possible to register name.us. Obviously this type of address would be certainly hard to market and remember. Thus the .us domain is seldom used by serious marketers and has little commercial value.

.cc

You may have heard about the .cc domain. Contrary to some reports, it is not new. It has been around for years, just like .com and the other 242 domain extensions. What is new is how it's being marketed -- as an alternative to .com for those that could not get their choice of names in the .com domain. The .cc country-code is delegated to and associated with the Cocos and Keeling Islands, located 1,000 miles northwest of Australia in the Indian Ocean. The .cc domain has attracted a small number of registrants compared to "name-brand" country-codes like Germany and the United Kingdom, places where people actually live and buy things over the Internet. And certainly it has attracted far less notice than the .com domain. One possible reason is simply because .cc is not memorable to the general population. It has little brand awareness compared to .de, .co.uk, or .com.

THE FUTURE FOR ccTLDs

Native-language character set domain name systems are just now hitting the marketplace -- domain names using Chinese, Japanese or Korean characters. Despite any hype you may read, no clear official standard has emerged as of August 2000. Bottom line: Even though you may have registered your valuable names in Romanized characters within .com and the ccTLDs, you will increasingly face the challenge of protecting your good names in native-language character sets.

In the meantime, give consideration to protecting your Internet identity wherever you can, before someone else beats you to it!

Four Reasons to Register in Country-Specific Domains: 

1. You make it easier for local end users to find you 
2. Intellectual property is marketed overseas 
3. You can act global...but appear local 
4. You can reduce confusion by preventing unauthorized use of trademarks, brand names as domain names

Domain Name Registration Strategy:

  • Search availability in generic and country-code domains
  • Determine requirements in desired countries