Internet agency weighs '.tel' domain name
4/14/2006, 7:07 p.m. ET
By ANICK JESDANUN
The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) - Reaching out and touching someone used to be as
simple as dialing a string of numbers. But now there are home, cell
and work phone numbers from which to choose, and sometimes work
extensions to remember.
There are also e-mail addresses -- at home and at work -- and
instant messaging handles, perhaps separate ones for the various
services, some of which now do voice and video besides text. Some
people even have Web pages -- through their employer or Internet
service provider, or perhaps a profile or two on MySpace.
To help people manage all their contact information online, the
Internet's key oversight agency is considering a ".tel" domain
name. If approved, the domain could be available this year.
As proposed, individuals could use a ".tel" Web site to provide the
latest contact information and perhaps even let friends initiate a call or
send a text message directly from the site. Businesses could use a ".tel"
site to determine customers' locations and route them automatically to the
correct call center.
Its proponents also envision ".tel" as a place from which the
various people-finding services on the Internet could pull the latest
contact information as individuals move about. Now, data typically
come from third-party sources like phone listings, which may be old or
incomplete, particularly if an entire household is listed under one
And telephony applications and devices yet to be built could one
day make use of such data, especially as wireless and wireline
networks converge, according to London-based Telnic Ltd., which
proposed and would run the domain if it is approved.
There's nothing inherent in ".tel" that would enable these
features; rather, its aim is to create a place to which people would
know to go to find contact information.
Todd Masonis, a co-founder of contact management service Plaxo
Inc., is familiar with the hassles of keeping track of everyone.
His parents have had the same house and phone number for some 30
years, and "for a long time that was how they are identified," Masonis
said. "But in the last two years, even they have had a couple of cell
phones, a couple of e-mail addresses and Web pages and instant message
Still, he questions the need for ".tel" when companies like his
already use ".com" to host services that help manage contacts. He
worries that a ".tel" name would create yet another identifier for
people to remember, without doing away with the others.
The board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and
Numbers (ICANN) plans to review the proposal Tuesday, although it may wait
until next month or later to decide.
Telnic officials likened ".tel" to the creation of domain names
decades ago as an easier-to-remember alternative to the series of
numbers behind every Internet-connected computer. Instead of
memorizing a friend's phone numbers, they say, just remember the
But Telnic was vague on how all this would work, saying it is
merely enabling developers to come up with innovative ways to use
Nor did the company say in its application how much a ".tel"
name would cost. A spokesman said Friday that officials were unavail-
able because of the Easter holiday.
Telnic was one of two applicants for ".tel" when ICANN sought
bids in 2004 for new domain names. John Jeffrey, ICANN's general
counsel, said the other ".tel" applicant had failed to correct
deficiencies identiified by ICANN. But that applicant, Internet
telephony pioneer Jeff Pulver, blamed politics for the rejection. Some
other 'outsiders' to the ICANN process tended to agree, saying "if
ICANN does not want it, then it is not going to happen, no matter how
good or beneficial to the net it may be otherwise. If ICANN does want
it, then it _will_ happen, regardless. Consider the several requests
from the internet community regards '.sex' and/or '.xxx'. ICANN did
not want it, so that was it. Consider two other domain names, '.spam'
and '.scam' which would have more realisiticaly shown where things are
at on the net. ICANN did not want them, so that was it, although with
80-85 percent of all email in the above categories, it really should
be a 'no-brainer'."
"But they have taken a liking in recent years to others, and ICANN
has approved '.eu' for the European Union, '.jobs' for human-resources
sites, '.travel' for the travel industry, '.mobi' targeting mobile
services and '.cat' for the Catalan language, bringing the number of
domains to 264."
The organization finally agreed to go into negotiations to
create ".xxx" for porn sites, ".asia" for the Asia-Pacific community
and ".post" for postal services.
The few who submitted comments to ICANN on ".tel" were skeptical.
Francisco Cabanas, owner of Canadian domain registration company
FineE.com, said an organization like The Associated Press could simply
create an address at "tel.ap.org," rather than require an "ap.tel."
Otherwise, who would get the ".tel" name? The AP? Internet
service provider AccessPort, which uses "ap.net"? Or Audio Precision
Inc., at "ap.com"?
"It kind of magnifies the problem," Cabanas said. "If I'm
looking for a phone number or an e-mail address or whatever and I'm
getting a totally different (company), it defeats the purpose."
Also unclear is what the demand would be like, giving the
popularity of ".com."
The seven domains approved in 2000 -- including ".aero,"
".museum," and ".info" -- "just never have caught on," said Dan
Tobias, a Boca Raton, Fla., computer programmer who runs a site on
domain names. "Nobody's figured out how to educate the public enough
to seek out a different ... domain."
Copyright 2006 Associated Press.
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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I would suggest the new owner of a
'.tel' domain should be whomever applied for it first, just as is
done now with .com and .org and other addresses. To protect myself
from rip offs of my name here, both http://telecom-digest.com and
http://telecom-digest.net bring you to this same place, the same as
(my preference), http://telecom-digest.org unless, of course, ICANN
decided to use it for a strictly numerical format, such as
http://3105551212.tel in which case the owner of the number would be
entitled to use it. PAT]