A large majority of British businesses with a .eu domain name believe it to be an effective business tool in a recent survey, while a separate survey found that half of UK businesses do not even know what the .eu domain stands for.
The surveys were both carried out by domain registration and hosting company 1&1 Internet, and found that business sentiment for .eu addresses across Europe was surprisingly positive.
The .eu domain was launched in December 2005, by which time most businesses had long-established online presences at international addresses such as .com or .net, or at country addresses such as .uk or .de.
The research, though, suggests that the businesses which have adopted European addresses have found it a useful experience. It found that 68% of UK businesses which use a .eu domain thought it was effective, while half of users said that the domain enhanced their business's image. Around 43% said it increased accessibility to vital European markets.
French companies were the most enthusiastic about the addresses, with 88% of them willing to recommend using an address, 75% believing them to be effective and 72% saying that it enhanced their image.
Some 2,600 small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) were surveyed in the UK, France and Germany for the research.
When the survey quizzed businesses overall, and not just those with .eu addresses, it found more predictable results, though. In the UK 51% of SMEs were confused over what .eu signified, and fewer than half of them could identify it as signalling that a website was from the European Union, and that that includes the UK.
"Using a .eu domain name can deliver SMEs improved accessibility to Europe and enhance their image, yet many companies remain confused over what .eu represents," says Andreas Gauger, chief executive of 1&1 Internet. "An astonishing number do not know that the domain .eu includes British businesses and are unaware of how much they could gain from flying the European flag."
The .eu domain has had a hard job building a significant market because of its late launch and because its area contains two of the world's biggest country-specific domain names. Germany's .de has 10 million domains registered within it, while the UK's .uk has five million addresses.