Dot-co is not a dot-com typo

Colombia's dot-co domain name will be opened for general availability this summer, and the company behind the move wants you to know it's not just a .com typo.

.CO Internet, a joint venture between Colombia's Arcelandia and American registry Neustar, hopes to quickly make millions with dot-co domain names, based on the string's obvious semantic value rather than the fact that it looks a lot like a dot-com.

"The goal in all of this is to create a very large name-space for all the millions of businesses starting up around the world on a monthly basis,” said chief executive Juan Diego Calle. "We realise there may be some concerns about typos, but in my opinion that's a blip on the radar."

The Colombian name-space has previously been quite heavily regulated and only 27,000 names have been registered. It's taken ten years for the country to loosen its grip and try to squeeze the asset for its full value.

"We expect to have millions of registrations in the first few years," Calle said.

Ten registrars have been hand-picked for launch. While .CO Internet is not disclosing its registry fees, they are believed to be at least double those for dot-com. Retail prices are in the $20 to $30 range.

Domain squatters could have licked their lips at the prospect of lots of lovely typo traffic from fat-fingered web users. According to Alexa, domain such as ebay.co and amazon.co rank in the top 500,000 searched-for web sites in the world, despite the fact that they do not even exist.

When Cameroon realised the value of its .cm namespace four years ago, it decided to 'wild-card' the entire domain to monetise typo traffic. Its track record on cybersquatting is also dubious (visit ebay.cm for an example).

But not only has .CO Internet ruled against wild-carding dot-co, it has also put in place significant measures to make sure brands are protected.

While not governed by any formal relationship with ICANN, the company has borrowed ideas ICANN has been working on for years and put in place some of the most stringent trademark restrictions of any top-level domain.

Next Thursday, .CO Internet will open a 'sunrise' period for trademark holders to claim their brands. Priority will be given to holders of Colombian trademarks. Global mark holders get their shot on 26 April. Any contested domains will go to auction.

A trademark on a dot-com brand will be enough to file a sunrise claim, according to marketing director Lori Anne Wardi. The sunrise period lasts until 10 June. After that, a three-week 'land-rush' phase kicks in.

This is the phase where domain speculators are most likely to get involved. Anybody can try to register a high-value dot-co, but contested claims will go to auction.

.CO Internet is also holding back a list of certain premium names, in order to get their full market value. There will likely be about 5,000 English, Spanish, French and German domains on the list, and they will be released a handful at a time at domainer auctions and trade shows.

Cybersquatting is inevitable in any name-space. To counter it, .CO Internet has contracted with the World Intellectual Property Organisation to administer a dispute resolution process identical to the one used by dot-com.

But the company is going two steps further, implementing a 'rapid suspension' process for clear-cut cases of cybersquatting, and a database of protected trademarks, to be administered by Deloitte. Both ideas are also currently on ICANN's drawing board for other domains.

There will be no Whois privacy either. Such services are banned, although they may be considered at a later date.

"It's about protecting the world's most famous marks," Calle said. "We wanted to take the pressure off those top brands. That's not what we're here for, frankly. We're about people creating new brands."