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$1 domains for the developing world

And Swedish, Korean, Latvian... dot-orgs for the rest of us

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The developing world could soon see .org domain names for just $1 under a new scheme by non-for-profit registry PIR.

From the start of July, PIR (Public Interest Registry) will provide domain-name sellers with a $5 rebate for every domain they sell in Latin America and India. The cost to registrars is $6 per domain per year, and they are usually sold for a few extra dollars to consumers.

Registrars will not be obliged to hand the rebate to the end user, but PIR president and CEO Edward Viltz told us he hoped some of it will trickle down to those hoping for their own piece of cyberspace. The scheme thereby works two-fold: it gives registrars a greater incentive to sell .org domains, while at the same time reducing the price of domains for those in some of the world's poorest countries.

The scheme is to be carefully evaluated and if it is deemed to have worked, will be rolled out to other areas of the world, Viltz told us.

PIR will start selling .org domains in eight different languages from this weekend (23 July). Danish, Hungarian, Icelandic, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish and Swedish will be added to existing German domains, opening the first front on a much larger push for "internationalised domain names" or IDNs.

All domains registered in the eight new languages from 23 July to 22 August will be locked until 21 September in order to give companies the opportunity to check for any intellectual property infringements, and then will be released onto the market.

IDNs are currently not supported by Internet Explorer - by far and away the biggest browser - but the fact it is continuing to lose market share to IDN-supporting browser Firefox, has led many to believe Microsoft will include IDN support in version 7 of Explorer, expected to be available in beta this summer.

Viltz acknowledges holes in remain the addition of other languages into the domain name system but hopes that dot-org will lead the way for other registries. He also played down hopes that IDNs could be a vast, untapped market. "Our motivation is simply because this is the right thing to do," he said.

PIR is also working on introducing the world's most widely spoken language, Spanish, into its systems but because of the enormous impact this is likely to have (and considering possible conflicts with Portuguese), the organisation is following the "carpenter's process" of measuring twice and cutting once, Viltz said.

PIR took over the .org registry in January 2003. It has since gained a popular following, in part thanks to its championing of open-source software through technical partner Afilias. With nearly four million .org domains now in existence, it is also the fifth largest registry on the Internet.

All excess funds from the sale of .org domains go to the Internet Society which builds Internet infrastructure and funds workshops, training programmes and development grants related to the Internet in the poorest areas of the world.

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