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.Asia domains are go

And after the gold rush?

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The new .asia domain registry opens for business today, triggering the familiar landgrab by brand owners.

Carpet baggers will have to wait for their chance to hoover up potentially valuable names. DotAsia is available only to governments, trademark owners, and official bodies until the end of February. It'll then give everyone else a crack of the whip.

It's the second of a new breed of regional top-level domains (TLDs). The .eu extension, which launched last year, was the first such multi-country domain. A Latin American and an African suffix are both on their way too.

The .asia registry is being run by a Hong Kong-based not-for-profit that won final approval to set up shop last October. Plans for .asia addresses have been working their way through the international domain bureaucracy since 2000.

DotAsia will use auctions for the most in-demand addresses, in contrast to other registries, which have been criticised for a lack of transparency in pricing.

Lesley Cowley, boss of Nominet, which runs the .co.uk registry, reckons the .asia launch may be the last web address gold rush on this scale. A relaxation of rules being planned by ICANN could mean a sudden leap in the number of TLDs available.

She said: "As ICANN is changing its processes it is likely that there will be a larger number of TLDs.

"This may mean that where businesses would previously automatically register their business name with every new TLD to protect themselves they may deem that there are simply too many TLDs to be a member of each one."

The DotAsia registry is here. It'll soon be a test bed for ICANN's very considerate plan to let non-English alphabet languages use their own characters for web addresses. ®

Bootnote

A special "no shit Sherlock" to Reuters for its headline "www.sex.asia likely to be internet domain in demand".

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