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The latest top level domain extension - .tel - opens for business today with a new twist on the DNS.

Rather than merely act as a memorable address for a website, a .tel domain is designed to serve as a repository for contact data. By listing phone numbers, websites, Google keywords, physical addresses and email addresses in their .tel entry, the registry's operators have it, companies and individuals can make themselves much easier to get hold of.

By giving customers your .tel domain, you can do the work of keeping details of your contact channels up-to-date for them, the pitch goes. A move of premises could be simplified by a quick edit of your .tel entry.

Using the DNS to store such data rather than simply mapping web addresses to IP addresses is "the most significant innovation in the domain name system since the advent of .com", according to Khashayar Mahdavi, the CEO of London-based Telnic, which is operating the .tel registry.

Although .tel sales are only open to brand owners until February 3 (the "sunrise" period for new domain extensions), Telnic also plans to market registry to individuals who want to manage their social life and career online. Their .tel data could include MySpace and Facebook links, CV information and IM contacts.

Telnic is encouraging developers to integrate .tel into mobile applications in the hope it will take off as a system to help users avoid the hassle of entering new contact details. Owners of .tel domains could choose to include their mobile location in their entry, if they're into that sort of thing.

After the "sunrise", there will be a "landrush" period until March 24, when the best .tel domains will be sold at a premium. General availability will follow when a .tel will cost about £15 per year. Brand owners are being charged £280 today.

Recent new domain registry launches pitching their own unique selling point, such as .mobi, which pitched itself last year as the TLD for mobile-optimised websites, have proved less than spectacular. Industry observers including Nominet, which runs .uk, have suggested the proliferation of new domain extensions may be exhausting the market.

Telnic will be hoping .tel is unique enough to rouse it. ®

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