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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

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The Domain Name Game
The Intenet race is a land grab -- and someone else has gotten there first
By STUART WHITMORE

December 6, 1999
Web posted at 6:40 p.m. Hong Kong time, 5:40 a.m. EDT


    INTELLIGENCE
The Week Ahead
Assessing last week's turmoil
by Ann Morrison
- Monday, Dec. 6, 1999

Indonesia: Keeping It Personal
If president Wahid won't go to Aceh, Aceh will come to the president
- Thursday, Dec. 2, 1999

The Wahid Mystique
It's turning out to be the Wahid mistake for many of his pronouncements
- Wednesday, Dec. 1, 1999

The Week Ahead: How big a dent in Barisan Nasional?
Looking ahead to the Malaysian election results
- Monday, Nov. 29, 1999

The WTO: How Zhu Saw It
New evidence shows the Premier's side of the debate
- Thursday, Nov. 25, 1999

Shoot the Messenger
Image Control at the Estrada Presidency
by Ricardo Saludo
- Tuesday, Nov. 23, 1999

The Week Ahead
Playing the Waiting Game
by Ann Morrison
- Monday, Nov. 22, 1999

Bill and the BubbleBoy
Microsoft claims it puts customers first. Then can we get some service here, Mr. Gates?
by Stuart Whitmore
- Friday, Nov. 19, 1999

The Dazed Lion in Winter
Post-election, the Habibie administration's inadequacies come out
- Thursday, Nov. 18, 1999

Into the Year of the Dragon
What's Ahead for China
by David Hsieh
- Wednesday, Nov. 17, 1999

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Ever tried to register an Internet domain name? You start off with high hopes of owning something snappy -- of being the next News.com, China.com or Buy.com. Soon you're desperately trawling the dictionary from aardvark to Zanzibar for any word that you can claim as your own, in frustration you type "thisisstupid" -- only to find someone else got there first. You finish up slumped tearfully against the monitor, wailing like a drunk in a singles bar that all the good ones are already taken.

As far back as April, Wired News reported that of the 25,500 words in a standard English dictionary, only 1,760 had not been registered as Web addresses. Don't expect any of those to be left. Internet real estate is at such a premium that a whole economy has grown up around it.

Cybersquatting, the act of registering someone else's trademarked name (say, mcdonalds.com) in the interests of some good old fashioned extortion, has become big enough problem for the U.S. government to pass a law against it in October.

But those who own a desirable name in good faith still have the law on their side. Virtual Works, a small U.S. Internet company, is so far winning its court battle against German auto giant Volkswagen for control of its vw.net URL. When America Online moved into Brazil it found aol.com.br (the .br is the suffix specific to Brazil, like .jp in Japan or .sg in Singapore) already taken and was forced to settle for less intuitive br.aol.com.

Anyone sitting on a prime URL is also sitting on a potential windfall. The cost of registering an address varies, but a typical price is $70 for a two year lease, plus $35 per year after that. Boston Business Computing made a tidy return on that small investment when it sold bbc.com to the British Broadcasting Corporation for what the beeb describes as "a considerable amount." Compaq shelled out $3.3 million to claim the rights to altavista.com for its search engine. Previously AltaVista had occupied the obscure altavista.digital.com. And just last week the domain business.com was sold for a cool $7.5 million. No wonder the Industrial Bank of Korea has begun accepting URL's as collateral against loans of up to 30 million won ($25,500). The boom in virtual real estate is as concrete as any in the genuine property market. The Texas man who just sold business.com bought the address three years ago for $150,000.

Recently speculating on -- and profiting from -- domain names got a whole lot easier, thanks to a new website, www.afternic.com.(link to site) Afternic is an auctioneer of URLs, matching up buyers and sellers for a 5% fee and seeing the transaction through. Addresses are grouped by subject (technology, entertainment etc) and by suffix (.com, .net and so on). Afternic also offers a trademark search function -- so you can check the domain you're trading is cyberbeachfront property rather than a squat.

Will you find the next business.com on Afternic? Maybe it's malls.com, a catchy name in a desirable commercial district -- and one with a hefty reserve price of $1 million. At the lower end of the catalog the names are less striking but ingenuity abounds, with sellers registering whatever combinations of two or more words they think could strike it rich. Hence hotadvertising.com, smartproperty.com and, er, amazonbitch.com. And while the dot-coms are crowded, there are plenty of other top level domains in up and coming areas. Why not register in Sao Tome and Principe? No, I'm not really sure where it is either, but your new address will come with the alluring suffix .st -- as in street. The seller of Hyde.st is asking at least $165,000. Consider cashing in on the health craze by registering in Moldova and getting a .md, U.S. notation for a doctor. Then there is Tuvalu, which is pitching its hot .tv tag at the television industry.

If you want to register a domain, www.icann.org and www.iana.org can point you in the right direction. And remember, with the Web is growing fast outside the U.S. you don't have to stick to English words. There still might be a chance to grab a hot domain in your native language. Here goes: www.anime.com, no; www.boleh.com, no; www.chaebol.com, no . . .

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