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Your name dot com -- free, with a few catches


September 27, 1999
Web posted at: 1:59 p.m. EDT (1759 GMT)

By Robin Lloyd
CNN Interactive Senior Writer

(CNN) -- Looking for a free boost to your ego or small business?

A Silicon Valley company is pre-registering people who want a free Web site with a personalized domain name. The service should be up and running in late November.

It's the ultimate Net exposure and relatively few individuals have taken advantage of the handful of other services that offer free domain name registration, allowing users to avoid the $70 start-up cost of registering with Network Solutions.

The Domain Game

"We're delivering on what we believe may be the stickiest service ever on the Internet," said Dan Hoffman, chief executive officer of

Stickiness is the Internet buzzword that refers to a Web site keeps you hanging on, clicking through links on the site and coming back for more.

The glue, or catch, with iDirections' NAMEzero service is a "personalized portal" service that comes with your domain name -- a "home on the Web," Hoffman calls it, that offers content, community features and commercial opportunities.

That service could include advertisements akin to those that barrage visitors to GeoCities sites, target for e-commerce offers, set up sub-domains or "channels" for corporate sponsorship and give iDirections a slice of any e-commerce action that your portal offers.

Generally, it costs $70 up front to register a domain name with Network Solutions Inc. for the first two years.

Hoffman's company will do the registering for you with NSI, getting an interim wholesale discount of $18 for two years. The service comes with a free POP e-mail account with an address based on your domain name, instant messaging and Web address hosting.

It also allows users to wrap in the work they may already have done setting up an e-mail or Web presence.

The competition

Some country-level domain names -- .ca for Canada and .eu, a general European name -- offer free registration, though those are targeted at non-profit organizations and businesses. Other companies offer free services as well, including domain names and Web redirection.

NAMEzero will compete more directly with Xoom, Homestead and GeoCities, as well as personalized portal services like MyYahoo and MyMSN, wrapping more services into one.

NSI spokeswoman Cheryl Regan said the deal her company offers still is the "best bargain on the Internet." NSI has registered more than 5 million domain names.

"I wouldn't expect that to be the wave of the future," she said of iDirections' offer.

Less than 1 percent of the hundreds of millions of people on the Internet have personal domain names, they say. iDirections takes aim at that market -- consumers, small businesses, home users.

"All the good names are taken only for popular surnames and business names," iDirections President Bruce Keiser said. "You put people's last and first names in, and all of a sudden everything is available."

His company could close the gap between the between 10 million domain names registered worldwide and the some 140 million people who go online worldwide.

The company is an accredited registrar with ICANN, or the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which aims to promote competition in the market for domain name registration services, said Mike Roberts, interim president of ICANN.

The business plan for NAMEzero is to build up to 1 million members in the next nine months, with high sign-up numbers more crucial than the frequency with which folks use their portal service. Still, Keiser wants people to start their browsing day with NAMEzero.

"We hope that portal is the first place they go to when they get on the Internet every day," Keiser said.

RELATED STORIES: braces for competition
September 24, 1999
Domain-name tests extended again
September 14, 1999
Porsche revs up to become master of its domain
September 7, 1999

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers)
Network Solutions
Internet Council of Registrars
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