Planet Money
1:59 am
Fri April 4, 2014

New Web Addresses Provide Alternatives To Crowded Domains

Originally published on Fri April 4, 2014 5:22 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

On a Friday it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer. Think of the Internet as a group of islands. There's one island for all the Web addresses with .COM. That one's very crowded. There is the less popular .NET island. Also our personal favorite, .ORG. Well, now the number of islands is expanding dramatically. There's .BIKE and .PLUMBING, .NINJA and more islands to come. David Kestenbaum with our Planet Money team introduces us to a few of the pioneers trying to develop and populate them.

DAVID KESTENBAUM, BYLINE: Adrienne McAdory says the idea that she could own one of these new pieces of the Internet came to her a couple years ago when she was working for the Pentagon. She was a contractor doing IT work.

ADRIENNE MCADORY: And I read on the Internet that the Internet was expanding.

KESTENBAUM: Were you actually, like, at work at the Pentagon thinking about this?

MCADORY: Oh yeah, in the basement.

KESTENBAUM: In the basement of the Pentagon?

MCADORY: In the basement of the Pentagon, in the dungeon where the rest of us peons work.

KESTENBAUM: What she read was that the organization that sets the rules for Web addresses - a non-profit organization called ICANN - was going to allow people to apply for new what are called domains. No longer would there be just .COM and .GOV. You could pick DOT whatever you want. It was like your own virtual island. If you could get people to come live on it, set up their web pages there, you could make money. She liked the idea. But what domain to apply for?

MCADORY: I was thinking about lifestyle. You know, I want to do something with lifestyle and so then, you know, my girlfriends and I just had incessant conversations about oh, we're not married, cant find the right guy, blah blah blah.

KESTENBAUM: That's it, she thought. WEDDINGS .W-E-D, WED. People can put all their wedding pages there: adrienneandmartin.wed, maryandjohn.wed So she applied. Had to fill out a long application. There was a $185,000 fee. She used some retirement money, and her dad helped out, and finally .WED was hers. She figured if 6,000 couples in love bought websites, she'd break even.

McAdory is targeting everyone who is getting married. But really, why restrict yourself to that? You could try to become the next .COM, the next, all-purpose ending, the thing that you can stick on the back of any business name. After all .COM is pretty crowded.

DANIEL NEGARI: All of the good real estate is taken. The only thing that's left is something with a dash or maybe three dashes and a couple numbers in it.

KESTENBAUM: This is Daniel Negari. He's 28 years old and, as far as he knows, the youngest person to be granted one of the new domains. His mom and some fraternity brothers are helping him out. His contender to take on .COM is .XYZ.

NEGARI: The way I looked at it was we end the alphabet with XYZ, we should end domain names the same way.

KESTENBAUM: XYZ. It's universal yet abstract. And catchy.

NEGARI: Try and forget it. I dare you.

KESTENBAUM: X Y - X - you're right.

NEGARI: XYZ, it just sticks. It's natural. It really makes sense.

KESTENBAUM: What about QRS?

NEGARI: Doesn't make sense to me. There's only one ending to the alphabet and there should be only one ending to domain names.

KESTENBAUM: Good job working that in again.

(LAUGHTER)

KESTENBAUM: David.XYZ, he tells me - still available. Negari is going to have plenty of competition. There were close to 2,000 applications for new domains: .BUZZ, .GUITARS, .MANGO. It looks like there will be a .WEDDING that Adrienne's McAdory's .WED will have to compete with. And they'll be going up against some players with much deeper pockets. Daniel Schindler's company called DONUTS Inc. owns .COOL and .COFFEE and .FISH and the list goes on.

DANIEL SCHINDLER: Three hundred and seven was the number of new domains we applied for.

KESTENBAUM: That's a lot.

SCHINDLER: It's a lot. We were the largest applicant in the world by a factor of three. Google was the second largest applicant, with 101.

KESTENBAUM: It's always possible that you can own a nice piece of real estate and no one will want to live there. Schindler says he used to worry about that, but he says the early evidence is encouraging. Recently one of their domains, .GURU, went live. Pretty quickly 50,000 people registered web addresses.

All of which raises a question. If these new domains take off, what will become of .COM? Will we look back and say oh, remember when everything .COM? That was so weird. Tom Brackey is an intellectual property attorney, and also co-owner with some friends of .MENU. Here's his take.

TOM BRACKEY: .COM is like New York City. Is it going to go away? It's full, it's crowded, but it's also very vital. And these new domains are, you know, the Wild West. And we hope eventually people will build on them.

KESTENBAUM: There are a lot more people coming online around the world, he says. Some projections are that by 2020 the online population could triple, or more. David Kestenbaum, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.