In a crowded field of domain-name extensions, new .mobi names are proving popular among multinational corporations looking for ways to exploit the popularity of cellphones that can access web content.
Companies ranging from BMW and Rolls Royce to BusinessWeek and CNN have purchased .mobi names and are developing specialised content that can be viewed on mobile devices.
“There’s a lot of excitement about this new thing,” says Bonnie Wittenberg, manager of client services for the domain-name management division of Iron Mountain. “People are starting to see that there’s a whole other internet out there that’s accessible via these smaller devices ... particularly in Asia where two-thirds of all internet access is through a mobile device.”
General availability of .mobi names began on September 26, but trademark owners have been able to purchase .mobi names for their company and product brands since June 12.
Domain-name registrars that serve corporate buyers say .mobi names are selling briskly compared with other top-level domains released in recent years.
“Nearly all of the clients that we deal with in the Fortune 1,000 are registering in the .mobi space,” Wittenberg says.
“Most are protecting their general corporate names and their core brands, but we’re also seeing some creativity such as shorter words or acronyms that would be easy to type into a mobile device.”
CSC Corporate Domains says it sold about 2,000 .mobi names in June when the trademark sunrise registration period began and another 2,000 last week when .mobi registrations were open to everyone. Early customers of .mobi names include banks, consumer appliance manufacturers, publishers and travel companies.
“Sports leagues have been acquiring .mobi names, too,” says Tommy Ho, product manager at CSC Corporate Domains. “It’s a good fit for sports leagues, because they don’t have to sign a deal with a network carrier to get at mobile web users. They can set up their own .mobi sites. That’s a big plus.”
The .mobi registry is operated by a consortium of 13 mobile vendors: Ericsson, GSM Association, Google, Hutchison, Microsoft, Nokia, Orascom Telecom, Samsung Electronics, Syniverse, Telefonica Moviles, Telecom Italia, T-Mobile and Vodafone.
Unlike other registries such as .com, the .mobi registry requires companies that buy .mobi names to produce web content that is viewable on a cellphone. The .mobi registry offers guidelines for web content developers to help them create content that is optimised for cellphone users.
“The .mobi registry is monitoring the content for viewability on mobile devices, so if you redirect to a .com site that uses frames that are likely to break on a mobile device they will cut you off,” Wittenberg explains. “They want content that can be reliably obtained on a mobile device or no content at all.”
For now, .mobi names are pricey: US$200 (NZ$304) for two years during the sunrise period. In contrast, .com names sell for US$12 for two years.
Only a handful of .mobi-compliant websites are available now, but registrars predict that .mobi sites will be plentiful next year.
“I think .mobi will be a little bit of a sleeper that we’ll see continue to build because it does have significant investors behind it that are interested in its success,” Wittenberg says. “When you have companies like Google putting a mobile-device icon next to search results to say that it’s a .mobi site, that’s going to make a difference.”
Registrars say that despite the initial popularity, .mobi names pale in comparison to sales of .com and country codes such as .uk for the United Kingdom and .de for Germany.
“It doesn’t even come close to .com,” Ho says. “It’s similar to .eu names [which were introduced last year.] The .eu domain did pretty well by getting into the top 15 domains in volume. But I don’t think .mobi will reach that level.”