.Tel TLD Debuts As New Way to Network
Alternative top-level domains such as .biz haven’t gained the same popularity as more established TLDs such as .com and .org. A British company is hoping to break the mold with .tel, which changes some basic principles of the domain name system. Designed strictly as a communication tool, .tel acts as a "webless Web," enabling subscribers to post contact information and supporting data without the need of a Web host or html.
It's an unusual but simple concept that can be characterized as an Internet phone book. Telnic hopes it will gain traction as a one-stop area for all kinds of communication—from Twitter to e-mail to Voice over IP. All information on a .tel page is stored directly within domains using Naming Authority Pointer (NAPTR) resource records, a relatively new type of DNS record that can identify phone numbers or VoIP service addresses.
Telnic launched a sunrise period for trademark holders to register domains this month, and is planning a 3 February 2009 premium landrush and 24 March 2009 general availability. The company's Web site lists a host of major companies that have already signed on, but at this early stage those companies appear to be merely preserving trademarks. A Google site search shows that most available .tel sites are owned by individuals, many of them Telnic employees or guests.
Telnic, however, is thinking big. The company believes the revolutionary nature of its domain can spark widespread adoption, especially as mobile phones become a dominant form of accessing the Internet.
"Just like everyone has their e-mail, I expect that everyone will have their .tel name in the future," Telnic chief executive officer Khashayar Mahdavi said in a Bloomberg interview. "It is their personal data store on the Internet. They take control of their communication."
Telnic says its TLD is the first to use NAPTR records, circumventing the need for traditional A-records—.tel queries don't return IP addresses to locate a Web page. NAPTR's primary use is with the Telephone Number Mapping (ENUM) system, which converts telephone numbers into a fully qualified domain name (FQDN) retrievable through DNS. In this way, users who navigate to a .tel address on a mobile phone could click on a phone number to start a call.
NAPTR records also form part of a larger system called Dynamic Delegation Discovery System (DDDS), which is "used to implement lazy binding to strings of data, in order to support dynamically configured delegation systems." In .tel, individual records act as rules in the DDDS database, and domain names are the keys.
The TLD also uses two other types of TLD records stored in DNS—LOC, which is used for geolocation information that .tel points to Google Maps, and TXT, which is used for search and description terms.
Despite its innovation, Telnic may still face an uphill battle to find general acceptance for its TLD, as the newer crop of TLD names has spread slowly. What's more, ICANN is planning to lift restrictions to let anyone register for a personalized TLD, such as .newyork, which might drown out .tel amid a proliferation of TLD names.
Telnic is working hard to avoid that possibility by getting the word out that .tel is a fast and easy way to communicate. ".Tel is a very viral product, once people start using it, and discover they can have an online presence without having a Web site, and see how easy it is, it will virally propagate," Mahdavi said.
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