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Leslie Walker
Leslie Walker
Virginia Company Suing Amazon.com Over Domains (8/15/01)
Leslie Walker's .com
.com Live Transcripts
Tech Thursday

Leslie Walker's .com Live
Guest: Douglas Armentrout, CEO of .biz Registry NeuLevel

Thursday, Aug. 23, 2001, 1 p.m. ET

The Internet's new addresses are stirring up controversy this summer as companies, speculators and individuals rush to pre-register domain names ending in .info and .biz, the first of seven new domain name suffixes going live soon.
Douglas Armentrout
Douglas Armentrout
(Courtesy NeuLevel)

This week's .com Live guest is Douglas Armentrout, chief executive of NeuLevel Inc., the Sterling, Va.-company charged with handing out .biz addresses. NeuLevel is a joint venture between Washington, D.C.-based NeuStar, Inc. and Melbourne, Australia-based Melbourne IT, Ltd.

The pre-registration periods for .info and .biz this summer have been rife with complaints from folks who contend the rules are unfair or contain loopholes that are being abused. Neither one is open to the general public yet; but both will be by Oct. 1.

Meanwhile, both .biz and .info are nearing the end of their pre-registration periods, each using a different system for granting requests for specific domain names. While .info has no restructions on its use, .biz domain names are designed for commercial use only.

The edited transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


To read the most recent responses, click "Get New Text"
or select "Automatically Update Page."

Leslie Walker: Hello everyone and welcome to Douglas Armentrout. We’re glad he’s here to take questions about the rollout of new domain names. For the record, in response to all those e-mails people have been sending, no, we are not changing the “.com” column name to “.biz,” no matter how many dot-coms die. But if any of you want to jump on the .biz column idea, I say go for it! We’ll start shortly, so fire away with your questions.

Leslie Walker: Hello Douglas and thanks for joining us. Let’s start with some basics about the new .biz Internet addresses. What restrictions exist for their use and how do you envision they might differ from .coms once they are fully up and running?

Douglas Armentrout: Hi Leslie, thanks for having me as a guest. I appreciate the opportunity.
To answer your question, .BIZ is the only global top level domain devoted exclusively to business. A business or individual has to certify that they intend to use a .BIZ name for commerce. Also, there is language that says that buying a .BIZ name solely for resale is not considered commercial use. So we are ensuring the space is more suited for business.
The reason that .BIZ is different and better than all the other generic domain names is that it operates on a technologically superior platform which will offer many features important to businesses today and in the future.

Leslie Walker: Please tell us about the method your company chose for pre-registering names. Unlike other registries, NeuLevel requires pre-applicants for .biz names to pay a fee that isn’t refundable if they don’t get the name. And people can pay multiple times to increase their number of entries for the same name, right? Could you explain the thinking behind this system?

Douglas Armentrout: .BIZ has designed the process to be the most fair and equitable way to launch a new top level domain. The process is designed to offer all businesses globally an opportunity to obtain a .BIZ address. We've seen tremendous demand for .BIZ around the world, and needed a process that would be fair and evenhanded in dealing with multiple applications for the same name.

Leslie Walker: Can you tell us more about the technology platform for .biz and how it's different from the .com, .net and .org infrastructure?

Douglas Armentrout: Sure. Out of the gate, .BIZ has many features, including real-time creation and updates, an account system which allows customers with large numbers of names to manage all those accounts in one place, and a locked domain, which virtually eliminates highjacking and administrative errors which could take down a company's presence on the Internet.

And for the future, there is a directory structure underneath .BIZ that will support all kinds of features, like convergence with wireless devices, unified messaging and e-commerce, and making your business easier to find on the Internet.

Bethesda, MD: Has anything so far in the early stage of this rollout surprised you?

Douglas Armentrout: Hi Bethesda - the biggest surprise so far has been that we had large projections for the interest level worldwide in .BIZ domain names and the response has far exceeded our projections. It's very exciting!

Washington, DC: Is NeuLevel exclusively dedicated to marketing the .biz domain, or are you seeking to sell other new domain addresses?

Douglas Armentrout: Hi Washington - The domain registry system that we have built was designed to support multiple TLDs, and we have received a number of inquiries about that system. but let me explain that we do not sell .BIZ domain names directlyto the public. We sell exclusively through ICANN-accredited registrars.

Arlington, Va.: ICANN has taken a lot of criticism for its handling of the new domains. There are a lot of voices in the U.S. Congress who want ICANN to expedite such domains as .kids. What's your impression of ICANN's process for approving new domains?

Douglas Armentrout: Hello, Arlington - Fundamentally, ICANN is concerned with stability and reliability on the Internet. We think they have done a great job to date with taking a deliberate, reasoned approach to the itroduction of new top level domain names. And as we all know, there is no shortage of opinions on the Internet. We wholeheartedly support their goal of stability, because after all, that's what businesses want.

Washington, DC: Hello. I own two .com domain names, one hosts my main company site and the other hosts a special project we run. The only reason I can think of to get the .biz and .info versons of my company name is to keep anyone else from getting it, but then my name is unusual enought that I doubt anyone would. What do you think?

Douglas Armentrout: Hi Washington: There are many reasons to get a .BIZ domain name. Number one, it's a great name that is universally recognized as representing business. It's an opportunity to get the name you really want that may not be available in .com. And finally, .BIZ will offer many enhanced features right out of the gate, and will enable many new products and services in the future; we believe many companies will upgrade to a .BIZ address.

Alexandria, Va.: If my company owns a particular .com and .net and .org address, shouldn't I have the right of first refusal on .biz and .info addresses? I don't like that I have to enter a lottery to buy a domain that matches my company's trademark!

Douglas Armentrout: Hi Alexandria - That's a great question, and this issue is complicated. It is possible for many different companies - maybe hundreds - to hold intellectual property rights in the same name, because they are in different countries, different regions, or in different classes of service (e.g. United Airlines, United Van Lines; or Ford Motor Company and Ford Modeling Agency). The .BIZ system provides all of these parties the opportunity to obtain the name they want. What about all the .com names held by speculators? Your suggestion would give those speculators right of first refusal in .BIZ as well, and shut out legitimate businesses.

Arlington, Va.: What do you think of New.net, the Calif. firm that's trying to sell a large variety of domains -- beyond those approved by ICANN?

Leslie Walker: I don't get new.net. It strikes me as an attempted end-run around ICANN and the mainstream domain system. For those of you who don't know, New.net was started by the idealab incubator and is selling domain names in more than two dozen extensions not sanctioned by ICANN.

In the long run, it can't work without cooperation from all the major Internet service providers. They have to tweak their systems so customers can see these new Internet addresses. It doesn't have AOL Time Warner on board yet --and I doubt it ever will. Douglas, what's your take?

Douglas Armentrout: Great question - and Leslie's commentary is right on. This is nothing new, there have been many of these schemes. To allow anyone and everyone to introduce their own domains would create chaos on the Internet. What business would want to have a domain name that cannot be reached by everyone else on the Internet? I believe that most of the businesses who would by from these alternate roots do not know what they are getting, because if they knew, they wouldn't buy it.

Washington, D.C.: If the .biz domain name I want is not a terribly popular one, are the chances good that I will be able to get it by waiting until the public registration period, rather than paying the advance fee to try to pre-register? I guess I am asking how many speculators are in there grabbing up every name they can think of as they did with all the .com names. thanks!

Douglas Armentrout: Hi Washington - Because we haven't received all the applications and do not know your domain name, it is really impossible for us to give advice on this topic. Every business needs to decide their own strategy for protecting and establishing their brands on the Internet.

Rockville, Md.: Hi Douglas. You mentioned ".BIZ will offer many enhanced features ... and will enable many new products and services in the future."

I'm confused. How would any top-level domain name affect services rendered through any site that uses .biz or anything else?
The only thing I can thing is that somehow Microsoft has privileged this TLD in their .Net initiative + project Hailstorm. Maybe something related to SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol)? That seems really unlikely, though.

Could you elaborate? Thanks.

Douglas Armentrout: Hello Rockville - .BIZ is the first step forward in Internet addressing since 1985, when domain names were initially introduced. To date, domain names have only been used to resolve to core Internet services like Web, email, FTP, and gopher. What we have done is to add an LDAP directory beneath .BIZ which will enable many new products in the future. For example, we can place other information like key words, geographic info, phone numbers, etc., in the directory, and make it available to search engines. So a .BIZ address will be easier to find on the Internet.

Herndon, Va.: What is the cost to pre-register for a .biz name?

Douglas Armentrout: Hi Herndon - This really depends on the registrar you select. A list of ICANN-accredited registrars offering .BIZ domain name applications is available at http:\\www.neulevel.BIZ

San Francisco, Calif.: I own several .com domain names that I no longer need. Can you advise the most logical places to sell it? I looked at Great Domains but found the site confusin, and Ebay's domain names don't seem to be selling at all. Would you recommend a name broker as the way to go?

Douglas Armentrout: Hi San Francisco - We understand that there is a bad connotation surrounding .com domain names today. We believe that this is why we have seen so much interest in .BIZ.

And I also believe that if your domain names were .BIZ names, you wouldn't have this problem :)

Leslie Walker: Herndon asked about the cost to pre-register a .biz name. One point worth making ­-- registrars pay Neulevel a $2 fee for each pre-registration They are adding all sorts of fees on top, so the actual fee paid by applicants varies widely.

Leslie Walker:
Please give us your view on what additional regulations might be needed to ensure fair play --­and compliance with the rules ­--- in the domain name industry.

Douglas Armentrout: Hi Leslie - This is exactly why ICANN was created - to ensure stability, reliability and fairness on the Internet - and to provide a forum for discussion of these issues.

Washington, D.C.: The IP claim period for .biz has been closed for some time now (since 8/6/01) but applicants have not received verification that their claim was received and is active. When will you provide such verification?

Douglas Armentrout: Hi Washington - You should have already received it. If you go to http:\\www.neulevel.biz our live chat service will allow you to speak with customer support. They can help you.

Falls Church, Va.: Mr. Armentrout, what's your background? How did you get involved in NeuLevel?

Leslie Walker: Oh, let's spice up this one. In addition to previously working for Web hosting company Verio, you once ran domain registrations for Network Solutions. So when did you leave the company that is now your big rival -- and what lessons did you learn that you can apply to NeuLevel?

Douglas Armentrout: Hi - I left Network Solutions about 3 years ago and went to Verio, and have been involved in domain names for years before that. Probably the best result of all those years of experience in this industry is that I know a lot of people in the industry and have been able to build the most incredible team of people to roll out .BIZ. This team is acutely aware of what businesses are looking for that was unavailable before.

Washington, D.C.: Can you tell us more about the registration fees. Are they different from .coms?

Leslie Walker: One more point about fees. The $2 pre-application fee that NeuLevel collects does not include the actual registration. There are separate fees for registration that successful applicants must pay.

The wholesale annual registration fee for .coms ­-- what each registrar pays Network Solutions --­ is $6. The wholesale fee for .biz names ­-- what each reseller pays to NeuLevel­-- is $5.30. In both cases, the resellers of .com and .biz can mark up their prices, so the prices paid by applicants winds up being very different.

Douglas, did I get that right?

Douglas Armentrout: Yes, that's right.

Arlington, VA: Hi Douglas. I know Network Solutions/Verisign has a lock on .com domains. And the media has perpetuated .com to the point that it's .com'monplace and forever ingrained in our minds.

How are you going to get other people to think .biz instead of .com? If I'm looking for Ford, I'm going to type ford.com in the URL.

Please comment.

Douglas Armentrout: Hi Arlington - Great question. If you would like to see our views on this, NeuLevel's Chairman, Jeffrey Ganek, recently submitted an editorial on this very topic. It will be linked to from our website shortly.

Douglas Armentrout: Thank you so much for having me here today, Leslie. The questions were great and I enjoyed speaking with your audience. So now, my question is: when are you going to change the name of your column to ".BIZ" ?

Leslie Walker: Well, I figure no journalist earns enough to be a .BIZ, but I'm still considering .info. . .

Thanks for taking time to participate today. We'll be watching next month when you wrap up the pre-applications for .BIZ. And hope to see everyone back here again next week.

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