RealTime IT News

Melbourne IT Looks to Expand Domain Biz

Having well established itself in the Southern Hemisphere, Australia's Melbourne IT is now looking to take on the world.

Internet Names WorldWide, the registration business unit of first round test-bed participant Melbourne IT, last week officially launched its channel partner program as part of an effort to market its offerings globally.

INWW now offers wholesale priced domain registrations for reseller sites, targeting small business who will be affected by Network Solutions Inc.'s (NSOL) pre-payment resolution and its decision to offer competing services.

INWW's channel partner neutrality promises resellers that the company will stay away from traditional ISP services such as Web hosting, Internet access and e-mail forwarding in order not to tread on what it sees as the channel partner's market. The registrar also boasts extensive channel partner customization, which includes such options as billing and technical support from INWW.

While the process may appear on the surface to have several similarities to the Internet Council of Registrars, or CORE, and NSI reseller structures, INWW said its plan offers more technical support with less of a chain of command and has also cut the initial cost of joining the partnership program to create a flat rate fee structure for its affiliates.

Internet Names Worldwide also inked a deal with RealNames last week to launch digital certificate program, scheduled for roll out by December. Other future plans include a directory service, based on the database it has gathered as the sole registrar of Australian domain names, to be published by January 2000.

INWW is also developing a directory of channel partners to cross refer services within the network.

The company has already signed on reseller partners in the U.S., the UK, Denmark, Sweden, China, India and Japan, among other countries and expects to compete directly with its 440 partners in Australia as well. The registrar expects to open offices in the U.S. in the next two to three months and eventually plans to open a UK office to manage the company's operations in Europe.

In mid-August, the company quietly expanded the number of characters allowed for a domain name to 63, as opposed to the current common standard of 22.

Over the summer, the registrar also found itself in an unusual conundrum for its position, defending its own name from cybersquatters who had previously purchased the MelbourneIT.com domain name.

"We took them to court, and won the case; it was really a case of them passing off as us, and we did [the lawsuit] for a number of reasons," Clive Flory, INWW's chairman, told InternetNews.com in an interview.

"We needed to show in Australia what the process was to protect your name, and that the courts were really the correct forum. We needed to set a precedent so that other companies could benefit from that case."

Melbourne IT spun out of the computer section of the University of Melbourne in the early days of domain registration, and started its own such services in 1996 as the first registrar of .au level domains.

The company became NSI affiliate in July 1998, applied for the test-bed phase in February and soon after became one of the first five entrants. INWW was offering real-time domain name registrations as of June 30, the first non-American registrar to enter the test-bed phase.

Australia currently boasts the third largest ccTLD base in the world. INWW is also the largest domain name registrar in the Asia Pacific.

Flory did not comment on reports that the company plans to list on the ASX in the next several months. He also said that Melbourne IT does not have any immediate plans to seek a listing on the Nasdaq.