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RealTime IT News

Domain Battle Heats Up

register.com Friday followed several lesser-known competitors into the free domain space, launching NameDemo.com, a service offering free one-year "test drives" of .com, .net, and .org domains.

A domain registered with NameDemo.com comes with a free e-mail address and allows users to point their new domain names to the sites of their choice. Users also get a customizable navigation bar to link their sites to other Web sites. Advertising on the navigation bar allows NameDemo.com to offer its services for no fee.

"We're offering it with no strings attached," said Sascha Mornell, senior vice president of sales and marketing at register.com.

Mornell explained that NameDemo.com is an initiative targeted at people who don't really know what a domain name is or are afraid that registering one would be too difficult.

"The goal is to allow people to take domain names on a test run before they purchase it and take the next step onto the Internet," he said.

Helping newbies get a feel for the registration process could lead to a huge payoff. register.com anticipates that there will be about 140 million domain names registered by 2003. To date there are about 20 million. Mornell thinks many of those domain names will belong to individuals. He foresees a time when everyone has at least one.

"We think at some point the domain will be the communications hub of the future," he said. "Hopefully this is something that will encourage that usage."

A person registering a domain name through NameDemo.com is licensed to use the domain for one year. NameDemo.com remains the legal registrant of the domain name and a WHOIS query will bring up NameDemo.com's information. All this is part of register.com's bait and hook strategy.

"There's a lot of people who would just think, 'Why would I need a domain name?'" said Shonna Keogan of register.com. "Since our customer base has always been a little bit more mainstream than a lot of other registrars, this is a strategy move on our part to reach out to a group of people who think, 'Well that might be cool but why don't I just stick with my Hotmail account or go to Yahoo!?' Then, as they get into it, if they want to add more e-mail addresses or if they want to actually build a Web site around their domain name, we would be there to provide products and services and transfer that domain name to register.com to expand the functionality of it."

Mornell said NameDemo.com would rely on satisfied customers to spread the word.

"Once people get a sense of what this is, they'll tell everyone about it," he said. "I would love to see Napster-like results. It was the most successful viral campaign in the brief history of the Internet."