RealTime IT News

New TLD Goes .Pro

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) came to terms with the owners of the new top-level domain (TLD), .pro, officials announced Wednesday.

RegistryPro, the new owners, say the new domain extension is unlike anything seen in the domain industry to date. With digital certificates to certify the validity of a site, coupled with digital signature and encryption services, consumers and organizations can send secure documents over the Internet.

While a Sunrise period for trademark owners hasn't been established yet, Sloan Gaon, RegistryPro chief executive officer, expects to announce a timeframe in the next month or so, with the first extensions going "live" at the end of the year or early next year.

Because of the limited nature of the domain extension, and those eligible to sign up for a .pro domain name, Gaon doesn't expect huge numbers like those experienced with the launch of other new TLD extensions last year.

"I think a comparison of .pro with other TLDs is unfair," he said, "because we're not open for everyone. There are about 35 million professionals in the world who are eligible and we expect a great turn out with them. About 75 percent of those polled said they would prefer a .pro (extension) over other TLDs."

According to officials, people will be able to file court documents, taxes, insurance claims and other sensitive/privileged information using the site's Web forms. The new registry is relying on industry compliance of legislation like the E-Sign bill to ensure secure transactions.

The new TLD is available to lawyers, certified public accountants (CPAs) and other organizations that maintain a database of licensed professionals and plan on opening up the domain to engineers, architects and surveyors sometime in the future.

The reason for the relatively small pool of eligible .pro registrants is the domain extension approval process, which requires the license number of the person's/company's credentials, be they lawyer or CPA.

John Hudson, senior director at online CPA firm CPA2BIZ, Inc., said the new domain makes it easier for customers to entrust their information online, something in hack- and virus-prone systems today.

"As CPAs conduct more business online, the security of communications and the preservation of client confidentiality become increasingly significant concerns and the .pro product will help to address those concerns," he said.

If nothing else, the price alone for a .pro domain extension will weed out most of the cybersquatters and unlicensed practitioners. According to Lisette Zarnowski, RegistryPro spokesperson, it will cost domain owners between $250-300 per year for the .pro domain.

While the pricing model hasn't been finalized, digital certificates will need to be annually reviewed and renewed, she added. Also, any domain extensions by owners who were disbarred/suspended will be removed from the registry, after tracking down and verifying the complaint.

While some might think the new TLD sunrise period is just another chance for trademark owners to gobble up the good domain names, Gaon points to a legitimate need for companies to have a certified, secure domain extension, besides claiming turf.

"The reasons are two-fold," he said. "One, trademark holders want to defend and protect their names. The second is the ability of (those company's) legal departments to use the services .pro provides. It allows attorney's to electronically sign documents and encrypt e-mails. It's a great utility for the general counsel at these businesses."