RealTime IT News

Nokia, Microsoft Want Mobile Domain Names

Some of the biggest names in the mobile communications industry are banding together to create a registry for Web pages built specifically for access by mobile devices.

On Monday, nine companies -- Microsoft , Nokia , Vodafone , 3, the GSM Association, HP , Orange, Samsung and Sun Microsystems -- will apply to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for the addition of a new top-level domain (TLD).

A registry is a directory that resolves IP addresses into domain names. For example, www.internetnews.com's IP address is 63.236.73.190. So when a Web surfer types in the domain name, the .com registry, VeriSign in this case, translates it to the IP address the Web server recognizes.

Bill Plummer, Nokia vice president of external affairs, said the new registry would be a sponsored, for-profit entity based in Ireland and open to any mobile provider or user regardless of technological or competitive differences.

A critical element of the registry company will be its ability to rely on a policy advisory group that includes representatives from diverse groups, he told internetnews.com.

"The idea is to grow as broad and consistent an end-user experience and expectation of reliability as possible," Plummer said.

As a sponsored TLD (sTLD) in a niche market, the registry would have a level of self-rule in the governance of the proposed domain extension (including new policies), with the caveat that it will need to abide by its own charter. For example, unlike unsponsored TLD (uTLD) VeriSign, the group could decide to institute its own SiteFinder or waiting-list service (WLS), two services that are hotly contested in the domain world these days.

Applicants are subjected to review by independent evaluators, who will be named by ICANN after the application process begins. According to Kieran Baker, ICANN spokesperson, the deadline for applications is Monday, the day the coalition plans to file their proposal.

If approved by ICANN, the new registry will start providing domain names in the second half of 2005. Janine Young, a Vodafone spokesperson, told internetnews.com the coalition is still in the first phase of operations -- a steering committee has been formed from representatives of all companies involved, but are only working on getting the application approved before moving forward.

She said the proposed TLD extensions are confidential, as well as other information contained in the application. ICANN, however, does provide some of that information during the application approval process at its Web site. Young said they expect a decision from ICANN in four to six months.

According to the coalition's new Web site, hosted by Nokia, the desire to dabble in the inner workings of Internet infrastructure comes from the need to give mobile users Web pages guaranteed to work within a device's limitations. Unlike the Web browsers found on desktop PCs, mobile devices have to deal with limited screen size and scaled-down functionality to effectively view Web pages.

There are some places a mobile user could visit, but Young said hosting all that information on a specific TLD will make things much easier in the longterm, for both Internet and mobile users.

"When you have a recognized area where customers know that if they go to that specific area, the content will be mobile-specific and it will be suitable for the device they are using," she said. "It's a new area where specific content and specific services and applications developed or provisioned for mobile use is located."

The need for a mobile-only Internet playground comes at a time when mobile device use is soaring. Worldwide sales of handset phones, only one part of the mobile equation, grew 20.5 percent in 2003 over 2002, according to a new IDC study. The firm expects 580 million handsets to be sold this year, with the mobile TLD coalition's Nokia holding the lion's share of the market at 34.7 percent.

According to the ICANN Web site, there are 14 TLDs in operation today, with another -- the social networking .pw extension -- expected to launch in the coming months. The others are: .com, .net, .org, .name, .pro, .aero, .biz, .coop, .edu, .gov, .info, .int, .mil and .museum.