RealTime IT News

Domains Gone Mobile

High-tech companies won their bid to get an Internet space roped off for mobile devices.

The mobile top-level domain (mTLD) initiative, made up of companies like Microsoft , Nokia , Vodafone and Samsung Electronics, got the nod and a 10-year contract from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to move forward with the .mobi TLD, the companies announced Monday.

The members of the organization want to create a domain extension that is as easily-recognizable for smart phone and mobile device users, the way .com is to the rest of the world.

".Mobi will indicate to consumer and enterprise users that the site they are visiting is optimized for the delivery of content and services to mobile devices," Ameet Shah, chairman of the board to the newly-created mTLD Top Level Domain corporation, said in a statement. "This quality assurance will attract users, stimulating Internet-based mobile data usage."

Officials at the company expect to begin selling names in the first half of 2006, with a 90-day "sunrise period" -- where trademark holders can reserve their names in advance of the general public -- immediately before the launch.

As a sponsored TLD (sTLD), the new registry will act as its own policymaker, creating the rules and regulations that will drive the .mobi space. In a generic TLD (gTLD), ICANN sets policy. The new sTLD will be directed by a 10-member Policy Advisory Board.

It's been a long and rocky road for proponents of the .mobi sponsored top-level domain (sTLD). The domain extension was first forwarded by Nokia as a TLD in 2000, which was summarily rejected by ICANN over a dearth of technical details in the application. Nokia re-crafted its application and added industry support in the form of the current mTLD initiative members.

A new package was submitted and in March 2004 .mobi was entered into consideration consideration with nine other applicants, a list that includes .xxx, .jobs, .post and .travel. In December 2004, ICANN announced it was entering technical and commercial negotiations with mTLD initiative members.

Outside its administrative difficulties, .mobi has met with criticism from the Internet community, mainly the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and its guiding light, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the group's director.

The mTLD group wants to ensure a mobile TLD space so that device owners will know that if they type in a .mobi Web address, they will visit a site optimized for use on devices that have less processing power and smaller screens than its desktop counterparts.

The W3C, on the other hand, is working on a Mobile Web Initiative (MWI) that will allow developers to create Web sites that recognize mobile devices and forwards only optimized pages to users.

The group, which is creating a set of technical "best practices" and associated materials, is comprised of several companies including mTLD initiative members Nokia, Ericsson, TIM and Vodafone.

Berners-Lee and the W3C's Device Independence Working Group (DIWG) both see no reason to include .mobi into the domain mix. Both see that the effort to create a mobile-only Internet space will split the Internet into two parts when only one is needed. Rotan Hanrahan, a member of the DIWG, has said that within the mobile device arena, there are differences in processing power from device to device that aren't addressed in the .mobi application. The answer to that question, he said, is already being addressed in the W3C's Composite Capability/Preferences Profiles work.