RealTime IT News

Long Domain Names: How Long Is Too Long?

With the most recent count of Web sites reported to be a whopping 9 million and growing, the demand for domain names is exploding as well. To supply more choices to those looking to label their Web sites, a number of domain name registrars have enabled users to register names as long as 67 characters.

The end of Network Solutions Inc.'s monopoly of the domain registration business opened the door for a change in the domain registration process. The technology for long domain names was always in place, but NSI (NSOL) chose to limit names to a manageable 26 characters, including extensions.

It was Internet Names WorldWide, the registration arm of Australian telecom Melbourne IT, that first started registering domain names as long as 67 characters. The practice began in August, when it became one of the first registrars accredited by the Internet Corp. of Assigned Names and Numbers. Since then, long domain names have grown in popularity, with more than half of ICANN-accredited registrars offering the service in the past few months. Network Solutions, however, is not one of them, though it has plans to offer the service in the near future.

But will users be able to remember, let alone type, a domain name with so many characters? The owners of LongDomainNames.com hope so. The site has registered a number of extra-long words, including www.supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.com (from Mary Poppins fame) as well as the longest word in the English language, www.pneumonoultramicroscopicopicsilicovolcanokoniosis.com. According to its Web site, this was done to show the new opportunities available because of longer domain names.

Most of those who will take advantage of the new domain name registrations will be companies with brands longer than the normal 26-character name, said Richard Forman, president and chief executive officer of register.com Inc., which began offering long domain name registration earlier this month.

"Very few people are getting all 67 characters," he said. "The most popular window is between 30 and 40 characters. If you have a long brand, you want to go ahead and get a domain name for it." He added that older versions of browsers such as Netscape and Web hosting firms are not equipped to support the longer domains.

Problems aside, domain names such as CreditSuisseFirstBoston.com, NationalWestminsterBank.com and HarleyDavidsonMotorCycles.com have already been registered through INWW. However a Welsh village is claiming the longest .com name is history with its registration of llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.com.

Forman said that long domain registration also opens a market for advertisers to register their trademarked advertising slogans. To promote the launch of register.com's long domain registration service, the firm registered www.register-dot-com-introduces-long-domain-names.com. LongDomainNames.com registered www.icantbelieveitsnotbutter.com, a trademark owned by Unilever, to illustrate the advertising angle.

Ellen Rony, co-author of The Domain Name Handbook: High Stakes and Strategies in Cyberspace, agreed that promotional items will fuel long domain name registration.

"The growing ubiquity of the suffix .com in the promotional media that bombards us daily will lead to a cacophony of .com," she said. "I think that's unfortunate, but inevitable."

She added that overall long domain names will probably not overtake short ones in terms of popularity, but they do have their place.

"Those corporations with recogni