Dial the Domain

VeriSign (Nasdaq: VRSN) has launched a beta test of a new service that allows business to register traditional telephone numbers or one- to seven-digit strings of numbers as a Web address.

Wondering why? Just look at your phone.

The new “WebNum” service from the Mountain View, Calif.-based registrar giant comes in preparation of a predicted explosion in wireless Web use over the next five years, much of which is expected to come through pint-sized Web-enabled phones and PDAs, neither of which make keying in an extended URL very appealing.

Trying to access BadMidgetSchoolGirls.com, for example, would require 51 painstaking keystrokes on a Web phone (e.g., to enter the letter “s” a user would key the number “7” four times)!

That’s no small task, and according to Forrester Research, for every key press required to access a mobile service, the potential users drop by half.

The new WebNum service is looking to replace long alphanumeric domain names with familiar and “brandable” numbers so that surfers can enter a number that is mapped to the domain name of an Internet site.

“Growing numbers of consumers want to access the Internet wirelessly and are looking for solutions,” says Stratton Sclavos, VeriSign president and CEO. “Our new WebNum navigation system will make it much easier for wireless users to find and use their favorite Internet-based services, unleashing the potential of the mobile commerce market.”

Sclavos says the initial WebNum services will allow customers to register both an existing telephone number customers are already familiar with as well as what he calls “Logo Numbers”: one- to seven-digit “shortcuts” that can be combined with a VeriSign registration certificate. To facilitate this process, VeriSign has established a Logo Number Application procedure. Interested parties can indicate their desire for a specific Logo Number by completing an application at VeriSign’s new WebNum site.

“Wireless Internet access will not achieve mass market acceptance until the experience is less technology-centric and more user-centric,” says Callie Nelsen, senior analyst at IDC. “An assignment of meaningful numbers to an existing Web site is one way to help ease the navigation burden while maintaining the branding and online identities of companies.”

Applications will initially be accepted until April 30, 2001, with multiple requests for a specific Logo Number to be resolved based on intended usage and the level of planned promotion for the Number specified. Thereafter, Sclavos says unassigned Logo Numbers will be available on a first-come, first served basis.

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