Dot.com used to be the buzzword of the day. Now, the European Union is placing its bets on its own domain name. The ".eu" ending is expected to triumph on the Internet.
EU domain logo
About eight million Internet addresses end with a dot and com. They're everywhere: from the American Automobile Association's "aaa.com" to "zztop.com," the homepage address for the bearded rockers from Texas. .com is a top-level domain -- a kind of postal code on the Net. The address was originally reserved for American businesses; now it is used worldwide.
The EU's own domain
EU spokesperson Martin Selmayr: ".eu means European quality"
"But dot-com is still an American trademark," said Martin Selmayr, European Union spokesperson in Brussels. The way the EU sees it, this marks a competitive disadvantage for European companies. So in 1999, the EU Commission got the bright idea of pulling the reigns on American dominance on the Internet by coming up with its own domain name. The EU decision-making processes got under way and voilà: leaders coined the ".eu" ending in 2002.
Marketing without borders
Now, four years later, normal citizens can also feel at home at .eu Private individuals and companies based in EU-member states can register for an .eu-domain name beginning Friday, April 7, 2006. "Companies can give themselves a markedly European identity with the ending; .eu makes marketing without borders possible," Selmayr said.
A company that is active across Europe would therefore not be forced to have a domain name for each individual country. The German company Bayer, for instance, could consolidate its entire Web presence at its . eu address. The domains .de for Germany, .se for Sweden and .fr for France would be wrought superfluous. That is, only if the company wants to focus attention on its European image. Bayer has, for its part, already submitted its registration for the Bayer.eu name at the domain allocation agency EURid.
Right of way for the big fish
The non-profit organization EURid, based in Brussels, has been accepting registration applications since December 2005. But only from companies that can prove their names are widely recognized. A registration application from someone named Josef Bayer, say, for the domain name bayer.eu has not made the cut until now; EURid has promptly rejected such submissions. Josef Bayer has thus had to kiss his .eu home goodbye.
A highway in Estonia: free Internet access for everyone
"Nonetheless, we still have received around 300,000 applications, most of them from Germany and the Netherlands," said EURid's Patrik Lindén. On the April 7 kick-off day for private individuals, however, he expects another 700,000 submissions. He even wants to register an .eu name for himself. After all, the guiding principle is: first come, first serve, so Lindén wants to be at the front of the line.
From California to Leverkusen
The new domain names are saved on EURid servers. When an Internet user types bayer.eu into his browser, EURid's computers send the request to the corresponding Website. But the flow of data makes a little detour beforehand: all requests are first sent to California -- to ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) headquarters. ICANN is responsible for the administration of all top-level domains on the Internet, including those ending in .com and .eu
ICANN agency logo
Though ICANN's board of directors is composed of experts from around the world, the agency itself is under control of the American Department of Commerce. Countries like China and Iran therefore fear that the American government could -- in the worst case scenario -- deny access to their Internet pages. EU spokesman Selmayr takes a more relaxed approach: "As long as ICANN makes its decisions as an international organization, then I see no problem."
The .eu domains are at least a step in the direction of greater independence, Selmayr said. "After all, we can decide ourselves who may register for a domain. So .eu stands for true European standards. In terms of quantity, there's no way we can compete with the Americans. But in terms of quality, absolutely," he said.
The most popular domain name, however, does not necessarily promise top quality: EURid has received 280 requests for the name sex.eu