DotMobi, a joint venture company based out of Ireland and Washington, D.C., launched a new Internet top-level domain earlier this week optimized for access from mobile phones.
"When you start up a new domain it's basically a database with no entries in it yet," said Neil Edwards, CEO of dotMobi. "When you first open the domain you give trademarked companies around the world a period of time to register. So Apple (AAPL) would be able to register its trademarked name, and after the sunrise period anyone else could register similar names, like RedApple, for example."
DotMobi (or mTLD Top Level Domain Ltd., if you want to get formal) came to fruition when several companies in the mobile industry came together to write an application for ICANN to request a mobile-phone top-level domain.
"The mobile industry came together," Edwards said. "Companies like Microsoft (MSFT), Google (GOOG), Nokia (NOK), Telecom Italia (TI), and Vodafone (VOD) are fierce competitors with one another, but came together to ask ICANN for a license to create dotMobi. When they won the license agreement, we founded dotMobi."
DotMobi is encouraging a total transition to its .mobi domain, and aims to ensure all services and Web sites available through the TLD are designated and dedicated for access on cell phones.
"The whole point is that if you use your mobile phone to access Web sites today, many of them won't work because the sites aren't based on mobile-phone standards," Edwards said. "DotMobi fixes the user experience."
ICANN chose dotMobi as the official registry for the .mobi TLD in July 2005. ICANN has also drawn up a list of accredited registrars that can offer .mobi domain names. Among those companies are GoDaddy.com, IP Mirror, Moniker.com, NordNet, Register.com, Safenames.net, MarkMoniker, Inc., and more.
These registrars will help members of the trademarked community sign up for domain names through the end of the sunrise period, which runs until the end of August. The general public will be invited to register around September 2006.
During the sunrise period, dotMobi says it plans to work with the World Intellectual Property Organization as well as copyright bodies and its registrars to ensure trademarks are adequately protected through the sign-up phase.
DotMobi is hosting a special one-week sign-up period for members of the mobile industry. Anyone that is a member of the GSM Association or CTIA can take advantage of the early-bird opportunity.
"The GSM Association includes the most powerful mobile phone operators in the world," Edwards said. "Inside the U.S. there's an association called CTIA whose member companies include Verizon (VZ), Cingular, and AT&T Wireless. We're allowing all GSM and CTIA members, mobile-marketing associations, and content providers to register their names at this time."
Several big-name mobile operators, networks, device manufacturers, and Internet content providers have publicly backed the mobile TLD. Among the power players that have pledged dotMobi allegiance are Nokia, Samsung Electronics, T-Mobile, GSM Association, Ericsson, Vodafone, and Microsoft.
Companies that have already registered .mobi domains include Cinemax, Cisco Systems, Family Guy, Sony, Sports Illustrated, Philips, Popular Science, and Xbox Live.
DotMobi proponents hope the TLD will become the standard for Web sites that provide mobile content. Edwards said he hopes that eventually "customers expect to find a mobile Web site at www.yourcompany.mobi, just like they'd expect to find a desktop Web site to be at www.yourcompany.com."
DotMobi is also a sponsor of the W3C Mobile Web initiative. W3C is a World Wide Web consortium group that created the HTML standard over ten years ago. W3C has since started a new group within its consortium to create standards around mobile HTML.
"The draft version of these standards was released in February," Edwards said. "But they will continue to evolve over time."
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