Putting the dots on Asian web map


(GERMAN FERNANDEZ)                     

Last week, Chris Clark became a lucky man. His registered www.pizza.com website sold for a record-breaking $2.6 million (Dh9.5m). If nothing else, this simply reinforces the fact that a domain name is big business in the virtual world.

But a dotcom top-level domain is not the only virtual product that is making waves. When two years ago dotEU was conceptualised, markets in the European Union immediately sat up and took notice. So it was only natural when dotasia launched as a top-level domain, Asian markets would respond in kind.

More than half a million applications have already poured in since registration opened in October 2007 for dotasia, with the top seller being www.ace.asia, which was auctioned for $20,501. But even as the buzz is spreading for dotasia, is there such a burning need to introduce yet another top-level domain into the virtual community? And more importantly, does anyone really benefit from it?

When Emirates Business posed the question to Edmon Chung, CEO of dotasia, he was quick to lay any misconceptions to rest, saying: “Our core philosophy is a simple one: From Asia, for Asia. Many people think that a value of a dotasia account is only meant for those companies that are based in Asia, but that simply is not the case. We are also targeting firms that are looking to expand into the Asian market.

“If Dubai wants to market itself as a brand in Asia, then it can reach out to the market with a Dubai.asia branding – its very own gateway to the Asian business world.”

The same theory applies to multinational companies that may have a base in some Asian countries but are looking to create awareness elsewhere in the region.

Companies in the UAE have already joined the rush to have their entities registered, with the top ones being Emaar’s emaar.asia, Nakheel’s nakheel.asia and Dubai Holding’s dubaiholding.asia. Ones that have been reserved but are yet to be registered include dubai.asia, dubaitourism.asia and emirates.asia.

But dotasia does not mean the fall of the dotcom business. Chung says: “It’s true that dotcom is more universally accepted but you have to admit, it is very US-centric. A dotasia domain name provides you with the same value, but it places the company or brand in a better context. And the advantage is that dotasia naturally increases your online footprint because when you type a search in the Google bar with the word ‘Asia’, the search will automatically throw up your company’s name.”

As popularity for this new-kid-on-the-block increases, dotasia is also probably one of the first organisations that has actively taken a stand against fighting cybersquatting – the registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name with the intent to profit from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else.

“In October 2007 we launched what we called the Sunrise programme, a priority registration period intended for intellectual property rights owners,” he says.

“The first phase was to contact government bodies in Asia and give them the first opportunity to reserve identities like country and city names. Sixty governments immediately got onboard, while the remaining ones have had their names reserved by us to avoid any private entity hijacking them at a future date.”

The second phase zeroed in on trademark holding companies such as Nike, Microsoft or Dell, followed by a third phase that targeted smaller Asian-based firms.

“When there was more than one application for a domain name, we held auctions to avoid confusion,” says Chung. 

More than 600 domain names received more than one application during Sunrise, which totalled around 15,000 applications. The highest bids went for $20,501 (ace), $10,000 (mediaworld) and $7,600 (tyco).

But governments and companies were not the only ones who joined in the melee; many Asian celebrities also joined the rush to register their names, including Indian cricketing legend Kapil Dev and Indian singer, Shibani Kashyap.

Dev says: “I lost out on securing KapilDev.com and KapilDev.in for myself. However, KapilDev.asia will be my home on the internet. It is indeed a pleasure to join hands with dotasia for it is doing commendable work through its Celebrity Pioneers Programme. It’s time for all stars – especially athletes and cricket stars – to take their online presence seriously. With a dotasia website in their name, they have a perfect platform to connect with their fans.”

Kashyap echoed the sentiment, saying: “I own ShibaniKashyap.com but I still opted to register ShibaniKashyap.asia and Shibani.asia to secure my cyber identity.

“Previews of my songs and videos will be available on my shibani.asia website. I really think that artists should be proactive and book their dotasia domain name before anyone else grabs it.”

Others celebrities were not so lucky. The domains Hrithikroshan.asia and Preityzinta.com have been registered by private entities in Ahmedabad and New Delhi.

When Emirates Business tracked down the owner of Preity Zinta’s domain name, who chose to remain anonymous, they said: “I simply registered the domain name for my own preference, but if Preity ever wants it back, I will happily hand it over to her at no extra cost.”

With the priority period ending, a second ‘Landrush’  has now opened for the general public. Already, 46,000 domains have received more than one application and an auction will be held to decide who wins the final bids. The top contender is buy.asia, with 400 applications.

To register your own, log on to www.dotasia.org.

Top auctions


Top five auctions during the Sunrise period


1. ace.asia            $20,501
2. mediaworld.asia $10,000
3. tyco.asia           $7,600
4. wellness.asia     $5,900

5.exa.asia            $5,900


On the list


Names that have already been registered