Clock is ticking on .me domain names

Montenegro following tiny island nation Tuvulu's lead of offering its country code extension as a generic domain name

Trademark-holders have until May 20 to register their company and product names under the new .me domain, which is being marketed as a generic top-level domain by the country of Montenegro.

The .me registry says it has received thousands of domain name registrations in the first week of availability. Applicants include tech industry leaders such as Apple -- which registered apple.me, ipod.me and itunes.me -- as well as Microsoft, Skype and Digg. Other multinationals that have registered .me names include MTV and BMW.

Afilias, which handles back-end registrations for .me, predicts the domain will have widespread appeal.

"The .me extension gives every company on the planet the opportunity to personalise their brands...and make them more relevant to today's Internet-savvy teens," says Roland LaPlante, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Afilias. "Companies should be registering .me names not just from an intellectual property protection standpoint, but because there is so much business opportunity to personalize products."

Predrag Lesic, CEO of the .me registry in Montenegro, says the new Internet extension will appeal not only in English-speaking countries but also across the former Yugoslavia, Italy and Spanish-speaking countries, where the letters "me" have a similar meaning as in English.

"We think .me can offer a new business around domain names with verbs," Lesic says, such as drive.me or fly.me. "This is the start of a new opportunity on the Internet."

The last time a country tried to market its country code extension as a generic domain name was the tiny island nation Tuvulu, which runs the .tv registry. Although .tv names have been available for a decade and have been marketed by VeriSign for online video content, the .tv extension is not among the 10 most popular country code top-level domains.

"I think .tv is starting to get some traction," LaPlante says. "But .me's appeal is more immediate and a lot more obvious to people...It should sell well into the millions. And it has corporate appeal not just for TV stations, which are limited in number."

Companies will need to pay a sizeable sum for a .me name. The retail price for .me names range from 110 to 200 Euros per year for a minimum of five years. That equals US$825 to $1,500 for the five-year registration.

In contrast, .com names cost around US$10 per year, and .tv names cost around $18 per year.

Companies can reserve .me names from more than 60 domain name registrars. Anyone can register a .me name from June 6 through June 26. The .me registry is scheduled to go live on July 17.

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