New.net eyes corporate market for new domain names

New.net, an alternative domain name registry, has announced its first major foray into the corporate market by signing up wholesaler Bulkregister.com for high-volume domain name sales to large companies and Web design firms.

New.net is a controversial start-up that sells domain names that are not sanctioned by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a nonprofit that oversees the .com, .net and .org domains. New.net offers English names with 30 extensions such as .shop, .inc, .llp, .llc and .ltd as well as Spanish, French and Portuguese translations.

By adding Bulkregister.com to its resellers, New.net is targeting companies that own hundreds of domain names. Bulkregister.com counts among its customers Revlon Consumer Products Corp., Amway Corp., Caterpillar Inc. and Dow Jones & Co. These companies get discounts for registering 50 or more names per month with Bulkregister.com, which is an ICANN-accredited registrar.

"Register.com is the first really large ICANN-accredited registrar that has decided it's time to carry New.net names," says Steve Chadima, chief marketing officer at New.net. "Hopefully that will inspire others to come on board."

The Internet's domain name system doesn't automatically resolve New.Net names, but New.net has inked deals with EarthLink Inc., Prodigy Communications Corp., Excite@Home Inc. and several other ISPs so that users of these ISPs can access New.net Web sites without a special software plug-in.

New.net officials say 65 million Internet users can access New.net sites. Although its domain names have been available for six months, New.net says it has not yet sold 100,000 names. Until now, its primary customers have been small to midsized companies.

New.net officials hope that integrating the ordering process for their names into the Bulkregister.com interface will make it easier for companies to order large numbers of New.net names.

"Many companies have scores of trademarked names that they would typically like to register," Chadima says. "If they can do it quickly, easily, all in one shot and at a good rate, it may provide incentive for them to come on board with New.net."

Bulkregister.com will begin offering New.net names in October. Pricing has not been set, but it will likely fall below the US$35 per year retail price of .com names.

How significant the deal will be is unclear. Bulkregister.com has suffered setbacks this year, including layoffs and the replacement of its management team in March. Once the second-largest domain name registrar behind Network Solutions Inc., Bulkregister.com is now ranked fourth.

"We've seen a pretty good amount of interest" in New.net names, says Tom Cunningham, founder and CEO of Bulkregister.com. Companies are looking for "names that are more appropriate to their business. We see a lot interest in .shop."

The New.net/Bulkregister.com deal comes at a confusing time for companies trying to manage large portfolios of domain names. ICANN is overseeing the introduction of seven new domains including .biz and .info, while some countries are more aggressively marketing their country codes as generic domains, such as .tv.

"The question is whether consumers will think of a [New.net name] as a Web address or whether their knee-jerk reaction will be to go to .com," Chadima says. "With the introduction of .tv, .info, .biz and .name, the education process for the consumer is going to be a lot quicker."

One challenge for New.net is the fact that it has not yet signed up the largest ISPs in the U.S. - AOL Time Warner Inc. and Microsoft Corp. - nor has it signed up business-oriented ISPs such as AT&T Corp. and MCI WorldCom Inc. That means corporate users can't resolve New.net names without a plug-in, and many companies don't allow their users to add plug-ins to their desktops.

New.net, in Pasadena, Calif., was launched in May 2000 by Internet incubator idealab!. Bulkregister.com is a 20-month-old Baltimore start-up funded by angel investors.

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