The big news of 2008 in the world of domain names was that someday, we'll not need what is called the Top Level Domain or TLD in the manner that we do now. For example, instead of going to the address http://www.globalvoicesonline.org, it could just be http://globalvoicesonline. Of course this day is far off in the future and we don't really have much of a timeline for the deployment of this system. In the meantime, that TLD is a very important item and because of that, the release of the new extension, .ME has received a decent amount of attention. After all, who wouldn't want to own such domains as: watch.me, love.me, or thisannoys.me?
The marketing campaign for .ME
It's rather plain to see in the official site that the source of this .ME extension isn't really advertised all that much, when in fact it actually turns out to be Montenegro's country extension. Yes, this country with a population of only 589,000 has one of the newest domains on the web. People may be surprised to hear that it's a “new” country extension as Montenegro has officially been an independent country since 2006 and an autonomous region in various capacities for the decade preceding. Some time back, I wrote about how the history of name assignments came about on, Hudin:
Take for instance former Czechoslovakia. When the internet came around, it got the .cs extension, which was then given up as they split in to the Czech Republic – .cz and Slovakia – .sk… So, .cs actually got re-purposed in to the ill-fated union of Serbia and Montenegro. They of course have since split and have become .rs and .me respectively… This is all something of a mess, except in the case of Montenegro. They've gotten quite a windfall with the .me domain. If they want to (and most likely they will) they can open up registration to anyone…
It's much the same as what happened to Tonga who received .to and Tuvalu which received the even more coveted .tv extension. Naturally, selling off the national domain to international customers raises a good deal of alarm from the citizens. A person by the name of ‘Ego_and_HIS_OWN’ wrote on MADEinMontenegro (MNE):
…it is completely and unreasonable to award a company all rights and exclusivity over the sale of domains. This is certainly something that is against the interests of Montenegro, where it is necessary that her brand will be available to everyone, within the population. Thus probably due to interest groups of individuals who are very highly paid on this work and whose close friends are members of this council. The domain is practically taken from Montenegrin society and sold for small money and is doing irreparable damage to Montenegro and its future.
These concerns are well-justified as to date, Montenegrin registrants for the .ME extension don't even breach 1% of the total 100,000 names registered, although provisions were officially made for filing by Montenegrin companies and brand holders to buy their names before .ME was released internationally. Naturally, the United States and United Kingdom are the top two countries for registrants as ‘me’ is an English word and is not a commonly used word in Montenegrin. One can see the breakdown of the top 10 registrants, here.
While the history of this domain is readily apparent, there comes the question of how does one go about registering a name? New domain names are not like the ones we all know, making registering website.me a bit more of a process than registering website.com. One writer on MADEinMONTENEGRO (MNE) named, ‘anon1′ was among many to list the possibilities that should be registered:
We should now grab and register on their behalf addresses of all types: milodjukanovic.me; svetimarovic.me, ficovujanovic.me, bolnica.me, zdravstvo.me, berza.me, … and after that sell others for a lot of money.
But it's not that easy. The initial release of the names (or landrush) wasn't a simple system wherein one could just visit a registrar and buy the name. The Montenegrins set up the system to fully monetize these domains by using an auction system. I was curious and made an attempt to buy a name myself over this last summer as I wrote on my site, Hudin:
I searched around for a name that seemed to be available, which was taste.me, filled out the forms, submitted the credit card info and thought that I was the proud owner of this name. Oh how I was wrong… It turns out that this was all for the better as paying that initial $100 for the name was not actually buying it. It was reserving a place in line to be able to bid in a domain auction further on. All of this is not readily apparent and with good reason. I doubt most folks would be $100 for the right to then bid on something as small and silly as a domain name… Oddly enough, I continued to receive updates about the auction for taste.me. This was interesting to follow because unlike a normal auction where there is a set time frame, the way this auction worked was that once someone submitted a bid, if there was a new bid submitted within 24 hours, the auction would continue… In the case of taste.me, the auction went on for about two weeks and ended up at a final price of $6,505.
Other names were auctioned at $30,000 and up. If this system wasn't hard enough, a number of names were purposely held back from general consumption. These will be auctioned off on September 25th. Needless to say the whole method has been less than transparent, but for those who wish to try and register a name now, they're costing about $20, but it appears that they log popular name choices to put them to auction. So, if you decide to take a chance and buy mykittyneeds.me, you may find it costing you a good deal more than $20 to buy it in an auction at a later date. In short, good luck.