New site suffix geared toward medical field

by Craig Gustafson

Tired of hearing and seeing dot-com in every commercial and company? Well, get ready for a new one: dot-md, the latest addition to top-level domains like dot-edu, -org, -net and -gov.
The dot-md domain is marketed to medical companies and anyone in the medical profession who wants a Web site, for profit or otherwise. If it’s a hit, Web users will go to dot-md sites for medical products and information, just as they now log on to dot-com sites for shopping, entertainment and news.
Dot-md was discovered in 1996 when John Harris, president of the Domain Name Trust Inc. and a Web entrepreneur, foresaw the clutter of .com domains — the suffix that hosts 80 percent of Internet sites — and started searching for an alternative.
He found “.md,” what he saw as a highly-profitable domain assigned to the country of Moldova, formally a member of the Soviet Union. The country, however, uses Romanian and Russian languages, within which the abbreviation md has no significance.
Harris immediately began the process of acquiring it with the intent of selling it to medical professionals.
After two years of negotiations, Moldovan government officials gave Harris the right to sell registrations under the domain in any English-speaking country for the next 25 years. For its trouble, the Moldovan government collects $20 for each registration sold.
So far, more than 10,000 addresses have been registered through the .md suffix at a rate of $299 per year. Harris’ goal is to register a million addresses by 2003, a level he feels confident in reaching.
Harris likens the potential for domain sites like .md that can be marketed to a specific audience to the popularity and success the cable industry enjoyed with specialized networks, such as the History Channel and MTV.
“In the same way, targeted Web sites make solid business sense,” Harris said. “Who wouldn’t want what follows the dot to say something about their company or profession?”
University freshman Paul Oelfke, co-founder of EMO Designs, a Web site design company, said an alternative like .md was inevitable because many small companies have the same name, but they can’t share the exact same Web address.
“The Internet is far too massive to limit,” Oelfke said. “Anything that can broaden the Web, I’d be interested in trying to do.”
Additional suffixes like dot-inc and dot-corp would help make the Web less crowded, he said.
The U.S. government has been attempting to expand the number of top-level domains for years and is considering several proposals.
Stephanie Lamenta, assistant account executive for Domain Name Trust, said the domain is ideal for people in the medical field, although it’s open to everyone.
“You can still get your name or the profession you study, like pediatrics, as your Web site,” she said.
The company oversees the content of all sites. Officials said the company is diligent in its commitment to deny registration to addresses deemed fraudulent or pornographic.

Craig Gustafson covers the Medical School and welcomes comments at cgustafso[email protected]. He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3233.