Domain names for .arabia Dubai Internet users in the Middle East may be able to petition to have domains names that end regionally specific, such as .arab, by the end of the year. If things go according to plan, those domain names may even be in Arabic.

According to Paul Twomey, president and CEO of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), the organisation that oversees the introduction of new top-level domain names, Icann’s conference this week in Dubai was aimed at informing people how to register such names. It also discussed how to "ensure that people can [access the internet] in their own language and their own script", he said.

Currently, second-level domain names (the name to the left of the dot) can be in a variety of languages, including Arabic, but the name to the right of the dot (the top-level domain name) must still be in English.

Now there are 20 top level domain names available, such as the popular .com and .net, and well as growing domains such as .museum and .mobi, which caters to websites designed for mobile phone content. In addition to the general domain names, there are 252 country codes, such as .ae or .uk.


While Twomey said Icann wasn’t dealing with any specific requests for new-top level domains at this time, he said the organisation was "expecting to have some conclusions at the end of the year."

Whether or not such domain names will become available will depend on the region’s belief in the internet’s impact on economic growth. So far, Twomey said, the business confidence in the region was mixed.

"Some are confident about growth, and some think it will be business as usual, but in another language," he said.

While many would welcome the ability to have domain names in their native languages, there is a number of downsides, Twomey said, including cyber-squatting, typo-squatting and domaining.

Cybersquatting is the practice of registering a website that contains a trademark, and then holding it hostage from the legitimate trademark holder in the hopes of a payoff. Typo-squattering involves registering websites that contain misspelling of trademarks, such as, with the hope that the trademark owner will also pay to own the misspelled site.

Dominaing, which is technically legal, is still somewhat controversial. Domainers purchase non-trademarked domain names in the hopes of either reselling the name at a profit. Some websites have resold for millions of dollars. Other domainers "park" the domain in order to generate advertising revenue. A parked site usually reroutes users to a website that contains ads.

While a number of international laws and internal procedures discourage squatting, domaining is going to be an issue, Twomey said.

Edmon Chung, CEO of .Asia, a not-for-profit organisation that just recently oversaw the introduction of the .asia domain, which went live on March 26, said their organisation was very careful in how the domain name was introduced to avoid problems. "There was pressure to make sure it didn’t get out of control," he said.

Starting January, .asia began a three month "sunrise" period, which took place over three phases. During the first, governments and their agencies were allowed to reserve their domain names, such as

Trademark holders

During the second phase, international trademark holders, such as McDonald’s and Nike, were allowed to register. Finally, Asian companies were allowed to register domain names. In order to register a domain name in the final two stages, companies had to show they owned the trademark being registered and that is currently in use.

After the sunrise period, the portion unofficially dubbed the "land grab" began, were individuals and companies are allowed to purchase domain names that are highly-coveted but do not contain trademark information. At top of the list was, which has over 400 applications, Chung said. After,, and where the most requested names.

More than 30,000 names were registered in the sunrise period and more than 500,000 domains were registered. Sites with multiple applications will be auctioned to the highest bidder.

Chung said the .asia domain would provide value at the regional level. "The value that .asia has is that it is a platform for the whole Asia market," he said. "It’s from Asia, for Asia. It will also allow companies to expand into Asia."

Leave a Reply