Finally the US as a country has been granted its own ccTLD (country code top level domain) name, .us, which went live on Wednesday. Within the first five minutes 30,000 names had been registered.
America gets its own country-level domain name
Unlike most other countries including the UK, Germany and Japan, the US has relied on the generic domain name .com as recognition that a site is US-registered, however .com has never been exclusively for US registrants.
While the new TLD is predominantly available only to US companies and individuals, a loophole in the registration system means that UK companies that want to have a more localised US face can also present a .us face to American citizens.
"We conducted tests among people who are unfamiliar with domain names and some who hadn't even used the internet before," said Jennie-Marie Idler, European General manager at domain registrar Neulevel (www.neulevel.com), the holder of the registry for .us names. "Almost every single person preferred the .us domain ending over .com."
Although the US did have domain endings for specific cities, such as Illinois' .il.us ending, Idler said these names were too long and complicated and put off people who weren't from that city from using them.
"Whether we like it or not, it's natural that people prefer to trade in their own country," said Idler. "When a UK citizen types in .co.uk they automatically assume they are trading with a UK company. Americans also want their personal space to create their own online presence."
In order to be eligible for a .us domain name an applicant must be either a US citizen, a US business or have significant influence in the US.
"The third category is extremely broad and applications are not policed by anyone, so if a European company wants to create a site specifically for US customers then that's fine," said Idler. "The only time that information will be checked is when there's a dispute over a name."
So far, 197,000 .us names have been registered, with this figure climbing by the hour. Of these 15 percent have been registered by European applicants.
"European registrars simply have a better understanding and experience of domain names, creating country codes and developing a global online presence than the US, which until now has only really dished out .com domain names," said Idler.
"Therefore many big businesses, including Microsoft and Reuters, that have registered through European registrars because they have more experience in this field," she said.
Neulevel is also the company responsible for allocating .biz domain names, launched last year specifically for business users. There was a lot of difficulty over allocation, due to the fact that these were global names and several companies from around the world were bidding for the same name.
"United.biz was one of the most popular with several companies bidding for it, all with equal rights to it," said Idel. "With .us domain names there will be far less confusion as companies with a US trademark will be given priority."
Neulevel also had to refund companies' application monies for .biz names after California labelled the application process, which required payment but did not guarantee delivery, a lottery.
The new domain names are now available from Neulevel. Applicants should expect to pay between $15 and $30 for a two-year registration.