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What's in a Name?

A lot, if you're talking about the .mail domain--it could make sending legit e-mail ads easier.

A recently proposed top-level domain (such as .com or. org) could change the way many businesses send out legitimate marketing e-mails. The .mail domain is under consideration by ICANN, the Internet's governing body. The group behind it, Spamhaus, is a British-based anti-spam entity. John Reid, a spokesperson for Spamhaus, is careful to point out that .mail is not an anti-spam system.

Here's how it would work: A business would be able to register the .mail version of a domain they already own (such as amazon.mail). That would then become a device to verify the e-mails they send as legitimate. Those messages would not be subject to the blacklist e-mail filtering that currently catches both spam and some legitimate e-mails as well.

This makes it a white-list approach. "Some small businesses will certainly use it," Reid explains. "The businesses who would are the ones who are having trouble getting e-mail delivered."

There are a couple of potential stumbling blocks. One is that the success of .mail would hinge on its support and adoption by large ISPs such as AOL and MSN. Another is the estimated $2,000 price tag for registering a .mail domain. The high cost would go to help Spamhaus determine that the purchaser is not actually a spammer, but it could also discourage many growing businesses from making the investment. As of press time, the timeline for potential approval of the .mail proposal was still undetermined-there should be an answer before the end of the year. Keep an eye out for the latest news and information at the ICANNand at Spamhaus.org.

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This article was originally published in the September 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: What's in a Name?.

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