".tel is the biggest innovation since .com"

by Abhinna Shreshtha    Feb 20, 2009

What was the genesis of .tel?

.tel was conceived back in 2000 of the realization that communications and the Internet were due to converge. There was no appropriate neutral platform to provide an individual/business with the ability to store and publicize existing ways that people could get in touch with them, or transition over to emerging, lower-cost solutions that would save both parties money whilst also providing a higher level of personal interaction.  We saw that a top level domain was the best option for people to use as it was a flexible platform for services to run on.

The other critical feature of .tel is the belief that it should be a platform that is completely under the control of the .tel owner who then has the ability to publish his or her contact information easily and simply and with a frequency of their own choice, not at the whim of a service provider. This information can then be globally accessible by anyone at any time over any device in real-time.

.tel is being dubbed the ‘Webless Web’. Do you consider .tel as a herald of Internet-independence?

.tel is the biggest innovation in the Internet since the launch of .com. We are using the system behind the World Wide Web (called the DNS) in a completely different way to publish contact and other information rather than website addresses to a variety of different devices. We are putting the control of that information back into the hands of the .tel owner. By registering your .tel you’re effectively staking your claim to your place in the cloud that is completely under your control, for as long as you want it to be.  And the independence stretches to the communications channels that you want to publish under your .tel domain.

In the news recently we have seen reports of customer’s information being ‘owned’ by service providers. We believe your information is yours to own, share, and update and should remain that way. You should expect complete control of your information, including who can see what about you, on your own terms, so in that respect, we’re able to provide our customers with independence on the Internet.

What is the value proposition for enterprises? What do they gain?

In short — better communications in a time of complexity; for businesses, complexity of communication choices and channels and a complex global business arena; for individuals, complexity of social structures and the need to manage multiple online personalities. 

Businesses can use their .tel to set up contact service hubs constructed to store all the different contact details of those who buy their service, and manage the connections through which ever devices are live and connected at the time. Small businesses get an immediate global presence online akin to a listing in a traditional directory service but under their own brand and their complete control, at a fraction of the cost of a listing in another service.

In India, domain name registrars like Net4India and Directi are inviting applications for registering the .tel domain, which is available for about Rs 3,000 for three years with a processing fee of Rs. 13,500. The processing fee goes to World Intellectual Property Organization. The individual registrations will open on March 24, which will be available for Rs. 999 for a year

How does a .tel domain work?

All existing Top Level Domains map domain names to a website. When .tel queries this same DNS system with a domain, the contact information and key words that you have stored as industry recognized records directly into the DNS are returned. You can then click on any of the contact items and be immediately connected. 

Why do you feel users will take up the idea of .tel when a search engine can provide the necessary details?

Traditionally, search engines are forced to read entire web pages and guess the keywords. There is no logic to the structure of a website - each is different from the other and an index has to be provided in order for the search engine to understand the relationships of the pages to the site itself.  Often, metatags also need to be manually added in order for the search engine to understand its place within the information flow. 

The .tel instead has a structure, machine-readable labels on the data, using industry standard global descriptions and also uses the data you input into the DNS to tell search engines exactly where the keywords are, thereby improving your control over your search results.

Secondly, a .tel lookup is so small in terms of data transfer that it remains inexpensive for consumers even on a roaming contract on a mobile device. The data is also presented in a simple way so the .tel easily integrates into address books and allows for advanced navigation on all mobile devices.  We have also enabled people to look up the data directly from the DNS without going on to the Internet through free to download applications for the iPhone, BlackBerry, and other devices, minimizing even further the cost to them accessing rich contact information.

What about data protection, privacy, and other related issues? How do you tackle them?

.tel is secure. If you do not want to share your information with the world, you can choose those who are allowed to access it.  Data stored in the DNS can be encrypted so that only people who you authorize can view it, allowing selective privacy.

How will .tel be indexed by search engines?

Pairing a .tel with a .com can provide great SEO. There are more technical aspects to this, which can be found on our developer website and of course we will be updating Google on the .tel domains as they become live so that the algorithm can be updated.

However, as we build a community, we will be launching and marketing ‘telpages.com’ which will only index .tel domains and of course updating our open source, beta applications for mobile devices, enabling people to bypass the web completely and search for .tel domains over the Internet without incurring higher charges than necessary due to heavy html download charges.

Online directories are not new, what differentiates .tel?

.tel is not a website. The unique way in which we’re using the backbone of the Internet enables us to provide a faster, more cost effective, versatile directory experience that remains completely under the control of the end-user customer. This approach is ideal for consumption on a mobile device, which is the device you are most likely to have with you when you need to contact someone.

If we consider only the technology aspect, how significant can the launch of .tel be viewed as?

All innovations take time to really catch on.  A 100 years ago when the telephone was invented it took some time to catch on. Now we find it indispensible. Time will tell how significant this launch becomes. We believe it has the potential to accelerate tremendous change in the way people find and connect with one another in ways we have yet to even imagine.

What has been the response so far and what is the target (in terms of subscribers, revenue, etc.) that you have set yourself?

As we do not sell direct, it is a little difficult to speculate directly on numbers. We have a fairly restrictive Sunrise period - the period when trademark owners can apply for domains to protect their trademarks - more stringent than some previous launches, but we’ve seen a great response so far in terms of numbers applying, the quality of those brands and the breadth of companies from countries across the globe. Many registrars that we are talking to who do sell direct say that they’re seeing much higher levels of interest and pre-orders than recent TLD launches.
A point to note - we are doing things slightly differently as we are not withholding premium names or running auctions. At Landrush, anyone can purchase any available domain name in a first come, first served manner, so that everyone stands an equal chance and will pay roughly the same price for all domains rather than seeing only the richest being able to afford the best names. So at Landrush, we anticipate that there will be a lot of interest.