How much is x.biz or .ge.biz worth?
That's the question NeuStar is asking the Internet e-commerce community as it adds one- and two-character names to the .biz domain and makes them available to the highest bidders.
NeuStar on June 1 announced plans to sell one-character domain names -- using the letters A through Z as well as the numbers 0 through 9 -- with the .biz extension. For example, the domain names www.i.biz and www.7.biz will be for sale via auction.
Bids for the 36 possible one-character names are due to NeuStar on July 30. These names are expected to be operational in August.
Also in August, NeuStar will begin selling two-character domain names that can be used to represent company names, stock symbols, state or city names such as www.ms.biz or www.az.biz.
NeuStar said proceeds from the auction of the one- and two-character domains will be used to market the .biz brand to the benefit of all .biz registrants.
A handful of one-character domain names already exist on the Internet, dating back to the early 1990s when the late Jon Postel managed all domain name registrations. These names are: q.com, x.com, z.com, i.net, q.net and x.org.
The .biz domain is the first top-level domain to get approval from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to sell one-character domain names, NeuStar said.
"We think one-character domain names will have strong branding appeal," says Tim Switzer, NeuStar's vice president for Registry Services. "They'll make for a very memorable kind of domain name."
NeuStar also sees potential in two-character names, which will be available using a combination of letters and numbers such as www.aa.biz or www.a1.biz. Two-character .biz names will be operational in October.
Two-character domain names are likely to raise more intellectual property issues than one-character domain names because of their connection to company names, Switzer admitted.
"I can see two-character names being used with company names, stock symbols or the respective chambers of commerce for the states," Switzer says.
Two-character domain names are already available in the .net and .com domains.
The .biz domain has more than 2 million domain names registered, focused primarily on small and midsized businesses.
The phenomenon of short domain names may be spreading across the Internet. Switzer says the .pro and .travel domains have already requested permission from ICANN to sell one- and two-character domain names, too.