New virtual real estate is opening up for sale in Asia, as Edmon Chung, CEO of the new ".Asia" top-level domain, puts it. .Asia officially launched here in Hong Kong on Wednesday. They're a non-profit organization whose mission, they say, is "dedicated to the needs of the Pan-Asia and Asia Pacific Internet community... providing an online identity for people, organizations, and businesses who want "to express membership in the larger Asian community."
SFgate has a very detailed article about .Asia and its prospects. They describe a launch process which Edmon says he hopes will become a model for future top-level domains:
...unlike previous TLD launches, DotAsia is setting itself up to take maximum benefit from this opportunity, while forcing a leveling of the domain-registration playing field. Rather than simply opening the floodgates for speculators to register domains -- which makes winning a particular domain a matter of the fastest finger -- they've laid out a unique "sunrise" process for the first six months of their operation. After restricted names are reserved by governments and administrative organizations, valid international trademark holders and companies seeking to protect their operating names will have an open window to submit applications for those respective domains. When conflicts emerge -- the number of companies that can legitimately claim to have rights to names like "Sun" and "Star" in Asia is staggering -- verified stakeholders will have the right to participate in an open, Internet-based auction, designed to ensure that the entity that values the domain most will end up controlling it.
The same application and auction process will be followed for the first 30 days of open registration as well. Want a nifty generic domain name? Be prepared to bid on it. How much is porn.asia worth to you?
Before .Asia opens up in phases to governments, trademark holders, and then the general public, they are seeking applicants for their ".Asia Pioneer" program. The idea is to give out premium domain names to organizations, businesses or projects that will help build a quality and diverse Asian Internet community - rather than just selling everything to first-comers and highest bidders. According to the .Asia Pioneer website:
Breaking the mould of disinterested allocation of domains in a first-come-first-served race, the .Asia Pioneer Domains Program entrusts the most prestigious cyber real estate in .Asia to those who show genuine commitment to this community. The objective of the program is to immediately create active and relevant content on .Asia domains for the benefit of Internet users around the world. The program builds on the value of .Asia to provide a natural name for users to easily navigate and find the information they are looking for. Through the Pioneer Domains Program, DotAsia is giving out millions of dollars worth of domain names.
One journalist had some questions about how transparent this process will be. Edmon insists it will be very transparent. It will be fascinating to see what comes out of this process.
At the launch party .Asia had these cute napkins (pictured at right) inviting people to scribble their ideas down and help populate Asia's new cyber-real estate. I actually scribbled down an online media idea (which I'm not showing). Unfortunately I don't have time to implement it this year given my other commitments and I certainly don't have the resources... but maybe somebody else out there might be able to do something with it...