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11th Jul 2020

Final agreement on .eu domain names expected 'this month'

The company selected to run the .eu domain name says it expects to sign a contract with the European Commission "by the end of the month", ending over a year of deadlock.

Marc van Wesenmael, Director of EURid, which was selected to run .eu, told the EUobserver that the contract would be signed "certainly this month", paving the way for .eu domain names to be available some time around the Summer of 2005 - "a realistic assessment", according to Mr van Wesenmael.

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This was confirmed by Commission sources which revealed that an announcement would be made towards the end of the month, without naming a specific date. The official was more optimistic on the implementation timetable, saying, "I would expect sometime around early next year".

The breakthrough marks the end of over one year of wrangling over regulatory issues. The contract was awarded to EURid in May 2003, with the expectation that the .eu domain name would be ready for the end of 2003.

But differences between member states over how a domain name should be managed has stymied the project, according to Mr van Wesenmael.

A Commission official remarked that, in regulatory terms, the delay was not excessive, adding that "the devil is in the detail".

Long road to the sunrise

Despite the breakthrough, many steps remain before the domain name is available for registration.

EURid must first agree a contract with a corporation called ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), which will decide whether to add .eu to the worldwide list of domain names.

A decision by ICANN can only be taken at their monthly board meetings, making the earliest possible date for agreement mid-November.

Following this, various technical details need to be worked out by EURid.

And as with many other facets of the post-enlargement EU, the process could yet be slowed down by translation issues.

EURid originally budgeted six months from completion of the contract to the first registrations, but "that was in an EU of 15", said Mr van Wesenmael, adding, "our biggest problem is with translation".

After the technical and translation details have been finalised, the .eu domain name will become available for registration for companies with trademarks before going on general release to the public.

This so-called "sunrise period" will last four months, meaning that, according to EURid's estimations, the "best-case scenario" for the general public to register a domain name would be August 2005.

Millions expected to register

Both the Commission and EURid expect millions of companies, organisations and individuals to sign up to the .eu domain name, although both agree it is difficult to predict even a rough figure.

The EURid business plan projects one million subscribed in the first year. This compares to 8 million registered with a .de domain name (Germany) and approximately 4 million for .uk.

Mr van Wesenmael suspects many registrations will be so-called "defensive registrations". This is when a company registers with a new domain name to prevent "cybersquatters" taking over their name.

Drop the INT

A Commission official dealing with the issue told the EUobserver that the EU institutions were likely to sign up to the new domain name, allowing them to drop the .int domain they currently use. The European Parliament would therefore become www.europarl.eu and the European Commission www.europa.eu.

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