Colombia could pose challenge to the '.com' web address


Recent press reports suggest that Colombia's country code top-level domain, '.co', may soon be used as a generic top-level domain, as an alternative to '.com'. The obvious merit of the '.co' is that it could be interpreted as an abbreviation for 'company', much as '.com' represents 'commercial'.

Colombia does not have a law that specifically deals with the registration and use of the '.co' domain. Until now, registration has been handled in accordance with the rules of the Universidad de los Andes, the administrator of the '.co' domain. The absence of any governmental intervention (by way of legislation) makes it difficult to confirm whether Colombia itself has any right to the '.co' domain, or if all rights are owned by the university.

The 244 country codes such as '.co' have largely taken a back seat to the generic internet domain names such as '.com', '.net' and '.gov', but the crowded '.com' field has created a growing opportunity for country domain names. Typically country codes, such as '.br' in Brazil, are only open only to companies or citizens in that country. The '.co' generic top-level domain has already made its cyberspace debut as part of '' in the United Kingdom as a commercial alternative to '.com'. But the '.co' code the Colombian university is taking to market is much cleaner.

If the university's plans go ahead, the winner of the '.co' bidding will probably be chosen by mid-August. The effects will be substantial as anyone who has registered a '.com' domain name will also have to lock up the use of the '.co' equivalent in order to prevent cybersquatting.

Daniel Peña, Cavelier Abogados, Bogota

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