TLDs get personal with the launch of '.pw'

International

A new top-level domain (TLD) has been launched and is now available to the general public. Marketed as 'personal web' by the PW Registry Corporation, '.pw' is in fact the country-code top-level domain for Palau, a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean. It is the Internet's first domain extension dedicated to consumer privacy.

The domain is designed for users who wish to purchase an email address, as opposed to a domain name resolving to a website. Users can choose a second-level domain, such as a hobby, a surname or a school, and then add a name before the '@' sign (eg, '[email protected]'). This is possible because the registry has reserved the entire second level of the '.pw' domain for shared use - only third-level domains are available for purchase.

The registry uses a variety of techniques to block spam (eg, users can choose to receive mail only from senders that they have 'whitelisted') that, it claims, are more effective than those used by traditional internet service providers (ISPs). In effect, emails are forwarded to the user's existing ISP mailbox, which makes the domain extremely portable, as users can change ISPs without needing to change email address. Users may also sponsor a second level by purchasing an exclusive sales and marketing licence pursuant to which they will receive a commission each time an email address featuring that second level is sold.

The registry has also developed its own dispute resolution policy, which is compatible with the proposed nature of the '.pw' domain and the status of trademark law in Palau. Deviations from the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) include (i) stricter evidential requirements as regards bad faith, and (ii) clarification of registrant rights, including a non-exhaustive list of legitimate non-commercial and fair-use examples. The Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre has been selected as the exclusive provider of dispute resolution services (see Arbitration centre appointed to handle '.pw' disputes).

It will be interesting to see whether the personal web extension does in fact lead to the creation of dedicated online communities such as '.smith.pw', '.irish.pw' or '.soxfans.pw' as envisaged by the registry.

David Taylor, Lovells, Paris

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