Remember the good old days when all you had to worry about was .com? (Well, and .org, .net, and .edu for special cases). Long gone, of course. Today a new top-level domain, .tel, is opening up for sale. The launch is being run by Telnic, though you should be able to buy .tel domains through a variety of registrars.
The twist on .tel is that it’s designed to store information directly in DNS records, rather than being hooked up to a web site. You can see how this works in their simulator; the basic idea is that you store information like your address and your IM contacts right in the DNS record, and anyone can do a lookup on your .tel domain to find them. With specialized applications, this information can be pulled right into your address book.
Today is the opening of the “Sunrise” launch period, when companies with trademarks can pay $400 to lock up their .tel address. In February we’ll have the “Landrush” launch, open to all but at a premium price of $150 per year, followed by general availability in March at about $20 per year.
Is it worth thinking about a .tel domain name for your web working efforts? Right now, I would say no. There’s a distinct chicken-and-egg problem here: having a .tel directory listing will only be useful in proportion to the number of people with specialized software to use it, and there’s not much incentive to install and use the software unless .tel gets pervasive. At the moment, Telnic has applications available for Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Outlook, and iPhone in beta. I’ll revisit .tel in late March to see how the early sales have gone, but for now, I’m not spending my money with them.