Vanity URLs (July 2010)


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Vanity URLs (July 2010)

  1. 1. The Use of Nontraditional Domains in Site Design <br />Michelle Fares, Interactive Strategy<br />Summary: The use of nontraditional domain names, such as .tv or .fm, is an emerging trend in the online world. The .ms domain, which currently belongs to the country of Montserrat, could be used by Biogen for unbranded Biogen communictations, short-term PR campaigns and/or microsites. There are also instances where it would be beneficial to purchase branded .ms URLs in order to protect the Biogen brand.July 26, 2010<br />Key Information<br />As online real estate becomes more and more valuable, companies are turning to non-traditional domain names to stand out from their competitors. In an attempt to ease pressure on the popular .com domain, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced the release of 7 new top-level domains in 2000, including .info, .biz and .pro. However, as sites in these domains were purchased and at times carelessly used by commercial organizations, the public came to view sites in the .biz and .info domains as less reliable, lower quality, and less authoritative. <br />Today, a new wave of domain names is emerging on the market. US companies are beginning to eye a few unique domains belonging to small countries that are selling the rights to use them. Domains such as .fm (belonging to the Federal States of Micronesia), or .tv (the island of Tuvalu) are becoming valuable, and examples of popular sites using these domains are the social networking site, the music sharing site, and the cable network site<br />Another relevant domain is .ms, which currently belongs to the Caribbean island of Montserrat but has been open to worldwide buyers since 1995. Previous buyers have included Microsoft, with its web site, and the state of Mississippi, where an internet service provider called Dixie-Net Communications leased 130 .ms domain names and offered residents state-specific e-mail addresses. Today, a prominent site in the domain is, which was established as a non-profit community for young people with multiple sclerosis. The site encourages discussion, holds events, and offers information to users. <br />Implications and Action Items<br />Because the .ms domain has been linked to a variety of organizations over the years, there is no single, strong consumer association with the name. The variety of use makes the domain a good match for Biogen. However, using the domain also presents challenges in terms of FDA regulations and fair balance requirements. RTC would like to present some overall recommendations for Biogen on the use of this domain name. <br />Purchase unbranded addresses within the .ms domain for use in: <br />Short-term PR campaigns<br />Help-seeking ads<br />Microsites<br />A branded site, such as or, would combine the name of the medication with the condition., RTC does not recommend using branded site addresses at this time; . Hhowever, RTC does recommend purchasing branded addresses within the .ms domain: <br />To protect against malicious intent<br />To reserve for future use<br />Consider other domains that are growing in popularity: <br />Examples include .fm and .mobi<br />For more information on purchasing country-specific top level domains, please visit For more information on FDA regulations in pharma advertising, visit <br />