It’s a bit over a year since the .eu suffix became and option for anyone registering an Internet domain, and the cynics are still partying. Charge number one is that is that is has been a huge scheme to make money for registration companies and cyber-squatters dreamt up in a fit of do-gooding stupidity by Brussels bureaucrats.
Or is that a bit small minded? At least one recent survey tells us that companies that have plumped for the address are very pleased they did. According to 1&1 Internet (which sells domain names, notice), a questionnaire of 2,600 SME businesses found that 68 percent of those polled though that .eu had been good for their business.
And yet the survey opens up a strange dichotomy, between the haves and the have nots. Companies with a .eu domain thought it great, while those without were generally confused about its worth and not always sure what the initials stood for.
"Using a .EU domain name can deliver SMEs improved accessibility to Europe and enhance their image, yet many companies remain confused over what .EU represents. An astonishing number do not know that the domain .EU includes British businesses and are unaware of how much they could gain from flying the European flag," says 1&1 Internet CEO Andreas Gauger hopefully.
Another possibility – let’s go out on a unfashionable tack here - is that the SMEs are not missing a trick and are spot on about the .eu domain. It is a waste of time because there are plenty of other perfectly valid domains they could use instead.
Check out how many big companies have bought .eu domains and it turns out that many have but that is for the entirely negative reason of stopping cyber-squatting. As soon as the new suffix was created, the first and last worry was that big brand domains shouldn’t be hijacked by name raiders in such a way as to force companies to take expensive Europe-wide legal action to force them out.
So there is, for instance, a unilever.eu domain name, but I seriously doubt many people enter through that address. It is there because it has to be. Does this matter for a big, wealthy company? Not for one domain, but many product-based companies such as Unilever have thousands of brands, each of which could be associated with a .eu domain, and each one of which could be squatted. Suddenly it doesn’t look so cheap after all, more so since the suffix is often more expensive than the country domain.
A quick check on whois reveals that Unilever has registered domains associated with its many brands though it isn’t currently using these domains. This proves the point. They have done this to protect themselves rather than for any business reason. They could, in future, use the brand name domain but you suspect that limitations of language and culture would prompt them to use local domains instead.
“I expect Europe’s top level domain .eu to become similarly important as .com”, said the EU’s information society and media commissioner, Viviane Reding, at the time of its launch into cyberspace. “For businesses, .eu will extend their marketing reach, while protecting them under EU law against cybersquatters. As a citizen, a “.eu” address can help making your web presence or that of your school, university, or club more visible across the European Union. Europe’s new top level domain therefore offers a unique opportunity for modern online marketing across borders.”
This is hokey. The .eu domain has, for now at least, benefited only the companies that make money from registrations. You can almost most hear the cursing of its helpless victims syncopated to the ringing of cash tills at registration companies.