Domain registration company mTLD Top Level Domain is set to issue Internet domain names geared toward mobile devices

The .mobi domain name, which has been approved by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), has been reserved for websites specifically designed to work with mobile handsets.

The aim of the new venture, established by companies such as Microsoft, Nokia and Vodafone, is to make mobile Internet services easy to use and affordable to develop, said Neil Edwards, chief executive officer of mTLD.

The venture comes as mobile phone usage soars past PCs, with a current ratio of around four mobile phone owners to one PC user.

Investors in mTLD have already been issued .mobi domain names.

Companies holding trademarks can apply for .mobi domain names during a limited industry sunrise period from 22 May to 29 May. This phase will be open to more than 10,000 companies and associations in the mobile phone industry. A general business sunrise registration will follow from 12 June 12 to 21 August.
After that comes a land rush registration, from 28 August to 10 Sepember, for anyone seeking a .mobi domain name. Mobile domain names available during this period will be sold at a premium, roughly two to three times the cost of a .com domain name.

From 14 September, consumers and businesses can apply for .mobi suffixes through a general registration process.

The .mobi standards, designed to support mobile Web surfing and messaging, are based on work by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and .mobi investors in collaboration with W3C's Mobile Web Initiative. Essentially, the standards eliminate frames and require developers to create content in XHTML (Extensible Hypertext Markup Language).

Developers can find information about .mobi standards and other requirements in the Switch On style guide.

"With .mobi, we aim to create a trust mark, just like HD-ready and Bluetooth," Edwards said. "When users see the .mobi symbol, they'll know that the content is designed to work on their mobile device."

To ensure compliance, mTLD will electronically monitor .mobi Web sites, according to Edwards. Registered companies will need to meet "some minimum requirements if they want to keep their website up," he said.

Lower development costs for mobile content is high on Edwards' list. "The cost of putting content on a mobile website today is prohibitive to the average guy on the street," he said. Groups offering content development services are charging from $500 to as much as $3,000 per screen of data, which can range from 200 to 300 words, he said.