ICANN, the body that oversees Internet addresses, has set the wheels in motion for a new top-level domain for mobile content, along with three others, for jobs, travel and postal authorities.

Critics say the .mobi domain, sponsored by Microsoft and Nokia is not needed, and the backers of another proposal, .tel-Telnic, are determined to keep on.

"I see no reason why .mobi and .tel could not exist simultaneously," said K Mahdavi, the chief executive of Telnic, the body proposing the .tel domaion. "It is up to ICANN to decide."

ICANN agrees: "No limit was set on the number of sTLDs," it says in the announcement that it is starting negotiations towards the .mobi and .jobs domain. Along with the .post and .travel domains announced in October, it has chosen four so far from a pool of ten "sponsored top level domains" (sTLDs).

Although both .tel and .mobi are seen as addressing the needs of mobile data, they are totally different. The .mobi proposal is for a domain designed to handle data aimed at mobile devices - a suggestion that caused much debate in the ICANN public forums. Among other things, critics suggested that different types of content were better handled by denoting different servers (for instance, ftp instead of www in an address).

"We are not a TLD for mobiles," said Mahdavi. ".tel is a place to store and publish your own personal contact information. We map to people, not to machines." As we described it in March the .tel-Telnic proposal has been in circulation for a couple of years, and was demonstrated to the UMTS Forum in May 2003 - a demonstration which can be seen on the Telnic site. In technical terms, the directory excludes "A records".

The proposal is known as ".tel-Telnic", to distinguish it form a ".tel-Pulver", proposal from voice over IP guru Jeff Pulver which happened to choose the same three letters. This ".tel-Pulver" proposal is for a mapping between phone numbers and email addresses, to assist voice over IP and similar technologies, much like the ENUM system in operation.

Although .mobi and .tel-Pulver published lists of supporters on their sites, Telnic is more circumspect, preferring not to publish names of supporters immediately. The company is backed by investment firm, the Chart Group, which is headed by former US Treasury Secreatary, Nicholas Brady.

Meanwhile, this being the Internet, there are people out there trying to jump the gun in the present domains, using a little-known TLD to offer domains to mobile users. The .mp domain is one of the "geographical TLDs" based on two-letter country code for the Northern Mariana Islands and administered by Saipan Datacom, which is promoting it as a home for mobile bloggers. The dotMP service includes a home page and a service to publish up to 1GB of photos taken on phones, for $49.95 per year.