The rivals for the job of creating an Internet domain for mobile content have broken cover, now that ICANN's closing date for applications for new top-level domains has passed.
The mTLD application, backed by big guns including Nokia, Vodafone and Microsoft, will, as we predicted, come up against opposition. The rival bid, for a ".tel" domain, has come up with a detailed argument that the big guys have yet to counter.
The real debate won't start till April, when the regulator ICANN will publish all the bids it has received for sponsored top level domains (sTLDs) on its site - so no-one is saying much at this time. But the mobile Internet proposals are likely to be most controversial. The ".tel" proposal, put together by Telnic and using the name Telname, has definitely taken an early lead, with a proof of concept and a site that is far more informative than the big guys' somewhat terse mTLD site.
Both proposals, it is clear, aim at businesses and content providers more than end users, offering ways to streamline contact with these organisations over different kinds of devices, though Telname emphasises its approach is broader than just mobile devices - hence its request for ".tel", rather than ".mobile" or ".mob".
Telname wants to set up a system designed for combined devices which can phone, email or browse, so a ".tel" address (such as hertz.tel) takes you first to contact details rather than a website. The user types in the name "hertz" and a text-based lookup service gives them all the contact details the company wants to publicise, and can click straight through to email, text or phone the company, or browse a version of its website suitable for the given device.
The demo, which was shown to the UMTS Forum in May 2003, was created by Telnic and Siemens' Roke Manor subsidiary, and runs on phones based on Nokia's Series 60 platform, Pocket PC machines, and Palm systems.
Although it links telephones with Internet addresses, the Telname proposal has nothing in common with the ENUM scheme which aims to turn phone numbers into numeric addresses, so Internet devices can phone them. Telnic says they are complementary, and in fact the two ideas do more or less opposite things. ENUM turns phone numbers into numeric web addresses, while .tel would provide text addresses, which link through to a choice of contact methods.
Despite this detail, the main thing we don't know about Telname is who is backing it, and who paid to develop the proposal - which must have cost more than £1 million? Telname declined to answer that question.
By contrast, with the mTLD application, the backers are more or less all we know about the proposal. The original backers, Microsoft, Nokia, Vodafone, Orange, 3, the GSM Association, HP, Sun and Samsung were joined by T-Mobile and Telecom Italia Mobile by the closing date. All we know about the proposal is in this article, including a promise that mTLD will "take advice" on its proposals.