To provide a quick summary, the ".tel" domain is a new top-level domain (TLD) that is designed to be very different from other current TLDs. Rather than be used to point to websites, it is designed to point to contact information. As that contact information is actually stored in the DNS system, it is potentially available much more quickly than through a traditional web-based directory. A key point is also that OWNERS of a .tel domain are the ones responsible for updating the contact info. You can do that on your own local site... so it has the potential to be a massively distributed directory. You can see an example of how this can look at danyork.vip.tel (my page in their beta program).
Now I have a few problems with the idea, which I've described in my post but for communicators of the PR/marketing form there are a couple of points to consider:
1. Brand protection in a new TLD - The most obvious concern is that this is a new top-level-domain. Will your brand (or that of your clients) be protected in this new TLD? Will you be able to get yourcompanyname.tel?
One question is - do you care if you you get this domain? (See my point #2 below.) If you don't, you can stop reading now and go read something else more interesting. If you do care, you should consider that the .tel launch is now in the first of three launch phases:
- Sunrise - Started yesterday (Dec 3rd). Owners of registered trademarks may apply for .tel domains (at a high cost).
- Landrush - Starts February 3rd. Anyone can register for any available domain - at a premium cost.
- General Availability - Starts March 24th. Anyone can register for any available domain at a "typical" cost.
More information about each phase can be found on Telnic's Launch Information page. So if you are a communicator associated with a trademark-protected brand, you may want to consider whether you want to go in on the Sunrise period and apply for your domain. Or you may want to wait it out. (Or, as was recently voiced to me, you may just view all of these new TLDs as yet-another-attempt to extract money out of you.)
2. Should you care? Will it succeed? - This is honestly a tough one to answer. Global directories have been tried many times before and haven't really succeeded. I have questions about whether this .tel effort will succeed. I think the potential is intriguing... but I do have to wonder if the technical issues can be overcome.
The question really comes down to this - if it does succeed, or at least do well enough to be useful, do you want your company/brand to be visible at brandname.tel? Or do you see this as yet another attempt to build a directory that probably won't work and you'll just wait and see? Ultimately, each of you have to make that choice.
Beyond my post and the excellent comments left to it from someone at Telnic and a domain name registrar, I'd also recommend listening to the Squawk Box episode where we interviewed Telnic's Justin Hayward (.tel part starts around 17:50).
I think we'd all like to see some kind of better way to find people online... the question is really just whether this is it. (What do you think?)