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Registry hangs out .pro shingle

Hoping to better the lackluster success of domains such as .info, RegistryPro is aiming to drum up business by providing authentication for doctors, lawyers and accountants.

RegistryPro is hoping doctors, lawyers and accountants will get with its .pro program.

The Atlanta-based company, which is the official administrator of the new .pro top-level domain, is trying to drum up business among professionals for the new domain names. The names go online in a few weeks, RegistryPro said.

The company is hoping to lure qualified professionals to the domain by offering a combination of a specialized domain name and a digital certificate designed to authenticate identity, Sloan Gaon, chief operating officer at RegistryPro, said Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Bar Association in San Francisco.

"Anyone can get a .com name with 48 characters in it--or they can get a simple .pro name that's trusted by their peers, colleagues and--hopefully--consumers," he said.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Internet's governing body, originally approved the addition of .pro and six other new top-level domains two years ago. (Top-level domains are the largest building blocks of the Web's address system, organizing sites by general categories such as .com, .edu, and .gov.) At the time, many predicted a land grab for names related to the domains, from those who missed out on popular dot-com addresses rushing to get a piece of the action.

However, domain names such as .info and .name haven't been as popular as predicted, partly because they didn't bring the cachet that comes with a .com name.

Nevertheless, RegistryPro's Gaon is optimistic that doctors and lawyers in particular will seek out .pro addresses, partly because of the authentication requirements.

"Many doctors and lawyers were getting .coms, but there have been a lot of imposters," Gaon said, noting that a number of people with .com addresses had posed as doctors to sell Viagra and similar products online. "Dot-com is sort of the Park Avenue of domain names. But it has become bastardized with porn, gambling and other types of sites."

RegistryPro's authentication measures include digital signatures that could help professionals comply with rules and regulations in their field, Gaon said. Lawyers, for example, might be attracted that feature because it could protect private communication between attorneys and clients. A doctor might want the secure measure in order to meet federal guidelines governing the privacy of patients' medical records.

As a registry, RegistryPro does not sell directly to applicants, but instead provides domain names to resellers known as registrars. Under rules proposed by ICANN, a company typically acts as either a registrar or registry, but not as both.

In the case of the .pro, RegistryPro also plays the role of a gatekeeper. In order to get a .pro domain name, applicants must prove that they're a doctor, lawyer or accountant. The company, which is a subsidiary of Register.com, collects licensing information from applicants in order to verify their professions.

Right now, the .pro registration process is in the so-called sunrise phase, when copyright and trademark holders are allowed to come forward and claim Web addresses bearing their name, according to RegistryPro. The cost for a .pro domain name will be about $300 per year, well above the $35 that some registrars charge.

RegistryPro said the remaining names will be doled out on a first-come, first-served basis to applicants who aren't copyright and trademark holders, starting sometime in September, when the .pro names first go online.