by Anne Holland, Founder
If you, like many marketers, are in charge of deciding which domains to buy for your company or brand, this news is for you.
Over the past week, several Sherpa readers received emails purportedly from Internet domain officials in various Asian countries. The letters explain that someone in that country is trying to register a local version of the domain the US brand already has registered as a ".com." So, for example, if your brand held "widgets.com," the letter might tell you someone is trying to register "widgets.co.jp" for Japan.
The letter then explains that you as the .com owner have first dibs on international versions, and can stop the other guy from registering your brand in that country by simply registering it yourself right away. "Just click on this link!"
Yeah, it's a scam.
That doesn't mean that your domain might not be registered by someone else in a foreign country. Just probably not right at this moment. And the country's registrar would not email you a warning note in English with a handy 'click here to buy the domain yourself' hotlink if it happened. It's your job (or your legal department's) to patrol domains, trademarks, and other branding conflicts internationally.
Should you register your domains in other countries? It depends. Consumers and businesspeople overseas are definitely used to going to '.com' addresses. In fact, a lot of businesses based outside of the US have a ".com" as their primary home. People don't assume a ".com" must be American; .com has become more of a universal term for "commercial web site" for many countries.
However, if you have a specific presence in a particular country - a division dedicated to that country or at least an office and/or dedicated customer service reps there -- you may want to own a local domain extension as well as the .com. This is especially important for giant multinational brands. By creating sites with local domains, you show you really do care about the regions you're doing business in. You add the power of local to your global brand.
One last note, as a part-time resident of Serbia I'm very aware of something that your Web team may not know yet. That is, the old ".yu" domain extension which was originally invented to represent "Yugoslavia" and is used for both Serbian and Montenegrin webites, will stop working shortly.
Yugoslavia no longer exists, of course, and Sedia and Montenegro are no longer a single country. Domains (and matching email addresses) for Serbia should now end in a ".rs" -- short for Republic of Serbia. Domains for Montenegro should end in ".me" until such time as they switch to ".ru" (Not really. That's just a little local real estate industry joke.)
A couple of online resources about international domains:
DNXPERT Daily Domain Blog
English language version of international site