Germans lead the charge to register .eu domain names

Within a week of registration opening for .eu domains, Brussels has been deluged with applications - with the Germans in the vanguard. Tom Rowland reports.

Since Friday, any of the European Union's 450 million citizens can register a new .eu domain name. Though the Brussels-based European Registry of Internet Domain Names (EURid) did not expect to be trampled in the stampede, it received 350,000 pre-registration applications and a further 560,000 on the first day - making .eu bigger than many small country domains, though still behind the 4.8m permutations of .uk, or the 10m .com domains.

What was interesting was that the EU and its 25 member states, besides having their "reserved" list of domain names (to prevent speculators grabbing, say, town names), also published a list of banned names.

Heading the banned list is "1000-jaehriges-reich.eu" ("thousand-year empire" - the Hitlerian dream). In there, too, are 3-reich, 4-reich, fuehrer-deutschland, hitler-deutschland and grossdeutsches-reich.eu. What's odd about the banned list is that only the German, Spanish and Greek governments seem to have contributed.

While the Germans concentrated on playing word games with the neo-Nazi fringe, the Spanish (in unusually monarchist mood) banned juan-carlos-borbon-espana, reina-sofia-espana and infanta-cristina-espana plus as many permutations of those as they could think of.

The Greeks seem to have misread the regulations and had the EU ban the use of long lists of Greek towns, place names and surnames that would more logically belong on the reserved list.

If anybody wanted them, however, 1000-jaehriges-reich.com, net, org, info, name and biz and were all still available last week; you could buy a pack of four for £100 or less from many British registries.

"The commission gave the member states the opportunity to [ban lists]. They have not supplied an explanation," said Patrik Lindén, spokesman for EURid, who concedes it is a pointless exercise. "If someone wants to put something on the web they will do that anyway," he said.

He also agrees it would have been natural to put many of the names on to the reserved list rather than the banned list.

He added: "The trouble is that if you wanted to have something about Nazis in Deutschland there are always going to be other possibilities. You could buy the .com or try with or without the hyphen."

The Germans were well ahead in registering .eu domains. Of the 346,218 pre-registration applications, 28% came from Germany, ahead of the Netherlands 16.6%, France 11.1% and the UK 9.4%.

The reason for the heavy covering of German towels on this virtual beach is probably that Germany already has nearly 10m .de suffixes.

"There are a lot of people who are aware of domain names, know about it and realise the potential," says Lindén.

Ed Philips, solicitor for Nominet, the not-for-profit company that administers all registrations of the .uk suffix, said: "We have an extremely liberal registration policy. Our experience has been it is not at all problematic and if you want to have a website with some wacky name then on the whole, good luck to you," he said.

Nominet estimates that there is a dispute of some sort over one in every 1,600 domains registered. Technically, every name must be unique; but the same word can belong to a different domain - so London.ac.uk is different from London.co.uk.

"We have always resisted having blocked or banned names because every special interest group, every trademark holder wants you to block their name. It becomes impossible," explains Philips.

· If you'd like to comment on any aspect of Technology Guardian, send your emails to tech@theguardian.com

Tom Rowland

The GuardianTramp

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