Between a Dot and a Hard Place

Competition grows fierce in battle for city’s top-level domain name

In one corner, we have Dot Vegas Inc., backed by the city. In the other corner,, backed by the county. The prize for which they’re fighting? Control over top-level domain .vegas.

In the coming months, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is expected to publish rules for registering top-level domain names and begin accepting applications for those names. In the past, applying for a top-level domain name (that’s the name to the right of the dot—com, gov, biz) has been a long, difficult, unpredictable and convoluted process. But now that ICANN is streamlining it, queues are beginning to form in anticipation. Entrepreneurs and established companies in cities throughout the world are clamoring to get their mitts on their own city as a domain name. Which brings us to the .vegas scenario.

Jim Trevino says he’s been speaking with city officials about applying for .vegas for the past two years. The CEO and president of Dot Vegas Inc. thinks there’s tremendous marketing and profit potential behind owning that domain. Vegas is, after all, a highly successful brand.

In February, the Las Vegas City Council voted 4-3 to support his application to ICANN (which won’t accept applications until it’s done making and publishing the rules, expected to be announced in June). In exchange, Trevino promised the city 75 cents (or 10 percent, whichever is greater) from each .vegas registration. His goal is to get 300,000 to 500,000 to register in the first five years.

“Whoever wins in this—and we are obviously hopeful that we will—the city will win in ways that we can’t even measure today,” Trevino says.

The county, on the other hand, has put its support behind a different company’s application for .vegas. It’s backing, owned by the Greenspun family (which also owns the Las Vegas Sun, Las Vegas Weekly and a number of other local publications). In return, has offered the county $1.50 per registration (or 10 percent, whichever is greater). No one at was available for comment.

While the drama brings up a number of questions—such as, Does .vegas denote the Strip? And if so, the Strip is in the county but outside the city limits, so where does that leave us? And should the city, county or both prosper from the use of .vegas? Who gets what ultimately will be decided by ICANN.

“The fact that you have two 800-pound elephants fighting in a room … really does not guarantee that either one of us will win when it comes to ICANN, because ICANN will make the final decision,” Trevino says.

The larger question is, well, who cares? Will people and businesses really be clamoring to add a Vegas suffix to their address? In a world where .com rules, despite various attempts to unseat it (from .travel to .mobi), can we expect something like .vegas to convince us to change our www-ways?

Only time will tell, of course, but for now Paul D. McGrady Jr. shares some insight. He is a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig and author of McGrady on Domain Names (Lexis Nexis/Matthew Bender; 2007).

The master of domains says ICANN is, indeed, taking a risk to see if there’s a market for these new top-level domain names, but there have been successes with geographic indication top-level domains in the past. “A lot of people don’t know this,” McGrady says, “but after .com the two most successful top-level domain names are and .de for Germany.” He went on to paint a possible picture of the future, where top-level domains rule and consumers are taught to look to the right side of the dot—.pepsi, .marriott, .vegas, etc.—rather than the left. McGrady says that’s when the tables could really turn, and .com could be seen as “the mom-and-pop, $12-a-year, low-rent area of the Internet.”

Should that occur, those top-level domain name holders approved by ICANN could be in luck.

“Then, if you are a city dependent on tourism and consumers are looking for the .[city] and they can’t find it,” McGrady says, “that’s going to be sort of a weird spot to be in.”