New company makes push for ".md" domain
■ After a legal fight, Moldova's Web domain is again available to doctors and health care businesses as a way to market themselves.
With legal issues that once hampered the growth of ".md" Web addresses now cleared up, the domain is back on the market with a new company hoping to sell its logical connection to physicians.
MaxMD, a Jersey City, N.J.-based company, has acquired the marketing rights to the ".md" domain, a top-level name owned by the Republic of Moldova.
The company began actively marketing the domain last spring and already has registered several thousand domain names to organizations ranging in size from individual physicians to multinational corporations.
The advantage of the ".md" domain is it presents an opportunity for physicians to create their own brand, said MaxMD CEO Scott Finlay.
"Our pitch is to create a domain dedicated to the health care industry," Finlay said.
MaxMD has plenty of competitors. One is San Francisco-based Medem Inc., which offers health information, Web sites, online consultation and secure messaging services to more than 90,000 physicians. It was founded and is partly owned by several medical societies, including the AMA.
MaxMD charges $150 per year to register a domain name, though some more common names, such as "familyphysician" or "orthopedist" are considered premium domains and are more expensive.
MaxMD also offers Web design, e-mail and Web hosting packages for physicians. That price is higher than most -- some other services will register dot-com domain names for less than $10 per year.
Still, MaxMD says several big names in health care already have registered names. Johnson & Johnson, for example, has registered more than 120 names, Finlay said. Meanwhile, you can access the National Institutes of Health Web site by visiting either "www.nih.gov" or "www.physician.md." Many individual doctors and smaller physician groups have found suitable domain names, Finlay said.
So-called top-level domains were originally assigned by the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers in 1994. Every nation has a top-level domain, or "country code." The United States is ".us," Great Britain is ".uk" and Canada is ".ca."
But some countries were lucky enough to get a marketable name. For example, the tiny nation of Tuvalu, population 11,000, gross national product $12 million, got the use of ".tv." In 1998, Tuvalu signed a 10-year deal with an American company that will give the country $50 million over that time to lease the ".tv" domain.
Moldova, a former Soviet state located just south of Ukraine, drew the ".md" domain. Described by the CIA Factbook as the "poorest country in Europe," the nation of 4.5 million citizens attempted to forge deals for domain marketing rights.
But the ".md" domain soon became muddled in legal controversy and bankruptcy proceedings involving some of the early ".md" marketing pioneers. A U.S. bankruptcy court ordered all control of the domain returned to Moldova in early 2003.
MaxMD now has exclusive marketing rights in more than 90 countries, including nations in North America, South America and Europe. However, Moldova receives a percentage of revenue from every domain name registered with the company, rather than a flat fee.
Osteopathic physicians can register a ".do" domain name, ".do" being the country code of the Dominican Republic. The nation's registrars offer ".com.do" domains for commercial entities (irrespective of local presence in the Dominican Republic); and other second-level domains, such as "net.co" and "org.do" are also available. However, there is not the concerted effort to market the ".do" domain as there is for ".md."