ICANN listing puts Microsoft into domain name game

Microsoft Corp. can now register top-level Internet domains.

Last week, the company was added to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) list of accredited domain name registrars, according to domain name service provider Dot and Co. This means that Microsoft can now add new top-level domains to the databases used by computers on the Internet.

Microsoft said in a statement Tuesday that the ICANN accreditation “will be helpful and educational for us as policies evolve and we introduce new and improved Internet-based services to our customers.”

“Becoming an ICANN-accredited registrar is just one of many ways we can improve our customers’ online and search experience,” the statement said.

The move is probably related to its Office Live product, which is expected to emerge from its beta testing period on Nov. 15, according to Rich Miller, an analyst with Internet research firm Netcraft Ltd.

Microsoft offers free domain name registration to Office Live users and to date the company has been using Melbourne IT Ltd. for this service. By becoming a registrar in its own right, Microsoft could cut costs, Miller said.

Though its status as a registrar makes it possible, Miller does not expect Microsoft to get into a new business selling US$7 per year domain name registrations. “The most sensible approach for them is do what they’re doing with Office Live,” he said. “Use the domain name to establish the relationship and then offer additional services.”

Being a registrar also gives Microsoft better access to the top-level domain databases and could help the company improve its Live Search product, Miller said.

Google Inc. has also become a domain name registrar so that it can quickly determine when domains have changed hands and then adjust their search ranking accordingly, he said.

Microsoft did not say how its accreditation would affect its relationship with Melbourne IT, but the company said it has “no plans to become active domain registrar at this time.”

Microsoft became a registrar on Oct. 31, according to Dot and Co., and is now accredited to register .com, .net, .org, .biz, .info, .name and .pro top-level domains.

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