Few in online medical community choose ".md"

Registrations for this Internet domain extension remain low, but some still see opportunity in what is being pitched as a medical-specific Web presence.

By Pamela Lewis Dolan — Posted Dec. 10, 2007

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Despite a 2004 settlement that opened the doors for American physicians and other medical-related entities to create ".md" Web sites, that domain extension has experienced a quiet existence for the past three years.

MaxMD, a Jersey City, N.J.-based company took over ".md" registration rights through an agreement with the Republic of Moldova in 2004 and is now the exclusive ".md" registrar for the United States and 90 other countries. But in the past three years, only about 6,000 organizations have registered an ".md" domain, the company said. When compared with the 138 million ".com" domains that are registered, ".md" is barely a blip.

Scott Finlay, CEO of MaxMD, said ".md" hasn't become a well-known specialty domain extension in part because of the company's efforts to keep the domain part of a niche market aimed specifically at the medical community. Instead of creating an outside marketing campaign for ".md" sites, the company is instead relying on word of mouth.

While ".com" and ".net" domains can be registered at one of more than 840 registrars, less than 20 organizations are contracted with MaxMD to offer ".md" domains, and most are private organizations, such as medical societies, that offer registration only to members. Registrants must also sign an agreement stating the ".md" Web site will be used only for medical-related content.

The Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers assigned each country throughout the world a domain extension in 1994. The extensions assigned to some countries -- such as Moldova's ".md" and the Tuvalu Island's ".tv" -- were seen by some Internet entrepreneurs as having huge marketing potential.

The natural connection between ".md" and medical-related Web content led to an American company gaining registration rights from Moldova. But registration of sites came to a halt when that company was sued and later went bankrupt. Moldova received the rights back to its domain in 2003 and then sold those rights to MaxMD.

Osteopathic physicians wanting a domain address ending in ".do" have to apply directly through the government of the Dominican Republic, which controls that country code. But the country normally requires a ".com," ".org" or other common domain to appear before the country domain. There could be a "," but no ""

While no one expects specialty sites such as ".md" to ever rival their ".com" counterparts, some still believe they are a good way for latecomers, such as physicians, to enter the online world.

According to Jeremiah Johnston, COO and general counsel for Sedo, an online domain marketplace that registers specialty domains, but not ".md," latecomers to the online world are turning to specialty domain extensions because, chances are, whatever the desired Web site name, someone has already registered it as a ".com."

The more common the word or phrase, the more money it will take to get rights to the name -- likely in the thousands of dollars. Most ".md" sites can be acquired for $150 per year.

When Cincinnati investor Joe Benza discovered the ".md" extension in 2004, he went on a buying spree. He obtained more than 1,000 ".md" sites, including more than 300 city-specific ".md" domains, such as "," and "" He created a company called LLC, which hosts location-specific physician ranking programs on each of the city ".md" Web sites.

Benza, too, chose not to market his sites and is following MaxMD's lead with a word-of-mouth campaign aimed at doctors, whom he hopes will direct patients to the sites and possibly establish ".md" sites of their own.

Shama Hyder, a Dallas-based online marketing expert and consultant said in an e-mail to AMNews that efforts such as "will bolster people's view of the '.md' extension as a respectable one." And gaining respectability has been hard for other specialty domains, she said.

Johnston said the success of ".md" sites cannot be gauged by the number of ".md" domains compared with ".com." For example, he said, " '.tv' has been a success, but a mixed success. People have built sites and done it well, but it's not a situation where everyone must have a '.tv' extension."

Finlay said the company is targeting doctors who don't yet have a Web presence.

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