.TEL, one of a stream of new top level domain dames approved by the quasi-governmental Los Angeles-based ICANN, will go on sale shortly. Like other domain name types, you’ll be able to buy your .TEL at your favorite domain name registrar (eNom, Godaddy, Network Solutions, Register.com, etc.).
You can start buying the domains in March, for something above the wholesale price of $10. Here’s what you get: a page hosted by Telnic (the company behind .Tel) that includes your name, phone number, fax number, email, and other links you want to add. You can’t add pictures (or, if you are a business, logos) to the site. An example, with the data from Telnic itself, is here.
The data is public, but you can choose to hide some of the data and show it just to friends, which must also have a .TEL address. The idea is you don’t need to give out a business card to people, you just tell them your .TEL address. It sounds official because it’s a sanctioned domain name. But in reality it’s just another startup that paid a fee to ICANN for the right to sell you a web page that has all your personal information published on it.
The period from now until March when the domains go on sale in general is a special time that domain registrars get to shake down trademark holders, who’ll pay $400/year to reserve their names in the system. Trademark holders don’t want these domains, but they pay to avoid letting others get them. So Apple, for example, will likely shell out thousands of dollars to register all their trademarks so that no one else can get them. After this early period, it’s anything goes, and people can register and use whatever they want.
There is nothing that .TEL does that Facebook and other services don’t do already (and better). Nor is .TEL somehow more trustworthy because it has ICANN’s backing – ICANN is notorious for approving just about any new project as long as they get their fees (ICANN was in favor of creating a special porn domain name until the U.S. Senate suggested it might be a bad idea). And users will also need to buy the domain names through registrars, which are notorious for abusing user trust.
In other words, these are the last people you want to be holding all of your personal information.