This April, Europe's internet domain .eu celebrates its first year of being open to the public. Over 2.5 million domain names have been registered. This enormous number of active users makes .eu Europe's third most popular top level domain (TLD) and the seventh most popular worldwide. With a 17% increase of registrations over the past five months, .eu is also one of the fastest growing TLD names on the web. According to a recent Europe-wide study, use of the .eu has proved particularly effective for small businesses.
What is .eu?
.eu is Europe’s top level domain name that has been available since 7 April 2006 to all companies and organisations established in the EU and to every citizen resident in the EU. It does not replace the existing national country code TLDs in the EU (such as .fr, .de etc), but complements them and gives users the option of having a pan-European internet identity for their ‘internet presence’ – generally websites and email addresses.
For citizens, this TLD is a place in cyberspace, in which their rights as consumers and individuals are protected by European rules, standards and courts. For companies, a .eu TLD enhances their internet visibility within and beyond the EU single market, advertises their pan-European outlook and provides greater certainty as to the law, which should in turn foster electronic commerce and boost economic competitiveness and growth. Before .eu, firms wishing to take advantage of the single market were obliged to either base their internet presence in one country or to create websites in each of the EU countries in which they operate.
Since 7 April 2006 anyone established in the EU has been able to apply for .eu domain name (see IP/06/476). The right to apply for the registration of .eu names had been previously reserved to trademark holders and public bodies (from 7 December 2005 to 7 February 2006) and then had been extended to holders of other 'prior rights', such as company names or business identifiers (from 7 February to 7 April 2006).
The creation of .eu was decided by the European Council of Heads of State or Government of all EU Member States in Lisbon in 2000 as part of the eEurope initiative. Thereafter, the legal framework for .eu was created by the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers on a proposal from the European Commission.
What is a Top Level Domain (TLD)?
An internet domain name is used to identify particular web pages. Every domain name has a suffix that indicates the top level domain (TLD) to which it belongs. The TLD is the part of an internet domain name which can be found to the right of the last point. Generic TLDs include .com, .int, .net, .org, etc. There are also many country code top level domains (ccTLDs) such as .fr, .de and .uk. Each TLD is associated with a particular registry which registers the names associated with the TLD.
Have many companies and citizens registered already under .eu?
To date, over 2.5 million .eu names have been registered, making .eu Europe's third most popular country code top level domain name, and the seventh most popular TLD worldwide. Names were granted on a 'first come, first served' basis. For the current total figure see: http://status.eurid.eu/.
Within the European Union, .eu is only surpassed by the national top level domains (ccTLDs) for Germany and the UK, while globally only .com, .net, .org and .info can claim more registrations. The strongest demand for .eu domain names so far (7 April 2007) has come from Germany (31%), the United Kingdom (17%), The Netherlands (12%), France (6%) and Italy (6%). The latest figures with a breakdown per country are available at: http://status.eurid.eu/
The great success of the .eu has not reduced the interest of national domain names in Europe. On the contrary, the launch of the .eu has been accompanied by an increase in the number of national domain names being registered in most Member States. For instance, during the last 5 months (since October last year) the growth in registrations using Germany's domain name (.de) has been 5.4%, very similar to the 5% growth rate of the British (.uk) but still lower than the 10% growth in The Netherlands' (.nl) over the same period.
According to recent research of more than 2600 European small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the UK, France and Germany, .eu has proved effective for small businesses that use it. The Europe-wide study also found that French businesses in general had the best understanding of what .eu means. The study credits the .eu domain name as a powerful tool for business.
The survey also revealed that 68% of UK businesses using a .eu domain name registration believed it to be effective. Around half of users surveyed stated that the new domain had enhanced the image of their business. Some 43% had seen increased accessibility to opportunities in Europe. Over 77% of UK business users would recommend a .eu domain name to another business.
Are .eu domain names already used in practice?
.eu domain names are increasingly becoming a regular feature of Europe’s cyberspace and electronic market place.
Examples of companies actively using their .eu domain name include AirFrance, Versace, Mediamarkt, Aldi, Fragonard, Dexia, Illy, Milka and Stefanel. Examples of NGOs using .eu domain names include Greenpeace; an organisation campaigning for a female candidate for UN Secretary-General (www.unefemmealonu.eu, www.unamujerenlaonu.eu, www.chooseawomanforun.eu) and an alumni organisation of the ERASMUS MUNDUS student exchange programme. A number of companies including Lexus and Sony began using .eu domain in their advertising campaigns.
Now that the initial flush of registrations has passed, there is an increasing trend towards using .eu domains immediately they have been registered as opposed to simply registering them as a precautionary measure and letting them lie dormant. When the registry analysed the database in January 2007 more than 78% of all .eu domain names lead to a functioning website or email server.
Also, on Europe's day last year, 9 May 2006, the EU institutions' entire website (Europe's largest single site), and all their officials' email addresses, were switched over to .eu. From that day, the EU institutions offer a single gate for all European citizens within the .eu TLD: www.europa.eu.
Who is responsible for managing .eu?
In line with the principles of 'better regulation' and common practice in this field, the management of the .eu domain names has been entrusted to a private, independent, not-for-profit organisation called EURid.
EURid was created by the three national registries of Belgium, Italy and Sweden with associated members from the Czech Republic and Slovenia. EURid was selected by the Commission in 2003 following an open call for expressions of interest.
EURid operates independently of the European Commission, under a contract concluded for an initial period of five years, which allows only for a general supervisory role of the Commission in order to respect the independence of EURid. This clear separation of duties has been deliberately laid down in EC Regulation 733/2002 to ensure an independent day-to-day management of .eu, similar to the way country code TLDs or generic TLDs are managed worldwide. Since the entry into force of the contract on 12 October 2004, this has not entailed any Commission involvement in the actual work carried out by EURid.
For further information on EURid and its work: http://www.eurid.eu/en/general/
Anybody who lives in the European Union plus companies, organisations, businesses that are established in the EU (e.g. has a branch office in a Member State). Nationality of an EU Member State is not a prerequisite. The price for the registration of a domain name under .eu starts at around €15.
How can I register a .eu domain name?
All applications to register a domain name must be made through one of the appointed registrars. These are commercial companies accredited by EURid that compete with each other. There are more than 1000 registrars all over the world. A list of registrars may be found on the website of EURid:
During the registration process, registrars ask end users for various contact and technical information, keep records of the contact information and submit the technical information to the central directory, EURid.
EURid then inserts this information into a centralised database and enables it to be placed in internet zone files so that domain names can be found around the world via the web and email. End users are also required to enter a registration contract with the registrar, which sets out the terms under which registrations are accepted and maintained.
Administrative rules on how to register domain names are laid down in the EURid’s registration policy. The registration policy, rules, terms and conditions and guidelines can all be found on the website http://www.eurid.eu/content/view/32/54/lang,en/.
Administrative rules on how to register domain names are laid down on EURid’s website: http://list.eurid.eu/registrars/ListRegistrars.htm?lang=en.
What has been done to fight against abusive registrations and fraud with regard to .eu-registrations?
To minimise the risk of cybersquatting within the .eu TLD the European legislator has sought to develop appropriate tools that allow end users to preserve their rights. Three tools have been created with this intention: the reservation of names for Member States and EU institutions, the phased registration period and the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) procedure.
What happens if there is a dispute about a .eu domain name?
TLD disputes arise inevitably under all domain name systems because of the considerable commercial value that a specific domain name may represent, particularly for businesses.
To ensure an easier and quick resolution of domain name disputes under .eu, the EU’s legal framework for the registration of domain names under .eu provides for an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) procedure and lays down clear rules for implementing it. The dispute resolution procedure administered by the Czech arbitration court is based on recovery of costs. The procedure provides adequate procedural guaranties for the parties concerned and applies without prejudice to court proceedings.
Disputes within the ADR system for .eu may be initiated, in all EU languages, against bad faith or abusive registrations of domain names under the .eu TLD from third parties or against decisions taken by the Registry. The ADR procedure is described in detail on http://www.adr.eu/.
During the first year of operations the majority of the disputes (67%) have been filed against the Registry’s decisions (491) with the rest of the cases being initiated against the holders of .eu domain names (238). However, now that the phased registration period is over, this figure should invert and the majority of cases will be against domain name holders. New complaints are received at the rate of, approximately, one per day.
In view of the good results during the first year of operations, the Czech Arbitration Court lowered its fees by 7% as of 1 January 2007. This reduction adds to a 10% discount on the ADR Fees applicable to the Parties who use advanced electronic signatures for the ADR Proceedings.