This article was published on November 2, 2009

.TEL: Over-hyped and underused?

.TEL: Over-hyped and underused?
Martin SFP Bryant
Story by

Martin SFP Bryant


Martin SFP Bryant is the founder of UK startup newsletter PreSeed Now and technology and media consultancy Big Revolution. He was previously Martin SFP Bryant is the founder of UK startup newsletter PreSeed Now and technology and media consultancy Big Revolution. He was previously Editor-in-Chief at TNW.

.tel The new Top Level Domain launched earlier this year in a blaze of hype about how it would transform the way we share our contact information online. Eight months on from becoming generally available it’s not exactly fulfilled that promise.

How .tel works

In case it’s passed you by, .tel is basically an online business card. Visit someone’s .tel domain (usually in the format Person’ and you’ll find all the contact data for them; phone numbers, email addresses, postal address, website URLs, current location and the like. Some of that  data can be password protected so that only people you trust can view it.

.tel ExampleWhen it launched, .tel’s operator Telnic marketed it as a revolutionary way of keeping people in contact. Rather than having to reprint business cards when you change phone number or relocate, just update your .tel and get everyone to look at that.

Beyond that, there are mobile apps that have the potential to remove the need to ever remember a phone number again. Using .tel you could just select a name from your address book, select a contact method and you could be phoning or email without ever needing to know the actually number or email address you’re connecting to.

It’s a clever idea and one that might take off eventually. One person I follow on Twitter was so taken by the concept that he had business cards printed up that featured his .tel URL as the sole method of contact.

Where’s the takeup?

Despite the hype, where’s the takeup? Has anyone offered you their .tel domain in lieu of a telephone number or email address? If it’s such a great idea why hasn’t it become derigeur for early adopters to use .tel? I bought one at launch but I’ve never actually used it.

By May this year 200,000 .tel domains had been sold according to Telnic, but how many of those are in use? I’d wager that many, like mine, were bought speculatively and have sat idle ever since. We’re told many businesses are using them but I’ve never actually seen a company advertise its .tel

For some individuals, the idea of having your phone number on display online is far from appealing. Sure, you can password protect it, but suddenly you have an admin job on your hands as you have to decide who gets access to your complete details. It’s still much easier to just give someone a card.

Maybe Telnic just needs to explain what .tel offers a bit better. Despite the hype, having a .tel domain hasn’t become a sexy ‘must-have’ for anyone, even the early adopters you would think would lap this stuff up. When we covered the .tel launch announcement last year, Telnic’s Justin Hayward wrote several lengthy comments explaining .tel’s unique selling point and the post’s author Boris still said he didn’t quite get the point.

Maybe .tel will linger in oscurity until a big-name thought leader like Robert Scoble takes up its cause.

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