Even if you are not familiar with the term "top level domains" or TLD's, you know what they are: think dot com, dot biz, dot net, dot info, and so many others it's difficult to keep track of them all.

The purpose of TLD's has traditionally been remarkably limited. They provide conveniently remembered names that help you get to websites or send email. It's much easier to tell someone to go to www.infocommercegroup.com than to go to

But there is a whole new twist on the concept of TLD's coming in just a few weeks. That's when a new TLD called dot tel opens for business. Operated by Telnic Limited, the new dot tel domain has big ambitions: it wants to be a full-fledged universal contact directory.

I am sure I am poorly describing the underlying technology, but when you order a dot tel domain name, you essentially get both a domain name and a home page. On that home page, you can provide four types of information in a highly structured format: basic contact details (physical address, phone, fax), navigational details (deep links to your corporate website or contact information for departments, subsidiaries or branch offices), geolocation details (links to Google maps) and keywords describing your business. The whole design and format is particularly well optimized for mobile devices.

This is a fascinating concept from a number of angles. First, by specifying a structure to the information that appears on a dot tel "home page," users can be sure of what they will find every time they go to a dot tel domain. Second, you can argue that a company might be better off promoting its dot tel domain than its current company domain because the dot tel domain functions as a convenient "switchboard" of sorts, making it easy for users to get to critical pieces of information conveniently. Third, if dot tel takes off, it could become a central reference database that provides always-current and trusted company contact data. This was a role I thought Plaxo was poised to assume before it decided to morph into a poor imitation of Linked-In.

This is a creative venture with a lot of potential. But will it fly? That's always the question with ambitious and ground-breaking schemes like these. But judging by the big ads in the big media I have been seeing for dot tel, a serious push is going to be made to get market traction. Keep an eye on this one.

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