Those registering for the first time must still obtain a .aero ID before signing up with one of the eleven registrars currently offering the service. The first of these, and still one of the domain's most active registrars, was Cologne-based Secura GmbH. We spoke to Hans-Peter Oswald, the company's managing director.
Q: You applied for accreditation as a registrar in 2001, while the application for the .aero TLD was still being considered by ICANN. What led you to take the initiative so early on?
A: Mankind has been fascinated by flight since the mythological times of Icarus. Even selling a domain connected with air travel connects us to some of that mystery and romance. But perhaps more prosaically, Secura is accredited as a registrar for every generic top level domain. So of course we wanted to add .aero to our list.
We all know that the aero-domain is much more than a domain name - it's an Internet territory staked out by aviation for aviation. A .aero domain sets a qualified company - or individual - apart from today's crowded online environment and reinforces its identity as a key player in the global aviation community.
Q: Your website reflects your commitment to strong customer service. Have you found that dealing with the .aero domain has involved complexities that you have not faced with other domains? Have you needed to introduce any additional customer service elements to deal with .aero customers?
A: As I have explained, we offer .aero domains through our website (www.domainregistry.de) alongside many other domains - and our website is available in 11 languages. So we are used to dealing with people from many countries and many cultures. The world is our market and we aim to satisfy every customer.
However, selling .aero domains is completely different from any other domain. As your readers know, registration in .aero is not available to everyone. Unlike generic TLDs, .aero is only available to valid aviation community members - a process that safeguards .aero's exclusivity and integrity and communicates a unique identity for the company or individual. As a domain managed for the aviation community by the aviation community, registrants are assured that their most important online asset - branding and identity - is in safe hands.
I have no doubt that this level of security and integrity is strongly appreciated by the community - and at the highest level. A number of times I have answered the phone to find the CEO of an air transport global player asking for details about the .aero domain. That level of recognition is central to .aero's future success.
So, as to whether we have had to introduce any extra elements to deal with .aero customers, I would say only that we have had to ensure we understand the benefits of the .aero domain, and that we keep must abreast of the fascinating developments being undertaken by SITA, as sponsors of the domain, in the technical field.
Q: Given that those who can purchase a .aero name are closely restricted, have you found any particular difficulties in working with .aero customers?
A: Our .aero customers are, quite rightly, as demanding as our other customers over what they expect from us. But, whereas a company taking a .com domain regards it simply as a necessary piece of the network infrastructure, more and more .aero customers are recognizing that the domain has a great deal of potential to help them work more effectively and efficiently.
However, because of the restrictions on holding a .aero domain, we have to be more involved with our customers than for other domains. For example, we are the registrar of humor.aero. This is a website run by Martin Leeuwis Publications in the Netherlands, that has been publishing books of aviation humour and cartoons since 1982. On the other hand, despite the customer's protestations about the importance of competition and choice, we had to refuse to register sex.aero. The customer could not - and probably still does not - understand the importance of the .aero policy!
Q: Based on your experience, what do you consider the most important issues concerning the development and the future of the .aero domain? How do you see the role of Secura within that?
A: At Secura, we make a point of explaining to our customers the technology projects being undertaken by SITA in support of .aero.
For example, back in the year 2000, when the .aero-domain was first proposed, it was considered by some a futuristic idea. But others thought it was totally and utterly crazy to suggest that aircraft engines, seats, spare parts or individual passenger bags could have their own IP addresses or perhaps even a domain name. They could not see how the .aero initiative could provide the "glue" between the aviation industry and the Internet. Nor could they see what we are witnessing today - the fact that soon baggage will be monitored and tracked using RFID and the .aero domain, saving airlines and passengers a lot of trouble and cost over the bags that get lost.
So I wonder what the doubters would say now?
We already know that that the Airbus A-380 will have passive RFID chips on removable parts such as passenger seats, life vests, and brakes. But how will the mechanic in a remote hangar know what part is tagged and when to replace it? Thanks to the domain name system (DNS), this is where the Internet becomes the Internet of Things, and not just people.
EU Commissioner Viviane Reading said in her speech at the most recent Cebit that "...the innovative marriage of RFID tags, sensors, Galileo, 4G networks, Wi-Fi and artificial intelligence, will create an "intelligent infrastructure" that has the potential to dramatically reduce congestion and pollution, and enhance security, passenger monitoring and comfort."
Thanks to the work done by SITA and the Dot Aero Council, the .aero-domain initiative was created as a place where air transport policy and Internet policy can meet.
Over the past five years, we have come to understand the unique experience that SITA has of the needs and structure of communications and IT in the air transport community - and the role it's playing in moving the technology into radical new areas. We're very happy to be playing a part in that process.