Some thoughts on .tel


Just a few quick thoughts.

.tel is yet another top level domain to go with all those other highly profitablepopular ones. You know, like .biz, .museum, .info, etc.

This domain is different - this domain is single purpose. .tel's raison d'être is to abolish the business card. No more handing over little cardboard oblongs, in the glorious future, we'll just say

"Visit aitch-tee-tee-pee colon slash-slash edent dot tell... No... Tell. It's spelled TEA-EE-EL. Yes. Just one EL. No, I don't know why. Here, let me write it down for you on a little cardboard oblong..."

So, as you've guessed, I'm not the world's biggest fan. But I was "lucky" enough to win a free domain courtesy of TelReg. As I'm a freebie customer, I don't think it's fair of me to critique them in any way - but I'm sure going to critique the whole .tel idea.

First of all, why not take a look at the site. edent.tel. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Yeuch! What a dull looking site. There is, at the moment, no way to customise the look and feel, I can't even add my picture (not that it would make the site look much better...). I can, however, add some very limited information.

Now, I'm not a professional usability expert - but even I can point out the dull text, the huge dead space, the reliance on scrolling. Yeuch.

To make matters worse, there is a mobile version of this page. Seeing as most of the people to whom I'd give a business card will have a mobile phone, this makes sense. Let's take a look at it in two popular phones.

iPhone 3G.

BlackBerry Bold (9000).


Yeuch! Again, no panache, no style. Just dull dull dull text. You'd think that the .VCARD link would be the top link, wouldn't you? That would be a basic usability feature. But no.

As an aside, the iPhone can't even download the .VCARD. This is the fault of Apple.

But the .tel people shouldn't even offer a link to a phone they know can't support it.

Anyway. As I've said, I've got this free for a year. A few hours in and I can't see myself renewing it. If .tel can improve some of their basic flaws and improve their customer perception, I might reconsider.

I sort of like the idea. But I prefer SyncML sites. Take ZYB - (owned by Vodafone, who own me. Yes, I am biased) - if I give you my ZYB address, and we connect, whenever I change my address or telephone number it is automatically updated on your phone. Smart. And also pretty. Two things that .tel is not.

3 thoughts on “Some thoughts on .tel

  1. Hi Terence, here are my thoughts, cross-posted to http://rikkles.blogspot.com/2009/04/response-to-shksprmobi.html :

    I’m glad you won a free .tel domain and have had the chance to quickly and simply populate it, without developing or hosting a website. As you say, a completely different domain. But then you state:

    ".tel is yet another top level domain to go with all those other highly profitable-popular ones. You know, like .biz, .museum, .info, etc."

    I love that play on profitable/popular, especially since .tel was designed so that it would be totally different from any other TLD: no websites, and therefore no parking pages, no ads, no redirects, no popup, popunders or malware. That was pretty clearly understood by the domainer community, as comparatively very few .tel were registered in the landrush period, which historically has been to grab, monetize, flip or taste potentially highly monetizable domains.

    Now you think a conversation will go like this:
    "Visit aitch-tee-tee-pee colon slash-slash edent dot tell... No... Tell. It's spelled TEA-EE-EL. Yes. Just one EL. No, I don't know why. Here, let me write it down for you on a little cardboard oblong..."

    Here's how the real conversation goes, as I've had it happen at least a hundred times already with my domain that I've had for over a year:
    "Contact me on henri.tel"
    "Oh? on the web?"
    "sure. everything's there. phone, email, skype.."
    "great, thanks"

    And then the inevitable happens when I get an email from those people:
    "I love your henri.tel! so simple! Where can I get mine?"

    Now compare that to:
    "Got a pen? write down my number: 1-202-5551212"
    "and what's your email?"
    "oah yes, it's xxx@vodafone.com. With an f, not a p-h"

    Now you wonder about why it's so plain:
    "First of all, why not take a look at the site. edent.tel... [Snipped a whole discussion about how ugly it looks]... no panache, no style. Just dull dull dull text."

    In your opinion it's dull. I guess that’s because you work for a mobile telecommunications company that wants people to spend lots of money downloading content over your mobile internet. Dull in this case means cheap, quick and accessible. Usability does not mean whizzy, colourful, mesmerizing – it means functional. When I want to contact you, I don't care about pretty pictures. I want to click-call as quickly as possible.
    Sure I could have your info in my address book, but I'll never know if it's the right info. Getting it really fast from the Net is the way to do it. You can cache it (except for the iPhone not understanding vCard, but with a native app there's no problem), but that would be your choice.

    Speaking of "pretty", the website you went to is simply a basic interface to the actual data stored in the DNS. You do NOT NEED the website to get to the data. A number of applications already understand .tel domains and go straight to the DNS to grab the data, making the whole idea of "pretty" totally moot. Your .tel is a personal, distributed and privacy-enabled datastore for your contact information. Not a website. Any connected device can read that datastore (because they read DNS) and display it any which way it wants. The website is just a convenience. A simple, quick and standardized convenience. In fact, you do not want the web if you can avoid it. It's slow and inefficient. Using one of the plug-ins for Blackberry or Outlook for example, they pop .tel data in your address book and cache it intelligently, and there's no need to download a static VCard that will get obsolete.

    One thing you will have spotted however if you’ve done your research rather than a quick on-spec is that we listen to our users. We’ve tweaked and continue to tweak the interfaces for the web browsers. But because you’re sucking information from the DNS into a proxy page, this isn’t the be-all and end-all. We’ll continue to listen, even to members of the community who have guest passes and didn’t pay their money – including you Terence! Thank you for taking the time to put your thoughts down and I hope you appreciate we read everything and try to respond where we can.

    One more point I’d like to make in your comparison. SyncML depends 100% on having supported phones. What if I'm in front of a computer and I have my office phone? Or Skype? or a softphone (like Kiax for example http://sourceforge.net/projects/kiax). The idea of a universal point of contact works when you've got the following features:

    - ubiquitous access
    - very fast
    - very cheap if not free
    - easily updated
    - owned by you so that you're independent of any service providers

    That is what ZYB can never be, and that is what .tel is. However, with an account on ZYB, you could easily update your .tel and sync to ZYB or vice versa. Use ZYB to push the SyncML data to who you want, but edent.tel is significantly lower level, works pretty much every way, and is guaranteed to be yours even when Vodafone decides that ZYB should be discontinued for some reason.

    Your .tel is your own personal, distributed datastore for your contact information, public or private, for as long as you decide.

    I hope the above explains to you what we know that .tel is, and I hope you can now make a decision on whether to keep your .tel next year – keep your eyes open for updates however!

  2. Cross posted to Rik's blog
    As you were kind enough to comment on my blog, I'll return the courtesy 🙂

    I'll tackle your very well reasoned points in order.

    I love that play on profitable/popular, especially since .tel was designed so that it would be totally different from any other TLD: no websites, and therefore no parking pages, no ads

    Take a look at http://mobile.tel/ - looks like a parking page with an advert to me. True, no banner adverts or malware on there. But hackers are inventive - DNS ones especially so - I'm not convinced that the security will hold up for ever; it never does.

    In your opinion it's dull. I guess that’s because you work for a mobile telecommunications company that wants people to spend lots of money downloading content over your mobile internet

    Close. In reality, I'm speaking as a UE designer. I don't think the site is well organised, I don't think much UI or UE research has been done on it (and certainly very little has been done on the control panel). When I see someone else's site, I'm glad that it's uncluttered but it is fairly "bare bones" at the moment. I'm not proud to send the link to my colleagues - it doesn't have that level of attractiveness (which doesn't have to mean bloat).

    As for wanting people to download more data - you bet I do. That's why I'm glad that .tel websites are full of code comments, extraneous whitespace and a bizarre plethora of tags.
    As a quick example, my .tel weighs in at around 9KB. With a bit of optimisation, that's down to ~4.5KB.
    You serve the file http://d1.webproxy.nic.tel/default/desktop/images/icons2.gif even when not all the icons are needed. All the images on the site could be further optimised.

    SyncML depends 100% on having supported phones.

    And .tel relies on having .tel capable handsets and / or address books. How many of them are on the market compared to SyncML capable phones? It's the same problem everyone has - bootstrapping. It will be interesting to see which makes it in to the majority of handsets in the next few years - Vanilla VCARDs, .tel, SyncML or something else entirely.

    is guaranteed to be yours even when Vodafone decides that ZYB should be discontinued for some reason.

    And what happens if my registrar or TelNic inc goes bust? But, yes, I take your point - the cloud is too fragile to hold our data. Local backup for everything important is a must.

    I know I'm coming off as a whiny spoilt brat who is having a tantrum over his free toy. The thing is, I quite like the idea of .tel - I'm just not convinced by it in its current form. I look forward to having my mind changed 🙂

    The one thing that would convince me it was worthwhile? Give users a counter so they know how many times their .tel has been visited and how many people download their business card. That way - after a year, I can assess whether more people have seen it than have been given my physical card.

    Good luck with everything - I look forward to seeing how it evolves.

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