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Bit.ly Pro is great news for ccTLD owners

Country code registrars around the world must have been smiling when Bit.ly announced its new enterprise service Bit.ly Pro.

For $995 per month a company can leverage Bit.ly’s platform to support its own custom URL. (UPDATE: You can get Bit.ly Pro for free, but with a usage cap and limited feature set; see comments below).

At this price point, we’re only talking about large companies, but there are plenty of them that will find value in having a branded URL that provides excellent tracking data. Bit.ly reports that 6,000 companies have signed up so far. And while not all of these companies will use ccTLDs, most of them probably will.

Companies that are now using Bit.ly Pro include Amazon (amzn.to) and the New York Times (nyti.ms).

And, looking ahead, I’m sure the price of this service will drop, which will attract many more companies into the fold.

I’ve collected a running list of companies using ccTLDs in creative ways here. I expect this list to grow rapidly in the months ahead.

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In Canada, .ca is replacing .com

I spent a few days in Canada recently and was struck but how many billboards, newspapers, and web sites prominently displayed .ca instead of .com.

I started writing down every localized domain I encountered and here’s what I ended up with after the first day:

Two years ago, when I was last in Canada, several of the companies mentioned above used .com for local promotions. Back then, I struggled to find any mention of .ca — anywhere.

Perhaps a burst of national pride triggered by the Olympics gave advertisers a good reason to emphasize .ca.

Or perhaps there is a larger trend at work here — a shift in the way companies promote themselves around the world.

Advertisers are coming to the realization that .com isn’t local enough.

“Local” is in these days.

Not just with organic produce and manufacturing, but with domain names. I’m not suggesting that .com domains are in danger. Not in the least.

But I am suggesting that ccTLDs have a very bright future.

And not just in Canada.

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Kindle goes international, but not multilingual

kindle_intl

The Kindle has gone international, sort of.

That is, Amazon is launching a new Kindle outfitted with a radio chip that works in most of the world’s cellular markets (100+) — as opposed to the US-only Kindle, which operates only on Sprint’s network.

Unfortunately, just because someone in, say, Russia will be able to download a book, doesn’t mean that the book itself will display Cyrillic characters.

You see, even though the Kindle may operate in much of the world, it is still a Latin-only device.

I learned this the hard way when I helped adapt Forgetting English for the Kindle. For example, in the short story First Sunday the Tongan line “Pou’li ā, Sione” came out as “Pou’li a, Sione” — minus the ā.

That’s because “ā” and many other extended Latin characters won’t display properly. Needless to say, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, and Japanese aren’t going to have much luck either. Based on my parsing the sparse documentation on the Amazon site, I understand the issue isn’t a lack of Unicode support but a lack of font support.

Apparently you can use this Unicode hack to get your Kindle to display non-Latin characters, but this is hardly a mainstream solution. People shouldn’t have to download their own fonts to display the books they want to read. Basic font support in an e-reader is, well, something you would expect to find installed by default.

I’ve since come across a number of people who develop books for the Kindle who aren’t exactly happy about the situation.

Why doesn’t Amazon include a Unicode-friendly font on its device? Perhaps this was by design, to save on memory. After all, a Unicode font can easily weigh more than several MB, which takes away from precious book storage space.

My opinion is this: Amazon didn’t design globallay from day one. And that’s a shame for readers and writers alike. When you compare the Kindle with the iPhone, which supports more than 30 languages, I can only say that I’m looking forward to the coming of the iTablet.