The Northeast Florida Multiple Listing Service is the newest member of the MLS Domains Association, a nonprofit company formed in March to create and manage a new "generic" top-level Internet domain: .MLS.

A total of 16 MLSs have signed up to date as founding members of the MLS Domains Association, each paying more than $13,000 in fees that could be lost if the effort does not succeed.

The group has estimated it will need to raise about $185,000 in order file an application to obtain and manage the .MLS domain with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Backers of the effort hope that at least 175 of the nation’s roughly 900 MLSs will sign up by the fourth quarter of 2010, not only to cover the cost of the application process but to demonstrate that the MLS Domains Association represents the industry.

The group wants to make the .MLS top-level domain available only to multiple listing services, so that consumers can distinguish them from third-party listing sites. U.S. trademark law doesn’t allow MLSs to claim exclusive use to the term "multiple listing service," and third-party companies that are not MLSs have claimed .COM or .NET domain names that include the term MLS.

If the effort succeeds, Cameron Paine, CEO of the Connecticut Multiple Listing Service, Inc., questions in a recent white paper whether the public will know — or care — that the .MLS domain has been reserved for multiple listings services.

Third-party websites that don’t remove outdated listings are sometimes incorrectly perceived by the public as more comprehensive than MLS sites, he noted.

"If we have not been able to educate the public on this single core difference between MLS and non-MLS sites, how can we possibly expect them to care about the .MLS domain?" Paine writes. "The simple fact is that if we move to the .MLS, the public will continue to search in the .com environment for listings — just not on our MLS websites."

Creating a .MLS domain will not stop third parties from using ".com" domains that include MLS, Paine concludes. "As a result, we end up spending time, money, and resources on something that will not correct the problem."

The MLS Domains Association recently published details on the fees and benefits it’s offering founding members. According to the group’s website:

  • The cost for founder status is a one-time fee of $13,333
  • The entire amount of the fee is "at-risk." If there’s not enough industry support to apply to ICANN for the .MLS top-level domain, or if the Association’s application is rejected, founding members will not receive their money back.
  • Founders can claim up to 10 domains during "founders sunrise," from June 15-July 29.
  • Claim fees are $800 per domain, and founders receive $10,000 in credits. In other words, founders that claim 13 domains will recover $10,000 of their $13,333 fee.

The 15 previously announced founding members of the MLS Domains Association are: Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service Inc., Austin Board of Realtors/ACTRIS, Carolina Multiple Listing Services Inc., First Multiple Listing Service Inc., Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc., Midwest Real Estate Data LLC, Multi Regional Multiple Listing Service, Multiple Listing Service Inc., My Florida Regional MLS, Realcomp II Ltd., Realtor Association of Greater Fort Lauderdale, Regional Multiple Listing Service of Minnesota Inc., Southern California Multiple Listing Service, TREND MLS, and Triangle Multiple Listing Service.


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