.swiss: more than just a domain ending

The German motto ‘Ist Schweiz drin, gehört .swiss dran’ (which loosely translates to ‘if it’s a Swiss site, .swiss is right’) became the slogan for BAKOM, Switzerland’s Federal Office of Communications, in their 2015 campaign. The aim was to make the new top level domain, .swiss, a tasteful and uniform domain ending for Swiss businesses and organisations.  After a three month introductory phase, which was primarily intended for public bodies such as registered businesses, associations, and foundations, the namespace .swiss was rolled out for public use in January 2016. This means that smaller, private organisations and foundations now have the opportunity to use the new domain ending. So do these websites now stand in direct competition with websites featuring the country-specific .ch domain? And what is so special about the new .swiss ending?

The story behind .swiss

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) have been responsible for awarding new generic top level domains (gTLDs) since 2013. After years of development and extensive tests, central registries like BAKOM have gradually gained access to these modern domain endings, which promote competition and diversity in the internet’s address system. Besides .swiss, these new gTLDs include thematic endings such as .hotel and .restaurant, as well as geographical endings like .miami or .quebec.

In 2015, ICANN released .swiss, kicking off their new campaign. The introductory phase resulted in 6,628 domain names being distributed, primarily to public limited companies (PLC) and private limited companies (LTD). These companies took 58% and 15% of the domain names respectively. Since the official launch, domain registries have received over ten thousand further applications for the .swiss domain ending. The release of such a TLD takes places within 20 days, assuming there’s no competition from another application, or any other kind of restrictions to the desired internet address.

What makes the new Swiss domain so different

Introducing a new TLD is by no means an attempt by Switzerland’s domain registries to replace the country-specific domain ending, .ch. With around two million web addresses registered under this domain ending, the standard .ch is among the world’s most popular country TLDs, relative to Switzerland’s population. This means that Swiss companies are running out of options for new .ch addresses - especially highly coveted, short and snappy ones.

The .swiss domain thus offers organisations and businesses new options when it comes to choosing web addresses, enabling them to create a domain that both indicates their defining features whilst also highlighting their Swiss location. This also promises to increase brand awareness beyond its borders, where Switzerland’s strong position on the international stage often plays a critical role in building a good reputation for its exports. To guarantee the high standard of new generic TLDs in the long-term, BAKOM uses the following three factors:

  • Exclusivity: those applying for a .swiss web address should be able to demonstrate some kind of connection to the country. Registering for this domain without an office or physical base in Switzerland is not possible. Additionally, businesses and sole proprietorships must be listed in the Swiss commercial register (although this does not necessarily apply to foundations and associations). Individuals are not permitted to file for an application.
  • Prioritising public institutions and trademark owners: public bodies and trademark owners were given preferential treatment during the introductory phase. BAKOM retains this approach and offers companies the option to make claims during the 20-day grace period that is necessary for validating the requested domain. Another prerequisite is that requested names must have some tangible relation to the applicant and their business model. 
  • Exceptions for generic names: generic domain names like chocolate.swiss or sport.swiss are subject to special protection. These can only be used for the overall benefit of the wider community and must therefore represent all or a sizeable portion or the persons concerned. BAKOM allocates such generic addresses by way of a mandate. You can find a list of examples, as well as extensive information on applying for a mandate here.

How to register a .swiss address

If your association or business satisfies the specified requirements for a .swiss domain, you can use this as an opportunity to snap up an exclusive web address. As a registry operator, BAKOM has authorised many registries to distribute the new generic top-level domain. Fees vary between providers and fluctuate between 110 and 190 Swiss francs per year. This price tag ensures .swiss ranks among the more expensive domain endings, which is doubtless due to the exclusivity and high quality of the domain ending. On the official homepage, dot.swiss, you can find an overview of the accredited registries and resellers that offer the .swiss domain.