Small firms still have a lot of catching up to do online, according to David Curtin, chief executive of the IE Domain Registry (IEDR) which manages Ireland’s .ie internet address space.
Mr Curtin said many companies still had a “picture postcard” website containing little more than contact details, with few using their sites for e-commerce or product promotion.
“Those days are over, there is a lot of untapped potential online now,” he said. “Companies should be using their websites as sales channels as it is available to customers 24/7, not like their existing sites which are basically nine to five.”
Mr Curtin suggested that Ireland’s lacklustre performance in broadband had been one reason why small businesses held back from investing online.
However he said that broadband infrastructure and take-up had improved in recent years but small firms failed to keep up with that. The registry had seen a significant increase in the number of small businesses and sole traders buying .ie domains in the past year.
This, he added, was likely to be a side-effect of rising unemployment, with many of those affected deciding to establish small businesses and start-ups instead.
The IEDR took over the running of the .ie domain in 2000 and currently has 142,000 sites registered on its database, about 40 per cent of all Irish-owned domains.
This week it is hosting a meeting of the Council of European National Top Level Domain Registries, which will include representatives of 58 international registry bodies.
One important area of discussion is likely to be on the decision by ICANN – which oversees all internet addresses across the world – to allow ethnic, cultural and linguistic groups and cities to have their own top level domain.
Once these addresses become available, it will mark the biggest shift in domain policy since individual countries were allowed to have their own top level domain.
This article appeared in The Irish Times on 4th June 2010