The second phase of a three-phase .cm-domain acquisition opportunity is about to end, heralding the start of phase three.

As background, the Republic of Cameroon in West Africa was assigned the country-code top-level Internet domain name (“ccTLD”) consisting of a dot followed by the letters CM, by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, one of the organizations that controls the guts of the Internet.  The letters CM are this country’s customary two-letter country code arising from ISO standard 3166-1 alpha-2.  For comparison, China has the two-letter code CN, Germany’s (Deutschland) is DE, and  the island nation of Tuvalu has TV.

The value of such a domain name on today’s Internet is obvious to us sticky-fingered typists: It differs from the customary and most-used .com extension by only one keystroke, potentially capturing Web traffic due to hastily-typed URLs.  A URL is an Internet address starting with http:// that’s typically typed into a browser’s address field.

Cameroon has recently jumped on the Internet bandwagon by allowing anyone in the world to register a domain with the .cm extension, even if the registrant hasn’t the slightest connection to the country.

In the past, Tuvalu has taken advantage of its two-letter country code TV by offering television-related businesses the opportunity to register domains ending in .tv.  (This scenario is reminiscent of the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta Utopia Limited, wherein a South Pacific island profits from becoming a Limited Liability Stock Company.  But we digress.)

The first phase, referred to as “Sunrise,” ran from June 15th to July 14th this year. It was available only to owners of registered trademarks.

The second phase, known as “Landrush,” allows people to bid on domains ending in .cm in an auction system, instead of in a first-come, first-served system. The Landrush phase is scheduled to end at 0:00:01 UTC on July 31, 2009. Cybersquatters are sure to be making last-minute bids for domains with popular trademarks that weren’t pre-empted during the Sunrise phase. For at least this reason, legitimate trademark owners would be well-served by promptly securing the .cm domains corresponding to their trademarks. Additionally, enterprising individuals interested in obtaining a .cm domain that is generic or descriptive of their business might want to take advantage of this opportunity.

On August 1 at 0:00:01 UTC (July 31 at 8:00:01 PM EDT), the third phase begins. From that point on, remaining .cm-suffixed domains will be available for purchase on a first-come, first-served basis.

Although some Internet domain registrations go at bargain-basement prices (for example, registers .info domains at 89-cents a year) the price to register a .cm domain is pretty steep.  During the Landrush phase, it costs a whopping $350.00 for a two-year registration submitted through via NameJet, provided that nobody else starts a bidding war by asking for the same name.

Kingpin domain hunter, Kevin Ham, is reportedly cashing in on such .cm domains.

See also some appropriately critical comments on the .CM Landrush by