The first question anyone reading the title of this article might ask is why anyone outside of Germany itself would want to buy a de domain? The answer to that question is apparently a whole lot of people, as a look at the list of most expensive domain sales shows a decided interest in dot-de on the part of English speakers.
For example, the German word for the English verb "Shopping" is "Einkaufen." Guess the identity of the most expensive dot-de domain name ever sold? No, it wasn't "Einkaufen" that was purchased for 2.8 million dollars, it was "Shopping!" Next was the obviously German word, "Kredit," for 1.2 million dollars. But the third and fourth words, Casino($625,000) and Chat ($470,000), are just as obviously English. Casino in German is spelled with a "K," and "chat" is spelled "plaudern. Other European nations also employ the German TLD.
Apparently "de" is a favorite with certain creative site developers that appreciate a good "domain hack" in the Romance Languages like Spanish and French." Since in these languages "de" is used in a way similar to the way English speakers use "of," it allows the developers to combine the extension with the name and even associated files in the URL path. In an example provided by Wikipedia, "elforo.de" (theforum.of), becomes "elforo.de/wikipedia." Cool eh!
So the answer to the question posed by the title is apparently "yes," anyone can buy a de domain name. But read on, for there are restrictions!
First of all, if you live outside of Germany you must have a contact in Germany as the "administrative contact." This is not as onerous a restriction as it at first appears as the registrars will assign an administrative contact when the registrant is without one. Some registrars charge for the service. In the U.S., giant registrars like GoDaddy and its resellers automatically provide a proxy administrative contact for free.
A second restriction says that the maximum registration period is limited to one year.
A third restriction disallows the use of privacy. This restriction is not uncommon in the CC-TLD area; both dot-us and dot-ca, for example, will not allow privacy.
The fourth restriction has to do with name servers, "dns," and is certain to cause some confusion when encountered. It seems a dot-de domain must have no fewer than two "authoritative name servers." Each of the two name servers must be on a "separate class-C network"...already feeling a bit intimidated? Don't be! Your registrar will automatically assign the needed name servers; and if you request a change the support staff will know how to handle the switch.
Over fourteen million dot-de domains have been registered. This makes this the second most popular TLD. We can surmise that the majority have been registered by Germans, but it is apparent that others have bought up a share also as it is a particularly useful domain.