The experiences of applying for and operating a new Top-Level Domain are as diverse as they are complex. Each TLD takes its own unique path and faces individual challenges as well as those shared by the wider domain name industry. As the Head of Global Consulting for ARI Registry Services, Tony Kirsch spoke with some of the industry’s most prominent TLD experts and up-and-coming TLD operators about their key lessons learnt from the first 12 months of operation.
What have been some of the highlights of the process so far?
STATTON HAMMOCK, V.P. Business and Legal Affairs, Rightside: Without a doubt, the highlight has been seeing consumers embrace and use our TLDs in fun innovative ways, such as the Rolling Stones running a tour campaign on justakissaway. rocks. Seeing all of the exciting and creative ways people identify and brand themselves online with our TLDs has been thoroughly rewarding for everyone at Rightside. We had anticipated that consumers would register and use our domain offerings and it’s wonderful to watch this happen, week after week.
Was there a moment when things “clicked” for you?
Statton: I think everything clicked when young rockers V-Squared gave a red-carpet interview.
What feedback have you received from your customers?
GEORGE MINARDOS, CEO of .build: I spoke to a guy who was trying to buy a three-character domain that was selling for about $250 at the Registrar. He thought it was a bit expensive, but when he looked it up online, all the equivalent domains in other TLDs were worth thousands of dollars. All of a sudden I heard the gears shifting on the other end of the phone and he was like “This is cheap; I’ve got to grab it now!” He registered his domain name for the complete 10-year period.
There was also a company called Sacco that bought a .build in Landrush. They said there were 15 other Sacco construction companies on the web and they saw .build as an opportunity to get the best name that was available to them and stand out from the crowd.
What is one thing you wish you had known going into the process?
Statton: I think everyone in the domain name industry wishes they had known how long the gTLD process was going to take- from filing the application, to final launch. It’s been a long and challenging path but we are nearing the end of it and the real fun is beginning. There is no more exciting time for the domain name industry than right now, and Rightside is committed to making every one of its TLDs a success.
How have you dealt with the competition In the market from other TLDs?
George: I think all the industry TLDs are good and they’re all needed, but I personally believe .build is the best for a number of reasons. It’s the shortest and it also is broader than any of the more specific TLDs like .engineer or construction. I think competitively it stands on its own without any kind of differentiation needed.
If somebody thinks that their company name and .contractors is better, then that is the one they should be buying. There are also peripheral TLDs like .property that are related, but they’re distinct. I think that standing back objectively, .build is a different TLD entirely because it is more universally understood than any of the competitors.
What has been your impression of the registrations and use of .photography?
RICHARD TINDAL, Co-Founder and COO, Donuts Inc.: The marketplace roll-out of .photography has been largely as we expected. Because it can be harder to get a business with an existing web presence to change its URL, our focus is more on businesses that are creating a new Internet presence for their company, product or campaign. One of the reasons .photography is doing well is that a lot of new entities join the photography industry each year, as well as the fact that it is a digital industry.
The use of these names- meaning that they contain good website content- has already reached half the levels seen in legacy TLDs such as .com, which is great news given .photography has been out such a short time. We measure website content on the domains every month, and
What was one of the key challenges you faced and how did you overcome this?
MONICA KIRCHNER, CEO of .luxury: Our primary challenge is really building awareness for and helping define the value proposition of our new TLD. We’ve spent a lot of time going to luxury industry conferences, trying to learn what brand concerns and issues exist, and then have been working to further refine our messaging, ancillary service offerings and education materials to help people think through the migration process and potential benefit of joining our platform online.
In this process we have engaged experts in a number of areas- including digital strategy, luxury marketing and intellectual property protection.
Was there an experience that reaffirmed or your strategy or decisions?
Monica: Early on, when you are doing something really new, you are always looking for signs of validation. Fortunately, we’ve had some really every month proportionally more of them have good content, so it’s headed in the right direction. We should catch the legacy TLDs within 24 months.
What is your outlook for the coming year?
Richard: The challenge for .photography and all new TLDs now is to increase Internet user awareness about the product set. Awareness is currently low but we have reasons to be upbeat about changing that. Surveys show that people respond to TLD advertising quickly and positively, younger people are getting the message the quickest, and new vendors and new technologies have made it easy and affordable to put up good content. Nothing reinforces our marketing message more powerfully than .photography registrants who use and advertise their sites. We think .photography will continue to be a success, as will 95% of all new TLDs. good feedback- first with regard to the real need within the luxury industry for a more trusted, focused space for luxury brands and consumers to interact, next with regard to our strategic decisions around premium pricing, and lastly around where we’ve decided to put our initial marketing emphasis- on meticulously working to build our brand presence and in focusing on building awareness through PR.
If you could go back and tell yourself something before you got into this process, what would it be?
Monica: Be patient, be adaptable, be innovative, be fearless, and find a well-defined market niche -then be clear on the value proposition you plan to bring to it. With that clarity, and some real passion and entrepreneurial spirit, you are going to be about as well equipped as you can be to embark on this exciting journey of reshaping the online world as we know it.
— Tony Kirsch, Head of Global Consulting, ARI Registry Services
(This article was originally published in the State of the Domains, Issue 3: June 2015 premiering at ICANN 53 in Buenos Aires)