Rich Merdinger, a 20-year domain name veteran and GoDaddy’s Vice President of Domains, is looking ahead to 2017 as he accepts his new role as interim Chair for The Domain Name Association (“the DNA”). Here’s what he had to say about his new role and what the future holds for the DNA.

What are your top priorities as Interim Chair?

The DNA will continue focusing on three main priorities: awareness, adoption, and access.

We are at a point in time in our industry when we are seeing an expansion of the domain name space. Marketing agencies and businesses are increasingly adopting domain names as part of their larger, blended branding strategies. As we head into 2017, we’ll be driving awareness by sharing new ways that more companies are blending traditional extensions (e.g. .BIZ, .COM, .INFO, .ORG) with ccTLDs (e.g. .AU, .CA, .NL, .UK); and new TLDs (e.g. .CLUB, .ONLINE, .ROCKS, .TODAY).

Our second priority is accelerating adoption by investing in independent analysis that examines the impact domain names have on a brand’s organic search engine results and optimization. In 2017, we’ll highlight where and how businesses are utilizing domain names as part of their search initiatives.

The third objective is to ensure the industry is energized to serve the commercial nuances of the industry. In 2017, we are very excited to launch a series of DNA Virtual Town Hall sessions for members that will involve policy organizations and other industry groups. These sessions will be a unique mechanism for members to have access to the efforts taking place to solve the crucial commercial issues facing the domain name industry.

At some companies, an interim leader would mean pressing pause or slowing down. Is that the case with your appointment?

This isn’t about anyone stepping in or stepping down; it’s about the entire leadership team. We all agree that we need to accelerate our growth, move faster and empower the industry around us to do the same.

Expect to see a more vocal DNA – whether it is at the next virtual town hall or learning about new research on domain name strategies and their business impact. As Interim Chair, I will be working with our leadership team on ways to spotlight how domain names are being used strategically and tactically to support business objectives in 2017 and beyond.

Lastly, I have a great deal of respect for Adrian Kinderis and what he has done to get the DNA off the ground and underway. He helped start the DNA and has led the organization for three years, creating a mature organization that is now 46-members strong. Adrian’s hard work with Bombora Technologies and its subsidiaries, which includes ARI Registry Services, led recently to his company becoming part of the larger organization Neustar. I was thrilled to accept the invitation to the role of Interim Chair given Adrian’s need to take on newly added responsibilities at his company. I am excited at what the future holds and welcome Adrian’s strategic counsel as Neustar’s representative on the DNA’s Board of Directors.

What domain name trends are you expecting 2017?

The domain name industry is unlike any other industry. We are at a point in time in our industry when we are seeing part of our future growth coming from what I like to call the “Web of Identity.” The “Web of Identity” refers to the diversification and blending of all types of domain names – such as traditional domain names, ccTLDs and new TLDs – for multiple purposes by a single company or individual. By coming together as a commercial industry on concepts such as this, I think we’ll see significant growth here over the next 24 months to the benefit of our industry at large.

What gets you most excited about the next chapter of the DNA?

The DNA is unlike any domain name organization in the world. Watch for more visibility in and outside our industry. The DNA is going to be more outspoken at events and will be even more engaged with influencers. This is a key goal for 2017.

The DNA is the one place where members can collaborate on new ways to advance the industry commercially. Members of the domain industry have an essential policy-development forum in ICANN, but the DNA was born out of the desire to have a venue where open discussion and action can be taken on commercial topics that are outside of ICANN’s remit. I invite marketing agencies and business to learn more about the DNA and our ongoing efforts to shape the future direction of the domain name industry.

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