Today we have George Pongas, Neustar’s Vice President, Product Management – Registry Services, who looks at 2018 and the year ahead in the latest Domain Pulse Q&A. George discusses the lows of 2018, which for him was the loss of the contract to run the .au (Australia) registry, but then, every cloud (often) has a silver lining, and Neustar picked up the registry contract to run the .in (India) registry which has huge growth opportunities. George also discusses the metrics of judging the success of a new gTLD, and the opportunities they offer, and how domain names are still relevant.
Domain Pulse: What were the highlights, lowlights and challenges of the 2018 domain name industry for you?
George Pongas: Hitting very close to home, the major lowlight for Neustar in 2018 was transitioning the .au ccTLD from our Registry platform. The end of June brought a lot of emotion for many of us who have worked on the .au namespace for over 16 years, but we are proud to have served the Australian internet community in that way for so long and for the milestones we achieved along the way – including 100% DNS uptime, growing the namespace from 250,000 to 3.1 million domains under management, contributing to the evolution and innovation of DNS and Registry technology, significant domain policy development and much more. It was an honour and a privilege to have played this role and we’re excited to continue serving Australians with leading Registry solutions in 2019.
With the down comes the up, and two days after the .au contract ended we were in India for what became our successful pitch to provide backend Registry services for the .IN ccTLD. There is a huge growth opportunity in this market, and we see enormous untapped potential in this space – with currently approximately 2 million domain names under management. We’re excited to have the opportunity to apply our expertise and knowledge learned from .au and the other ccTLDs we support, to truly benefit a nation’s digital economy.
On a personal level, this time of change for us is a welcome challenge. I was involved in .au for 16 years, first as a Registrar for seven years and then for nine years joining the incredible AusRegistry (and later Neustar) team. However from a market perspective, .au is a mature product. We helped grow it to enormous market penetration given Australia’s population, and its future trajectory is naturally now more focused on maintenance rather than significant growth. In comparison, India is a huge opportunity and I am genuinely excited by this next chapter of my career and privileged to be able to explore the potential of this market with the National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI).
DP: 2019 will mark five years since the first new gTLDs came online. How do you view them now?
GP: New TLDs were originally introduced to create greater market competition and ultimately greater choice for consumers. Given the adoption we’ve seen anecdotally among the TLDs we support, and across the industry as a whole, it is undeniable consumers are taking advantage of this increased choice.
Judging the success of the new TLD space has always attracted mixed opinions, as while domain registrations are an easy and useful measure, it doesn’t paint a full picture – nor is it relevant to all TLDs. Instead, we look at how new TLDs have impacted the communities they work within, like the way .nyc supports and promotes the unique and vibrant community of New York. There are countless examples of businesses, entrepreneurs, community organisations, and everything in between that have been able to reach more people, improve business, or strengthen their brand directly or indirectly through the use of their new TLD domain name. Similarly, all geographic TLDs are the perfect domain name option for businesses intrinsically linked or geographically constrained to their city. To this point, we find many of the domain names in .melbourne and .sydney are connected to restaurants, cafes or tourist destinations.
My colleague Tony Kirsch also recently published an article on this point in relation to .brand TLDs. As he explains, .brands (and new TLDs in general) can’t be expected to maintain enormous growth rates year on year. Just like any new technology, growth increases, peaks, stabilises, and increases again as new innovations are introduced. Despite this, .brand domain registrations are still growing, and usage in particular has increased and become more sophisticated, showing that the space is maturing. This is a good sign for .brands and for new TLDs as a whole, as the opportunities for audience awareness and education become more frequent and established.
DP: Are domain names as relevant now for consumers – business, government and individuals – as they have been in the past?
GP: Yes, I believe domain names are still relevant. The ubiquity of search as well as ever-evolving digital advertising have made domains less important when consumers are already online, however domain names are not an online-only tool. In fact, they’re perhaps more valuable as an offline device. You can’t click on a billboard. You can’t search via a flyer or brochure. So when it comes to engaging consumers offline and driving them towards an online location, domain names still hold value as a direct, branded, trustworthy pathway for consumers to get to the information or service they want – and for companies and brands to capture that traffic online
In addition, I truly believe the uptake of new TLDs shows that there is demand for unique, creative and recognisable online signifiers – the internet is only getting more crowded and valuable real estate is clearly still in demand. As more and more people, organisations and brands find new and innovative ways to utilise domains – as we’re seeing every day with .brands for example – I believe we’ll see them continue cement their place as the foundation of your online presence, as well as further growing their use with new technologies and ways of exploring the web.
Previous Q&As in this series were with EURid, manager of the .eu top level domain (available here), with Katrin Ohlmer, CEO and founder of DOTZON GmbH (here), Afilias’ Roland LaPlante (here), DotBERLIN’s Dirk Krischenowski (here), DENIC (here) Internet.bs’ Marc McCutcheon (here) and nic.at’s Richard Wein (here).
If you’d like to participate in this Domain Pulse series with industry figures, please contact David Goldstein at Domain Pulse by email to david[at]goldsteinreport.com.