Domain Pulse 2015: New gTLDs Are Like Babies

Domain Pulse conference logoThe development of new gTLDs could be equated with the growth of a baby, Thomas Rickert representing the German internet association eco told the Domain Pulse conference in Berlin on Thursday with the greatest development takes place within the first 12 months.

When applications closed there were 1,930 applications and 1,400 unique strings applied for. And in the first 12 months since registrations began in the first of the new gTLDs in February 2014 there is much to celebrate. Looking at nTLDstats.com, registrations across all new gTLDs will pass 4.5 million domains in the next week or two, there are over 520 gTLDs delegated, 223 registrars participating plus an unknown number of resellers.

The application and implementation process though has had its problems, Rickert said in the German capital of Berlin, but he was of the view the programme had been a success.

The problems as Rickert described them, were the TAS (TLD Application System) which said was an “epic failure”, Digital Archery, the Trademark Clearinghouse, Public Interest Commitments (PIC) Specifications, dealing with name collisions and the sometimes curious decision-making process.

On the Trademark Clearinghouse, Rickert noted how trademark owners made a lot of noise over their concerns regarding potential trademark abuse in the new gTLDs when they were introduced. Yet when it came to using the TMCH “it was a failure”. There were nowhere near the numbers of Sunrise registrations that were hoped for to protect trademark owners.

Looking to the future, Rickert said not all new gTLDs will survive, just as in any industry. This was backed up in comments in the following panel session by Alexander Siffrin, founder and CEO of Key-Systems. Siffrin believes some of the new gTLDs will fail in part due to issues such as bizarre registration requirements.

Rickert also believes new gTLDs are necessary. “It’s extremely arrogant in the western world to ask internet users to change their keyboards to type domain names. I believe there is a need for growth.” And looking to the future Rickert said “stamina will be needed due to unexpected developments.” And we’re only at the beginning of a new era of the internet as the public gains awareness of what is available.

The following panel session also included panellists involved in the .bio (for organic products) and .hamburg gTLDs.

Godefroy Jordan, whose company Behind the Dot operates the .bio gTLD, which is aimed at the organic foods market, has over 8,000 registrations in just over six months. While this is below initial expectations, Jordan said the gTLD is performing well in its in eight key markets where it is in the top 20 in registration numbers and top ten in value.

The .bio gTLD is targeting those in organic foods, from production to sale. One group is farmers who want to market their produce online but to date have found the complexity of getting a domain name, email and website too difficult. Behind the Dot research found 60 to 70 percent of farmers don’t have a website but many would be keen if it were an easier process.

Registering a domain name in itself is difficult. Jordan said registrar websites are for geeks. Simplicity is important. Farmers and others don’t often understand the difference between a website and a domain name. They are also marketing to industry with advertising in magazines such as the German Bio Nachrichten (Organic News). And they are having success with 40 percent of registrants using their domains.

Another to be pleased with their success was Oliver Süme, co-founder and CEO of Hamburg Top Level Domain, the operator of .hamburg. Since its launch in August 2014, there have been over 21,000 .hamburg domains registered and they are becoming quite prominent in the city. Süme commented that in the recently elections in Hamburg candidates were regularly using the local gTLD.

Looking to the future, both Jordan and Süme were optimistic. Jordan said it’s a competitive market. “There aren’t a lot of markets that get 400 new products in a year. We have to fight every day to get visibility with registrars, new co-promotions and fight other gTLDs, just like the supermarket industry” where Jordan has previously worked.

And while it is early days, both Christian Müller from Stratos and Siffrin said they are seeing renewal rates of around 70 percent. But that in about two weeks we’ll know more.

Süme believes that in .hamburg “we have a premium product and a premium price is justified. I’m not aware of any failed registration because of the price. In terms of new gTLDs we’ve just learned to walk upright and it’s very early in process and next year could be the most exciting of my life!”

Jordan said their research had found price was very important for more the more generic new gTLDs such as .online and .website but for most a price of €20 to €50 is what people expect to pay.