Growth and GDPR implementation along with the high costs of domain transfers among gTLDs due to ICANN policies were among the lowlights of 2018 for Openprovider’s Founder and CEO Arno Vis, but there were significant highlights including being the largest domain registrar in the Netherlands in all major TLDs.
Challenging was maintaining growth. And if ccTLD registries would change bulk transfer policies, Vis says “the market could change rapidly and become much more competitive. And competition leads to innovation.”
In today’s Domain Pulse Q&A, Vis also explains how “GDPR is a good step forward. However, the execution is terrible.” And the best thing about new gTLDs? Vis says it is “that suppliers have started to really do channel marketing.”
Domain Pulse: What were the highlights, lowlights and challenges of 2018 in the domain name industry for you?
Arno Vis: Our highlights are many:
- Being the largest domain registrar from the Netherlands in all major TLDs is one of them.
- Seeing our business model getting more and more traction. Our memberships resemble Amazon Prime or Costco more or less. Our members get domains at cost price.
- Finding a new managing director to run the operational side of the business has been a personal highlight. I now have more focus on the creative part, new opportunities, our start-ups and long-term strategies. This fits my ‘creator’ kind of brain much better than running a rather large business.
- GDPR implementation was really challenging and took a lot of energy from our teams
- ICANN has not changed policies for domain transfers in gTLD space. Bulk transfers by resellers are not possible or only at very high costs. This kills competition and innovation. And markets without sufficient competition will die.
- Keep growing at the pace we have done. It took us more than 10 years to grow to 100,000 .com domains. A little over two more years to grow to 200,000 and just 1 year 4 months more to grow to 300,000 .com domains. If transfer policies would change to how SIDN, DNS BE, EURID and many other ccTLDs are doing (bulk) transfers then the market could change rapidly and become much more competitive. And competition leads to innovation.
- Another challenge we have is to build our Abuse Management solution into a mature predictive engine. We have a team of Machine Learning/AI experts building a solution that can detect and eventually hopefully prevent abusive domain name registrations. It is just one of the innovations we are working on.
DP: GDPR – good, bad and/or indifferent to you and the wider industry and why?
AV: In every new industry, companies seek the borders of what is acceptable. Giving up privacy for free services is a good model, but maybe it has gone too far. In general, it is a good thing that privacy is more regulated and that the individual can control her own data. From that perspective, GDPR is a good step forward. However, the execution is terrible. Today if I visit a website I have to click through several pop-ups to get the information I want. I notice that I just click Yes everywhere because I do not want to be delayed. We are not there yet, but it is good that the Wild West days of the internet are over. However we have to be aware not to overregulate.
And the tendency of governments to delegate police, justice department and court tasks to commercial companies in the online space is a terrible idea. You cannot delegate government tasks to companies, let them pay for it, and expect that they will do a good job. An online criminal is a criminal and it is the job of the governments to take action. It is NOT the job of a company.
DP: What are you looking forward to in 2019?
AV: We are changing from an outbound sales driven organisation towards an inbound marketing-driven organisation. We will also apply our machine learning skills to optimise these processes and systems. It is very exciting to see the first results and to build on those to grow faster and to service our customers better. Our support team consistently scores very high customer satisfaction numbers also due to our constant focus on making their lives and our customer lives much easier.
DP: What challenges and opportunities do you see for the year ahead?
AV: I see 2019 as a year of growth (personal and professional) with a lot of challenges mostly on the ICANN side of the business. It seems the domain market is turning into a market where competing on compliance is more important than competing on quality, service or price. That is not good.
DP: 2019 will mark 5 years since the first new gTLDs came online. How do you view them now?
AV: I never believed the new gTLDs were becoming as successful as everyone thought in the beginning. The best thing that happened is that suppliers have started to really do channel marketing. Before the launch of new gTLDs that almost never happened. Today I am less pessimistic than before. There are really good opportunities to use new gTLDs for marketing purposes and we see slowly but surely that companies are starting to doing this. And many registries really give channel support and that works.
DP: Are domain names as relevant now for consumers – business, government and individuals – as they have been in the past?
AV: I think domains are still very relevant, but it is inevitable that new channels for communication will develop and become equally or more important. Especially small companies and individuals have less need for a domain name and website nowadays. And that is fine. Nothing lasts forever and although I believe domains will be out there for many years to come it is normal that the role they had before will change and maybe someday will be irrelevant.
Previous Q&As in this series were with:
- EURid, manager of the .eu top level domain (available here)
- 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)
- nic.at’s Richard Wein (here)
- Neustar’s George Pongas (here)
- CentralNic’s Ben Crawford (here)
- CIRA’s David Fowler (here)
- Jovenet Consulting’s Jean Guillon (here)
- GGRG’s Giuseppe Graziano (here)
- Blacknight Solutions’ Michele Neylon (here)
- Public Interest Registry’s President and CEO Jon Nevett (here)
- ICANN board member Chris Disspain (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.