Archive for September, 2011

New Top-Level Domains, not Facebook, the future for online brands

Friday, September 30th, 2011

By Adrian Kinderis

Adrian Kinderis, CEO of AusRegistry International, explains why brand owners should ‘dislike’ the idea of a heavy Facebook presence and instead should consider creating their own new Top-Level Domain for their brand.

It was with great shock, horror and a little amusement that I read a recent news report about Facebook’s ambitious plan to eliminate the need for standalone company websites and instead have companies adopt dedicated microsites within Facebook as their primary online presence.

Stephen Haines, commercial director of Facebook’s UK operation, told a technology and marketing conference in London that the power of Facebook may see major companies no longer bother with their own websites.

According to CNET, Mr Haines said many more Facebook users click a company’s “like” button than have visited the company’s website. For example, he said Starbucks received 21.1 million likes compared to only 1.8 million site visits per month.

These are impressive figures for Facebook. However, it’s important to remember that success in the online space is determined by a combination of high volume exposure and a deep brand or product engagement that can only be delivered within the walls of a corporate website.

Why Facebook websites may be a bad sell

Facebook is a ground breaking application that has revolutionised society. However, it’s just an application and should be used as such. There are many opportunities for brands to leverage Facebook as part of their online presence, but this should not mean the centralisation of all digital activities within the Facebook site.

A Facebook-only approach would:

•    Dilute the brand’s identity with Facebook’s identity
•    Place the brand at the mercy of facebook.com’s performance. There are no Service Level Agreements nor repercussions should the facebook.com website go down – which it has done on a number of occasions
•    Reduce the target audience to only Facebook users (there are more than two billion Internet users worldwide, and only 700 million Facebook users). You can’t get the full Facebook experience unless you are a Facebook member
•    Limit the scope of digital campaigns to the restrictions of the Facebook platform
•    Pose potential risks due to Facebook’s policies (Facebook’s privacy policies are under increasing scrutiny from a number of national governments)
•    Place your customers or clients at risk to potential online security threats that are out of your control (such as the recent Facebook privacy data risk identified by Symantec)
•    Marry the brand with Facebook (for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health)

Why have facebook.com/brand when you can have product.brand

A revolution taking place within the domain name industry will revolutionise the way end users navigate the Internet, providing global brands with the foundation they need to build the digital strategy of the future.

ICANN’s new Top-Level Domain (TLD) program will allow for new Internet extensions to be introduced and we’ll see brands such as Apple and Toyota move from their current .com addresses to .apple and .toyota. It won’t be long until we see advertisements directing consumers to ipad2.apple or prius.toyota for an engaging experience built solely on targeted, specific content.

With applications opening on 12 January 2012, we’ll start to see .brand domains in operation from early 2013.

So what does this mean for you? Building a digital strategy around a .brand Top-Level Domain will ensure all online traffic is directed to a content environment that delivers a deeper and more influential experience to those customers who recall your message. What’s more, it’s done so in an environment that you control.

Benefits will include:

•    Increased global brand visibility
•    Intuitive Internet navigation (product.brand, service.brand, campaign.brand)
•    Better brand and domain name protection (customers can trust that your .brand represents your company)
•    Deeper customer engagement and increased long-term brand loyalty
•    Search Engine Marketing/Optimization cost reductions (there is a whole blog post on the implications for search).

At one end of the spectrum, we have the “walled garden” of Facebook. Their website, their control their audience. At the other a new innovative way of having complete and utter control of your web presence by owning and operating your own slice of Internet real-estate. Facebook and other social network platforms provide powerful features that should make them important components of any digital strategy. No major brand however, should be considering the loss of control that is inherent in any strategy that places Facebook as the foundation of their online presence. The new Top-Level Domain program provides a unique opportunity for major brands to reinvent themselves in the online space, enabling them to leverage all of the benefits of the web, including but by no means limited to those offered on the Facebook platform.

By Adrian Kinderis, new Top-Level Domain name expert and Internet industry thought leader

The original article can be read here on iStrategy.

Munich’s new domains conference reveals urgency to act now

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

By Michael Twist

Whoever said there wasn’t enough room in Munich this time of year for anything but the mighty Oktoberfest clearly underestimated the draw of the new Top-Level Domain Program and the interest within Europe.

The NewDomains.org conference held in Munich over the past two days confirmed three important insights for me; one: there is a large audience of brands and entrepreneurs who still have little awareness about the new Top-Level Domain program; two: those that are aware of the program and would like to participate are seriously behind schedule in preparing their application and strategy to submit to ICANN during the application window from 12 January to 12 April 2012.

The third insight was the excitement generated from our announcement regarding AusRegistry International’s appointment to operate the registry for the .jewelers new Top-Level Domain. Having spent a great deal of time on this project, it was very rewarding to be able to share the news at the NewDomains.org conference and I was pleased with the positive feedback I received from many of the attendees.

As with most conferences within the domain name industry, the usual suspects attended; the registries, the registrars, the ‘ICANN crew’ and the plethora of industry experts and consultants. However, I’m happy to report there is genuine interest from the European community about the upcoming Internet revolution and they came out with great interest for the first new Top-Level Domain conference in Europe.

While the crowd was not made up of a lot of potential applicants (as a lot of the exhibitors would have liked), there was a very noticeable presence from the intellectual property and trademark community eager to find out about the program and its implications to their corporate clients.

The two day agenda ran very smoothly and kudos should be given to United Domains who were in charge as it was truly run with German efficiency. There was also a good ICANN contingent with the presence of ICANN Chairman Dr Stephen Crocker, ICANN’s Senior VP of the new TLD program Kurt Pritz, as well as the very knowledgeable Olof Nordling, ICANN’s Director of Service Relations.

Although there were few answers to the unresolved detail of the Applicant Guidebook, it was good to see the questions asked of ICANN and a necessary cohesion with the questions being asked.

One important topic that was addressed came from Kurt Pritz’s presentation and side discussion about how ICANN intends to process the applications it receives during the application window. This is a critical issue for applicants because ICANN has previously said it may process the applications in batches, meaning that some applicants may have their applications sitting idle while others could be delegated are ready to go live.

Although Mr Pritz confirmed that ICANN is yet to come to a firm conclusion on how it will process applications, he did say they may be batched in groups of around 500 and that these may be prioritised based on the objective of the application.

I for one support this approach and believe priority and preferential treatment should be given to applicants who have business plans that demonstrate they will use their string immediately.

Other important topics discussed included:

•    Financial Letter of Credit – how much and when?
•    How exactly will the initial evaluation tackle string similarity and other concerns?
•    Community – how and who?
•    The TAS – what does it look like and when will we see it?

Although the ICANN community does not have any solid answers to these questions just yet, we hope to have these addressed soon as we edge closer to the opening of the application window in January.

All in all it was great to see a good turnout and genuine interest. However, it is also fair to say that it is concerning how far behind the eight ball a lot of the attendees are and it begs the question: Will they make it in time?

My advice to those sitting on the sidelines is: You must get moving now or miss the boat! There are only 105 days until the application window opens and you will need all that time to get your new Top-Level Domain application and strategy ready.

By Michael Twist, Top-Level Domain specialist with AusRegistry International

Updated Applicant Guidebook provides more clarity for applicants

Monday, September 26th, 2011

By Tony Kirsch

With less than 110 days to go until the application window opens, ICANN last week released the latest update of the Applicant Guidebook in conjunction with the launch of a new information portal for the new Top-Level Domain program.

Although this latest update to the Applicant Guidebook arrived later than originally expected, it is nonetheless welcome because it provides more clarity for potential applicants and reconfirms ICANN’s commitment to the 12 January commencement of the program.

Credit must be given where it’s due.

First of all, the new microsite looks great and contains all the information necessary for those unfamiliar with the new Top-Level Domain Program to get a basic understanding. Through a number of areas on the site, ICANN provides a decent summary of the hundreds of pages of industry jargon contained in the Applicant Guidebook.

By the way, make sure to check out AusRegistry International’s microsite, Beyondcom.info.
Also, the latest update to the Applicant Guidebook is relatively straight forward with no problematic inclusions or hidden surprises.

Below is my summary of the changes that are of interest:

More blocked strings – ICANN has added the measures required to address specific requests from the Red Cross and International Olympic Committee in which a series of TLDs related to these organisations will be blocked during the initial application round.

Assistance for applicants – ICANN confirmed that the Joint Applicant Support (JAS) Working Group continues to evaluate the processes for providing assistance to disadvantaged applicants. Indications are that the results of this Working Group are expected on this in the coming weeks.

Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS) Response Fee Limits – In an adjustment to the previous version of the guidebook, ICANN has now modified the “loser pays” provision in the URS to apply to complaints involving 15 (instead of 26) or more domain names with the same registrant.

GAC Early Warning and Advice – The GAC has expressed the intention to develop a standard vocabulary and set of rules for use in providing its advice about applications for new Top-Level Domains. ICANN says this will be published in the future and there may be additional updates to reflect the terms established by the GAC.

Application window clarification – One of the more important updates relates to clarification of the User Registration and Application Submission timeframes which were confirmed to be that:

Users must register to apply within the following dates:

Opens – 00:01 UTC 12 January 2012
Closes –  23:59 UTC 29 March 2012

Once registered to apply, users must then submit their application to ICANN’s online system within the following dates:

Opens – 00:01 UTC 12 January 2012
Closes – 23:59 UTC 12 April 2012

The release of this updated version of the Applicant Guidebook is a huge step forward for ICANN and the program itself and relieves some of the scuttlebutt from within the industry that further delays may have been imminent.

It’s certainly a welcome relief for industry participants such as our organisation and the many applicants across the globe who have been diligently preparing for this (in some cases for many years). These two announcements from ICANN provide more clarity for potential applicants and remind us all that new Top-Level Domains are coming and they are coming fast.

Perhaps most importantly, at the bottom right-hand corner of the new microsite, ICANN provides the most important element of the program – something that all of us in the industry have been waiting for a very long time: “ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS IN 108 DAYS”

Throughout this process, many within the industry have been keeping sane by constantly reminding ourselves that “it will happen, and it will be worth it”.

Now it would appear that this time is only just around the corner.

In reality the application window will really just be the start of it all, and in years to come, those who have fought this journey will reflect on this time with fond memories of a time that represented both challenges and tremendous achievement.

Tony Kirsch, Top-Level Domain name specialist with AusRegistry International