By Adrian Kinderis
Like many, I’ve been watching the rollout of the first 150+ new Top-Level Domains (TLD) with interest.
There has been intense scrutiny within our industry on the zone file registration numbers of these delegated TLDs to measure whether or not they are successful.
To be fair, this is not a surprise. We’ve been conditioned by past generic TLD launches to focus on registration numbers. Whether it was .mobi, .travel, .info or.co, all previous TLDs have been measured on registration volume – and more worryingly against the benchmark of .com.
Despite being the new TLD program, many in our industry are still persisting with their old TLD ways of thinking.
How will these same people measure the success of .brands and .geos? Remember, it’s a whole new ball game which requires a different way of thinking because the goal posts have moved.
Early numbers mean nothing
The fact that .guru has 40,000 domain name registrations and .graphics only has 4000 means nothing. It’s like comparing apples and oranges.
Outlandish claims like those seen by .CLUB Domains CEO Colin Campbell that .club will overtake .guru in week one are symptomatic of our industry’s naive focus on raw numbers over qualitative results.
Even my own marketing team is guilty of getting caught up in the hype of zone file number reporting. I had to remind them via Twitter recently that there are many ways of determining a top performing new TLD.
The fact of the matter is, raw numbers mean nothing and a focus on use, engagement, purpose and sustainable revenues are far better measures of success.
What is success?
New TLD operators should be judged on their whole-of-business operational performance to take account of stakeholder engagement, customer satisfaction, strategy planning and financial modeling.
Don’t get me wrong, domain name registration numbers matter. It’s just that you can’t determine the success or failure of a new TLD by comparing it to other TLDs. You can only judge a TLD against its intended purpose and strategy.
Think about .brand TLDs for a second. Registration numbers mean nothing and their entire model is based on how their TLD is integrated into the organisation’s digital strategy. Geographics and IDNs also have a very different proposition than traditional generics.
In attempting to measure success, I’d suggest onlookers focus on:
1. Use: Is the namespace being used in a meaningful way and is there evidence of usage and development with the domain names? Are registrants building businesses and content within the namespace?
2. Sustainable revenues: Who is registering domain names and what is the prospect for renewals? Will the TLD retain registrations or do registrants see it as a fad?
3. Trust: Will end users come to trust the namespace and the content hosted within it? Are these registrants helping to establish trust in the namespace?
4. Purpose: What’s the mission and purpose of the namespace (question 18) and are the registration numbers and content living up to these aspirations?
5. Audience: Is the registry operator targeting a clearly defined audience? Is that audience responsive to the product being offered?
Ask yourself, in the first month of general availability for a generic TLD, would you rather have 10,000 parked domain names registered by domainers with little likelihood of long-term renewal, or would you opt for 100 domain name registrations by major global brands in your target audience who use your namespace to host their entire website?
A strategy reliant on defensive registrations and parked domains is doomed to fail – and is completely ignorant of the new market dynamics within the industry.
In any case, it’s still far too early to accurately measure the long-term viability of any new TLD. But a focus away from registration numbers and an emphasis on use and purpose would be more appropriate.
TLDs like شبكة. haven’t even started their marketing and awareness campaigns yet and the impact of name collisions is holding back many operators from fully implementing their strategic plan to deliver their mission and purpose.
Remember, the game has changed and so have the goal posts.
By Adrian Kinderis
CEO, ARI Registry Services