New TLD Applicants: Read this before selecting a Registry provider

Published on October 18th, 2011

By Adrian Kinderis

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former,”
Albert Einstein.

Today, the clock ticked down to 85 days until commencement of the new Top-Level Domain application window. Finally, after years of educating, pitching and responding to RFPs, we have reached a period where prospective applicants must either choose to develop their Top-Level Domain Registry themselves or choose their Registry Services Partner (RSP). For most folks, unless they share a level of expertise, this will mean choosing an outsourced RSP, like ARI Registry Services.

As each day passes, I spend more time immersing myself with prospective clients who are weighing up the ARI offering over those of alternative providers. The more I become entrenched in this competitive process, the more it becomes increasingly clear that many of the competing RSPs pitching their wares to hopeful applicants are misleading them by hiding critically important information in fine print disclaimers or feeding them rubbish in order to whittle down the competition. Competition is a great thing; it just needs to be on the same playing field. Make sure you are comparing apples with apples.

Here is a bit of advice for anyone wishing to outsource their RSP. Yes, it is a little self-serving but my company has always prided itself on doing what is right for the customer – even if that means we have to pass on some along the way.

1. You do not have to choose an existing gTLD Registry provider. ICANN gives you no more extra points. This is ugly propaganda that serves only to limit competition. The rules and requirements in the round of applications are such that we ALL have to build new requirements and features to our Registry systems. It is a new Registry to everyone so to say that doing it now in a gTLD space gives you an advantage is rubbish. ICANN wrote the rules to make it possible to do it yourself and it’s not rocket science. It is tricky, but it simply isn’t impossible. If you are not into doing it yourself, you are able to outsource the headache. Of course it makes sense to outsource to someone that has run an EPP Registry before, but the existing gTLD Registries are vastly different. I love that existing Registries forget they were new once. Imagine if Verisign came out and said it couldn’t be done when ICANN was handing out .info and .biz. Somehow Afilias and Neustar were able to build a gTLD Registry then, but yet these are the Registries that now tell us that none of us are capable now? Hmmmm…. Oh and don’t forget whatever Registry you bring them, they have an invested interest to support their own ahead of yours (unless you are giving them $6 a pop per domain, in which case you are getting ripped off!)

2. Your Application to ICANN is the most important thing to you right now. Make sure you choose a RSP that is going to do a stellar job with the technical answers. Ask to see the technical responses for the application upfront. Make sure they give you complete answers to questions 23 through 44, and have draft answers ready for you to customize for questions 15, 16 and 22. Get specific deliverables sorted upfront!

3. Read the fine print of your quotation. A one line quotation for Registry services may look easy to handle but it is fraught with danger. Especially once you are ready to go live and find out that many of the basic services weren’t covered and you think to yourself “no wonder these guys were so cheap.” It is simple; ensure that a “no further costs” clause is added to your contract.  Read the fine print and make sure everything you need is in there. Including the ability to move and change later. You are all start ups and times will get tough at some point.

4. Make sure you are signing with someone that shares your entrepreneurial spirit. I’ve already said it; you are building a business here. You are an entrepreneur. Make sure that your RSP is able to support you and understand your needs going forward. Ask the sales guy you are talking to how many businesses he has started. Ask the CEO of the firm the same question – if, of course, he/she even talks to you. Ask yourselves how many of these guys will be around to support you when times are tough (or will they already be working for a competitor!). Don’t screw this up.

5. Go Live is the NEXT important thing for you. How is your RSP going to support you? How are they going to support you and all the other applicants they have? Are they focused on your business? You don’t want to be all of their business so you can get the benefits of economies of scale, but you don’t want to be a tiny cog in a big wheel. How many phone calls and how much support will you get once that contract is signed?

6. Pricing is, of course, important, but you must know, IT ISN’T EVERYTHING. You don’t choose the cheapest lawyer, doctor or accountant for a reason. Why wouldn’t the same logic apply here? The process is simple. Do your homework, and get an understanding of your expected volumes. This will tell you what price you need from your RSP. Then look to other variables, many of which I have mentioned above to determine the best provider for you. Is it flexibility, payment terms, technology, redundancy etc? Reach out to me and I’ll be sure to give you a check list of items outside of pricing to make sure you consider them. Once again it is the apples versus apples scenario.

There is no secret to ARI Registry Services’ success. We keep it simple. We look after our customers which are why they are all repeat customers. We are working with companies big and small, governments and non profits. We work hard for all of them but ultimately, we don’t sell crap. We tell the truth and we disclose everything – as I said, simple. Make sure your provider is going to do the same.

I wish you well as you embark on this exciting journey. If you choose someone else other than my firm in your selection process, good for you. If the tips above have helped ensure you are better in the long run, then that’s great too. I look forward to sharing a drink with you in a few years when we can look back on this exciting time, relishing our collective successes and reviewing our failures (of which I hope there are few).

Remember, choosing a Registry Services Provider is the biggest decision you will make in the life of your TLD. The provider you select now will play a critical role in not only the success of your application to ICANN, but the ongoing security, stability and integrity of your new Top-Level Domain.

So applicants, I beg you. Beware of the fine print and ensure you compare those apples. The success or failure of your TLD is at stake.

By Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services

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