Posts Tagged ‘Domain name’

Marketers place trust in domain names for AFL Grand Final

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Adrian KinderisAnother year, another grand final and another win for domain names. Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, says domain names are the premiers as Australia’s marketers again show a preference for using .com.au as the preferred call to action in AFL Grand Final ads.

By Adrian Kinderis

It surprises me that our local marketing industry hasn’t yet embraced the AFL and NRL Grand Finals as the marketers in the US do for the Super Bowl.

Where’s the hype like you see for the Super Bowl? I think our footy finals represent the premier stage for high-reach, large-impact television advertising in Australia. We should see the country’s best marketers sporting their wares.

They certainly have a good reason to. More than 3.6 million Australians tuned in on Saturday for the AFL Grand Final, representing more than 80% of all free-to-air viewers for the time slot.

As I do every year, I wanted to see how advertisers in Australia use the AFL Grand Final to engage viewers, deliver a compelling message, and most importantly generate a call to action.

Here’s what I found…

The statistics

Like in previous years, domain names were the primary call to action seen in Grand Final ads. Out of the 34 ads aired during the game, 40% included a domain name while only 9% referred to social media.

This is remarkably consistent with what we saw last year with almost identical figures (38% and 9% respectively).

The other significant calls to action exercised this year included of telephone numbers (14%), search (9%) and mobile apps (7%). Interestingly, 21% of ads did not include any call to action.

Within domain names, marketers clearly showed a preference for .com.au in their ads, with more than 70% directing viewers to a .com.au website. Again, this is almost identical to last year.

What does this mean?

Clearly, social media has its place, but it’s not in Grand Final marketing.

Despite all the hype and importance of social media to modern day brand communication, domain names still remain the primary call to action. While we saw NAB make effective use of a Twitter hashtag in their Footify campaign, they largely stood alone on this front.

To me, this suggests that marketers still believe that the website remains a foundation of any direct response lead marketing strategy, especially when a 15- or 30-second ad slot costs up to $100,000.

However, it was interesting to see the rise of search which tallied a 7% rise in the number of ads directing viewers to use a search engine like Google to find their website. The Australian Defence Force and Holden were the major brands utilising this method.

I’ve been a vocal critic (as you can read in my recent Marketing Magazine blog) of this emerging trend, and these statistics confirm my observations that marketers are relying on search in greater numbers. It is narrow minded, short sighted thinking and it needs to change.

Future trends

It’s my prediction that marketers will make a big splash for the 2014 AFL and NRL Grand Finals.

It is clear that domain names will continue their dominance and I don’t expect any changes here. Domain names will remain the authoritative source of truth on the Internet. After all, they represent the trusted directory service of the Internet. What will change is the domain name landscape and the creative options marketers have at their disposal.

By early 2014, the first of hundreds of new Top-Level Domains such as .melbourne, .sydney and .afl will be launched, offering marketers an additional option in their menu of calls to action.

One of the benefits of new Top-Level Domains for marketers will be the ability to integrate tailored domain name calls to action for every campaign with greater ease and creativity.

In Australia, local brands such as the AFL, TAB, iiNet, ANZ and RMIT are leading the way with these new domains. While they were unable to integrate their new Top-Level Domain into their TVCs in this year’s Grand Final, it is encouraging that in the coming years we could see domain names such as sponsor.afl, product.tab or promotion.rmit on our TV screens.

If you take this year’s TVCs as an example, it is possible that in the future we could see the TAB use a domain name call to action tailored specifically for the Grand Final, such as www.grandfinal.tab or even specific content like www.firstgoal.tab. This would allow the TAB to deliver a highly personal experience and enable viewers to intuitively navigate to relevant content.

Also, brands that have not purchased their own .brand domain can purchase domain names under .melbourne or .sydney to create targeted campaigns that have a direct affiliation with either city.

It will be interesting to analyse the impact new Top-Level Domains will have on advertising once they start to appear on the Internet from next year. From what I’ve seen from those preparing to launch, I think we’ll see some innovative approaches applied to the marketing for the 2014 Grand Final.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO of ARI Registry Services

Search is not the solution, it is the problem

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

By Adrian Kinderis

Adrian KinderisIn a special feature article first published by Marketing Magazine, Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, investigates recent trends in advertisers directing their customers to conduct search-based queries to find their products or services.

By Adrian Kinderis
Tuesday 27 August 2013

I’m a businessman, but I’m also a consumer, and I’ve become increasingly frustrated with advertisers sending me to search engines to go looking online for their product or service as their call to action.

I often find myself distracted by the other search results (you never know what you’ll find!) when conducting these searches. Other times, I’m insulted that they expect me, the customer, to go searching for them, the advertiser.

But what baffles me the most – from my business perspective – is the exorbitant costs expended by advertisers to drive customers on a hunt to find them in such a competitive landscape, especially when they can be directed to the exact destination in one click.

My findings have illustrated that search is not the solution to advertisers’ reaching their customers and driving conversions; search is the problem.

What we know about search

Recent studies indicate the growing dependence on search engines, revealing that 91 percent of us use search engines online, and 59 percent rely on search engines.

While there’s no denying the increasing use of search engines globally, the emerging trend from marketers to use search as their call to action in place of direct web addresses has become more and more prevalent in above the line marketing. Open the newspaper or turn on your television and you’ll find it’s not uncommon to see the term, ‘search <product name/campaign>’ in advertising.

But is the tail wagging the dog? Do marketers believe their customers aren’t savvy enough to navigate the Internet using domain names, or are they just encouraging us to become slaves to the search bar?

No certainty

Above the line marketing has reached new lows if advertisers believe consumers are more likely to search for keywords like “Colorado Serious” to find out more about a four-wheel drive. When I typed that in, I discovered that there was a serious virus in Colorado infecting locals! Similarly with an Audi ad I recently saw; when I typed “Audi A3” into my search bar, Audi wasn’t the top-ranking search result.

Further, what happens when your immediate advertising campaign finishes? You do not own that search keyword and unless you plan on paying for it well into the future, any residual engagement you create through your campaign will be lost – potentially to a competitor. You must continually invest in your keyword to own it and that can be financially draining overtime.

In spite of the stats that drive marketers to believe search is where it’s at for customer conversion, there is no certainty that for all the money spent on search engine rankings – in addition to the ad production and placement – that the promise of being the top-ranking search result is achieved.

Competitive environment

Granted, advertising in any format is a competitive landscape, but do marketers believe that keyword searches are a more effective means of driving their audience to their campaign?

Search is a highly competitive environment and recent court cases have ruled that competitors are permitted to purchase your keywords.

Clever competitors may even try to artificially inflate your cost per click (CPC) price by under bidding you and forcing you to pay more for each click. CPC is not a set fee, it’s volatile and an advertiser pays above immediately what an under bidder pays.

Lack of control

The crux of the problem I have with advertisers using search as a call to action is that not only is it expensive, but the outcome can be fallible due to the fact that search results are controlled by a third party and can be influenced by anyone else to your detriment.

Even worse, there is no control over what may appear next to your brand in your keyword search terms. What if a major breaking news story occurs on the same day as your campaign and the story involves terms that match your keywords? The consequences of negative stories being tied to your brand could be disastrous. Like Colorado Serious… four-wheel drive, anyone?

Not efficient

Search engines have made us lazy. Many of us have become slaves to the search bar and its auto-fill convenience. Have you ever googled Google rather than typing the domain name into the web address bar?

Search should help us find content, not replace the web address bar as an online navigation aid. Often, typing a domain name into an address bar will be far quicker than the multiple steps required to search for a website.

However shameful it is, using search engines to navigate the Internet is a reality for many. I believe some advertisers have attributed this to be a user preference, rather than recognising this point as a wider Internet navigation problem.

In my eyes, search is an unnecessary two-step process. Why should Internet users search for advertisers to only end up at their corporate website or microsite anyway? Search can only introduce unnecessary risk to the equation.

100% visibility on poor performance

Because the data indicates the vast majority of Internet users rely on search, marketers see search engines as a channel with which their audience is familiar and regularly use to navigate the Internet.

However, just because their website analytics reports show most of their traffic originates from Google doesn’t mean it should be promoted as the preferred way to navigate to your website. With ROI as the major focus of digital marketing, are marketers simply trying to justify their budget because the data is available? Isn’t that just spotlighting poor performance?

Bring back the slash

Marketers went a little crazy with the use of slash extensions on their domain names in advertising, but there are clever ways to use them. For example, featuring the entire url, including the http://www. is often not the best way to encourage memory recall or positive brand association in advertising, and the same can be said for using domain name-slash something-slash something. Treating your audience as savvy consumers is one thing, but don’t make it difficult for them to remember who you are and what you’re selling.

With the introduction of the new Top-Level Domain Program into the marketplace, a new world of options will be available to marketers. Not only will it support the expansion of the Internet, it offers customers a more memorable, direct solution to finding your product/service/campaign, and will allow greater conversion. Imagine directing your customers to holden.car/colorado, or even better, colorado.holden? All the benefits of web analytics and customer recall, minus the expensive keywords and competitive landscape.

Marketers are adding to the wider web navigation problem by not raising greater awareness and education among their audience about their corporate online mainstay – their website and domain name. Remember, you own your domain name and all the traffic and IP rights associated to it. This is in contrast to search terms, where you are building equity into an asset you will never truly own.

It all boils down to the basic marketing principles of message recall, brand recognition and trust. Control the message and send your customers straight to your website via a domain name. No detours required.

Not only are websites and domain names far cheaper to set up and maintain, they’re yours to own forever and cannot be influenced by your competitors.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO, ARI Registry Services

Navigating online in Arabic key to greater regional Internet participation

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

By Adrian Kinderis

Adrian KinderisIn a special opinion editorial first published by ITP Magazine, Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, explains why nurturing an end-to-end Arabic online experience will be important to address the needs of the next 90 million Arabic Internet users.

By Adrian Kinderis
Dubai, UAE – Monday 4 March 2013

The next time you’re driving down the D89 Airport Road to Dubai International Airport, take a moment to look at the advertising billboards. In particular, look at the domain names used in the call to action.

You will notice a number of Arabic advertisements aimed entirely at an Arabic audience that strangely feature domain names written in English.

How can we expect the Arabic community to navigate to online content using domain names written in a foreign language? Furthermore, how many real world and e-commerce transactions are missed because an Arabic speaker was unable to navigate online?

The problem is that while there have been advancements in Arabic content and applications, the very infrastructure used to navigate online has not kept pace – namely the regional domain name market.

We know the next billion Internet users won’t come from English speaking countries. The same can be said for the Arab region; the next 90 million Arabic Internet users will expect to navigate the Internet in their native language.

The writing is on the wall – and it is in Arabic script. Arabic is the fastest growing language online with growth of more than 2500 percent between 2000 and 2011. Arabic is also the fastest-growing language on Twitter.

These roadside billboards offer an insight into the challenges faced by Arabic speakers online and highlights the limitations of the regional domain name market and the options available to businesses wanting to register domain names. It shows there is a disconnect between an increasingly online-orientated society and the accessibility of participation.

Is it no wonder that many local Internet users rely on Google to navigate the Internet? Why should they have to rely on a third party to seek out the content they are looking for?

What we need is an end-to-end Arabic online experience for the Arabic speaking community. This means an Arabic keyboard to type in an Arabic domain name to visit Arabic content.

The solution is Arabic Internationalised Domain Names which eliminate the reliance on traditional Latin scripts and instead allow Arabic speakers to navigate in their own language. Non-Latin Arabic script domains will be a significant factor in helping the next wave of Arab Internet users navigate to online Arabic content.

There are a number of countries already hosting Arabic script domains, including the United Arab Emirates (امارات.), Oman (عمان.) and Qatar (قطر.). These national digital assets are of enormous value to their respective countries and the citizens who access the Internet through them. However, they are being underutilised and are limited to the boundaries of the individual countries – stifling region-wide participation.

However, later this year, a new Arabic script domain name is set to revolutionise the Internet in the Arab region.  شبكة. (.shabaka – translates to .web in Arabic) will establish an entire corner of the Internet completely dedicated to the Arabic language, culture and society.

Unlike the national Arabic scripts currently available, شبكة. will be the first cross-border Arabic Top-Level Domain extension open to all Arabic speakers across the region. It will provide an emotive connection between Arabic culture and the community while opening an online channel to intuitively connect Arabic speakers to online Arabic content.

Initiatives such as  شبكة. will help bridge the gap between Arabic content and Arabic speaking Internet users. It will help provide the platform needed to fuel greater Arabic orientated online entrepreneurism and innovation.

Furthermore, there are commercial incentives for Arab-based organisations to help break down the accessibility barriers. To put a price on this, the Gulf Cooperation Council predicts B2C e-commerce sales in the region will reach around $15 billion by 2015. Savvy business leaders would be wise to recognise this commercial potential.

The big question is, who is responsible for facilitating this end-to-end Arabic online experience? The beauty of the Internet means it will be a collaborative approach from the business sector generating the Arabic content, to policy makers raising greater awareness and the industry providing the technology and platform.

I strongly believe that this will go a long way to removing the barriers to greater Internet participation in the Arab region.

It is my prediction that in the near future we will see a greater number of Arabic advertising billboards targeting Arabic speakers with Arabic script domain names such as شبكة. directing viewers to engaging online Arabic content.

The dawn of the end-to-end Arabic online experience is upon us.

By Adrian Kinderis
Adrian is CEO of ARI Registry Services, a global domain name technology company. Adrian discussed the topic of developing a robust Internet in the Arab region during his keynote address at the ‘Multi-stakeholder Internet Governance in the Arab world’ forum on Monday 4 March 2013 at the Radisson Royal Dubai.

Opportunity missed. Hilton checks-out of new domains boom

Friday, January 25th, 2013

By Adrian Kinderis

Adrian KinderisAdrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, explains why Hilton Hotels’ decision to withdraw their .hilton new Top-Level Domain application is an opportunity for success wasted

American author Mark Twain once wrote: “I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.”

Last month we learned that Hilton Hotels & Resorts joined six other new Top-Level Domain applicants in withdrawing their application and exiting the program.

I was disappointed when I first heard the news. My initial thoughts were centred on the enormous potential .hilton offered the company and the innovative business opportunities they were now abandoning.

Just imagine the ease of content access Hilton could have delivered their guests through associating their products, locations and services with .hilton. Instead of Googling to find the nearest Hilton Hotel in a city (which I commonly do), guests could simply type newyork.hilton for example to find everything they need. Not only would this deliver improved trust, customer engagement and message recall with consumers, it would allow Hilton to localise and tailor their messages to suit guests’ needs.

I asked myself, what circumstances could force Hilton into giving up on these benefits?

Some brands may have made decisions to apply for a new TLD based on fears about brand protection. Perhaps Hilton applied simply to prevent someone else owning .hilton?

I can understand why some applicants have withdrawn from the program, be it due to competition or GAC Early Warnings. However, none of these reasons apply to Hilton.

The truth is we don’t know why Hilton withdrew their application because neither Hilton nor their representatives have offered an official explanation for the decision.

It is my proposition that Hilton lacked two crucial elements in their new TLD plans and that these were the reasons for their withdrawal: Expert support and intestinal fortitude.

Expert support

I find it odd that a lot of new TLD applicants hit submit on their application in early 2012 and naively thought the revenue and rewards of their hard labour would somehow magically start rolling through the door.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

There is an enormous amount of work to be done in order to transform your application into a fully operational component of your business.

Unfortunately, it seems likely to me that Hilton fell into this trap. They may have lacked the expert support needed to help them through ICANN’s complicated processes and the authoritative guidance on how to build a successful TLD. Ultimately, they probably just needed someone to hold their hand.

My team and I have taken on this role with our own clients. While we are polishing our backend registry systems in preparation to launch new TLDs, we are also spending a significant amount of time consulting with our clients and helping them develop an operational strategy capable of delivering them the revenue and rewards they so eagerly seek.

Essentially, what we’re trying to do is help our clients and other new TLD applicants stand up robust and successful businesses. Simple, right?

This involves tedious planning sessions and workshops to produce assets to execute a winning business plan. To do this, you’ll need TLD policies, procedures for dispute resolution, integration with registrars and other third parties, technology support, operational guides and a host of other requirements. The reason we know this is because we have done this many times before for other TLDs.

However, it’s understandable if the prospect of getting all of these elements in place scared the living daylights out of Hilton. They’re leaders in operating hotels and resorts. Launching and operating a TLD is about as foreign as it gets.

They needed an expert they could rely on for support.

Intestinal fortitude

While getting the right advice is important, I’ve also been telling folks from day one that you’ve got to have intestinal fortitude if you want to be a leader – especially in the new TLD game.

By its very nature, everyone participating in the new TLD program is breaking new ground in an attempt to achieve greatness.  This is where leaders and innovators separate themselves from followers. It takes guts!

I suspect Hilton lost confidence and didn’t have the courage, determination and chutzpah to see it through. It’s a shame really because they were sitting on a gem of a TLD that had enormous potential, particularly given the online nature of the travel industry.

My team and I are working hard for our clients to give them every confidence in achieving success. We do this by reducing the burden on our clients by providing the expertise they need at this crucial stage in a TLDs development. We will stand side-by-side with them and face every challenge together.

Opportunity realised

With the right advice and support from a trusted partner, combined with the intestinal fortitude capable of withstanding ICANN’s ever flexible timelines, applicants should be set to achieve every success in this program.

The unfortunate reality for Hilton was that they were in an enviable position compared to many others. They just didn’t know it. I wish they had given me a call before making the decision to withdraw.

Clearly, there is significant interest and demand in the program and the benefits are there to be seen.

It’s true; one of my clients could come to me next week and ask to withdraw from the program. However, my team and I are prepared to get our hands dirty and work hard for every one of our clients to ensure they have the opportunity to realise success.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO of ARI Registry Services

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

Top 5 tips for new Top-Level Domain applicants

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

By Michael Twist

So, you’ve heard about ICANN’s new Top-Level Domain (TLD) Program and you’re thinking about the best way to get involved so you can gain a slice of the of the $5 billion dollar domain name industry.

You might be an entrepreneur out to make your next million, a brand looking to make a statement of leadership in the digital space, a city keen to deliver a clear digital identity online or maybe something cool I’ve never even heard of!

Regardless of your intention, what you might be missing is a real insight into the ways in which you can activate the new Top-Level Domain opportunity to introduce a business never before seen in the domain name space.

As someone who has been following the program closely for a few years now, below are five key tips that will hopefully get your brain working in overdrive:

1. Act now: The clock is ticking on this limited opportunity. The application window will open on 12 January and we’ll start to see new Top-Level Domains in operation from 2013. If companies and entrepreneurs miss the application window (12 January 2012 to 12 April 2012), it may be a long time before they have the same opportunity again. Get moving now to make sure you don’t miss the boat. There is less than 176 days until the application window opens and you’ll need all of that time to make sure your approach is on the money.

2. Think different: This opportunity isn’t all about trying to be the next .com. The real value lies within the formation of market or vertical centric generic TLDs that will offer value to a specific target audience. Let’s take a .music TLD as an example of a generic Top-Level Domain that could be launched specifically for the music industry. Such a namespace is not intended to be a competitor to .com, however it will still hold significant value to the music industry given it will be directly tied to the subject matter as well as the global music community. The logical step regarding perceived value is the opportunity to demand a higher price per domain, driving profit up even if overall registration volumes don’t break world records.

So think very carefully about your audience, as I firmly believe that the most successful new Top-Level Domain applicants will be those that are able to identify a consumer group that is willing to pay more per domain for the privilege of an authoritative, trusted and relevant domain name. In this game, an audience of “everyone” is a very risky move to make.

3. Commercialise your .brand TLD: .brand TLDs don’t just have to be an online branding exercise to improve message recall and online efficiency. There are huge opportunities available for .brand applicants to activate the namespace and drive return on investment. Imagine eBay securing .eBay and selling a slice of that space to its audience of 94 million registered users at two dollars per vanity domain name fee? Think michaeltwist.ebay and you’ve got the basis of a solid revenue generation model.

4. No language barrier: For the first time in history, new Top-Level Domains are available in non-Latin scripts and with 60% of the world’s population residing in countries where the native language is based on a script other than Latin, you could be one of the first to capitalise on this latest shift in domain name technology. Imagine what the Chinese equivalent for .com could be worth to the thriving Chinese community?

5. Seek advice: The new Top-Level Domain program is not for the novice – there are few people who can run a slice of the Internet alone – so start with the idea and seek advice from an industry expert who understands the application process, policy and technological infrastructure required to make the most of the new Top-Level Domain opportunity.

The five tips explained above are just a starting point for a much larger analysis of your idea and associated business case.

At AusRegistry International, we are currently working with brands, entrepreneurs and governments across the world in a full service capacity that can cover your entire new Top-Level Domain project from strategy right through to technology and launch marketing services.

Please feel free to drop me a line if you’re after some advice on how you can make the most of this revolutionary opportunity. Also, be sure to read a blog we wrote last month explaining why choosing a domain name registry services partner for your new Top-Level Domain is the most important decision you will make from here on in.

For more information please visit www.ausregistry.com or find out more about the new Top-Level Domain program here: www.BeyondDotCom.info

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

An ITU cut and paste job for new TLDs could cost $150k

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

By Chris Wright

It was with great interest that I read a recent announcement about a plan by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to publish template answers on a wiki for the 22 questions relating to registry technical operations contained within ICANN’s new Top-Level Domain Applicant Guidebook.

As someone who has spent the best part of six years following the development of the program (witnessing first-hand each evolution of the Applicant Guidebook) my first thought was one of bemusement – How can a generic solution taken “off the shelf” accurately demonstrate whether an applicant is capable of understanding the technical requirements for setting up and operating a new Top-Level Domain?

Quite frankly, it can’t.

The application process for new Top-Level Domains (TLD) has been carefully designed by ICANN to thoroughly examine whether an applicant has performed the required research to adequately understand what it means to own and operate a vital piece of Internet infrastructure. Operating a TLD is a huge responsibility that should not be taken lightly. The application process has been created in its current format to determine this.

For the applicant, the risk of landing in Extended Evaluation, ICANN’s special audit system for applications that require further attention, is far too great to be toying with a one size fits all approach. In an attempt to save money, applicants will instead be at risk of losing at least $150,000 should their application fail the evaluation criteria set by ICANN.

While consultants working closely with the ITU are correct in stating that applicants do not have to be currently operating Domain Name Registry Systems, they still must identify the technical solution that supports the specific Registry requirements of the application in question. The financial and organisational descriptions must do the same.

The solution proposed by the ITU becomes even more unrealistic when you consider the following:

 • Registry technical operations must identify the intended registry system specifications such as: domain name lifecycle, servers, software, infrastructure, data centres, bandwidth providers, policies & procedures etc. Those who know will agree that this is impossible to do generically.

• Any Registry Services provider worth a pinch of salt is offering the ‘technical operations’ component of the application free of charge with their back-end registry services solution. One has to question whether the approach suggested by the ITU is one that delivers a significant increase in risk without actually delivering any tangible cost reduction?

• This is not a turnkey solution. Applicants will still be required to provide answers to non technical and financial sections, answers which need to be consistent with the information provided in the technical sections of the application, so those who consider the ITU’s approach will struggle to establish consistency throughout all sections of the application.

• Without having properly researched, designed and finally settled on a technical solution, whether that be to outsource to industry experts, or build in-house, Applicants will not have the ability to identify information for other areas of the application such as Registry set up and operational costs that will be critical to the successful development of sound and accurate financials. Further, how will applicants be able to demonstrate to ICANN that the technical specifications provided can be delivered on?

From my perspective, taking answers from another entity (whose content has no relation to any registry system (real or proposed)) clearly demonstrates two things: 1) You are proficient with the cut and paste function of your keyboard and; 2) You clearly lack the understanding necessary to manage a critical piece of Internet infrastructure such as a new Top-Level Domain.

As any high school student can tell you, cutting and pasting answers from a wiki is prone to failure. Although the ITU claim that only ‘approved contributors’ will be able to edit the information, it is unclear how someone would be granted ‘approved contributor’ status. With the highly competitive nature of the TLD process, Applicants should be aware that the accuracy of the information contained within the template has the potential to be highly dubious and potentially even prone to subtle sabotage. I have no doubt that ICANN’s evaluators will be on the lookout for these responses, just like any good teacher would do.

The message to prospective applicants here is simple: If you show disrespect to the evaluators and don’t give the technical criteria of your application the attention it truly deserves, then why should they take your application seriously.

I am left with two equally horrifying questions: 1). Is this simply an attempt by the ITU to devalue and undermine the entire new TLD application process (and therefore ICANN)? 2). Does anyone at the ITU truly understand the goals of the application process and what it is intended to do?

Were the ITU’s ambitions truly altruistic, they would spend their efforts providing capability advice and skills to the community. This approach would be useful and would not water down the quality of submissions to ICANN, as this solution almost certainly will.

Finally, this blog does not set out to be self-serving. Yes, there is a level of confidence that comes with choosing a back-end registry provider that is established and experienced. However, ICANN has ensured that anyone who can fulfil the technical requirements will be awarded a TLD Registry. So, the point I am making is that the process of fulfilling the technical requirements of a new TLD Registry involves more than a simple cut and paste. It requires communicating a level of understanding that a new TLD is a piece of mission critical infrastructure and that there are enormous responsibilities that come with this.

The game plan for new Top-Level Domains

Friday, July 1st, 2011

By Tony Kirsch

I was in Singapore last week to witness the ICANN Board officially approve the biggest change to the Internet in its history.

In an historic ‘special meeting’ held on Monday 20 June, the ICANN Board voted overwhelmingly to approve the new Top-Level Domain (TLD) program and open applications in January 2012. Yes, that’s right a touch over six months away.

With the program now officially approved and a clear timeline set for launch, there is a new sense of urgency to finalise your new TLD strategy and prepare yourself for this revolutionary shift. The pace of the game might have been a little slow up until now, but I have no doubt that there will be a mad rush to the finish line with six months until the application window opens.

After years of waiting in the locker room, it’s now game on!

The game plan

There is literally a marketplace of hundreds of new TLD applicants now scrambling to finalise their strategies. We know this because we are working with the world’s leading organisations, entrepreneurs and governments to help them implement their new TLDs.

It’s important that potential applicants understand now is the time to move. There is easily six months’ worth of work to complete to get a new TLD application ready for the 12 January 2012 opening window.

You do not want to leave this to the last minute.

Your game plan for maximising this unique opportunity needs to take account of the limited time available in the pre and post application timeline. The time to act is now.

The Timeline

Below is a breakdown of the ICANN launch timeline:

• 20 June 2011: ICANN’s global communications period begins
• 12 January 2012: Application window opens
• 12 April 2012: Application window closes

The New TLD marketplace

I can’t stress how important it is for potential applicants to look to the future. Once new TLDs are ready to go live, applicants will face fierce competition with the marketplace for Top-Level Domains set to increase dramatically. Given this, a strong business, sales and marketing plan will be a critical element of any new TLD’s success.

Similarly for .brand TLDs, your expenditure should be coupled with some initiatives to really reap the rewards of your innovative thinking, not just leave it on the shelf in some defensive manner.

While the industry has been focused on the approval of the program, we at AusRegistry International have been looking to the future. We want to ensure that our clients are able to create services that are successful not only in a technological sense, but in a highly competitive environment too. This is why we have formed strategic alliances with leading service providers from their respective fields, including the world’s leading marketing authority, Jeffrey Hayzlett, and leading domain name industry advisory firm, Crowell & Moring. The expert knowledge from these alliances will perfectly complement our world class domain name registry service offering and we’re proud to be working with these organisations at such a critical time in our industry.

The April 2012 deadline is now looming and AusRegistry International is perfectly placed to handle the entire new Top-Level Domain application process.

Please feel free to contact me for a confidential discussion about your new TLD strategy.

New TLD registry service providers are not created equal

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Adrian Kinderis, CEO of AusRegistry International, explains why choosing a registry services partner is the most important decision applicants will make.

By Adrian Kinderis

The ICANN Singapore meeting last week was all about certainty. The official approval of the new Top-Level Domain program and the delivery of an application timeline by the ICANN Board has provided the certainty we have all been eagerly waiting for.

What I can also be certain about is that potential applicants are now desperately trying to finalise their new Top-Level Domain strategies. To those applicants, I have one very important message:

Choosing a domain name registry services partner for your new Top-Level Domain is the most important decision you will make from here on in.

As such, I think it is also important for potential applicants to understand that not all registry services providers are created equal. There are several key criteria for differentiation that can help potential applicants decipher all the spin and make an informed decision.

Below is my summary of the criteria I believe are critical for your choice in registry services partner.

1) Experience – Your chosen partner must have long-term experience in developing, growing and operating a current, high volume namespace. In this game, experience counts for everything.

2) Financial Security – Financial security ensures long term viability of your provider. This means that your registry services partner will be around for as long as your TLD needs them to be.

3) Flexibility – Your solution must be built for the specific requirements of your new TLD. Flexibility from your registry services partner will ensure you aren’t restricted by technical capability.

4) Focus – Are new TLDs a primary focus of the business? They should be…

5) Diverse Expertise – Navigating the TLD minefield is no easy task. To ensure success, you’ll need a combination of dedicated industry consultants, knowledgeable technical resources and sales & marketing experts to meet ICANN’s stringent requirements. Great registry services require an equal balance of brain power and technology.

6) Commitment – Ask prospective partners how much of their own time has been invested understanding the intricate details of the Applicant Guidebook and ICANN’s processes. Have they been an advocate and influencer of the program since its inception? Are they committed to the success of this revolutionary program?

7) Price – Extremely low per domain pricing structures may seem like a good idea in theory, however  you must question the ability for that entity to manage a registry well and, importantly, support your ongoing business long-term. If your partner is hamstrung because they have over committed on pricing, you may experience some challenges long-term.

What you are looking for is a service provider that can positively cover off all these points at a consistently high level. What you want to avoid is a provider that may excel at one point to the detriment of another.

There is only six months until the 12 January 2012 application window opens and the time to act is now. I’ve provided you with all the information you need to make the right decisions about your new Top-Level Domain. There is just one more piece of information I forgot to include: info@ausregistry.com.

Drop my team a line one day to see how we stack up.

Who is wagging who? Same dog, new tale.

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

By Adrian Kinderis

Today, my company AusRegistry International signed an open letter to the United States House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet as a show of support for ICANN and its new Top-Level Domain program. I’m disappointed by the nature of the oversight hearing the Subcommittee has called and I believe it will only be a distraction.

Let’s not kid ourselves; the reason for this hearing is to beat up ICANN over the new TLD program. I think this is unfair and unjustified.

ICANN’s new TLD program has undergone extraordinarily thorough and inclusive discussions going back to ICANN’s incarnation in 1998, and in earnest since 2005. It is without question that rights holders be afforded reasonable protections. However, it must be fairly pointed out that since initiation of this discussion nearly six years ago, ICANN staff and participants (including rights holders, trademark representatives, and delegates of the US government), at significant expense, have accommodated the needs and demands of the IP community to prevent intellectual property theft or needless cost to IP owners.

This is why I’m at a loss for why this hearing has been called at such a late stage in the process, when we are so close to approving the program.

It frightens me that ICANN must jump when the US government calls a hearing on new TLDs. There is something fundamentally wrong with this situation; the global organisation dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable should not feel such an imbalanced sense of accountability to one government – the US government.

ICANN’s acclaimed multi-stakeholder model means it’s accountable to numerous stakeholders, which include Internet users, Regional Internet Registries, Country Code Registries, several committees and councils, and the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) to name a few.  It’s important to remember that the US government forms just one part of the GAC, which is one stakeholder in the vast ecosystem that comprises ICANN.

It makes me think, if any other Government was to call a meeting would the ICANN Community feel as intimidated to participate. What gives them such sway and power and how does the rest of the GAC membership feel about this?

Furthermore, in the Affirmation of Commitments (AoC), ICANN committed to maintain and improve robust mechanisms for public input, accountability and transparency so as to ensure that the outcomes of its decision-making reflect the public interest and are accountable to all stakeholders. The AOC and the completion of the original agreement signalled a globalisation of the Internet and its governance. Yet, we still find ourselves at the mercy of the US government as demonstrated by  this House Subcommittee oversight hearing.

What is more intriguing is why the US Government is seemingly opposed to the implementation of the new TLD program and its associated benefits. It’s contradictory for the US Government to be speaking about the importance of stimulating the economy and job creation on one hand, and then to be also involved in stifling the new TLD program, which has the potential to drive innovation, create jobs, and boost the digital economy.

At ICANN’s recent meeting in San Francisco, former US President Bill Clinton said the technology sector should play a pivotal role in driving economic recovery. He recognised the importance of online innovation for a strong and sustainable economic climate and said information technology was a key driver of the American economy during his eight years in office. He said IT jobs represented 30 percent of the United States’ job growth and 35 percent of its income growth. It is my belief that new Top-Level Domain names are the most compelling opportunity for innovation the Internet has seen since its creation.

ICANN is in the final stages of executing a well developed plan that will see new TLDs and all the benefits associated with them approved later this year. To ICANN’s credit, they have worn the body blows from various sectors of the Community throughout this long, careful and calculated process. They have battled on working towards a solution that provides for the benefit of ALL stakeholders – an incredibly hard task. I understand that the US Government may have questions – however, ultimately they are one voice and not the only voice providing input into the process. The ICANN Community, including the GAC need to remember that.

By Adrian Kinderis, CEO, AusRegistry International