Posts Tagged ‘gTLDs’

Lessons from .build one year after launch: Q&A with CEO and Founder George Minardos

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch
28 April 2015

The .build domain namespace opened in General Availability in April 2014, as a domain name designed specifically for the online needs of the building industry and beyond. As the appointed technical provider for .build, ARI Registry Services powered the launch and continued technical operations for this global domain name.

A year into the life of the namespace, ARI Registry Services’ Head of Global Consulting Tony Kirsch caught up with George Minardos, CEO of .build to talk about his insights to date, what he’s learnt about the domain name industry, and a look at where he thinks it is heading.

Question (Tony Kirsch): Hi George and thanks for the chance to chat about the journey of .build. To start, let’s talk about your general experience in the first year of the TLD. What have been some of the highlights?

George Minardos, CEO of .build: The first year has been a combination of block and tackling of the basics of a new business while pushing for innovation in an exploding field.

We came to the market ready to integrate into what we thought was a standardised process, but then learned that this wasn’t the case.  The changes that the new Registries and the New gTLD Program itself introduced, required the industry to create and adopt new systems and best practices. One of the most fulfilling milestones of our first year was to see the state of the industry gradually change over time in the direction we had predicted and promoted.  It was quite a year to watch individual registrars go from not offering our name or any others, to hundreds of registrars and resellers offering our complete product including premium names and different price levels.

Q: You established a number of partnerships with leading industry bodies. Why did you decide on this strategy?

George: I see .build as an opportunity for the entire building world.   My vision is to create a namespace that actually helps an entire industry improve.  Builders understand the importance of their real world reputation and identity and are beginning to understand the importance of their online identity. We realised that this isn’t actually that hard of a story to tell, especially if we could show a few great case studies: the story would then propagate and tell itself.

We partnered early on with the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and American Subcontractors Association (ASA), two of the largest associations in the commercial construction industry. We have also been working very closely with The Blue Book Network, a 100 year-old company with deep ties and services in the commercial construction industry.  These leading organizations represent hundreds of thousands of members. By getting them to effectively use, endorse, and adopt those domains, it is creating a broader awareness within the industry.  More to the point, each group understands the need to innovate and constantly offer their customers value.

IMG_0049

George Minardos and co-founder Tom Brackey with the Bluebook Network team at the Las Vegas Con Expo show

Q: What feedback have you received from your customers?

George: I spoke to a guy who was trying to buy a three-character domain that was selling for about $250 at the Registrar. He thought it was a bit expensive, compared with the general notion of what a domain costs, so I suggested he look up his desired name on a domain investing site and compare the prices. All the equivalent domains in other TLDs were worth thousands of dollars. And all of a sudden I heard the gears shifting on the other end of the phone and he was like ‘this is cheap; I’ve got to grab it now!’ He registered his domain name for the complete 10 year period!

I think there’s an opportunity to reset the consumer’s notion of value.  When you put a good domain name in terms of like-for-like, the whole notion of what’s good value can change.

There was a company called Saco that bought a .build in Landrush, and I actually went out and met with them because I was curious as to why they bought a .build. I sat down with the two founders of the company. They said there were 15 other Saco construction companies on the web and they saw .build as an opportunity to get the best name that was available to them and stand out from the crowd.

For them it was a no-brainer. They developed a website and did some pretty innovative things like setting up different Twitter accounts for each of their projects, where the Project Managers were posting updates and photos and they were uploading automatically into a feed on their website. I think they had that up in less than a day with a website builder.

We’ve set up a new page on our site – www.greatsites.build – to show some examples like this that are great representations of what people are doing with .build domains in so many areas.

Q: What else have you learned about the scope of .build over the past year?

George: When you start any business you wonder if you’ll have customers. Imagine opening a restaurant and wondering if people will fill the tables. We knew we’d have customers but it’s been really great to see how diverse they are.  There are a broad number of other types of people interested in the name ‘build’. We’re seeing tech and start-up companies, innovators and DIY-ers – many people just putting their next big idea on .build.

Something else that’s really interesting is that from a consumer side, we’ve found many times that the consumer is price-insensitive. We’ve offered some specials through marketing programs and often people don’t care to save $10, $20, or $50. They want to go to the easiest place to buy their domains, and if they’ve had an account with a registrar for 15 years then the discount to them is irrelevant. It’s easier for them to just log in and buy the domain full price at a place they know and trust. What I have learned in that regard is that the pricing model of the domain industry where there is no Manufactured Suggested Retail Price does work, but it isn’t one that I would have conceived of.

Sponsoring the Annual AGC Conference in Puerto Rico March 2015

Sponsoring the Annual AGC Conference in Puerto Rico March 2015

Q: How have you dealt with the competition in the market from other TLDs?

George: I’ve always said that a good domain name and therefore, a good TLD ultimately, is a name that means something to the person that buys it but also to the person that buys the good or service it offers. In short, a good domain is one you remember.

I think all the industry TLDs are good and they’re all needed, but I personally believe .build is the best for a number of reasons. It’s the shortest and it also is broader than any of the more specific TLDs like .engineer or .construction. I think competitively, it stands on its own without any kind of differentiation needed. If somebody thinks that their company name and ‘.contractors’ is better, then that is the one they should be buying. There are also peripheral TLDs like .property that are related, but they’re distinct. I think that standing back objectively, .build is a different TLD entirely because it is more universally understood than any of the competitors.

Q: Finally, what will be the main challenges and areas of focus for Year Two of .build?

George: General Awareness to the New gTLD Program was and still is very thin. This is partly related to the lack of technical integration but it is also a marketing and messaging issue. You have the challenge not only of how to sell the product, but also in getting the message out there that the product is even for sale.

I think that’s going to continue to be the potential challenge – or opportunity, depending on how you look at it. There are organisations like the DNA and ICANN that are working to push the word out further. We’re just going to continue to reach out in targeted ways that we find cost effective to increase the awareness of what new TLDs and .build in particular can do to improve a business’ online identity. We need to ensure the awareness increases and good stories keep getting told enough to raise all boats in this tide, so that the whole program becomes more successful.

com.google April Fools’ is no laughing matter: what .google could mean for other .brands

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Tony KirschBy Tony Kirsch
2 April 2015

When April Fools’ Day rolls around each year, Google is generally one of the front runners for jokes – often making headlines for its quirky gimmicks. This year was no exception.

Yesterday, Google launched its first domain name under the recently delegated .google Top-Level Domain (TLD), a massive milestone for all .brand TLD owners. Google is encouraging millions of people around the world to visit: www.com.google.

The page offers a ‘flipped’ view of Google search – as if perhaps, you were inside Google itself looking outwards.

com.googleWhen promoting the stunt, Google openly promoted it as a product of new gTLDs and specifically its .google Top-Level Domain. Could it be perhaps, that Google is giving users a taste of what’s to come – a view from the inside of Google’s own corner of the Internet? The move from renting a small piece of .com to now hosting its search engine under on its own Top-Level Domain should not be understated in its significance.

The move attracted a lot of attention as many noted the use of .google and praised Google for its creativity.

There’s been much speculation about how Google will use its new gTLD assets – from the .google brand TLD to the likes of .app which Google famously acquired for $25 million earlier this year.

The fact that Google chose to use its .google TLD for this stunt could suggest a wider strategy starting to come into play. Based on its track record, the company’s April Fools’ efforts were always going to garner a lot of media attention, and they have been quite overt in linking this domain to new gTLDs.

trevor long tweetandrew bennett tweet

Hopefully, com.google is the ‘soft-launch’ of a larger .google strategy that will begin to roll out as Google continues to raise awareness of the namespace.

So what does this mean for other .brands? It’s no secret that in the world of tech, where Google goes, people follow. If Google starts to activate .google more broadly with as much creativity and innovation as com.google, it will provide a great example for other .brands on how to use a brand TLD to realise its full potential.

Some brands are already making waves with their TLD strategies. We’re very proud to be partnering with the likes of Monash University (.monash, the first .brand TLD to go live) and the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (.cancerresearch), which were both reported by CSC to be performing well in search and even have pages appearing in the Alexa 1M Ranking.

Our TLD consulting team is working with .brands to simplify their launch process and maximise business success. We’ll be watching closely to see what example Google sets as more .google sites start to emerge.

Super Bowl 2014 advertisers target hashtags for customer engagement

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Adrian KinderisAdrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, says Super Bowl 2014 was the year of the hashtag as marketers directed their consumers to Twitter to continue the brand conversation online.

By Adrian Kinderis
Tuesday 4 February 2014, direct from New York

This week, I had the fortune of crossing off a major item on my bucket list – attending Super Bowl. In spite of my team’s absence from the game, it was still a huge – albeit early – highlight of 2014 for me.

Super Bowl is the ultimate merging of my passion for sports and marketing. It brings together people from all walks, catering to the millions of people who tune in to be entranced by the game or the ads, or like me, both.

For three hours on Sunday night, marketers globally tuned into the excitement that emanated out of New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium for NFL Super Bowl XLVIII 2014.

Neither the brilliance of the Seattle Seahawks nor the creative genius of the marketers let me down.

Let’s not underestimate the significance of the occasion.

With more than 100 million viewers tuning in, this year’s Super Bowl was one of the highest rating programs in the US, making the advertising slots some of the most valuable in the world. Advertisers coughed up $4 million on average for each 30-second slot, translating to $133,000 per second!

As I do every year, I investigated how advertisers used this prime marketing opportunity to engage viewers, deliver a compelling message, and most importantly generate a call to action.

Here’s what I found.

#Dominate

Just like the Seattle Seahawks, hashtags and Twitter handles absolutely dominated the calls to action seen in the 85 ads aired from the 44 different advertisers.

More than half of all ads (64%) included a Twitter hashtag or handle as their call to action, compared to only 41% which referred to a domain name to direct viewers to a website.

These results are markedly different from what we saw in previous years.

Yearly change

Looking back over the past few years, we can clearly see an upward trend in marketers directing viewers to Twitter to encourage brand engagement and interaction.

In last year’s Super Bowl, domain names were the preferred call to action, with 40% of ads containing a traditional web address. We only saw 34% of ads featuring a Twitter handle or hashtag.

This gap was even larger in 2012, with 49% of ads containing a domain name and only 9% a Twitter handle or hashtag.

Facebook Dis-Like

Perhaps the most significant observation was that Facebook was seemingly left on the bench for Super Bowl 2014, with only 9% of ads directing viewers to a Facebook page.

Google+ didn’t even make it out of the locker room, with not a single mention. Shazam was the surprise dark horse of the pack, picking up two ads, while YouTube was seen in a total of three ads.

What does this mean?

Clearly, generating a social conversation about your brand or product online via the use of a hashtag dominated the strategic thinking of marketers in this year’s Super Bowl.

I suspect this is a reflection of the fact that a Super Bowl ad offers marketers a chance to extend the reach of a compelling thirty-second TV spot well beyond the night it airs. Hashtags keep the conversation going beyond the little blue bird, used to generate trending topics across Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and of course Twitter.

However, I still firmly believe that the mainstay of any direct response marketing strategy should always be a domain name and website. We still saw 41% of ads containing a domain name and that’s because these marketers recognised that a call to action which directs consumers to your website is a proven method to generated return on investment.

While encouraging a conversation on a hashtag has its place, I believe the most successful ads were the ones where marketers also used a domain name call to action to complement their social media efforts.

Super Bowl 2015

It’s my prediction that the upward trend with hashtags will carry on and next year marketers will continue to use the combination of domain names and hashtags for their calls to action.

However, what will change will be the domain names themselves!

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.

Right now, the first of hundreds of new Top-Level Domains such as .menu, .build and .luxury are being launched offering marketers an additional option in their arsenal 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.

Major brands such as Hyundai, Microsoft, Volkswagen, Toyota, and Ford are leading the way with these new domains and have applied for their own .brand suffixes. While they were unable to integrate their new Top-Level Domain into their TVCs in this year’s Super Bowl, it is encouraging that in the coming years we could see domain names such as product.microsoft or promotion.ford on our TV screens.

These new domains will give marketers a new level of creativity with their calls to action. They’ll enable advertisers to deliver a highly personal experience and allow viewers to intuitively navigate to relevant content.

It will be interesting to analyse the impact new Top-Level Domains will have on advertising once they start to become mainstream over the next few months. From what I’ve seen from those preparing to launch, I’m anticipating some innovative approaches applied to the marketing for Super Bowl 2015.

By Adrian Kinderis
CEO of ARI Registry Services

Bring your .brand to life

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Adrian KinderisTony Kirsch, Senior Manager of International Business Development at ARI Registry Services, previews his upcoming presentation for the Digital Marketing & gTLD Strategy Congress on why your TLD strategy is paramount to making or breaking your .brand.

By Tony Kirsch

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
― Benjamin Franklin

With the first new TLDs slated to be delegated in only a matter of weeks, effective development of your TLD strategy is your most important asset to guide you on the path to the successful implementation of your .brand.

Your strategy will be the most significant weapon in your Top-Level Domain arsenal to drive the launch of your .brand, and you’ll only get there with preparation and engagement. For the vast majority of .brand applicants, ICANN have recently informed you that you have passed your application. You’ve come this far. Now it’s time to get the traction and key stakeholder buy-in that is required to justify the investment to date, and support the initiative into the future.

No matter the motivation for applying for your .brand TLD, effective use of your ‘slice of the Internet’ has the potential to be a significant competitive advantage… when activated and incorporated into your digital presence carefully and strategically.

So what is a .brand TLD strategy?

Your TLD strategy is fundamentally about integration; firstly within your organisation, secondly into your existing digital environment, and thirdly, with all of your external stakeholders.

Other new ‘generic’ TLDs (i.e. those available for sale) will be greenfield business – and in most cases have a significantly different value proposition to their target markets.

Large organisations on the other hand, have invested heavily in the development – both online and offline – of their brands over many years. Simply moving to a .brand without clear direction, and a reason for users to find your .brand compelling to try it, will result in the rapid and public death of your .brand.

Remember that Internet users, even the most innovative ones, are not all that forgiving. Your TLD strategy should demonstrate immediate reward and give them incentive to follow you in your .brand TLD journey.

Great responsibility

If you’ve read this far, it’s because you recognise you are part of a bigger movement.

As a .brand applicant, you are trailblazing the frontier of a new Internet and the whole world is watching. Your individual success adds to the collective success of the new TLD program, and your participation in this evolution means our shared responsibility to get it right rests heavily on strategy and execution. This will be the cornerstone of much of my presentation, in collaboration with NetNames and Philips, at the Digital Marketing and gTLD Strategy Congress in London next week.

One size fits all

I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the world’s largest brands to deliver strategic guidance in recent months and the one consistent theme from the workshops I’ve been conducting is that there is no one-size-fits-all TLD strategy solution. As a .brand, you must recognise you need a tailored approach to activating your TLD in line with your corporate vision and success is all about tailoring your strategy to deliver on your specific needs.

Use momentum to build your TLD

As a .brand applicant, you will own your own piece of the Internet; this is your digital asset that separates you from your competitors and demonstrates to your customers that you are leaders in innovation. Drive the momentum of your launch activities to generate ambassadors of your .brand and invite them to join this historic movement.

Then, importantly, don’t get lazy after launch as it’s important to understand that launch success does not equate to ongoing success. Your .brand TLD strategy should have multiple stages of activation to continue breathing life into your .brand, and thus ensure it evolves into your future global digital footprint.

Are we there yet?

The distance between today and launch may seem miles away, but the horizon of this Internet evolution is right in front of us and I can assure you there is lots of work to be done. The key is engagement, education… oh, and a little bit of courage and passion too!

By Tony Kirsch
Senior Manager – International Business
ARI Registry Services

Tony Kirsch is widely recognised as an industry expert within the new TLD program and leads Global Strategic Consulting for ARI Registry Services, an International Domain Name Infrastructure Services organisation based in Melbourne, Australia.

Tony has advised some of the world’s largest firms and Governments on their new TLDs and his in- depth understanding of the program’s intricacies is widely sought-after in order to assist the creation of companywide processes and strategies.

First insights from the GAC Early Warnings on new Top-Level Domains

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

By Yasmin Omer

Today, the national governments that constitute ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) for the first time publicly voiced their concerns over specific new Top-Level Domain (TLD) applications in the form of Early Warnings.

More than 240 individual GAC Early Warnings were issued in relation to 200 new TLD applications which account for 162 unique strings.

By far the most prolific government to issue GAC Early Warnings was the Australian government with 129. This was followed by Germany with 20 and France 19.

As expected, a large number of the 240 Early Warnings related to closed generic string TLD applications (100 Early Warnings). It appears a number of governments are concerned about brands or entrepreneurs owning a specific generic word and closing the door on public registrations in these namespaces.

Early Warnings were also issued for strings that are linked to regulated market sectors, such as the financial, health and charity sectors.

The continent with the most Early Warnings was Asia Pacific (154), followed by Europe (51) and Africa (30). This is in stark contrast to the distribution of new TLD applications across the globe which saw more than 80% of applicants come from North America and Europe.

Other interesting insights include:

• Amazon (an applicant for 76 new TLDs) has received 27 GAC Early Warnings
• Google (an applicant for 98 new TLDs) has received only 5 GAC Early Warnings
• 19 IDN new TLD applications received a GAC Early Warning
• DotConnectAfrica’s application for .africa received 17 Early Warnings. UniForum SA’s application for .africa received no Early Warnings.
• Despite being very vocal regarding their objections to certain strings, Saudi Arabia cannot participate in the Early Warning process as they are not a member of the GAC.

Below is an image which provides an overview of the distribution of GAC Early Warnings.

A GAC Early Warning is a mechanism by which the national government representatives who comprise the GAC can signal their potential concerns with specific new TLD applications that are controversial or sensitive. Receipt of a GAC Early Warning allows an applicant to be eligible to receive an 80% refund of their application fee.

Many Early Warnings offer remediation steps to be taken by the applicant which may appease any concerns the governments have. However, applicants are not obliged to take any action.

GAC Early Warnings are a pathway to formal GAC Advice to the ICANN Board in April 2013 following ICANN Beijing. GAC Advice requires consensus of the GAC and may indicate that a particular application should not proceed which almost certainly means an application will not be approved by ICANN. The biggest question moving forward will be how exactly consensus will be reached.  Watch this space!

While many applicants were nervously anticipating the announcement of today’s Early Warnings, the majority of applicants will be pleased with the results. Next hurdle: GAC Advice in April 2013.

By Yasmin Omer
Policy and Industry Affairs Officer at ARI Registry Services

NOTE: Every effort has been made to accurately report the statistics in this blog. However, some statistics may need to be updated with further analysis

New domains open up unique opportunity for CMOs to own an entire online category

Friday, January 13th, 2012

By Adrian Kinderis

In this special guest blog which first appeared in Marketing Magazine Australia, Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, says savvy CMOs are poised to get exclusive ownership of an entire product category as the application window for new Top-Level Domains opens this week.

In its short history, the Internet has transformed the way brands reach and engage their customers. It has been the source of numerous innovations that have revolutionized the way we influence our audience and target our customers – CMOs have been at the forefront of this revolution. We only have to look at the impact of Facebook and Twitter for examples of how innovative thinking using Internet technology has led to the advancement of the marketing and communications industry.

However, the majority of the change and innovation experienced within the online channel has been at the application layer through the likes of tools such as Facebook and Twitter. Starting this week, a core component of Internet infrastructure (the Domain Name System) is about to undergo a dramatic change that will provide marketers with a unique opportunity to make a statement of leadership, improve message recall and target consumers online like never before.

It’s called a new Top-Level Domain, and will allow brands and marketers across the world to insert their brand name or a generic term relating to their category to the right of the dot, creating an entire domain namespace like .com completely dedicated to their business. This will provide forward thinking CMOs the chance to claim exclusive rights over this opportunity in their product category. In fact, I call it a category killer. More on this point later.

The introduction of these new domains has had little mainstream attention and this fact has angered many. Only recently, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) began a campaign publicly criticizing the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) over its decision to implement this program. In my opinion, the arguments the ANA have raised against the program are weak and have already been addressed, as ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom noted in his letter to the ANA last year.

The fact of the matter is that new Top-Level Domains are a reality and they’re coming, whether or not you agree with ICANN’s decision. The time has come for CMOs to develop a clear understanding of the opportunities and risks associated with this dramatic change to ensure they are able to build the appropriate strategy for their brand.

What is this .brand thing all about?

This is not just another domain name. Owning a .brand will allow you to operate your own domain name registry at the root of the Internet which will provide several new business and marketing opportunities never before seen in the corporate world.

One of the benefits of .brand will be the ease of content access. Under .brand, we will see brands moving away from long, unwieldy and generic website addresses such as “www.americanexpress.com/potential” to a far more intuitive and easy to recall domain structure such as “potential.amex”. From a consumer perspective, content will be easier to navigate to in its truest form – via short, relevant and memorable domain names.

If you’re still unsure of the many uses for .brand, imagine tigerwoods.nike, creditcards.hsbc and 911.porsche and you’re well on the way to capturing the opportunity presented by this unique change.

We have already seen major global brands such as Canon, Hitachi, Motorola, Deloitte and UNICEF publicly announce their intentions to secure their .brand. It is expected that hundreds more are keeping their cards close to their chest to avoid competition for the same name (eg: Apple Records vs Apple Inc. for example).

Why is a .brand important?

Online marketing is crucial, but something that has bothered me for some time now has been the overreliance on third-party applications in the online world. Actions to engage and connect with consumers to convey your brand promise are diluted and less effective when delivered through a platform outside of your brand.  An example of this is the strict control many third-party applications, like Facebook, have over your activity, customer data and brand message when actively participating in their ‘walled garden’.

However, a .brand Top-Level Domain will allow trust, leadership, customer engagement and improved message recall to shine through by providing a direct connection between the customer and the brand experience – creating your very own branded ‘walled garden’.

For instance, I could certainly see value in Apple securing .apple or .itunes and implementing a customer registration process whereby each registered customer is provided with a branded online portal, such as adriankinderis.itunes, where they can interact with the brand and associated products.

Similarly, from a customer engagement perspective, imagine if Porsche were to provide all customers with an adriankinderis.porsche domain name with the purchase of a new vehicle to allow access to critical information such as service scheduling and technical information. Not only would it deliver value to the customer, it would also play a role in the introduction of the customer to the Porsche brand experience and lifestyle (car clubs, forums, social networking etc).

In a world where knowledge is truly power – imagine the data collection ability for marketers who have complete control over the infrastructure of their own branded name space.

There will also be huge improvements in online security and trust. Take the HSBC bank for example, a .brand will bring clarity and security to customers online with the simple message, ‘If it’s not .hsbc, it’s not us’. Not to mention making it easier for customers to find content online through the delivery of intuitive and easy to recall domain name structure such as creditcards.hsbc, for instance.

Truly global megabrands will also be interested in the fact that for the first time in history, you can register your .brand in any language around the world. This means you can now offer your customers in the fast growing economies of Asia and the Middle East the same online experience as those in English speaking nations, completely in their own native language. Not only will this show you are serious about your business in these regions, it will reinforce your brand’s local credibility and provide a clear point of competitive difference.

Category killers

These new Top-Level Domains are not just limited to brands. Any generic term like .bank, .doctor, .shop or .hotel can be registered to represent an entire category. A research report commissioned by ARI Registry Services in November found significant revenue potential for entrepreneurs to own industry-specific Top-Level Domains and commercialise them by on-selling second-level domains to relevant businesses (e.g. retailername.shop or lawfirm.law). It suggested that multi-million dollar annual returns are on offer for applicants willing to invest in a new TLD.

Innovative brands wanting to be leaders in the online space will invest in these generic terms on top of their own .brand to completely own their product category and starve the competition of relevance.

The implications for category domination are huge. There is no other opportunity in the world where one brand has the opportunity to completely own a single product category within a channel for its exclusive use.  Imagine if Coca-Cola was the only soft drinks brand allowed to advertise on television, or if Budweiser was the only beer allowed to appear on billboards. The implications would be enormous.

Take a .hotel as an example, the one-stop-shop for online accommodation options for consumers around the world. A brand like Hilton could apply for the .hilton and .hotel Top-Level Domains to completely dominate the online accommodation category. Whether a consumer was looking for Hilton or not, it is likely that the category dominance delivered by .hotel would result in Hilton being highly prominent in consumer search results. This is before considering further domination by applying for .resort, .spa or .holiday.

For me, the age of category killers is now.

How do I get a new Top-Level Domain?

The opportunity to own a new Top-Level Domain doesn’t come cheap. The application fee to ICANN alone will set you back $185,000 and then you will need to add on technology and operating costs. Furthermore, to be a category killer, you’re going to need to apply for multiple names. In total you’re looking at approximately $500,000 to $1 million to make this a reality.

Also, the application window for new Top-Level Domains will close on 12 April 2012. If you miss this window, it may be many years until you get another chance to participate. I fear there will be many brands out there that will miss out on this opportunity.

I’m telling my clients they need to act now. With less than three months until the application window closes, CMOs need to get moving on this once in a lifetime opportunity or otherwise they will miss out. The unfortunate reality for many CMOs is that by the time they recognize the value of this leadership opportunity, it will be too late to do anything about it.

By Adrian Kinderis, Internet industry thought leader and CEO of ARI Registry Services, one of the few companies in the world with the experience and technology to activate and implement new Top-Level Domains.

ARI Registry Services responds to Roland LaPlante

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

By Adrian Kinderis

Contrary to claims made by Afilias CMO Roland LaPlante (CircleID – 21 October 2011), current generic Top-Level Domain (gTLDs) Registries have no real technical or commercial advantage at operating a new Top-Level Domain (TLD) because existing gTLDs are currently only required to comply with a small subset of the requirements of the new TLD program.

Mr LaPlante argues that potential applicants should question Registry providers about which gTLDs they currently support because he suggests that “ICANN-contracted gTLDs operate under more stringent — and public — requirements than other TLDs.”

This statement is fundamentally wrong.

The new TLD program is setting a precedent within the industry for the best practice performance, operation and policy requirements of a generic TLD namespace that is governed by ICANN. Through the Applicant Guidebook, ICANN has created a completely new approach to operating a generic TLD and it contains multiple requirements that do not exist within current gTLDs. These additions include:

•    Rights Protection Mechanisms – Trademark Clearinghouse & Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS)
•    Mandatory abuse measures
•    Policy establishment requirements
•    Stricter eligibility (considering community based TLDs)
•    Government and law enforcement recommendations

To put it simply, current gTLDs have little in common with new TLDs.

Furthermore, Mr LaPlante’s attack on country code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs) is weak and without basis. Talk to auDA (the .au regulator), InternetNZ (the .nz regulator) and Nominet (.uk regulator), and I am sure they would be appalled to hear the view that their TLDs were managed with less stringent public policy development frameworks than existing gTLDs.

In fact, some restricted policy ccTLDs already incorporate features of the new TLD program that gTLDs such as .com, .info or .net currently fail to address. For instance, most viable ccTLDs already have strict rights protection and abuse measures in place. They also have a strong emphasis on stakeholder involvement and operate under increased scrutiny by governments and law enforcement.

The reality is that many ccTLDs perform the same role as gTLDs, except they do this within the confines of many more restrictions and policies, such as those found in the new TLD program. It is false to claim that gTLDs operate under more stringent requirements simply because they have a contract with ICANN and publish monthly reports about their registry operation.

Regardless of existing credentials or experience, the point is that new TLDs come with a set of requirements that currently don’t exist in any namespace and many of these are still yet to be fleshed out by ICANN (take the Trademark Clearing House for example).

It’s important to remember that one of ICANN’s primary goals in developing the new TLD program was to find a way to facilitate entry for new Registry operators entering the market. ICANN is attempting to introduce competition and they have done so in such a way that potential applicants do not even need to partner with a Registry Services Provider, let alone a gTLD provider in order to operate a new TLD Registry. While existing Registry Operators will deliver a superior solution (usually at a cost benefit) to those entities that do not wish to perform the technical function themselves, this choice is left with the applicant. ICANN will not give applicants any extra points for choosing an existing provider, despite what the propaganda might say.

It is true that not all TLD Registry Services Providers are created equal. There are good providers and there are ordinary providers. Each has different qualities and credentials. Unfortunately, operating an existing gTLD Registry is not one that holds relevance to the success or failure of your new TLD.

The fact of the matter is no one has ever operated a new TLD and we are all new to this world.

What you need to ask your provider is not their experience with existing gTLD registries, but their understanding of the program, its new requirements, the Applicant Guidebook and how they will technically support your specific requirements.

Clearly some providers don’t seem to understand that it will be a new world, which to me suggests that perhaps they don’t understand the program as much as they would have you believe.

By Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services

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

$5 billion reasons you should know about new Top-Level Domains

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Adrian Kinderis, CEO of AusRegistry International, explains how entrepreneurs and brands can get a slice of the $5 billion domain name industry through the new Top-Level Domain program.

By Adrian Kinderis

In January next year a revolution is set to usher in the most expansive and fundamental change to the Internet in its history. The new Top-Level Domain Program, administered by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), will see web addresses move beyond the traditional .com to .anything in a dramatic shift that will introduce a new platform for creativity and major new revenue streams for online investment.

For those not aware, the program will allow brands, entrepreneurs and governments to apply for their own version of .com – moving from pepsi.com to .pepsi for example – and secure a unique slice of Internet real-estate that will dramatically change the way Internet users around the world navigate to find content online. For more information, here is a video of an interview I did with Bloomberg Television about the program.

So, now that I’ve got you interested, you’re probably thinking about the best way you can gain a slice of the $5 billion dollar domain name industry. You might be an entrepreneur out to make your next million or a brand looking to make a statement of leadership in the digital space.

Here are my top six tips on how you can take advantage of this billion dollar opportunity and own a trusted, regulated slice of Internet ‘real estate’:

1.    Don’t try to be the next .com

The biggest revenue-making opportunity under the new Top-Level Domain Program lies within the formation of generic word Top-Level Domains. Rather than trying to become the next .com, entrepreneurs should look to create boutique name spaces, turning over lower registration volumes, but at higher margins – the online equivalent of running an exclusive VIP country club.

Take .music, which would be created as a targeted name space specifically for the music industry. Such a name space is probably never going be a competitor to .com, however it will hold significant value to the music industry given it will be directly tied to the subject matter and the global music community. Imagine if you could capture even 20 per cent of the roughly 8 million music artists around the world and charge them each $US5 to promote their music under an official .music name space. That’s $US8 million in annual revenue before you consider other potential revenue sources from targeting users with content businesses like concerts.music and reviews.music.

So, rather than trying to be all things to all people, think very carefully about your audience before making the move. Because in this game an audience of “everyone” is a very risky move to make.

2.    Offer more than just a domain name

You are securing a domain name space. You can do so much more that just sell domains. We call it “left of the dot” thinking. What more can you offer that will build value to your namespace? How else can domain names be used? Should you retain premium names rather than sell them and look to monetise those sites by building out content? You are starting with a clean slate here. You set the rules. Be creative and create something that will bring value to your market and provide something different!

3.    Commercialise your .brand TLD

For brand holders, the benefits of securing a .brand Top-Level Domain are immediately obvious: Trust, leadership, customer engagement and improved message recall.

Think creditcards.hsbc, cars.ebay or justdoit.nike and you’re well on the way to capturing the opportunity presented by this unique change.

However, a .brand Top-Level Domain can deliver more than this. For instance, imagine eBay securing .eBay and selling a slice of that space to its audience of 94 million registered users at $US2 per vanity domain name fee. Also, with more than 600 million registered users, a username.facebook strategy of a similar nature should be an absolute no-brainer.

From a customer engagement perspective, imagine if BMW were to provide all customers with a john.smith.bmw domain name with the purchase of a new vehicle to allow access to critical information such as service scheduling and technical information. Not only would it deliver value to the customer, it would also play a role in the introduction of the customer to the BMW brand experience and lifestyle (car clubs, forums, social networking etc).

There will also be huge improvements in online security and trust. Take the bank Chase for example, it would bring clarity and security to customers with the simple message, ‘If it’s not .chase, it’s not us’. Not to mention making it easier for customers to find content online without using Google, because all they will need to remember is investments.chase, for instance.

4.    Remove the 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 a relevant Chinese script Top-Level Domain could be worth to the thriving Chinese community?

5.    Act now

The clock is ticking on this limited opportunity. The application window for new Top-Level Domains will open on 12 January 2012 and we’ll start to see new ‘.anything’ domains in operation from late 2012. 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 155 days until the application window opens and you’ll need all of that time to make sure your approach is on the money.

6.    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 such as AusRegistry International who understands the application process, policy and technological infrastructure required to make the most of the new Top-Level Domain opportunity.

This is just the starting point.

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

At AusRegistry International (www.ausregistry.com), 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.

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

By Adrian Kinderis, Internet industry thought leader and CEO of AusRegistry International, one of the few companies in the world with the experience and technology to activate and implement new Top-Level Domains.

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.