Preparing for New gTLDs (for Domain Name Investors)
I’ve gone through the entire gamut of emotions and opinions about new gTLDs. If you search online back far enough, you can find a few of my rants stating that adding anything more than .com, .net, and .org is a terrible idea (this was when they were proposing .info and .biz). Obviously, I’ve warmed up to the idea today and have a different view. I’ve been directly involved in assisting 10 or so applicants to submit 60 new gTLD applications. I’ve been a domainer, worked for a registry, and now, work for a registrar so I’ve seen the industry from all sides.
So, what should a domainer do about new gTLDs? How should you prepare? Here are my suggestions.
1. Be Optimistic, But Don’t Be Stupid - I have reasons to believe that some new gTLDs will succeed in spite of the naysayers. I’ll give my top reason at the bottom of this post, but this point is about common sense.
There are going to be endless choices. If you are going to succeed you are going to have to make choices. If you are going to “invest” in new gTLDs, invest in those where you have at least a measure of expertise or in an area that you care about and want to be involved. If you put your investments all over the board, there is going to be too much space to cover and you’re attention will likely be diluted to complete ineffectiveness. Lack of focus is already a problem for many domainers, it will be worse in a world with 500 new gTLDs.
2. Don’t Forget What Makes a Domain Name Valuable - Although experts can name 20+ factors about what makes a domain name valuable, they all boil down to two things; 1.) Will someone visit that domain name? 2.) Can someone remember that domain name? Number one is already a strike out with new gTLDs. I don’t think anyone will visit new gTLD as a type-in visitor or via direct navigation within several years, if ever. But many new TLDs will be punchy and memorable. There will be plenty of opportunities for rhyme or coolness; names that are easy, meaningful, and memorable. These are the names you should consider.
3. Play in The Top to Top-Middle Space - There will likely be competition at the very top of the space where people will get carried away and spend too much money. This is sure to drive unreasonable speculation and risk. Lots of people seem to want the most generic .web or .shop keyword domain names. There are at least seven new TLD applications in for the .web TLD which will likely cost someone dearly with no real evidence that they’ll recoup that money. But competition should taper down quickly right below the most common keywords. Unless you have a lot of money to invest (assuming you want to “invest” in new gTLDs), I think that some of the best opportunities and the most opportunities for growing value will lie here. I also think that they will mean the most to people and businesses who do business in the specific market represented by the new gTLD (Dentists for .dentist and Bike shop owners and enthusiasts for .bike, etc.)
4. Watch Out for the Most Confusing Bunches – Although I like most of the vertically targeted domains, I am concerned about a few like .plumbing and .contractors. I was recently tasked with writing an article about each of those two TLDs. Forgive me, but as I sat at my computer, I couldn’t recall if the TLD was .plumbing, .plumber, or .plumbers. The same thing happens to me when I think of .contractors. Is it .contractors, .contractor, or .contracting? I’m concerned about these types of endings. I think that end users are going to struggle with this on certain new TLDs. On the other hand, TLDs like .clothing or .sexy can’t be expressed any other way. I believe that these types will be more used, less confused, and hold more long term value.
5. Plan Ahead and Stay Abreast - We already have dates of release for 60 TLDs going into Sunrise before March, 2014. ICANN is releasing new TLDs at a rate of ten to fifteen per week right now. If you are interested in investing, you’d better plan now and be thinking of which vertical markets and TLDs you are interested. It’ll get overwhelming to try and do this all at the last minute. You don’t want to be making rash decisions about purchases at the last minute; much better to think ahead. 101domain offers a free weekly new gTLD tracking service that informs subscribers about the dates for Sunrise, Landrush, Early Access, and General Availability. Visit http://101domain.com to subscribe.
Why I Have Hope for the Success of New gTLDs
I think that time has condensed over the past ten years. News travels faster. This isn’t new. It’s a historic pattern that is accelerating today. Where it took telephones 39 years to mature from 10% to 40% market penetration, it took computers about 15 years (1.). It has taken smartphones only about 3 years to achieve that same market penetration rate.
My view is that with the popularity of social networks today, there is a much shorter time period from adoption to maturity for any technology. It also costs much less for ideas to spread. There is less friction and more viral activity. If people like new gTLDs (and I think they will), then news of them will spread faster and easier than anything we’ve ever seen.