Domain industry polarization over gTLD expansion

The polarization among domain investors on the subject of gTLDs is a fact that demands further analysis.

The public display of such opposing sides started as a fun part of TRAFFIC last year, with Team Schwartz and Team Schilling debating the validity of the ICANN-mandated expansion.

While that debate established the fact that most old school domainers had no interest in gTLDs at the time, it also helped settle some questions for many that do want to partake. In fact, the TRAFFIC discussion displayed the lack of information on the prospect, mechanism, and timeline of the gTLD rollout.

Since then, many of those that expressed their concern or lack of interest initially, have made strategic acquisitions. Such domain investors include Mike Berkens, Page Howe, Adam Dicker and others. There is no point in denying that a lot of the initial concerns can be blamed on ICANN’s flip-flopping on various procedures, regarding the gTLD allocation and the seriousness of its efforts.

Fast forward into 2014, and we have a minimum of 25 active gTLDs by two registries: Donuts, Inc. and Uniregistry. These two will soon be joined by other registries for a smaller number of gTLDs; however, these smaller players are targeting more general, larger markets, some of which are geo-targeted.

In the realm of Joe Domainer, polarization has a two-fold manifestation: There is a tendency to over-consume the available ‘domain food’, and there is an opposite refusal to eat it. Such extremes are in place as the result of a lack of focus or strategy related to gTLDs.

Not too long ago, in the past year and a half or so, I was strongly objecting the introduction of gTLDs, going as far as to categorize them as remarkably heinous. What changed my position, was the formulation of rules and the definition of processes by ICANN, along with the adoption of the concept by branding authorities.

As a creative person, I am generally more open-minded than the common layman. I appreciate opportunities, change and growth, for the sake of advancement. But most of all, I support the concept of people’s right to a choice, and I am not going to stand in the way of those that want to have more choices in domain registrations than the 20-years of progressively longer dot .coms.

Polarization in the domain industry over the expansion of the Internet name space and gTLDs will continue to be a discussion point this year and onwards. While some still require a ‘proof of concept’ and an imminent success, others invest long term, mining the new gold. And that requires less talking, and more drilling.


  1. “As a creative person”. There is the rub. It will take creative thinkers and strategic planning to turn what IMO is a dismal start to the introduction of new GTLD addresses into any sort of success.
    Not only polarization but offensive and defensive proclamation extremes are being played out and hampering progress as in the following two statements
    “GTLDs are needed and are going to change it all man.. going to give the little guy a first or second chance to get his or her great domain name” to
    “So what about the weak reg numbers. The registries only have to sell so many to get their money back and turn a profit”
    Can’t have it both ways in the same discussion.
    Either GTLDs are going to save the internet and change the world or
    GTLDs are the commodity play of the day for the moneymakers to turn a buck.
    Not a lot of dough or time or energy spent adding credence or clarity to either of the above seemingly opposing views IMO. Just conferencing and sharing the news among the people that already know and don’t need to be educated about GTLDs.
    At some point a leader will need to step forward and set the GTLD train on a specific track or else the GTLD failure funds coffers will be tested in short order.

  2. Scott – Thanks for the fair and balanced comment. I thoroughly agree. Keep in mind that the ball is in the court of Registries, not ICANN. The latter was the facilitator of the change, not of its adoption.

    Registries should – and will – treat gTLDs as unique products that require an extensive presentation to the consumer. The antipodes of this notion, is that there should be nothing else than .com/.net/.org “just because.” That logic does not work for me.

  3. Followup, Just noticed a blog post referencing some registries are presenting at industry tradeshows (outside the domain industry). interestingly the double speak continues as the blog references the fact that domain investors will be a big part of GTLD (albeit early) GTLD success. To your original post Rewind to an earlier series of blog posts a few months back and registries were being quoted as saying “Domain investors will not be a consideration in our marketing efforts or any buyers we would be interest in doing business with”
    Again this back and forth confusing banter leaves all of us wondering
    Who are these registries and what is their agenda?
    Are there any domain investors with real interest in GTLDs (i.e. more than 1-3 names)
    When it comes to GTLD program progress thus far it is too much side to side and not enough moving forward IMO. To use a football analogy. The quickest route to the goal line is north to south. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Scott – Love the football analogy, but this seems to be more of a soccer game. ๐Ÿ˜€ Lots of dribbling and passing the ball, until the moment arrives.

    I can’t blame the Registries for changing their strategy in a matter of months; that’s exactly what happens when the ‘white book’ by ICANN is finally published. Digital Archery anyone?

    The worst feeling is expecting others to act on your behalf, to resolve things while you’re waiting, powerless to act. This needs to change.

    While we do expect the Registries to take upon their shoulders the collective weight of this new era, we can’t just sit and wait. Proactively, our research and investments should include reaching out to the general public ourselves. I’ve done so, to markets that I am familiar with and interact with: photographers, artists, designers, brand strategists. I know, for a fact, their interest and participation is exploding.

  5. I believe that many of the reactions are due to fear!!
    -fear of missing an opportunity and reading about it later
    -fear of investing and loosing money if no market develops for the new names
    -fear of listening to knowledgeable investors and deciding if they are right or wrong
    -fear of the financial backers if a new string is not successful
    Overcoming fear is the challenge in this new landscape.
    Over coming fear is the challenge of investing in anything.

  6. Have to hand it to you, Soccer is a better choice . is that .Soccer? LOL
    I think many of us invested in GTLD marketing and services and aftermarket etc heard the budget and investment numbers mentioned on popular blogs some time ago and all of us (certainly myself) are frustrated by what we perceive as a necessary but missing concerted effort to reach and educate the masses. Perhaps these sporadic outside the domain industry tradeshow appearances will make a ripple but doubtful they will make a splash. People (i.e. consumers) turn their heads in relation to the size of the noise. So far whispers as revealed by tweets and an occasional linked in post both free efforts BTW and both lacking any proof of sales production in my experience.
    It is early, there is time, mistakes can and will be made as we traverse and challenge the new frontier. Stay tuned and thanks for bringing the polarization issue to light BTW.

  7. Robin – As with every new market, research and carefully diversified investments, including the definition of a budget, overcome that fear. Nobody forces domain investors to invest in gTLDs, but the field is now changing. Six months from now, twelve months from now, the foundation will be more solid than today.

    Scott – I played soccer half my life and it’s a great game that can end in a draw, regardless. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Again, I fully agree. I personally expect a more aggressive promotion of it all. And it will happen, rest assured. People like you and I, are working towards constructing something, versus blocking it. The Registries have a plan for the next 25 years, not just for 2014. If that’s not the case, then others will take over their spot. That’s the big difference with the existing namespace and believe me, Verisign is getting nervous.

  8. Hi Acro,

    >>The antipodes of this notion, is that there should be nothing else than .com/.net/.org โ€œjust because.โ€ That logic does not work for me.<<

    I will try to answer your "just because" . . . BECAUSE behavior is hard to change !!!! People search the way they do


  9. lordbyroniv – Let’s analyze this a bit further. Who is “people”, and why do they supposedly search like this?

    The biggest argument of those opposing gTLDs is that past attempts at rolling out e.g. .mobi have failed. That was 10 years ago, this is now: the Internet is content-rich and interactive. More traffic is driven by Facebook and Twitter than ever. Interaction is not restricted to searching the toolbar and appending .com to everything. That worked in the past, and in an era of TLD-agnostic brands, it won’t retain its importance.

    Yesterday I announced the availability of .photography to a professional photographer who owns the .com. She was elated that she can get the first+last name in .photography. Breaking free from the TLD is liberating.

  10. *

    These “debates” happen each time something new threatens or promises to disrupt the industry — depends on one’s outlook, I guess.

    I don’t see the new gTLDs as an either/or situation; I see opportunity. I don’t see .com as dead — it will still rule (for a long time) and then coexist with the other gTLDs — that is, IF the new registries decide to make their own aggressive moves.

    I do believe that the new registries need to introduce themselves to Ma and Pa and Hip End User, who (1) may not even know about the new TLDs and (2) who, if they do, may not see a need to buy in on the new gTLDs.

    The “need” part needs to be created; the registries need to make a believable case for registering CompanyName.whatever to replace And domainers are not going to be that ones who make that case; we are simply too despised (sorry, but it’s true, LOL). Besides, that model is old, old school.

    Therefore, these gTLDs are not going to go viral on their own. The new registries are going to have to do for gTLDs what Go Daddy did for domain registrations: advertise, advertise, advertise. In other words, go big or go home. Create a “cool factor” — which will resonate with the young, who, frankly, will be the new gTLD core target audience.

    I remember a time when home and car insurance were just boring products that people bought and reluctantly at that. The ads concentrated on staid values, such as cost, reputation, and coverage — important, but not too interesting to a population that needs to be entertained 24/7. Then the insurance companies got smart and developed commercials with characters that people love: the Gecko, Maxwell the pig, Flo, the Cavemen, among other successful campaigns. Suddenly, insurance became fun and sexy. This is how you “package” a product that can’t be eaten, smelled, touched, held, played with, driven, sat on, watched, etc. (e.g., Flo’s “boxed” insurance plans taken from shelves in a Progressive “store”). Moreover, each of these ads tell an entertaining story, slightly related to the insurance industry, but mostly humorous takes on the human condition.

    I can’t speak for actual insurance sales, but who in the U.S. doesn’t know about Progressive, Geico, State Farm, and All State?

    The days of putting a product out there and just hoping for mass adoption are over: .com, .net, and .org got a pass simply because they were first. The upstarts have to climb a steep hill to catch up.

    The new gTLDs are the new David, up against the behemoth Goliath .com — but it’s going to take more than a slingshot to make inroads into this vast market.

    Just my two cents.


  11. Jennifer – I’m in full agreement, with a caveat: those of us who know what’s happening right now, have the advantage over those that will find out later on.

    Excellent reference to existing, sticky brands, I could not agree more with your expectations from the Registries. And it should be happening, very soon. But I won’t wait until then. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Acro,

    Preamble : For sake of furthering this discussion, can we agree that “People” = the total of all users of various age/geographic/tech savyness/financial wealth/ etc. etc. etc. – in short a variety of multiple overlapping and/or distinct varying attributes and demographics. If you have another definition, lets hear it.

    First – I acknowledge and concede from the start that while age is the single best factor to expose younger users to new gtlds, ultimately this single attribute wont be sufficient to create enough traction. Why ? See Point 2,3 and 4.

    Second – Aside, from the trendy youth demographic, which I already acknowledge is the best reason to buy gtld’s, the domain name system is at heart an ADDRESSING system. Yes, there will be trendy properties in other neighborhoods, but ultimately, people want to be FOUND on the Internet. The new gtld system will create such confusion that pouring significant money into a start-up without the .com will be a giant business mistake. If you think this reason is insufficient to deter people from wanting to buy gtlds, please explain to me specifically what your reasoning is on this point ?

    Third, the costs of development and marketing and breaking through the clutter is so expensive today that it will be a costly mistake to build anything of significance w/o the .com. If you think this reason is insufficient to deter people from wanting to buy gtlds, please explain to me specifically what your reasoning is on this point ?

    Fourth, I believe the global economy is heading for a nasty liquidation of ALL this mal-investment. As such, new gtlds better be nimble enough to survive with dwindling registrations. Personally, I think it is very dangerous to build a business on some of these extensions as they may end up shut down in the not too distant future. If you think this reason is insufficient to deter people from wanting to buy gtlds, please explain to me specifically what your reasoning is on this point ?

    That is my take. I am open to hear your opposing point of view.


  13. Hey Acro,

    Just curious if you ever have developed a site beyond simple brochure sites ? Also, have you ever executed a marketing campaign ? Done a radio spot ? The reason I ask, as one that has spent significant money on BOTH development and advertising, it is intrigues me that somebody would RISK significant development and marketing on anything other than a .com. Can you justify taking such an expensive risk without owning the .com?

    I see gtlds appealing to a user for PERSONAL use. Not for anybody that is serious about BUSINESS.


  14. The new TLDs are comparable to microcap or penny stocks. Yes, it is possible to see phenomenal returns if they are acquired cheap. But there is considerable risk. Now one has to admit there is risk paying reg fee for a brandable two-word .COM that makes less than $5/year in PPC income. Paying hundreds of dollars for a domain in a new TLD is much riskier. I know what sort of passive turnover (low) and sales revenue I have on decent keyword .Nets. .Infos and .TVs – extensions which have existed for a decade or longer. So why should I expect to see booming aftermarket demand for a new TLD in the next few years? New TLD investments should be considered a long-term play and yes I am fearful that money put in to new TLDs goes to zero because I won’t have sales to cover renewals. But for those with the resources and risk tolerance to put some money into them, go for it.

  15. Leonard – Exactly why the old school model of monetization won’t work with the new gTLDs.

    Penny stocks?

    We are talking about brands that will be used globally to define services, products and companies. If you plan to park gTLDs in hopes of making or surpassing the reg fees, that plan is doomed.

    The added benefit is that traditional domainers will have to reassess their strategy with regards to gTLDs.

    If all you do is what you’ve known, then all you get is what you’ve gotten.

Speak Your Mind