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It’s official: people hate the domain name industry

Kevin Murphy, January 25, 2013, 17:51:13 (UTC), Domain Services

I’ve said it many times before: the domain name industry has problems with its reputation. But now the official figures are in that — apparently — prove it.
According to ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade, the industry is perceived four times worse the IT industry average.
That figure — whatever it means — came out of a “reputational analysis” study conducted by expensive consultants hired by ICANN, Chehade told registrars and registries in Amsterdam today.
“The results were not flattering,” he said. “The negative perception of our industry runs four times the IT industry average.”
“Our industry is not a well-established or well-received industry,” Chehade said.
A second study conducted by a pricey PR firm — which looked at media coverage and polled the big three tech industry analysis firms — apparently confirmed the results.
“None of the three top analysts cover our sector,” he said. “They don’t even look at it.”
“Let’s stop the constant attacking of our registrars and registries,” he later added.
“Are there bad actors? Every industry has bad actors, but ours are somehow featured all the time in the media,” he said. “How about if we talk about the good guys that do real works and serve their communities and help businesses thrive? That’s the story I want to tell.”
Chehade said he’d shared the results of the two studies with the CEOs of major registrars at a roundtable discussion at ICANN HQ last week.
He said he’s trying to reach out to analysts to engage more with ICANN in a bid to improve the industry’s reputation.
“As the new gTLD program rolls in the second half of this year, it’s very important that we’re prepared with the right people in these places so our perception, and how the industry talks about us, is the right thing,” he said.
Chehade, who’s been at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week, also pointed to a pronounced lack of awareness of the domain name sector among other industry leaders.
“Out of the CEOs I met — and I met many — I’d say half of them don’t know who we are,” Chehade said.
He said that one profile-raising idea that came out of his registrar CEO round-table was to create “the first DNS world conference… a true business and industry conference”.
There’s also talk about a “good housekeeping” seal for well-behaved domain name industry companies.
“If it’s perception issue or an actual issue, we need to do things that start showing the world we are a responsible industry,” he said.
Chehade plans to meet next month with registry CEOs and invited new gTLD applicant back-ends, and later with the leaders of ccTLD registries.

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Comments (30)

  1. Tom G says:

    I agree with Chehade.
    I think the first place to start is misleading pre-registration offers by these established registrars. If we are going to raise the profile of the industry, we must not begin with confusing consumers.
    And I’m going to say so. The solution is fixing the problem, not the person pointing it out.

  2. Tom G says:

    Why wasn’t he speaking to the bad actors in the room and not the people attacking them.
    Fix the problem and the publicity fixes itself.

  3. Tom G says:

    I have another suggestion for Fadi to raise the profile of the industry.
    Come out with a definitive statement that closed generic keyword registries will not be allowed.
    That would be another way to avoid bad press.

  4. It is not the “Domain Industry” those numbers reflect. Those numbers reflect the job ICANN itself is doing.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      So you don’t think stuff like, I dunno, making money out of tragedies like the BP oil spill makes the industry look bad too?

      • Tom G says:

        I think informing consumers how to avoid damage caused by neglect in the oil industry is just fine.
        Informing consumers that what the oil industry is telling them is fundamentally incorrect – That is just fine too.
        “it’s very important that we’re prepared with the right people in these places so our perception, and how the industry talks about us, is the right thing,”
        I volunteer, sign me up. Advertising is available.

      • Tom G says:

        Who’s making money?
        I would love to make some money.
        If United Domains would change their language, become transparent and honest, I would be glad to sell them ads to replace my consumer alerts.
        Consumer alerts don’t pay money.

    • GK says:

      This coming from the man who doesn’t even grasp his own abysmal reputation among the people who he thinks actually like him.
      The domain “industry” is defined almost wholly by domainers. I’d wager the substantial majority of people who voted here doesn’t even know who ICANN is… and there is no more perfect “king” of that business than you, Rick.

  5. gpmgroup says:

    “As the new gTLD program rolls in the second half of this year, it’s very important that we’re prepared with the right people in these places so our perception, and how the industry talks about us, is the right thing,” he said.
    It doesn’t matter how you spin it, the new gTLD program was structured in a way to primarily benefit people inside the domain industry, with the costs to be picked up by businesses and consumers globally and for questionably little benefit in return.
    Hence perceptions are likely to get worse not better.

  6. Adam says:

    People hate bureaucrats ? lawyers ? and people who make more money then them ? GTFO !
    “expensive consultants hired by ICANN”
    Spending “their” money on surveys like this is clearly what makes people love you more. . . Now lets use all those millions in the coffers for an ad agency or PR firm. We need to hire someone to make us look good, etc.

  7. Tom G says:

    I wonder if Fadi took Florian Huber aside and told him he was making the industry look bad by misleading consumers.
    1,000,000 mislead, misinformed, unsecured, confused domain ‘pre-registrations’.

  8. Kevin,
    Domainers are the smallest spoke in the “Domain Industry” as they refer to it. This is not about domain investors. This is about how ICANN is out of control.
    Maybe how companies like Godaddy push .co KNOWING it can and will hurt the business of those that buy into it?
    Maybe Google trafficking in trademarks in an abusive way. Maybe that some registrars are havens for hijacked domains?
    So I don’t look at this the same as you do. ICANN is the one with the bad reputation and has allowed things to get out of control. They abused their power and wasted a lot of money being cronies.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      I suspect most of the bad feeling is about stuff like the various gripes people have with Go Daddy (transfer locks, etc), rather than ICANN. As Fadi said, not many people know what ICANN even is.

  9. ““How about if we talk about the good guys that do real works and serve their communities and help businesses thrive? ”
    Here, here. The media is always attached to the negative, maybe an equilibrium would suit all media reports.

  10. Avtal says:

    Most people first encounter the domain industry when they try to register a domain for their organization or small business. That’s when they discover that the domain they want has already been snatched up by a “@#$% cybersquatter”. How do they know it’s a cybersquatter? Because the domain points to a “@#$% parking page”.
    Everyone reading this comment is well aware that registering generic domain names is not cybersquatting, and that UDRP panels (mostly) recognize parking pages as “bona fide offerings of goods and services”.
    But to the public at large, I and my fellow domainers (sorry, I mean “domain investors”) are “@#$% cybersquatters” who “pollute” the net with “@#$% parking pages”.
    I think that this, more than GoDaddy’s sales process or ICANN’s policy tangles, is what gives the domain industry a bad image among the general public.

  11. windy city says:

    …so what is the article about? Wearing our hearts on our sleeves and feeling guilty about capitalism in action?
    I must apologize for NOT following the lemming over the cliff. I am a proud domainer and see nothing wrong in an industry that has been around longer than when I started to get involved in it
    As for the new gTLD program, it’ll have to sink or swim on its own, I ain’t interested in a pig( or pigs) in a poke. But good luck to those that are…

    • Avtal says:

      I don’t think it’s a capitalism-vs-freeloader thing. If a small business owner can’t afford the rent in the top neighborhood, he’ll shrug his shoulders and look for a place that is less expensive. But if the domain he wants is occupied by a parking page, he’ll be very annoyed.
      So why the difference?
      My guess is that there’s an instinctive feeling that the domain name, a valuable public resource, is being “wasted” because the owner is not making the fullest possible use of it. Your guess may be different.
      But if you reduce the general dislike of the domain industry to “they hate successful people”, you are probably missing something in your analysis.

      • windy city says:

        “…But if you reduce the general dislike of the domain industry to “they hate successful people”, you are probably missing something in your analysis.”
        and if that is what you got out of my “analysis”, you’re interpretation is a bit skewed as well…

      • gpmgroup says:

        How is a domain name any more a public resource than a physical building?
        A lot of people typing pure generics will be looking to buy those products, and a page full of relevant links to various suppliers may be of far more use than someone else’s hobby or opinions page. It really depends on the searcher’s intention at the point of time he types the domain name into the address bar.
        If you want to know what people find offensive…
        It is people with power using that power to advantage themselves.
        If you want to know what people find really offensive….
        It is people with power expecting those that they have power over to be forced to pay for each aggrandizement.

        • RH says:

          Exactly land is much more a public resource than a URL that can be remade over and over and over.
          If its the keyword get the .net or add a prefix or suffix.
          How far do we go ? What if a blog with a picture of a kitten is on that vital public resource ? Does that get taken away to give to the start up with the great idea ? This can go on and on and on. Either you believe in owning property, real or virtual or you don’t.

      • Avtal says:

        windy city: I guess I misunderstood your point, and probably I still do. Sorry, I’m a slow learner sometimes.
        gpmgroup: I used the term “public resource” because (to simplify history a little) the .com namespace was created by people who were working, directly or indirectly, for the US government. So it’s as if the physical building in your example were built on land reclaimed from the sea by the US Army Corps of Engineers.
        rh: I don’t believe in the confiscation of private property, but it is reasonable to discuss whether property originally owned by the government was privatized at the correct price, and whether current leases should be renegotiated.
        Anyway, my purpose wasn’t to attack domain investors or their business model. Rather, I’m trying to work out the answers to these questions:
        1) Is it true that the general public holds domain investors in lower esteem than investors in, say, real estate, stocks, or fine art?
        2) If so, why is this the case?
        3) What, if anything, should be done about it?

        • gpmgroup says:

          1.) Domain investors no, the domain industry yes.
          2.) Because the industry leaders have failed to construct a framework that aligns motivation through individual profit with benefiting the wider public interest.*
          3.) Is difficult because the current proposals for new gTLDs are likely to exacerbate the problem.
          *While some think they have been very clever building a system for the lining their own pockets, their approach is likely to prove to be extremely short sighted.

        • commenter says:

          1&2) Domain owners are unpopular because of their monopoly powers. In most markets, beat other bidders by a small margin and you get the item. But domainers know that sometimes one buyer, due to unique circumstances of his business or idea, will pay far more than anyone else. Domainers maximise income by selling to these buyers and ignoring the rest, even if it means leaving many domains unsold.
          Domainers may ask $10k for domains they would give only $100 for. There can be few other markets where this happens.
          3) Were I a dictator I would decree: A speculatively held domain must be sold if there’s an offer that matches Estibot. Buyer can take domain to auction (unless he accepts a counter-offer to keep transaction private).

  12. Joseph Peterson says:

    Avtal, I can answer your question #1 — “Is it true that the general public holds domain investors in lower esteem than investors in, say, real estate, stocks, or fine art?”
    Yes. In spite of plenty of mutually beneficial transactions, most domain investors have been called “cyber squatters” more times than they can count. I’m not aware of a ready-made insulting word that applies to investors in real estate, stocks, or fine art.
    Why the difference? Well, just about everybody knows lots of people who own their home. If they don’t already own their own home, they intend to eventually. It’s pretty common to rent from a landlord. And there’s no shortage of people investing in the stock market. These things are familiar, almost universal in the USA. And when it comes to purchasing fine art, which is a minority interest, most people who don’t buy don’t much care because they also don’t frequent museums all across the globe.
    I’d summarize it this way: When the many buy and sell to the many, everybody’s ok with it. When the few buy and sell to the few, nobody minds much. But when the few sell to the many, then people feel that their rights are being violated, that somebody is cheating. This isn’t true when Apple sells the world computers because people accept that the few can sell to the many when the few are MAKING something.
    Public perception of domain investing (when there is any perception at all), suffers because most people are not involved with selling domains — not in the way they might be with real estate when they eventually sell a home or rent out a room. But lots of people are involved with buying domains. So they sometimes feel that they are being denied a basic resource — like water or electricity — when something they want is unavailable. If they too were engaged with domain trading, as they are with real estate trading or the stock market (through a 401k perhaps), then this resentment and misunderstanding would not exist.
    Eventually, domain trading will become quite widespread and be seen as normal.

  13. RH says:

    Joseph that was an excellent comment. Thank you

  14. Ray Marshall says:

    So, should Douglas Parking and other businesses using prime real estate as an interim use (until such properties are developed for other uses) should be considered brick-n-morter squaters? Imagine the look on their faces if you called them a squater. The cybersquater logic above doesn’t square with reality, or, should I say realty.

  15. Ismael Mireles says:

    Hello, I am very interested in reading the two reports, you know if they are public?

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      As far as I know, they’ve not been published.
      You could always try a Documentary Information Disclosure Process request if you don’t mind waiting a month.

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