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Safeway pulls all four new gTLD apps

Kevin Murphy, September 28, 2014, 19:00:37 (UTC), Domain Registries

Retail giant Safeway has removed itself from the new gTLD program entirely, last week withdrawing all four of its applications.

The $139-billion-a-year company had applied for the dot-brands .safeway, .vons, .justforu and the generic .grocery, but all four bids are now showing as withdrawn.

Now that Safeway has withdrawn, the only remaining applicant for .grocery is rival retailer Wal-Mart.

.grocery had been applied for as a “closed generic”, in which Safeway would be the only eligible registrant.

The ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee had advised against closed generics on consumer protection grounds.

When ICANN pressed applicants for such strings to clarify whether they were in fact “closed generics”, Safeway denied (pdf) that .grocery was.

Wal-Mart, on the other hand, said that its .grocery would be restricted to Wal-Mart and its affiliates.

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Comments (22)

  1. Kassey says:

    Another solid evidence that .brand may not work as expected. do com is still king.

  2. Reality says:

    Regardless of how much money they have there’s no point wasting money on new gTLDs.

  3. Seb says:

    That’s becoming obvious with more and more .brand withdrawing their application.

    Too much hassle managing a .brand and no added benefits that a dotcom cannot do already.

    .brand will not be the savior of the gtld program that all applicants were hoping for.

  4. Raj Domains says:

    lots of .brand withdrawing their applications…now safeway also did it.

  5. Not that many have withdrawn. Those that withdrew have not been provided good guidance nor do they understand what it will mean to own a .brand or they simply chose a bad string that should never have been submitted. .Brand opportunities for innovation are strong regardless of what those with vested interests in the status quo will tell you.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      I make it 70 dot-brands (uncontested applications for single-registrant spaces, not including closed generics) to have withdrawn to date.

    • Seb says:

      You’re the first one to have vested interests.

      Can you name the strong .Brand opportunities for innovation ?
      What are these so-called “innovations” that can’t be achieved by a dotcom domain name ?

      Will a .brand display a website in 4D holographic or in hyperspatial Dolby megasound ?
      I can’t wait for you to name those “innovations”.

      Do you really believe 70 mid to huge companies have been ill advised ?
      What is the cost of running a .brand to a $139-billion-a-year company like Safeway ?
      Doesn’t it tell you something if they decide it’s simply not worth it ?

      • Depends on the brand, their line of business, business objectives and use cases that will drive to those objectives.

        keymessage.brand, product.brand, customer.brand, service.brand, channel.brand. Just the beginning … what’s fun, no one really knows how it will evolve and what technologies will emerge to leverage a proprietary .brand space, they control.

        Status quo is easy. Change is hard, not without risk but the only path to gain or keep market leadership.

        Expect more brands to withdraw, largely because it is hard.

        • Seb says:

          Peter,

          brand.com/keymessage or keymessage.brand.com
          brand.com/product or product.brand.com
          brand.com/customer or customer.brand.com
          brand.com/service or service.brand.com
          brand.com/channel or channel.brand.com

          all work very well and are on a single domain name which is much easier to manage than registering a new domain for each product / each message / each customer / each service / each channel…

          If brand.com/product or product.brand.com work just perfectly and are understood by everyone as being website addresses, why do you want to try to awfully reinvent the wheel by making it square and confusing people ?

          To get back to the main question :
          So what are these strong innovations that can’t be achieved with a dotcom ?

          Now, what’s fun, no one really knows how it will evolve and what technologies will emerge to make a dotcom (a company controls) a place where things that can’t be done today will all become possible in the future !!

          Yes, i do expect more brands to withdraw, not because it’s hard but rather because it’s not worth it.

          • Phil Buckingham says:

            Seb, you cant vertically integrate a brand.com . It is about ownership , control , at the top level wihich will allow .brands to innovate. A dot.com address will increasing become meaningless, as consumers adopt this paradigm shift .

            • Seb says:

              What kind of innovation Phil ?

              So far, the new gtld program has been a failure, applicants have to force domain names into people’s accounts because they don’t want them even for free (.XYZ)

              Except .Club which has much less registrations than excepted but still stands as the champion, all other registries have very poor registration numbers and they will not be able to run their business very long.

              Huge companies are now advised to withdraw their .brand applications.

              A dot com address will always be the gold standard.
              When the dust settles and all this noise stops, the new gtlds will be remembered as the 1985 New Coke (which was full of innovation too).

            • gpm group says:

              Phil,

              “you cant vertically integrate a brand.com”

              Subdomains.brand.com are free and can be configured easily on existing servers.

              brand.com costs are as low as $10 a year to renew.

              There’s lots choice between competing registrars and there are several registrars that have built their business around protecting and maintaining domains for corporations and brands.

              A dot.com address will increasing become meaningless, as consumers adopt this paradigm shift .

              Different companies have different business models and ICANN’s new gTLD program doesn’t work very well for many of them also not at all for some of them. This means only a subset of brands can use the new gTLD program.

              So I’m not sure what it is you are thinking will cause a paradigm shift?

    • Rubens Kuhl says:

      A reasonable number of dot-brands bought the FUD about squatting, making for applications with no real mission to begin with. Most withdrawals are likely to come from these defensive apps.

  6. Kassey says:

    Top brands such as L’Oreal, Hilton, Heinz, and GM have all withdrawn their applications. NYSE-listed Infosys withdrew .infosys brand when they were already on their way to signing the contract. .brand is only a concept that sounds interesting but not compelling.

  7. I argue that, taking the issue of .brands to a logic most favorable to the proponents new gTLDs, and that would be that all Fortune 500 companies apply for, obtain, and use their own .brands; in that case, what is likely to happen?

    1. Generic new gTLDs would lose; the public psyche will be swayed, and gradually shifted from keyword, and legacy TLDs to brands. To be genuine, a site would have to wear a .brand badge. New Generic Top level Domains would become mere ritual aimed at creating a façade of a naming system, when in fact there was no substance or benefit to it, the results invariably would indicate, still, that there is no need, want, or desire for any of it.

    2. At such level of success where large to medium corporations enjoy their .brands, there will be pressure on ICANN to go straight to a dotless world, which is the ultimate dot brand, or risk being accused of creating an internet of haves, and have-nots. And i believe as recalcitrant as ICANN is, must succumb to immense public scrutiny, and pressure.

    I have 3 more points, but for bandwidth sake, I’ll end end here.

  8. The .brand attrition is interesting to watch. For as much as the TLD hater crowd wants to latch onto the opportunity to bash new TLDs with it being just “we were dumb to apply” as the rationale behind the withdrawals.

    Based upon public records, I recall Safeway was purchased by another competitor called Albertsons earlier in 2014, after the Safeway apps had passed initial evaluation.

    More than likely the acquirer only looked at the annual fees vs the benefit or value and decided to kill it. Or perhaps, like most corporations, risk aversion caused something innovative to be snuffed out by safe conservatism.

    The number of brands that have their internet strategy (in general), dot com, or dot theirbrand(s), are limited. Heck, many have very outdated IT.

    Typically there are fiefdoms or silos inside the corporations that are idea killers vs killer ideas.

    Doesn’t matter if it is new TLD or an existing .com, bigger companies just do what they do once they hit a certain size.

    Often despite great advise.

  9. Scott Pinzon says:

    Seb sounds like someone calling the horseless carriage a complete failure, based on sales in 1910. It’s crazy to declare .brand TLDs a flop before the effort really starts.
    In this day of weekly headlines announcing yet another giant company who has lost millions of customer credentials to hackers, one of the innovations of .brand is better top-to-bottom control of the domain and how people register domains in it and access it – assuming the .brand who owns their own TLD wants to make security a competitive differentiator.
    Dismissing new TLDs derives from facing backwards and assuming what now is, will continue exactly the same. But we’re squarely in the post-PC era, and .brands will find ways to tie to mobile, cloud, and the Internet of Things that we can scarcely conceive yet.
    Owning a TLD is a long-term play, not something that succeeds or fails based on this quarter of this year. Someone savvy (perhaps Canon?) will turn their .brand into a prestige play among consumers; once that happens, watch other corporations race to catch up.

    • I had argued, right here, on this blog, that advancing premises that are unique to dot brands alone, dies very little for Generic Top Level Domains themselves.

      Take for example the two points you elucidated so eloquently:

      1. SECURITY. This may be true that owning your own dot brand could give you total control of your Internet activities, especially so if you run the back-end in-house, but how is that applicable to newgTLDs in general? It’s not.

      2. EMULATION: You proffer that other corporations will “race. To catch up”, since success breeds success, we’re corporate idols to make their brands covetous. Here again, for the fact that I CAN has postponed, sino die, the second round of applications, it is impractical to rely on this.

  10. Jim Prendergast says:

    Without knowing the specific details of what happened with Safeway there might be another scenario playing out – The “Free Puppy.” The initial cost of a free puppy is zero but add up the shots, the food, vet visits, destroyed furniture and it quickly is no longer free.

    I’m betting that the vast majority of the withdrawn applications were initiated by legal or brand protection teams at these companies, where there was budget for the TLD and justification was fairly straight forward.

    Once the evaluation was complete, the TLD project was then shifted from that team and their budget to marketing or a business unit where there was no budget built in for a TLD. “Here ya go – here’s a ‘free puppy.’”

    During the last budget cycle, this was a low dollar item as people sat on the application and did nothing. But with contracting deadline approaching and budgeting cycles for the next FY beginning, people started looking at how much this “free puppy” would now cost and the impact on their own budget. ICANN fees, back end provider, legal, marketing, etc. Suddenly this “free” TLD from legal wasn’t so free and people were having a difficult time justifying the costs, especially when there are no readily apparent examples of other successful BRAND TLDs to point to yet.

    Budget cycles in these big companies is extremely political and some people might have decided that sticking their neck out on this wouldn’t be good for their career.

    Would some of these decisions been different if the marketing or business units were brought in from the beginning? Probably.

    Is it a short sighted view to cut and run now? Time will tell but clearly some people decided that the cost of the free puppy was not worth it to them or their budgets.

  11. Rob Golding says:

    Unless/until someone comes up with a *useful* technology built around a TLD (like .TEL tried) they’re all primarily just ‘me too’ attempts to cash in, based on pie-in-the-sky projections.

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