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FairWinds hard-sells defensive gTLD applications

Kevin Murphy, March 6, 2012, 17:25:50 (UTC), Domain Services

Talk about a U-turn.

FairWinds Partners, the company behind the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse, has gone from using CADNA to oppose ICANN’s new gTLD program in its entirety to name-dropping the organization in sales pitches encouraging companies to defensively apply for “dozens” of new gTLDs.

According to an email pitch forwarded to DI by a reader today, the company is recommending potential clients apply for new gTLDs defensively, then drop out of the process after May 1 if it turns out their competitors are not aggressively pursuing new gTLDs.

The pitch appears to be tailored to the specific potential client – pimping keyword gTLDs relevant to its industry as well as dot-brands in general. Here are a few extracts (typos in original):

Many majors brands applying for at least one new gTLD – some more than a dozen. They don’t necessarily plan on using them straight away, but it is important for businesses to secure the option to leverage new gTLDs as most major businesses will.

FairWinds (through our non-profit advocacy group CADNA – the Coalition Again Domain Name Abuse) has actually been the strongest opponent of this program for years. That said, given the sheer number of businesses that are participating, it is something that brand owners can’t sit out on and businesses have decided to work with us as FairWinds is known to be the leading voice of the brand owner community on this topic.

So you know, many of our clients are exercising what we are calling the “behind the curtain” strategy. This involves applying for a new gTLD and if it turns out that your competitors don’t apply as aggressively as we think they will, you have the option to pull the application and receive a 70% refund on the application fee. This might be the right strategy for generic extensions like those listed above. That said, I highly recommend you apply for and follow through on .application as several brands in your space will most likely apply for their primary .BRANDS.

There’s nothing positive in the pitch – no praising the speculative SEO or branding/marketing benefits of new gTLDs, for example.

It’s a fully defensive, FUD-based sales call of the kind commonly served up by more established members of the domain name industry.

The fact that CADNA is mentioned – I’ve found that FairWinds is usually keen to draw a bright line between itself and the organization, even though they share management – makes this all the more remarkable.

For the record, I do feel slightly bad for singling out FairWinds here.

It’s not actually bad advice – the strategy it proposes is sound – and I’m certain the same and worse FUD tactics are being used today by other new gTLD consultants and registries.

But it’s interesting because as recently as May 2011 CADNA was calling for the new gTLD program to be scrapped, saying ICANN “has not managed demonstrate a need for new gTLDs, nor that the benefits will outweigh the costs, particularly for brand owners and consumers”.

At least its sales pitches are consistent with that view, I suppose.

FairWinds’ Singaporean conversion may not have been Damascene, but it was certainly opportunistic.

UPDATE: I’ve changed the headline to reflect that it’s FairWinds, not CADNA, that’s doing the selling. While I think the article makes that clear, not everybody reads beyond the headline.

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Comments (6)

  1. Steve Jones says:

    “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” I guess. Especially if there’s money involved.

  2. Mike Jameson says:

    A perverted janus face strategy CADNA and Fairwinds are pursuing. If I was ICANN I would send them an invoice for the trouble making the last years.

  3. This becomes more interesting as you read Joshua Bourne’s multiple posts on iMedia Connection touting the positive impacts of new gTLDs: search, personalization, etc.

    http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/30884.asp

  4. M says:

    Interesting approach to effectively pay $55k to withdraw on 1 May versus looking to see if you might want to file an objection. I guess objections are gonna be pricey?

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      As you know, Legal Rights Objections are far cheaper.

      But objections don’t get you a gTLD, which you might want if all your competitors have one and your next chance to apply is years away.

      • M says:

        Agree, I was only referring to the simple strategy of applying and then withdrawing. I’ve heard a few emphasize this as a strategy which seems silly to me.

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