This week’s NamesCon conference here in Las Vegas, which ended yesterday, offered several new domain registries the chance to talk about their efforts past and future to market new gTLDs.
One theme to emerge was how registries need to work with each other and with their registrar channel partners to raise awareness of alternatives to .com.
Donuts VP Dan Schindler said during a Tuesday keynote that the company plans to ramp up its marketing in 2015.
“There’s still a tremendous amount of work to be done by all the beneficiaries in this process,” he said, saying that Donuts intends to carry out a “broad education and awareness program over course of 2015 and beyond”.
He said the company is pursuing co-marketing efforts with some of its registrar partners at trade shows and such and “possibly including television”.
Schindler also spoke out against paid placement — where registries pay popular registrars for prominent shelf space — “not because we’re cheap”, but because Donuts doesn’t believe it offers registrants the best choice of relevant TLDs.
Here’s a photo of Schindler talking, offered for no other reason than it just cost me £6 to upload from my phone. Note the juxtaposition of a) the extensive Verisign .com/.net sponsorship, b) the Donuts “Not Com Revolution” messaging, and c) my thumb.
Uniregistry CEO Frank Schilling said in his keynote an hour later that he expected “more marketplace collaboration… where it is in our best interest to collaborate” on new gTLD promotion.
But he offered a somewhat dissenting tone with regards what he called the “dog and pony shows” of marketing new gTLDs.
Saying the company is “bootstrapping” some of its strings, he said big marketing spends now would lead to Uniregistry needing to raise its prices in two to three years to cover today’s costs.
Instead, he pointed to efforts such as its decision to release most of .click’s available names for a flat, cheap registration fee at launch, which he said should get names into the hands of users more quickly.
Contrarily, .CLUB Domains CEO Colin Campbell boasted during a brief pre-auction address on Tuesday of his company’s $2.2 million marketing spend for 2014, which he said would increase to $3.5 million in 2015.
Another recurring theme emerging from the conference (and from every other new gTLD event I’ve ever been to) was, as Schindler put it, that “use begets use”. The more high-profile sites a gTLD gets, the more likely it is to gain mindshare and sell more domains.
DotStrategy, the .buzz registry, is to be the beneficiary of such customer marketing.
Howard Lefkowitz, CEO of travel site operator One Degree World (which revealed it paid $100,000 for vegas.club earlier this week) revealed during NamesCon that some of his company’s city-related .buzz domains, such as sydney.buzz, are to feature for two weeks on the US TV game show Wheel Of Fortune as prize sponsors.
Will we see a bump in .buzz sales as a result? The gTLD currently has fewer than 8,500 names in its zone file, so if the TV time bears fruit it should be fairly easy to spot.
An unsuccessful new gTLD applicant wants ICANN to share the proceeds of its “last resort” auction with itself and the other losing applicants.
Aesthetics Practitioners Advisory Network had applied for .salon, but found itself in a contention set with three other applicants and was ultimately beaten at auction by a winning bid of over $5 million from Donuts.
Now, the company has written to ICANN to ask for the money from the ICANN-run auction to be shared out among the losing bidders in much the same way as it is when a contention set goes to private auction.
APAN CEO Tina Viney wrote (pdf):
On the basis that ICANN received such a large amount ($5.175million) for the bidding of this auction it would be fair and equitable for the losing parties to be considered in the distribution of the winning financial bid. We believe that ICANN should review this consideration for losing parties who have had to incur numerous costs, not just the application fee, but also toward the preparation of documents so that we could meet with ICANN’s requirements. These include, but are not limited to registry fees, solicitor’s fees, financial services, not to mention the enormous amount of time that is required of an applicant in preparing for their application.
As a result, we respectfully request ICANN as part of their funds distribution policy to consider the applicants who did not win at the auction, BUT WERE SUCCESSFUL IN PASSING THE EVALUATION PROCESS.
She said that private auctions, which allow losing applicants to recoup some or all of their costs, should be mandatory when a majority of the applicants in a contention set want one.
In .salon’s case, one of the four applicants didn’t agree to a private auction, according to Viney. As Donuts is the enthusiastic pioneer of the private auction concept, that means the holdout was either DaySmart Software or L’Oreal.
A private auction has been used to settle a new gTLD contention set containing two different strings for the first time.
Afilias has won the right to run .pet after Google withdrew its application for .pet and Donuts withdrew its bid for .pets.
The two strings, one the plural of the other, had been placed into indirect contention by ICANN after a String Confusion Objection panel controversially ruled in August 2013 that .pet and .pets were too confusingly similar to be allowed to coexist.
This means that Donuts has been forced to withdraw an uncontested application.
Notably, it was Google that filed, fought and won the SCO complaint, and it didn’t even wind up with the TLD it wanted.
The final settlement of the contention set reflects ICANN’s inconsistent policy on plurals. Several plural/singular combinations — such as .career(s) and .photo(s) — already coexist in the DNS.
Donuts says that problems obtaining “licenses” from the Chinese government are to blame for the fact that it is yet to launch any of its Chinese-script new gTLDs.
Currently, four of the company’s portfolio of 156 gTLDs are in Chinese. Three have been delegated to the DNS root but none of them have been launched.
The first, .游戏 (for “games”) has been in the root since October 2013, but does not yet have a firm date for Sunrise. Another, .商店 (“shop”), was delegated just last week, almost a year after Donuts signed its Registry Agreement with ICANN.
Donuts explained the .游戏 delay with the following statement:
The Chinese government division which handles this area is MIIT [Ministry of Industry and Information Technology] and in conjunction with [.cn registry] CNNIC they are still to advise of the licensing application process. We hope to make these TLDs available during the first half of 2015.
No additional details were available and it’s not clear what licenses Donuts — which is based in the United States — thinks it needs to obtain before launching.
I’ve heard rumors that China may introduce a licensing system in future, but other new gTLD registries with Chinese-script strings in their stable have managed to launch their gTLDs just fine without a Chinese government license.
TLD Registry — legally based in Dublin, Ireland, founded by Finns — launched .中文网 and .在线 earlier this year and has tens of thousands of names under management.
Thousands of those domains, which match Chinese geographic names, were allocated to Chinese government, however.
“No licenses are currently possible, because the new law is MIA,” TLD Registry chief marketing officer Simon Cousins told us.
Donuts added five new gTLDs to its ever-growing portfolio this week, as the results of five private auctions were revealed.
The company won the following strings:
.news — went to Donuts after withdrawals from Merchant Law Group, Amazon, Radix, Uniregistry, Famous Four Media and Primer Nivel. As somebody with a vested interest in the news media, I’m glad this one went to a registry with an open registration policy.
.golf — Donuts beat Famous Four, Dot Golf and Fegistry.
.casino — Donuts won after withdrawals from Famous Four, Afilias and dotBeauty.
.school — Donuts beat Fegistry, Uniregistry and Minds + Machines.
.football — Donuts beat Famous Four.
The registry currently has 156 delegated TLDs, more than half of those it originally applied for. It has another 99 active applications in various stages of pre-delegation.