The Beijing company that is building a “Great Wall of Domain Names” in China

Shot this last month. The guys at EJEE were among the first that we engaged when embarking on the domain registrar and aftermarket signup phase in China several years back.  We’ve always appreciated their friendship and support.

Two things that I was not able to capture in the video:

  1. Their very cool white Tesla charging out in front of the office. I think I’d be afraid to own one in Beijing. The traffic situation is to manic in my view!  I’d be afraid to drive here myself in any car, let alone a shiny new Tesla!
  2. The camaraderie at their office.  On a number of visits I’ve noticed local domain investors I’ve gotten to know over the years just using this place as a meeting spot of sorts.  It’s a comfortable place to just hang out, drink tea, and talk shop.  In what is a very virtual business nothing replaces actual face-to-face contact. This applies in any country.

Even though I’ve got a professional microphone we encountered some sound level issues during the interview portion, but you can still understand.  Enjoy.

A peek inside the world’s first domain name themed coffee shop.

Every year something innovative happens in the domain name industry that I would not have expected. It’s happened every year I’ve been in this business—since 1996.

Last year was no exception. One innovation was the opening of the world’s first domain name-themed coffee shop, China.VC, in the Haidian district of Beijing. This one district alone contains 3.2 million inhabitants in the capital city of 22 million, and is known to be a center of innovation and hotbed for startup activity.

Plenty of foot traffic everywhere you look. Plenty of young tech-minded folks keen to connect with others interested in investing their new found relative wealth. So why not entice them and others to sip some good coffee and learn about and/or invest in domain names while in the shop?

We hung around and chatted with some of the local patrons while shooting some video for ChopChop.domains, TLD Registry’s new site that lets user find and buy Chinese domain names, even if they don’t speak Chinese. Disclosure: I am a Vice-President at TLD Registry.

We also managed to chat on camera with two of the co-founders, and discussed:

  • How did you get started in the domain name industry?
  • Considering the incredible rise in prices last year (2015) where do you think the domain market is going this year?
  • Why are people in China who have never been in the domain business getting into it? Is it the economy? What do you think is making people decide to invest in domain names instead of gold, commodities, or stocks?

The day we dropped by the cafe they were conducting a live domain name auction so it was quite busy.

Afterwards we posed with most of the attendees.  A very friendly and warm welcome from folks eager to connect with others in the west about domain name opportunities!

IMG_5078_aurE L1

 

Interview with Daniel Chen @ 190.com on the Chinese domain name market

As many in the industry know, domain names are a hot commodity for Chinese investors these days.

So it seemed appropriate to talk to the guy heading the company that spent about $20 million acquiring domain names last year, and in particular acquired about 7,000 non-vowel LLLL.com names.

We talked about:

  • Acquisition activity in 2015.
  • Where is your U.S. office going to be located?
  • What you going to do with all those LLLL.coms?
  • Do corporations really want pinyin names vs. random LLLL.com names?
  • Where do you see pricing and the market going in the next year or so?
  • Why the rapid growth in prices last year?
  • How important is the TLD string itself to the people in China.
  • MIIT regulations and ICP
  • Why did you choose 190.com as your company name?

We spent over two hours talking in this interview shot for ChopChop.domains, TLD Registry’s new site that lets user find and buy Chinese domain names, even if they don’t speak Chinese. Disclosure: I am a Vice-President at TLD Registry.

Since many reading this blog probably don’t speak Chinese, we figured it might be a bit easier to watch and learn if we cut out most of the in-Chinese responses and let my colleague Jin Wang provide the interpretation.

I hope you gain some knowledge about the Chinese market from watching this video!

Tea with China’s ‘Domain Captain’

Last month, my colleagues at China Market Consulting sat down for tea and a long proper chat about the domain name investing climate with China’s ‘Domain Captain’, Mr. Peibi Wang 王培陛, CEO of YMQ.cn, at his Beijing office.

This video is just a short (less than 5 minutes) excerpt from that 90 minute discussion. Arto asked a lot of questions, and our colleague Luke provided the interpretation.

There is no voice-over commentary or subtitles. It’s easy to follow along and get some sense of how one of the of the most successful domain investors in China operates.

Towards More Efficient Registry-Registrar Relations

On the morning of Wednesday 15th October, the The Domain Name Association (the DNA) held an important working group meeting during ICANN 51 Los Angeles. The topic was to discuss several operational issues between registries and registrars. The meeting’s unofficial ongoing name is the Registry-Registrar Operations Working Group.

The meeting was a continuation of an inaugural meeting that was held back in June of this year, and covered in a Industry Association: An Implementation Model circulated by the DNA from September 17, by Executive Director Kurt Pritz.

The rationale behind the inaugural meeting as well as Wednesday’s meeting was to formulate discussion between the groups on how to improve the domain name registration process for registrants and businesses, as well as discussion of other operational issues between registries and registrars. These issues and discussion points were brought to light by several members of the group, such asGoDaddy, Donuts, ARI Registry Services, Neustar, Google, 1&1, TLD Registry, and Rightside.

The meeting was held and the discussion points were raised because of two main issues within the registry-registrar relationships and how it affects the registration process. Kurt Pritz’s CircleID article stated that those issues are (1) Registry-registrar operational issues are being solved on a one-off basis as each new registry operator paired off with its set of registrars, and (2) resolving these issues in an industry-wide collaborative manner is preferable in order to create operational consistency and save time.

Wednesday’s meeting highlighted several points of emphasis, such as developing concepts for formal registry-registrar collaboration methods, how to implement those concepts and action points, and the actual issues that need to be worked through as a basis for the creation of the Registry-Registrar Operations Working Group.

The concept for formal registry-registrar collaboration raised produced action items that the working group has undertaken to implement into the methodology. It was noted that there is arguably an urgent need for more efficient collaboration between registries and registrars due to the increasing pairs from new gTLDs (there will be millions of permutations). It was also noted that the DNA’s registry-registrar operations Working Group essentially creates what may become a “best practices” guide between registries and registrars.

The implementation process needs to have a community approach, circulate fast-acting discussion and provide leadership and participation within the community as well. The DNA’s momentum is strong, and is delivering across a multi-stakeholder group. The DNA encourages both DNA and non-DNA members to participate in the working group, which creates a sense of neutrality for the DNA which and guides discussion in a non-biased manner.

The main issues can be worked through by harmonizing premium name services between the registries and registrars, standardizing the registry implementations, and find common ground on operation models, such as tiered billing and differential renewable pricing.

The next steps for the Working Group will be to further discuss potential issues, and to prioritize those issues in order of importance. Leadership positions will be selected and general objectives will continue to be discussed. The next meeting will be held on Nov. 4, via a DNA conference call.

I’m looking to hire a Partner Manager (Americas, Europe. South Asia) over at TLD Registry.

I’m looking to hire a Partner Manager (Americas, Europe. South Asia) over at TLD Registry, home of the essential new Chinese TLDs, and a global leader in the Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) industry.

I seek an outgoing, self­-starting and flexible person willing to be the “CEO of their area of responsibility” and take charge with personal initiative. Someone who pays attention to detail and has the ability to work virtually with a global team in real­ time, and deal with frequent travel, sometimes out of the country. You must be OK with occasional non­standard hours due to the global nature of the team’s location and business.

It would be great if you are located in or near Austin or NYC, but I’ll consider qualified folks anywhere in North America or Europe.

If you have interest please send email to info at pinky brand dot com and I’ll provide you a detailed description of the role, responsibilities, requirements, and benefits.

NO AGENCIES OR RECRUITMENT CONSULTANTS.

DomainSherpas, IDN Email Developments + Investing in Chinese IDNs

I always get a charge out of listening to the Domain Sherpas. This week’s show was no exception. I take stock in the unique perspectives on domain industry news and trends provided by the guest “Sherpas,” even if I don’t always agree.

At about 54 minutes into the video there is welcome discussion about recent and potentially far-reaching IDN email developments, especially as it relates to Google’s decision to support fully IDN email addresses. There was also good mention of ChineseLandRush.com by one of the Sherpas. That’s a site developed and managed by TLD Registry Limited, a client and operator of the Dot Chinese Online (.在线) and Dot Chinese Website (.中文网) new top level domains.

ChineseLandRush.com is designed to help domain investors register great Chinese IDNs without having to know a word of Chinese. All names shown on the fresh version 2.0 of the site are General Availability (GA) names anyone can snap up on a first-come, first-served basis at regular GA prices via the many registrars offering registration of these IDNs.

Each day the list is hand-refreshed by a team of Chinese experts. No auto-name spinning bots here—just real people throwing out real-life name suggestions by popular categories.

I’ve had the pleasure of working on the ChineseLandRush.com project alongside my colleagues at TLD Registry, and we’ll continue to develop that tool further in the quest to make Dot Chinese Online (.在线) and Dot Chinese Website (.中文网) the easiest new IDN gTLDs for domain investors anywhere to work with on a consistent basis.

“Today, the internet changed for the better for around half of Earth’s internet users.”

“Non-English “IDN” email addresses are finally working!”

This is big news.

Get educated via a blog post from one of my clients, TLD Registry, operator of the Dot Chinese Online (.在线) and Dot Chinese Website (.中文网) new top level domains.

 

 

Getting in the mood for ICANN Buenos Aires

Being in the domain industry has its benefits beyond interacting with so many creative and talented people, and getting paid. One is travel to all kinds of spots around the world courtesy of the global nature of this business, not to mention ICANN meetings three times a year.  That’s a plus for me because I love travel photography and am always looking for great moods to catch through my lens after business has been conducted.

Many of us in the industry are off to Buenos Aires this week for the next ICANN global gathering. I had the opportunity to visit there for a full week in late 2010 with my wife. It’s a city of many contrasts. Do not be fooled by run-down looking buildings or areas. What lies inside will surprise you. Best steak, ever.

Enjoy BA and see you there!

Zone file size of the average new open gTLD in 2016.

Many new gTLD applicants and others have their fingers crossed that ICANN’s new gTLD program will lurch forward over the coming months, resulting in a controlled explosion of new gTLDs that will offer registrants new options to connect with Internet users and lead them to the content that they expect. I’m sure some applicants are dying to see some revenue start flowing in the door, not to mention related vendors.

Hopefully, for many of the applicants that need to turn a profit at some point, before plunking down $185K+++ just to be in the game, have carefully thought out what the market for new gTLDs might be in the future, what volume of competition and negative sentiment they might face, and what numbers they will need to be successful by a date certain.

So what kind of market share can we expect by the end of—say 2016—from the new gTLDs? What kind of monthly ‘net new create’ numbers are needed for a single new gTLD to achieve a particular number by the end of 2016, assuming they can get 36 months of selling time by launching by January 2014? No one really knows, but I’ll take an educated stab at it. 

Having the experience of being involved with the launch and ongoing management of .mobi—I’ll call it a ‘legacy’ new gTLD, or to be technically correct, a legacy sTLD (sponsored top-level domain), I’ve been thinking about how hard it really has been for a non .com TLD to get consistent volume through the channel on a global basis.

A lot was learned through the .mobi experience and I can tell you it is no small achievement to get your registrar channel onboard and with you the whole way—not just during sunrise and the heady land rush, early premium auctions and general registration phases, but for months and years down the road.  Imagine how hard that might be when you are competing against multiple new entrants in the game who are also vying for attention from the registrar channel and potential registrants. Let us not forget that existing incumbent TLDs will likely fight like hell to maintain their market share—and they already have the channel in their pocket for the most part. I believe this will be especially the case for top tier ccTLDs.

For all that was accomplished and spent in the early years of .mobi, and despite some criticism, it is today ranked in the top 30 off the roughly 268 existing TLDs worldwide with nearly 1.1 million active domains in the zone.  The .net, .org, .info and .biz TLDs have greater volume and it’s taken them years to get where they are today.  Repurposed ccTLDs such as .me and .co have carved their niches and enjoyed attention, but even with their well-executed marketing and registrar programs I’m sure they are well aware of the challenges of making a market entry splash and maintaining momentum.

If you take the 15 sponsored TLDs that have been added since 2001 (legacy ‘new TLDs’ if you will) and count their total number of registrations, they amount to less than 5% of the current total estimated number of 252 million names registered across 268 TLDs. The vast majority of that 5% is with .info, .biz and .mobi. I won’t dive in here as to their relevance or other issues for not grabbing a larger market share, just stating numerical facts.

Take away the withdrawn applications and contention sets and there is potential for an estimated 1,112 new gTLDs. Take away the IDNs, the dotBrands and ‘closed’ generics and you are left with about 256 potential ‘open generic’ new gTLDs in the marketplace, assuming contentions, objections and other delay and/or death mechanisms are resolved—but don’t count on that.

So here’s where I think we might be at the end of 2016. This is high-level. If you would like detail on my assumptions and forecast for any set of new gTLDs please contact me. Disclosure: I provide consulting services to new gTLD applicants and others.

I believe .com and legacy gTLD zone files will experience moderate but continually slowing annual growth, ending with 129.5M and 41.5M registrations respectively. ccTLDs will continue their fast annual growth, ending with 163.8M registrations.

But wait, what about the new gTLDs? Well, if applicants, the channel, and the industry as a whole do a bang-up job educating, marketing and selling their value props through existing and new channels—essentially hit the ball out of the park—we could see the global market share for new gTLDs in aggregate reach 18% by the end of 2016.  I mean they/we/you would have to *kill* it to get to that point.  That would be an achievement that means at least three times better performance in 3 years than what the legacy sponsored TLDs have achieved in the past 12 years. That would mean an additional 73.6M new registrations in the marketplace—bringing us to a total of 408.5M names in all TLDs at the end of 2016.

I believe the vast majority of the growth in global registration will come from open generics, as in 94% of that 18% market share.  I will admit there are some unknown factors that could change all this—especially as it relates to what brands could do with their TLD assets—but that’s a post for another day. So if you are an *average* new open gTLD, my estimate points to about 270K registrations in your zone at the end of 2016.  Of course some will do better than average. If you do at least 5 times better than the average you’d be the next .co or .mobi.  If you do at least THIRTY-SEVEN times better than the average you could be the next .org, .de or .co.uk.

No one in this business wants to be average, but to even get to my estimated average you’d have to sell 7,500 net new registrations every month for 36 months to get to 270K in my forecast model.  So do the math and get cracking with your marketing and sales plan if you want to be at least average or better with your channel and end user targets.