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.

INTA and domain names. 1997 vs. 2013.

As the INTA 2013 Annual Meeting comes to a close I can’t help but note the focus on domain names within the INTA community and on the home page of their website.

Compare that to 1997 when my then business partner and I had to write a letter and call INTA to explain what domain names were in order to have their *potential* consideration to exhibit at the annual meeting as Internet Domain Names Inc. and introduce domain names to the IP community.

Our first customer was an IP lawyer that paid us $100 cash *per* .com name at our INTA booth to register names for them as a result. At that point we felt like we definitely had a business. Now we have the TMCH. How times have changed…

Support the growth and development of the Internet domain name industry.

For many of us in the domain name industry it seems that ICANN’s new gTLD program has been moving along slower than a snail on tranquilizers for the past few years.  That’s all about to change as we seem to be on the cusp of dozens, if not hundreds of new gTLDs hitting the streets before the end of this year and into 2014.

Trouble is, that as ICANN moves from rolling out these new gTLDs at what may be an old-school dial-up pace at first, to likely a fibre-power broadband delegation pace later, the public at large seems to know nothing about all this.

Don’t take my word for it, read the research posted by SEDO earlier today that said “More Than 60 Percent of Small and Mid-Size Businesses are Unaware of New gTLDs.”  We all know that Internet users might get confused by new gTLDs. This has got to change.

And change will be possible if folks such as domain registries and registrars, applicants for new top level domains, and domain related service providers manage to get organized via a new trade association that’s just now getting off the ground.

Thanks to Google’s new gTLD team, a bunch of old (like me) and new faces in the industry got together alongside the ICANN regional meeting in Amsterdam last January.  We talked about setting up a domain name industry trade association to help educate the world on the coming changes in the domain landscape and to support the interests of the domain name industry.

Thanks again to Google, and those that attended that January meeting, volunteers are now working towards getting things going to the point where the trade organization is launched and operating.  It’s very early days and much work remains. So far a very basic informational site has been set up at whatdomain.org.

As stated on the site: “This is an opportunity for your organization to collaborate with your peers involved in the domain name industry to define how the industry works together to promote and ensure success through a period of major change.”

If you are interested in joining, I encourage you to visit whatdomain.org to learn more.  Even if you are unsure of how you might participate you should submit the interest form and the organization will work with you to help you decide.

All in all I believe this initiative is worthwhile and very important. It needs support and execution to ensure the growth and development of the Internet domain name industry.

Domain industry messaging circa 1996-1998.

idNames Home Page May 1998

Over the weekend I visited the fabulous Wayback Machine to see if I could find screen shots of the website we created in the 90’s for Internet Domain Names Inc. (idNames.com). That was the first domain name business I got involved with as a co-founder with Marc Ostrofsky. I got a chuckle looking back at how we designed that site, but also just looking at the messaging and how much of it still holds true today to some extent.  One thing that has changed is pricing…it’s definitely gone lower. We were charging roughly $250 per new registration in each unrestricted ccTLD back then. Restricted ccTLD registrations started at $450.

If you’d like to see more screen shots of how we were messaging and selling domain name registration services in 1998, or just want a laugh, please go to my new FaceBook page I’ve set up for my consultancy and you can view pics there. And while you’re visiting please be sure to ‘like’ my new page! Thanks.

New gTLD Target date is April 23? Or is it?

I detect some delight in the domain name community today resulting from the latest posted video interview with ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé. In that interview Chehadé states “We are now targeting to be able to recommend for delegation the first new gTLD as early as the 23rd of April…”

On the surface this sounds like very good news.  No doubt by stating a date that Fadi said could slip a few days or weeks, but not months, is a sweet sound to many—at least there is a date.

While the entire interview clearly reinforces to me that Fadi is in control and that ICANN will move forward with implementing the program, I am not entirely convinced that the timeline for actual delegation and start of a sunrise period for an average not-in-contention-or-objection new gTLD applicant could move forward (by my calculations as much as 3 1/2 months) unless we hear more about the other processes that must fall in to line.  Fadi did say that various processes are being aligned or are now in alignment, so that is good to hear.

One process that I’m now assuming is on target is the GAC delivery of advice. That’s a bit surprising given the history, but then reading recent GAC statements and seeing how Fadi has reached out to various stakeholders in the short time he has been in control makes it seem plausible.  For example, he states that there has been more progress in his leadership roundtables and discussions with registries and registrars in the past weeks than there has been in the past two years.

So what does the date of April 23 mean for the Priority Draw #1 (IDN) applicant and the average not-in-contention-or -objection applicants that follow?  Well one thing that I didn’t hear are the words ‘requested for delegation.’  I heard ‘recommended.’  Does ‘recommend’ actually mean that ICANN will submit a root zone delegation request to IANA for the Priority Draw #1 applicant on April 23rd? And will they request delegation at a rate of up to 100 per week until they reach the limit of 1,000 for the year?

I’m not yet seeing April 23 a date that the Priority #1 Draw (IDN) Applicant could be live in the DNS, or even requested to be delegated, unless somehow someway the other processes have been changed or greatly accelerated. For example, ICANN has stated that no contracting activity would take place until after the Beijing meeting in mid-April.

Such processes include, for example, the all-important metering rate per week for PDT and Delegation Processing, # of days for contracting, # of days to process PDT, # of days for ICANN to submit root zone delegation request after the applicant passes PDT, # of days for IANA to process the root zone delegation request, # of days after Delegation before Sunrise Period begins.

Using my New gTLD Delegation Date Calculator and changing around a few assumptions, such as reducing the ‘Fudge Factor’ from 110 to 30 days, assuming a metering rate of 100 gTLDs per week instead of 20, slashing in half the time it takes ICANN to submit delegation requests and for IANA to process them, we could be looking at a first actual delegation date of June 3rd with a first assumed sunrise start date of July 3rd, give or take a few days. Holy moly that’s a full 3 1/2 months earlier than my previous calculation.  In theory Draw #1000 (or in sequence but not in contention or objection) could then be delegated by September 27 of this year.  But wow that would take a lot of aligning, pushing and shoving, and assumes no formal objections, no negative GAC advice, lawsuits, etc.

In any event Fadi and ICANN seem to be saying that the new gTLD program is going to happen, and that it is going to happen faster, by possibly as much as 3 1/2 months sooner than some might have previously thought.  If that’s the case, and you have not done so yet, it’s time to start thinking about your target market, your competition, your messaging, your channel, and executing your plan. Is it time to get the party started?