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The Great Domain Correction of 2017?

There were only 1.8 million registered .com names when I joined the NSI (Network Solutions) Marketing Team in the summer of 1998. ICANN was formed just a few months later.

By the time we were acquired by Verisign in June of 2000 there were roughly 14 million names in the .com database. I recall predictions that one day there would be 100 million registered .com names. Some thought that was a craaaazy number and wanted to know what we were smoking.

To me achieving that number seemed possible, but that it might take a decade or more. The market then paused for a few years. Looking back it was incredible buying opportunity for those that understood the long term value of good generic keywords in the form of .com names. Today Verisign manages roughly 128 million registered .com names.

Relative to today’s lean operations at many domain registries and registrars, it’s hard to believe that back in 1998-2000, with a monopoly position and .com practically selling itself, NSI employed 50+ people on the marketing team pumping out the .com message day and night.  Messaging that included how .com could be used with this incredible “killer app” called “email” where you could have an address such as mary@flowers.com instead of marysflowers582@aol.com.

Now it seems that some TLDs are at a growth pause or experiencing negative growth, particularly in the cases of some new gTLDs that were heavily promoted in China, or where promo deals were done with greater China area registrars. I don’t need to call them out. You know who they are.  

Today’s market and regulatory conditions surrounding the creation and trading of domain names is quite different from market conditions that existed in the past. The China bubble has burst and the free-to-nearly-free domain create promos don’t seem to have worked. 

Some registry and registrar operators seem to have never adjusted to the new realities, or figured out how to leverage all the incredible data, tools, and experienced human intelligence available to them today vs. relatively little that was available to us 15-20 years ago, not to mention common business sense.

Some registry operators have latched on to a PR huckster type of introduction to the Chinese market that might please inexperienced applicants and domain name investors at first, but does little to demonstrate value compared to .com or the local ccTLD (such as .cn) and how to achieve scaled up real business and end-user utilization of a particular TLD via the registrar channel.

I’m not immune to this and have learned tough lessons via my personal and business experiences in China over the years. Sometimes the best way to gain traction in a foreign market is to say as little as possible publicly and really learn how the market and culture operate before you press on with operations, marketing and sales.

Especially for China. China is HARD.

You will not be successful there, as a foreign registry operator, at a minimum, unless you understand that you will likely lose money or barely break even for several years and are prepared to deal with that reality. You must be in it for the long term. Long term, at a minimum, is 5 years of sweating it out (flying back and forth on a near monthly basis) before things *might* work out.

Over the short to medium term the domain industry is likely to shed inefficient registry and registrar operators and investors, especially some of those who banked on new domain extensions (new gTLDs) that have no real consumer traction—which are many— and can no longer, or are just unwilling, to fund the basic holding/operating costs, let alone fund any marketing team or person.

For sure there is an easily foreseen correction—if not outright registration numbers recession—going on right now for some in the domain industry. Perhaps a short growth pause for .com and some ccTLDs, but their long term outlook to me is strong (same for some generic IDNs) as they do not need explaining to their primary target markets.

In case you didn’t read the latest Verisign Domain Name Industry Brief, the 294 ccTLDs make up about a 43% share of total global domain registrations, with the top 10 ccTLDs composing nearly 65% of the overall ccTLD count.  This has been rather consistent over the last 8 years, nudging from about 40% of the total market in 2009 to today’s 43%.

By comparison, the roughly 1,224 new gTLDs have only managed to capture about 7.7% of the overall global domain registration total, with the top 10 new gTLDs composing 64% of the total count—and that top 10 list is likely to shift around a bit in the coming months.

In May of 2013 I posted my thoughts on Zone file size of the average new open gTLD in 2016 and stated:

“…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.”

It is clear now that the new gTLD industry has not “killed” it.

Don’t get me wrong. There is money to be made with non .com TLDs depending upon your portfolio size, function and purpose to the industry. Even in China. There will continue to be plenty of opportunity there, and risk. (Disclosure: I provide consulting services to registry operators doing business in China or that have China on their radar.)

I think some new gTLD portfolio holders and backends are in a position to take advantage of the situation if they can carefully manage expenses for the next two years and don’t bet the farm on China. This includes ICANN, that may need to shed some personnel as a result of what may be “The Great Domain Correction of 2017.”

Last, I’m thinking some domain types that had dollar signs in their eyes just a few short years ago may be now wishing they invested the same funds into bitcoin!

Speaking of bitcoin, its status in 2017 reminds me of .com in 1998. It’s a relatively new digital asset that sells itself and appears to be enjoying rapid traction in a relatively unregulated “wild west” type of market. The “killer app” seems to be the blockchain and big time household names are paying attention. It doesn’t need much of a marketing team and the general public still doesn’t quite understand its future significance. 


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VIDEO + PHOTOS: 2nd China Domain Name Development Conference

*The following is a courtesy republishing of an original blog post by TLD Registry Ltd.

Just a few weeks ago, on January 10th, TLD Registry was a proud sponsor and invited speaker at the 2nd annual China Domain Name Development Conference held at the Beijing New World Hotel.
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The event was co-organized by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT), the Internet Society of China (ISC) and the ICANN Beijing Engagement Center.
Attendance was reported to be over 300 (triple vs. last year), consisting of registry operators, registrars, domain investors, the media and representatives from MIIT, CAICT, ISC and ICANN.
There were plenty of content and networking opportunities to keep one busy the entire day. This is just a partial list of some of the topics that were covered:
  • Domain Name Industry Regulation.  Review of 2016 and outlook for 2017.
  • Internet development trends in China
  • Domain industry development trends in China
  • UASG: Where are we now.
  • Report on Chinese IDN Universal Acceptance
  • Roundtable: Domain names in the new era
  • TLD entry license and review
  • Evolution of DNS structure and security practices at China Telecom
  • Trends of new gTLDs in the China Market
  • Analysis of the Digital Assets ecosystem and its future
Our CEO, Mr. Arto Isokoski, presented on “Providing innovation to the Chinese domain name marketplace.” He offered comments on the China opportunity, the importance of the digital economy, and upcoming Chinese IDN email initiatives.
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Our VP, Mr. Pinky Brand, participated in an extensive roundtable discussion: “Domain Name Market: The Next Step” with representatives from CONAC, Rightside, GMO, 190.com, West.cn, Yuwei, Domain.cn, RITT, and Afilias.
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As at any domain name conference, one of the best benefits of attending is the opportunity to network! There was no shortage of opportunities to do so in Beijing, especially at dinner, where many of the “who’s who” of the China domain name industry were on hand to talk shop and visit with old and new friends.
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In addition to the photos posted above, we’ve also created a short 3 1/2 minute video and photo montage to give you a taste of our day at the conference. We look forward to participating again!  Enjoy.
*The above is a courtesy republishing of an original blog post by TLD Registry Ltd.


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Top Baidu Searches Reveal High-Quality, Available Chinese Domain Registration Options

*The following is a courtesy republishing of an original blog post at ChopChop.news

With an entirely new year ahead of us, a lot of speculation, strategizing, and planning will be an integral role for domain investors while looking forward to the attractiveness and potential held by the Chinese e-commerce market.

So what sort of strategies do domain investors apply when forecasting the domain market in China or otherwise?

Well, there are several methods to employ when determining the value of a domain name, and many prominent domain investors make their money by applying these various methods and investing in domains that fit the criteria of what makes a domain name valuable. The ins-and-outs of how to value a domain name would require a blog post of its own, so I won’t go into detail here, however I will go over one key indicator of determining the value of domain name: keyword search volume.

Specific keywords or key phrases that receive, say, millions of exact-match searches per month will almost always be more valuable than a different keyword or key phrase that only receives, say a few thousand exact-match searches per month among the bevy of search engines, including Baidu, which is the most popular search engine used in China.baidu-graphicExact-match and generic keywords derive value from simple supply and demand– there is only a limited supply of meaningful, relevant, and powerful keywords and key phrases in the human vocabulary, therefore the more “exact” or “generic” it is, the more likely people are to search for it (demand) on Google or Baidu, increasing its value.

In other words, website owners generally want to see a high volume of traffic to their site, and if their domain name contains a valuable keyword or key phrase to the left of the dot, the more likely someone will search for it on a search engine, or by directly typing it in as a URL, resulting in a higher number of people visiting the website about the exact thing they may be looking for.

Unfortunately, most, if not all valuable exact-match and generic keywords and key phrases used to the left of the .COM extension are likely registered, and probably have been for many years. Typically, in today’s overly-saturated .COM domain market, the only way to acquire meaningful exact-match and generic keyword domain names is to pay an exorbitant amount of money to the domain owner. That is not an option for everyone. Thankfully, the expansion of over 1,500 new domain extensions and counting have helped to mitigate the high costs of generic and exact-match .COM domain names. Now, business owners large and small, domain investors, and everyday internet users can register meaningful exact-match and generic keyword domains that end in something other than the “legacy” domain extensions, at a cost that is comparatively miniscule.

This definitely rings true for the .在线 (Dot Chinese Online) and .中文网 (Dot Chinese Website) extensions, especially for Chinese businesses, investors, and consumers who wish to utilize the internet in their own native language, which is also spoken by nearly a quarter of all humanity.

After taking a look at a nice infographic about 2016’s top-searched keywords and key phrases from Baidu, we found that these most searched terms have received hundreds of millions of views over the last 12 months, and many of these terms are still available to register in both .在线 and .中文网!

See below for a breakdown of the keyword or key phrase, how many hits it receives in Baidu every month, and its price. DO NOT miss out on the opportunity to register these domain names!

Domain: 房价.在线
Translation: House Price
Price: USD $588
Buy: SEDO
Baidu Hits: 100 Million
Context: “Soaring House Prices” keyphrase was #2 in the Top 10 overall for most searched on Baidu in 2016.

Domain: 疫苗.在线
Translation: Vaccine
Price: USD $588
Buy: SEDO
Baidu Hits: 100 Million
Context: “Vaccine Safety” keyphrase was #5 in the Top 10 overall for most searched on Baidu in 2016.

Domain: 人工智能.在线
Translation: Artificial Intelligence
Price: USD $588
Buy: SEDO
Baidu Hits: 40 Million
Context: “Artificial Intelligence” keyphrase was #7 in the Top 10 overall for most searched on Baidu in 2016.

Domain: 财务.在线
Translation: Finance
Price: USD $588
Buy: SEDO
Baidu Hits: 100 Million
Context: “Internet Finance” keyphrase was #8 in the Top 10 overall for most searched on Baidu in 2016.

Domain: 民间借贷.在线
Translation: Micro-Finance
Price: USD $588
Buy: SEDO
Baidu Hits: 50 Million
Context: The same key phrase as before, “Internet Finance” was #8 in the Top 10 overall for most searched on Baidu in 2016.

Some other top-searched keywords and phrases in 2016 coming from Baidu, costing even less than the premium domains above, include:

Domain: 虚拟现实技术.在线
Translation: Virtual Reality Technology
Price: USD $90 minimum (Make An Offer)
Buy: SEDO
Baidu Hits: 4 Million
Context: “Virtual Reality” was a among the most-searched tech terms on Baidu in 2016.

Domain: 阿特拉斯.在线
Translation: Atlas
Price: USD $9.88/year
Buy: ChopChop.domains
Baidu Hits: Unreachable
Context: “Atlas” was a among the most-searched tech terms on Baidu in 2016.

All of the above domain names are available, cost-effective, and extremely powerful exact-match keywords and phrases that millions to hundreds of millions of searches in Baidu, thus making them very valuable digital commodities.

These domain names are sound investments for the sole reason that the search volume is in the top-tier, and people are simply searching for these words in Baidu at an extraordinarily high rate. People clearly want to find websites about the keywords they are searching for, so make your business stand out above the rest with an exact-match, fully Chinese domain name!

– ChopChop Domains Team

*The above is a courtesy republishing of an original blog post at ChopChop.news


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Real progress in the Email Address Internationalization (EAI) world.

There is progress being reported in the Email Address Internationalization (EAI) world. EAI is also known as IMA, Internationalized Mail Address.

Read the latest posted by my colleague over at http://www.ChopChop.domains

According to a Wikipedia entry: “EAI enables users to have a localized [email] address in a native language script or character set, as well as an ASCII form for communicating with legacy systems or for script-independent use. Applications that recognize internationalized domain names and mail addresses must have facilities to convert these representations.

Significant demand for such addresses is expected in China, Japan, Russia, and other markets that have large user bases in a non-Latin-based writing system.”

My long-term favorable view on IDNs and in general being long on investment in this area remains.


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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.


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“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.

 

 


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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.