Poll With the domain-name industry abuzz thanks the introduction of hundreds of new generic top-level domains – everything from dot-art to dot-zulu – it came as a dose of cold water to find out what the rest of the world really thinks about them.
Not much, it seems.
Giving a keynote at NamesCon here in Las Vegas on Monday, marketinpreneur Jennifer Wolfe, a big advocate of the new gTLDs, gave a sobering presentation of what her clients had told her about the opportunity to register dozens of new dot-thing domain names.
"Don't the gTLD people see that this crap is a waste of time?" was one piece of feedback Wolfe shared with the assembled masses. Another was: "I would take bow.wow because most of these gTLDs are dogs. 98 per cent are going to be sent to the vet and put to sleep."
That wasn't all. The key messages from Wolfe's conversations with clients included: "I don't see why consumers would think a .brand domain is more secure;" "I don't understand what we should do with this;" and "We can't jeopardize our e-commerce platform for some fad."
"People really don't like new gTLDs," she noted.
And those were the people who were aware of the existence of the dot-words. Wolfe sent one of her staffers onto the streets of Cincinnati to ask citizens what they thought about the new gTLDs. No one had ever heard of them.
This lack of love has transferred through to actual sales of domains. The share prices of all companies specializing in new gTLDs have been declining for the past six months with several public companies referring to "disappointing" sales.
ICANN's COO Akram Atallah also acknowledged that uptake has been far slower than expected, noting that the domain name overseer had cut its revenue forecasts and many new gTLD registries are launching much later than expected or had far fewer domain registrations that estimated.
But on the plus side, everyone including Wolfe remains optimistic that 2015 will be the year of new domains. All domain companies – from Rightside to CentralNic to Minds+Machines – have argued that the good times are about to roll. And Wolfe went into some depth in her presentation about why she feels companies are wrong, and with time they will recognize the value in new internet extensions.
"New gTLDs are a blank canvas," Wolfe told attendees. "They will be part of a massive digital transformation. People are hungry for change."
Arguing that the status quo is what limits us, she proceeded to give examples of internet companies that had shifted and changed markets including Tesla, Spotify, Amazon, Apple, Tinder. And then outlined examples of how new domains could help with new markets.
Easily memorable addresses such as Watch.Fox or Germfree.Kitchen or Secure.Amex make for marketing opportunities, we're told. People surfing the internet from their couch rather than in front of a computer also opens up opportunities for new domains. Brand names online can build trust and security. And so on.
Wolfe noted however that big brands appeared to be waiting for others to go before them. "They want to see someone else do it first," she noted.
As for getting from here to there, ICANN's Atallah dismissed the notion that his organization should be running an awareness campaign, despite having received millions of dollars in application fees and auctions.
"We have no role to jump in and promote these names," he noted. "If they are not successful, applicants have to do a better job promoting their names. We feel we've done our job promoting the program itself." ®