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The Internet Tribe & New gTLDs

Much has already been written about the prospects and challenges associated with the introduction of new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs). This post were originally written for my personal blog but a good industry friend has persuaded me to post it (and more) on CircleID. During this series I will attempt to show how the introduction of new gTLDs is ultimately a “win win win” scenario. A win for innovation, a win for commerce and most importantly a win for internet users. So where to begin? We’ll begin with the concept that we are all internet Tribe members.

The concept of tribes is not a new one. The internet is made up of millions of tribes, tribes within tribes, tribe leaders and cross interest tribes. If you follow a blog, tweet, post comments or have a site you visit regularly you are probably already part of a tribe. But lets take a step back and consider what a tribe is.

Tribes are characterized by members having a commitment to each other, a commitment to a leader/s and a commitment to an idea. Seth Godin’s book Tribes describes two things that a tribe needs to have. The first is a shared interest and the second a way to communicate with each other. Its important to remember that while tribes are often associated with individuals sharing a common interest, tribes can also be made up in other ways. Corporate and brand tribes exist also, made up of employees, customers and fans.

Historically, geographical restrictions have limited the size of tribe. The rise of the internet however has eliminated these geographical restrictions for tribes. Tribes vary in size, shape, interest and demographic. The internet has allowed tribes to collaborate with each other and grow memberships, thereby expanding their commitment to each other. The destruction of geographies has allowed tribe members to easily find new tribes and even switch tribes.

Tribe leaders have begun to emerge prominently in the digital age and not always in the traditional sense. Facebook has emerged as a leader of the social networking tribe. Within the social media tribe, Facebook allows the birth of millions of new tribes. In the more traditional sense leaders have emerged, embracing digital media and the web. Lance Armstrong has over 1 million fans on Facebook for his Live Strong foundation, Al Gore leads the climate change tribe through a wealth of digital media tools and Stephen Fry Tweets to over a million tribe members that follow him.

New gTLDs represent future opportunities for tribes to spread, be part of and participate on a much wider scale. The broad scope of the new gTLD program will allow tribes to build their own islands, sharing common interests and communicating with each other.

Opposition to the introduction of tribe related gTLDs is based on the assumption that tribe members will experience greater risk. This maybe the case to some degree but ultimately safe locations will prevail as tribes weed out the “bad seeds” through their commitment to each other. Change is hard but change is vital for the continued growth of tribes. It is easy to stick with the status quo but those that lead tribes realize that tribes are constantly changing, growing and communicating.

In conclusion. We are all members of tribes, some more granular in interest than others. New gTLDs will enrich our experience of the tribe. Change is exciting and doesn’t fail because its too early but rather because its to late. In the next post we’ll discuss in more detail the types of digital members tribes have and how new TLDs will affect them.

By Robert Rozicki, One of those domain name types

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Comments

Excellent post Robert!The missing element is one Constantine Roussos  –  Jun 2, 2010 6:14 PM

Excellent post Robert!

The missing element is one that revolves around leadership. Tribes can not be realized without true leadership and followers that want to be part of a tribe because it makes their life better. New gTLDs and marketing are all about leadership, challenging the status quo and about bring together individuals with a common interest and bond who can actually make a difference to the tribe.

In Seth Godin’s book “Purple Cow” he asserted that everyone is a marketer. Look at Twitter, Myspace, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networks. Everyone can reach anyone they want with great accuracy in regards to reaching their target demographic. We can all join conversations whether it is blogging about it or commenting on online publications such as the Wall Street Journal or Tech blogs such as Mashable, Techcrunch or even CircleID. Everyone matters.

Problem that I see with the “Tribe” concept is that it does not fully connect well with ICANN. It is all about special interests, being safe and protecting the status quo. There can not be true innovation unless the ICANN Board recognizes their role for improving the Internet and creating true tribes. For example, the ICANN Board takes no leadership position in regards to Vertical Integration. Economists, entrepreneurs and anyone that understands how the world and the Internet works today will assume this is a no brainer.

The issue is companies such as Verisign, Afilias and Godaddy who want to keep their huge market position and prevent innovation or anyone stepping in to challenge them. In my opinion and everyone that I have spoken to, the ICANN Board is aiding the causes of the big registries and registrars. The ICANN Board’s inaction is a detriment to true innovation and business in general. The market dictates whether you are successful or not. However, ICANN goes against that doctrine. George Kirikos could not say it better: “[The DAG] demonstrates once again that ICANN has no interests in protecting consumers, but is merely in cahoots with registrars and registries, acting against the interests of the public.” Milton Mueller from the Internet Governance goes further saying that the “draconian” banning of cross-ownership of registries and registrars is basically a way to force the GNSO to hammer out a consensus policy on the matter.

When you have tribes with different interests, then you can not merge them. So by ICANN not selecting the obvious answer to increase innovation and stifle the ICANN lobbyists and status quo powers, they take on the sides of Verisign, Afilias and Godaddy. Obviously, what ICANN is doing is improving the market position of Verisign, Afilias and GoDaddy. As outlined by others, they are guaranteed to own a large percentage of a small market than risk being challenged by new business model innovations and gTLDs. 

Godaddy is in the business of selling “other stuff” and not about selling domains at high prices. Did you ever go through their shopping cart? They sell everything imaginable that relates to domain names. There lies the irony of the matter in regards to Vertical Integration. Doesn’t Godaddy bundle which helps the domain consumer? Yes, they do. Why can’t a registry do the same thing? If the market likes it, they will buy in. If they do not, there will be more other options and offerings from competitors. Demand and supply. Basic economics.

While the whole Tribes concept works for everyone else, the bottom up approach guarantees that there will never be one tribe. There will only be consensus and middle of the road agreement. That to me is not leadership. The ICANN Board knows what is best but they choose not to take responsibility. There is only one question that ICANN should ask themselves every day of their existence: “What is best for the consumer?”

The biggest change is that most smart people now realize that the Internet world has changed. Society has changed how it relates to technology. The days of working in a status quo, static world, where the future was expected to be just like the past is over. It is a shame that ICANN, the proclaimed “governing body of the Internet”, does not realize this. Why are they living in the past? As others have indicated: the new DAG is nothing but a zero-risk application written by attorneys designed to prevent innovation. ICANN and their many “tribes” are to blame. Let us just protect the big boys and status quo: “.com is king” and let us step on small business because they have no say in their matter because their brands and business are not as important as the big boys. Who cares about what consumers want right? Anyone care to disagree?

Constantine Roussos
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