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.nxt Conference Inspires and Informs New gTLD Debate

The first-ever .nxt conference recently concluded in San Francisco. The conference featured two days of productive, educational, and passionate discussion about the business of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs).

While ICANN’s public meetings have recently focused on debating the policies that will go into its gTLD Applicant Guidebook, the .nxt meeting moved the discussion into the future to tackle the issue of what to do when the program has actually launched: how to ensure a proper application; what to look out for as a registry operator; how to differentiate your new TLD; how to deal with registrars; how to tap your community; and in general, how to turn your dream into a reality.

Conference general manager Kieren McCarthy opened .nxt with an upbeat speech that drew remarkable parallels between today’s new gTLD debate and 1930’s controversy surrounding efforts to build the bridge linking San Francisco with the East Bay area. The construction of the now-iconic Golden Gate Bridge, he said, faced opposition from wide range of nay-sayers, including entrenched economic interests such as the ferry companies, technical “experts” who said it couldn’t be done safely, and governmental and legal obstructionists, before it was finally given the go-ahead. The message in the analogy was obvious: the benefits of the Bay Area’s bridges have been as immeasurable as might be the benefits of new gTLDs.

McCarthy was followed by a keynote address from ICANN senior vice president Kurt Pritz, who managed to convey the historical controversies of new gTLDs, as well as the future excitement and innovation they can create. ICANN still has no official timetable for accepting applications, but Pritz made it clear he believes we’re in the final stages before acceptance begins.

The following day, a second keynote was delivered by the .co domain CEO Juan Diego Calle, who provided great insight into 2010’s big domain name success story—the launch of .co. Calle recapped .co’s accomplishments and suggested that more new gTLDs will create a rising tide of consumer consciousness that will carry all domains with it.

Since the purpose of .nxt was to focus on the business of new gTLDs, rather than policy, discussions about ICANN and its Applicant Guidebook made up a minority of the sessions. The majority of sessions focused on sharing the experiences and knowledge needed to successfully apply for and then profitably operate a gTLD registry. Panels covered topics such as integrating with registrars, developing winning marketing strategies, creating innovative business models, community outreach, and the importance of selecting an experienced and stable registry services provider.

It was a fun, informative meeting and a rare opportunity for the industry to gather and debate the future of Internet domain names outside of the highly structured format of ICANN’s public meetings. With ICANN seemingly close to launching the new gTLD program, the enthusiasm on display at .nxt was tangible.

If there were a single message to take away from the conference, it would be that new gTLDs are imminent, the application process is complex, and that any organization with an interest in benefiting from the next wave of Internet innovation needs to start thinking today about their marketing and partnering strategies.

By Roland LaPlante, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Afilias

An expert on new TLD development, LaPlante is an original member of the management team at Afilias and has over 30 years’ senior marketing experience building brands at companies like Procter and Gamble, Citibank, and McGraw-Hill.

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Nice writeup Roland. I like the Golden Christopher Parente  –  Feb 22, 2011 2:02 AM

Nice writeup Roland. I like the Golden Gate analogy a lot. Unfortunately, things have gotten a lot more litigious since the 1930s. To stay with the San Francisco theme, let’s hope this long, strange trip reaches its conclusion.

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