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The Maturing Domain Industry

Day one of the Digital Marketing and gTLD Strategy congress is happening in London today. As we inch ever closer to new gTLDs actually launching on the Internet, business models and marketing approaches are becoming clearer and better defined. This was evident in today’s presentations and workshops, with applicants and current TLD operators alike showing much greater depth of thought into how these namespaces might actually be of use to Internet users.

That’s often been missing from new gTLD discussions in the past, and for good reason. The focus up to now was much more on actually navigating the program’s rules and getting past the “stumbling forward” effect. But now that the program is nearing completion, it’s time to think about how to market TLDs that might actually be real in a few months.

If the London congress is anything to go by, domain industry players are now looking hard at making sure people understand the benefits of their domain. The phrase “changing the value proposition” was used in today’s presentations to highlight the drive to make sure users don’t just by the cheapest TLD on a registrar’s drop down menu, but instead aim for the product that best fits their needs.

TLD operators are clearly behaving more and more like any other business. They are taking the time to identify the communities that might best promote their TLDs, pandering to early adopters for example and working with them to hone the TLD and get it to the point where the mass market can be offered a product that is made to fit their expectations.

Strategies for TLD growth are also about generating awareness, with TLD operators looking to be involved with key events that might speak to their target audiences, or working with partners such as registrars to produce advertising to help support a TLD’s awareness campaign.

Judging by what we heard in London today, the domain industry is maturing fast and moving away from the “domain complex” that’s been in evidence in the past, where it would almost be apologetic because of the perceived complexity of the domain name ecosystem. Nowadays, domain players, registries and registrars alike, are more confident pitching the TLDs they offer as, basically, “just another product”. For example, we heard from the .CO operator who runs a membership program, with perks and benefits for registrants, and a referral program.

This more mature approach is bound to reap benefits for the domain ecosystem as a whole, from registrants to the registrars and registries that service them, as the industry evolves to focus on the users themselves, with domains as products taking a back seat to that.

By Stéphane Van Gelder, Consultant

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