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Why .CHAT Could Be All That .TEL Wanted to Be and More

Almost everyone that has been working in the domain name industry for a while has a story about .TEL. It was introduced in 2005 and went live in 2009 with a flurry of publicity. It was a grand concept aiming to revolutionize the way in which people keep in touch. Unlike traditional domain names, the purpose of a .TEL domain name is to help manage and exchange contact information about people and corporate entities.

When you provide your .TEL website page to someone you provide a wealth of information about yourself under a single identifier. All the information your .TEL page is maintained by you so that it should always be up-to-date and accessible to anyone with your .TEL web address.

The concept is great; it’s a single point of reference on the Internet (controlled by the owner) using the longstanding and ultra-robust Internet Domain Name System, that can be accessed in multiple ways.

Unfortunately, some of the drawbacks with .TEL have overshadowed the ‘grand design’ leading to a less than overwhelming adoption. At the time of writing there are fewer than 135,000 registered domains in the registry. Some of the issues with .TEL are as follows:

  • Factory-build software: with the massive growth in connected devices, .TEL needed to be available on mobile devices, tablets, PCs and MACs in an out-of-the-box fashion. This didn’t happen.
  • Who has the .TEL App? Without being included in factory build devices, .TEL had to develop on another, opt-in, software layer. For example, .TEL offers apps for iPhone, Blackberry, Android devices and Windows mobiles. This increases development costs but more importantly, this requires the end user to actually do something. Battling against the wall of user apathy, any software developer or marketer will tell you, is a monumental task.
  • Telecoms infrastructure adoption: in order to achieve truly global adoption .TEL should have been integrated into the underlying telecommunications infrastructure layer by default. That means buy-in from the Telephone network operators. With so many operators out there struggling with an increasingly competitive market and decreasing profit margins, unless there is a truly compelling business case or if it is required for compliance reasons, not one of them will adopt it.
  • What is .TEL? People just didn’t know about it. Yes there were big promotional events such as a launch party at the top of the Eiffel Tower but these were for Domain Name Industry insiders. The average man-in-the-street had never heard about .TEL so, no matter how good the concept, it was never going to become the de-facto standard for maintaining contact details.

Why might .CHAT be different?

chattingThe chat space has come a long way since its earliest incarnation on the Internet with Internet Relay Chat (IRC) in 1995. The internet is a vastly different environment now than it was even in 2009; consider that, according to Statista, in 2009 Facebook had 197 million active users, today it has 1.3 billion and Twitter only had 30 million in 2010 and now it has 270 million. The use of text messages and chat programs has grown exponentially, due partly to the fact that chat programs are largely free to use. WhatsApp, one of the most popular chat programs, has grown from 200 million users to 600 million users in the space of 18 months prompting its acquisition by Facebook.

Most people have multiple chat enabled applications ranging from Skype, Yahoo messenger, Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp and the most recent Ello. With so many chat enabled applications the .CHAT gTLD is well positioned to take a leading role in consolidating users’ chat accounts under a unique web address such that any application needs it such as business networking sites (e.g. LinkedIn), social networking sites (e.g. Facebook) or dating websites (e.g. Match.com) can find all relevant contact data from a single, unique location.

With so many different chat programs available, there has been a growth in a new type of software called a “chat aggregator” which brings different chat messengers under one application such as Digsby for Windows and Adium for MAC. Their capabilities vary but one thing is clear, chat is not going away any time soon and, with the growth in chat aggregators, the likelihood of a common de-facto protocol for chat messengers is becoming far more likely.

Couple a common messaging protocol with a central repository for users’ contact details for Chat Applications under the well-proven Domain Name System of .CHAT and a global chat multi-application messaging might well become a reality.

The reason that .CHAT might succeed where .TEL has not is that it hooks in to the App layer where Application developers can choose to use a .CHAT domain name lookup feature. Unlike the slow moving, heavily regulated and expensive Telecoms Infrastructure layer, hooking into the application layer is much more flexible, less regulated and considerably less expensive to implement.

Obviously, the .CHAT go-to-market approach will have to be different from the traditional Top Level Domain approach. However, rapid adoption should be possible if .CHAT domain names are cheap enough (or free) and chat application developers can be persuaded to get on-board.

With so many chat applications available and hundreds of millions of chat system users, a bright future for the .CHAT registry is highly likely if the right go-to-market approach is taken by the registry.

By Jean Guillon, New gTLDs "only".

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.CHAT potential Keith Teare  –  Oct 7, 2014 7:44 AM

Bonjour Jean

I agree that .CHAT has major potential, but as with many gold’s it needs a compelling reason for ownership by businesses and consumers.

I don’t agree that chat aggregation is that reason. Chat aggregation is really an old pre-mobile thing. Meet represents its peak. Since SMS is universal (but can be expensive) the desktop chat world has declined. The rise of apps like WhatsApp and WeChat has fractured that universality - albeit by introducing “free chat”.

What is really needed is a free and universal mobile chat experience.

That is what we are trying to build with Chat Center (http://chatcenter.me).

I think a chat address for everybody on the planet, combined with outbound chat to ant mobile number, and iOS and Android (soon) apps will have the best chance of really universalizing mobile chat.

I hope we can work with whoever wins the .CHAT franchise to aide this.

Our vision however is that any domain can benefit from mobile friendly chat services. The idea that a domain is just for email or a web site is too dated. Mobile chat tied to a domain is certainly one service that any domain should want. Mine for example is http://teare.com/keith - this produces an alert on my iPhone for anybody who clicks, taps or types it. It works from web sites, in email, on social networks or from within the Chat Center app. “Click to Chat” becomes possible for everybody.

Chat.center Jean Guillon  –  Oct 7, 2014 9:41 AM

"chat.center" is reserved by the Registry in accordance with ICANN Policy, expect the same with coming .CHAT. If winner has a Pioneer Program or something similar, yu should dig into this. It is still in contention anyway. Wait for the auction I guess.

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