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2015 in Review: The Year That Was in New TLDs

In looking back at what has occurred in the new TLD world in 2015, it is hard to believe that it’s all taken place in just a short 12 month period.

As an industry, we set off into this year realising that we had a hard game ahead—as with all innovation, we knew that each step forward would require significant effort, knowhow and collaboration. We’d made big steps in 2014 to get started, but would 2015 move us forward or fizzle out?

On the whole, 2015 has been an incredibly successful and positive year for our new TLD industry. Given the challenges of rolling out such a complex program, and the fact that we are increasingly facing them in front of a global audience, we have achieved some significant milestones as a community that I think should be celebrated.

Let’s just take a moment to review just a few of these.

Firstly, we should acknowledge that over 10 million domains have been registered in new TLDs which is an incredible achievement—especially for those naysayers that said that there was no global demand for this innovation. Further according to nTLDstats.com at the time of writing, 15 TLDs have over 100,000 domains apiece whilst we currently stand at 66 percent of the total expected TLDs have now been delegated and almost all Registry Agreements have been signed.

This is not to say it has all been smooth sailing. ICANN itself has faced a number of challenges, which in turn has impacted the way our industry has been able to progress. However, with the safe implementation of key issues that had the potential to stall progress (i.e. the Namespace Collisions report) and an ever increasing number of real life examples of TLDs in the Wild (yes, that’s a plug for the DNA Website www.inthewild.domains that shows examples of New TLD sites globally), we’re beginning to see a shift of focus from the historically tech/policy-driven conversations to an emphasis on the commercial issues facing the new TLD industry—something that is absolutely required to take our industry to the masses.

On that point, we’ve collectively celebrated the likes of www.coffee.club, www.toureiffel.paris, www.broadway.tickets and www.printnw.rocks. Especially when these new domains appear in advertising, there is a sense that the tide is rising and gradually each of these early adopters will contribute to growing public awareness.

.xyz reached 1.5 million domains and has been featured heavily in the media as a disruptor. .nyc has more than 87,000 registrations, making it the largest of the geo TLDs and .online became the fastest TLD to sell 100,000 domains. Each TLD has its own experiences, achievements and milestones to celebrate and learn from and it’s fair to say that the Donuts phrase of ‘not-com’ is slowly becoming part of the industry vernacular.

Even the powerhouse Google continued its drive into the industry, supporting their 101 new TLD applications with their retail domain registrar offering which has certainly got the attention of many and a $25m auction fee for the .app extension.

As often happens during periods of change, 2015 saw a steady increase in consolidation within the industry (including Neustar’s acquisition of my employer, ARI Registry Services) and a handful of examples of integration between the wholesale and retail channel.

This is a clear indicator that we are a maturing industry; one that is moving beyond its inception and getting ready for some significant growth and development in the coming years.

With this consolidation and increasingly commercial focus, association groups such as the DNA have grown in influence and importance as the year has progressed. The introduction of the DNA University to provide a forum for mutual learning amongst TLD operators and partners has been hugely beneficial, as we also see interest towards new TLDs from outside the industry increasing. I’m honoured to lead this approach and you’ll see a large focus on education in 2016—both for our long term industry participants and for those new to our world.

Of particular personal interest, and in my view, of incredible importance to our industry is the gradual usage of .brand TLDs in the digital ecosystem. This has meant that some of the world’s major organisations are now tuning in to the world of new TLDs and beginning to promote it beyond our own circles, which is invaluable publicity for our industry.

More importantly, they are starting to use their .brand for strategic and business gain, not just simply as a .com replacement or promotional vanity domain.

Organisations such as Barclays who took the bold step of moving from barclays.com to home.barclays, and BNP Paribas who now offer all of their customer online banking via the .bnpparibas TLDs are true leaders who will bear the fruit of their commitment to innovation over the coming years.

As this interest grows, and organisations join Sony, Samsung and BMW who dipped their toe in the water in 2015, we will likely see demand for a second round of new TLDs increase, with several big-name players already signalling their intentions to get on board.

As in our day to day lives, one of the keys to new TLDs lies in how evolution shapes our existence.

The telephone came into being in the mid-1800s. The first mobile phone was produced in 1973 to criticism over its usefulness and viability. Nowadays, no one can remember and few can imagine a world without phones around, let alone sitting on a subway watching people fixated on their screen.

In my view, the Millennials of today who will be the entrepreneurs and business owners of tomorrow won’t look at new TLDs as something novel or strange. Instead they will be an ingrained part of the way we use the Internet, and something we look back and wonder how we ever did without them.

In the coming weeks I’ll publish my predictions for the new TLD world for 2016. And what an exciting year it is shaping up to be.

By Tony Kirsch, Head of Professional Services at GoDaddy Registry

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