Home / Industry

The Evolution of Domain Names and What It Means for the Domain Industry

At the time of writing this, there are more than 1.8 billion live websites in the world. Back in 1985, when the world’s first .com domain was registered, there were merely six. Such an exponential increase in just 36 years doesn’t quite come as a surprise. In fact, it seems like an obvious progression considering how launching a website today goes hand in hand with starting something new.

Fortunately, while the World Wide Web provides infinite space for everyone to build a website, the same cannot be said about domain names. With a spurt in domain registrations, the good old .com is becoming saturated. Perhaps nothing is more telling of this saturation than Verisign’s own admission, justifying that it needs the .web TLD because it is running out of .com domain names.

It was to combat this overcrowding of legacy extensions and to expand the availability of quality domain names that new top-level domains (nTLDs) were introduced almost a decade ago. For me, this, too, was an obvious progression.

Historically, most naming conventions have gone through similar developments. For instance, with the increase in population, two-digit postal codes in the United States were substituted for five-digit Zonal Improvement Plan (ZIP) codes.

Phone numbers, too, have gone through as many iterations as the telephone itself, going from alphanumeric to 5-7-digit numbers to the now prominent 10-digit number.

Just like ZIP codes and phone numbers, no two entities can have the same domain name (they are, afterall the “OG NFTs” except that domains have actual utility too); and that’s why nTLDs make sense.

So where are we at this point in the evolution of domain names?

I believe that we are going through the Early Adopters / Visionaries phase (see graph below) for nTLDs at this point. It hasn’t been easy for nTLDs to be universally accepted instantly, especially since not all nTLDs are created the same.

At Radix, we have seen a stark difference between the trends and user behavior pertaining to each of our TLDs. While .Tech has organically seen adoption among startups, .Store and .Online have seen an uptake amongst online sellers. .Site has been the nTLD of choice for professional services and .Space has been popular among artists, real estate spaces, outer-space businesses as well as generic online pursuits.

Not all of these target groups inherently know and understand domain names, let alone new domain extensions. For the majority of people all over the world, including in countries such as India, a website still means .com.

On the other end of the spectrum are global businesses such as Viacom and Emirates that adopted nTLDs early on. More recently, new-age startups such as Doordash (www.order.online), Aurora (www.aurora.tech), and even Netflix (www.netflix.shop) have integrated nTLDs in their growth plans strategically.

These are some of the many examples of visionary early adopters that are able to see the value in nTLDs that the rest of the world is yet to experience.

The skepticism towards nTLDs… and every other “new” industry

Personally, I find skepticism towards new domain extensions similar to that faced by many other industries. Whenever something revolutionary comes along, fear and resistance follow suit. It happened with electric cars. The same narrative repeats itself with products that came long after an incumbent has enjoyed network effects and was the de facto choice.

For all the potential of cryptocurrency, they also undergo similar criticism, or misunderstanding. In fact, cryptocurrency has more than its fair share of naysayers which include the likes of Charlie Munger. It is difficult to ignore the obvious conflict of interest when those who benefit the most from the established order are the first ones to decry change.

But then, not all cryptos are created equal; neither are all domain extensions. The meme-cryptos or penny TLDs will likely not sustain in the long run, and it’s intellectually lazy to conflate all new domain extensions using false equivalence, especially within the domain industry.

The same folks who cheered as El Salvador became the first country to pass a bill on adopting Bitcoin as an official currency alongside the USD still unequivocally deny the increasing prominence of new domain extensions. The cognitive dissonance of believing in a future with cryptos and not in new domain extensions is interesting to witness.

Another parallel can be drawn with the exodus of tech talent from Silicon Valley to the likes of Austin and Miami.

The tech community is fed up with anti-tech sentiment in California despite their contributions to the local economy. In some ways, this parallels Verisign calling people who buy domains to sell for higher prices “domain scalpers”; prominent voices have expressed dissent over increasingly higher taxes in California, something they find unjustifiable. This is similar to the efforts of communities like ICA (Internet Commerce Association) standing up against increase in .com prices that they seem to have little say in.

While the incumbent sleeps at the wheel, alternatives such as Miami and Austin are wooing users away and new businesses are sprouting in these new ‘areas’ - whether in the physical world or the Internet. Eventually, widespread adoption and usage (in the case of nTLDs) will shift the perception and normalize these alternatives, making them evident in hindsight.

Not only that, the current situation of unrest in San Francisco is a great reminder that protecting the rights of end-users is of key importance. SF citizens are fighting to make themselves safer from crime by petitioning to recall the current district attorney. This is akin to registries like us actively protecting our end customers by minimizing the domain abuse within our TLDs. If we don’t make our namespace safe, it will affect those who have chosen to reside on them virtually. Letting our guard down is not an option.

Startups are often early adopters, and one interesting data point is the share of YC Demo Day startups that are on a .com has gone down by 15% over the course of just a couple of years.

How is Radix contributing to the evolution of domain names

At Radix, our vision is to build a world where domain names are less like phone numbers that need to be written and stored but more like brand names that are easily remembered. Every business deserves a domain name that is short, relevant, and recognizable, one that adds value to the brand and improves the customer perception.

However, premium domain names often come at a cost that could go well into several hundred thousand dollars. The high cost of premium domains as a trade-off for branding benefits is not always financially palatable, especially for new and small businesses. There is an understandable apprehension about spending huge sums of money upfront. What if one made the wrong choice? What if the business decided to go in a different direction?

This led us to alter our pricing model for premium domains. Through that, much like a SaaS model, end-users can pay an affordable annual subscription fee instead of thousands of dollars at once. This frees them up from burdening their marketing budget.

On the marketing side, our focus has always been to break into new communities to make them aware of nTLDs in a creative way. Back in 2016, we launched Startup League to engage with early-stage startups. Earlier this year, we launched Pitch.Tech to engage with idea-stage entrepreneurs. With Break The Code we connected with programmers and with MyStartInTech we connected with tech professionals.

These are just a few examples of many campaigns that we have launched in the past. The ones that the Radix team is currently working on are even bigger and more radical than ever; and I can’t wait for you all to see them launch in the near future.

What excites me the most, though, is to work in an industry that is yet to peak. Things are evolving fast and will continue to change. We must bear in mind that any change is meant to fill gaps in the system, and nTLDs are filling the gap between demand and supply while ushering in some much-needed freshness. The way remote work has allowed people to disperse, the evolution of domain names democratizes the availability of good addresses to disperse beyond legacy extensions. The future of nTLDs is looking up, and those who are late to the party (or haven’t heard of the party at all) are in for a surprise.

Written by Karn Jajoo Senior Manager at Radix. A version of this article was originally published on DNJournal.com.

By Radix, Domain Names for the New Internet – 

Radix is one of the world’s leading new domain registries with 10 new extensions that include .ONLINE, .STORE, .TECH, .WEBSITE, .SPACE, .PRESS, .SITE, .HOST, .FUN and .UNO. Through these extensions, Radix is empowering business owners to get short, memorable and descriptive domain names that can be used for a website, email address, or a variety of other internet addressing purposes. For more details, visit http://www.radix.website.

 Visit Page

CircleID Newsletter The Weekly Wrap

More and more professionals are choosing to publish critical posts on CircleID from all corners of the Internet industry. If you find it hard to keep up daily, consider subscribing to our weekly digest. We will provide you a convenient summary report once a week sent directly to your inbox. It's a quick and easy read.

I make a point of reading CircleID. There is no getting around the utility of knowing what thoughtful people are thinking and saying about our industry.

VINTON CERF
Co-designer of the TCP/IP Protocols & the Architecture of the Internet

Comments

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Related

Topics

Threat Intelligence

Sponsored byWhoisXML API

IPv4 Markets

Sponsored byIPXO

Domain Management

Sponsored byMarkMonitor

Brand Protection

Sponsored byAppdetex

Cybersecurity

Sponsored byVerisign

Domain Names

Sponsored byVerisign