Interview with Donuts and Uniregistry
I meet a lot of interesting people (online and offline). Lately, I’ve been asking all of them the same question:
What is the next big thing you guys are working on?
Interestingly… Lately… I’ve been getting more and more of a similar response. New gTLD’s. We are doing this and that, and the new gTLD’s. Obviously, we are running out of good names and domain names. I remember watching the movie Idiocracy, and there I saw a company named Intell, and other misspellings. You don’t have to look too far to notice that we are already there. Most of the new companies first go on to secure a .com domain. They can’t afford a premium name, so they do whatever it is they do.
So, me being me, I went to a few of the biggest names in the new gTLD business and looked for some info.
First I talked with Frank Schilling, CEO & Founder of Uniregistry.
Goran Duskic – WhoAPI: How can a person or a businessman profit from the new era of gTLD?
Frank Schilling – Uniregistry: It’s really quite easy. You should casually stay on top of the process. Think about what constitutes a good registration in any given new extension and participate in well-run namespaces, when these new strings go live. There are only 250 million names registered right now for 7 billion people and most of the “good ones” are gone. That means only 1 in 28 people have a name right now. Only 5% of all those 250mm are premium or meaningful to any second person IMO. So enough meaningful, generic names for 1 in 560 people on Earth to have one. There are just soooo many people on this planet. Good names are so rare — it’s the reason that it’s been difficult to create a bigger secondary market for names in general. In the past, gTLDs came out one at a time, slowly, with hanky rules and high prices. This time many new TLDs are coming at the same time with easy rules and low prices. There will be a tidal wave of new supply that will blow open interest in names by those who couldn’t get them in the past.
Goran Duskic – WhoAPI: How are your gTLDs different?
Frank Schilling – Uniregistry: I started as a registrant. I’ve learned what makes a good namespace. I am building a registry with rules, policies and prices that are registrant friendly. You don’t invest in a country with high taxes and a police state where the Government can knock on your door at 3 am and take your property for the smallest of reasons. Yet many existing namespaces are run with variable pricing and hanky rules that hamstring their registrants and which feel like the crappy Country I just described. My registry will be run like the aspirational America of the 1950’s – with freedom, low taxes, Liberty and opportunity for all. You will feel it from the moment you take your first registration, and I predict people will take MANY registrations in the namespaces I run.
Goran Duskic – WhoAPI: When do you expect your gTLDs will be available to the general public? (is it early 2014, late 2015?). When can I compete to register money.save?
Frank Schilling – Uniregistry: There are still a bunch of politics and last-minute haggling inside the ICANN process about rules relating to sunrise (for trademark holders to protect their brands). The first IDN registrations with the lowest priority draw numbers should come out in the second half of this year. The best, most meaningful extensions are highly contended, so you will need to wait until the last applicant has passed an evaluation before the contentions can move to an auction, then delegation and launch. Our lowest draw, uncontended string is .TATTOO which is open to all, but clearly won’t work for all subjects. For example, mortgage.tattoo and forex.tattoo make no sense because this is not a broad-generic extension. Yet mortgage/forex are typically very valuable in the generic (.com/net) space. .LINK is our lowest priority-draw broad-reach “generic” string. It may come late this year with low registration pricing and real ease-of-use interfaces to manage it.. We think it will be very successful as an open generic. It could disrupt spaces like .BIZ and .INFO within 5 years.
The key to succeeding as a registrant is to look at who is running the namespace and how they are running it. Registries that try to maximize their own profit on the backs of registrants are destined to see the long-term utility and value of their collective spaces flounder. If you take .WEB or .SHOP and make them all General Availability (land rush) $5 registrations the namespace could challenge the .COM’s dominance in less than a decade. The value of the names inside the space will increase. If you roll out those same extensions at $30 per name, or with a bunch of premium auctions and hanky rules about who can own them. If you have variable pricing on those domains depending on the subject of the name or it’s perceived value, then .WEB/SHOP will be held back from their potential success and the value of domains inside the space will fall. Investors need to bet on the right registry operators who understand this stuff and who manage their space for the benefit of registrants. .SAVE will resolve itself soon and I hope Uniregistry will be able to give you an opportunity to register money.save when we launch in 2014.
Then I talked with Mason Cole VP Communications & Industry Relations Donuts Inc.
Goran Duskic – WhoAPI: One of the most obvious questions is “When and how much?”. Everybody who plans to register domains on those new gTLD’s your company will provide, is wondering what will the price range be on those, and when it’s going to be available to the general public?
Mason Cole – Donuts.co: This information isn’t public yet, though Donuts pricing will be competitive. We’re pricing our names wholesale so that registrars and registrants have enough incentive to develop and promote our names. Some gTLDs will have prices higher than .COM, some lower. We want them to be put to use, so they’ll be priced to sell. This still is an area of uncertainty due to delays with ICANN.
The first gTLDs were scheduled to be in the root system in January 2013, so ICANN is already behind the curve. Based on the most recent information we have, we anticipate the first of Donuts’ gTLDs to come to market later this summer. And according to ICANN’s prioritization list, the first set will be internationalized domain names (IDNs) — names in alphabets other than traditional ASCII characters. (Donuts will offer several gTLDs in Chinese.) Over the course of a year or so, the rest of the names should flow into the market, barring any further speed bumps.
Once they get moving, we do expect introduction into the root system to speed up. This is much like the evaluation process now, which started with the release of results at about 20 per week and is moving more quickly — probably up to 100 per week. Note that we’ll be launching our first product — the Domains Protected Marks List (a rights protection mechanism for trademark owners) ahead of the go-live date for our first gTLDs.
Goran Duskic – WhoAPI: Are you able to comment if there will be any differences in the existing whois, compared to the one in your gTLDs?
Mason Cole – Donuts.co: If you mean will our Whois output differ from that of current gTLDs (which employ the “thick” model — meaning registries store Whois data in full, and not just the basic sketch of data Verisign is required to have for COM and NET) then no, it won’t differ. We’re subject to the same general rules that apply to BIZ, INFO and other gTLDs from previous rounds. But let me know if you’re asking something different.
What is Google’s role in all this?
Obviously, it’s huge. As Pierre Far posted on Google+, Google has already started to update its indexing system. Back in May Google altered it’s algorithm to treat 20 TLD’s differently (like .la, .dj, .fm, .me, .tk, .ws). You can see the full list here. Now you get mostly .com in your search results. Chances are, you are going to see an increase in other TLD’s. Instead mostly getting a .com result, you will get more of .pro, .ws, .me, .co, and later of .car, .ceo, etc. Does Google have the power to level the playing field for TLD’s? Is Google going to dethrone the .com?
Not to mention they have TLD’s like .gle (perhaps for another shortner like goo.gle), .goog, .google, .guge. To name just a few. I have absolutely no idea what they are going to do with them. I tried reaching out to a few googlers (including the ones that are supposed to be responsible for Google’s gTLD program), however, all I got from them was: “contact firstname.lastname@example.org“. Talk about lame. Obviously, no response came from there. Which is a shame, because it would be interesting to hear their take on the threat to become a monopoly on some branding strategies. If Google runs a closed registry business model (for their TLD’s). There have been more than a few companies that raised concerns (Supermonopolies, The Domains). Just a few days ago, according to The Hindu ICANN suspended the closed registry business model. But let’s just wait and see how that one plays out.
Do you have a “new gTLD strategy”? Do you plan to purchase any of the new domains which ones? Are you already scared/confused about the new domains, and how you are going to check their ownership?