The New gTLD topic has proven to be fairly complex one. To date, it has been very difficult to get an accurate read on the adoption of these new platforms.
With policy initiatives underway that may result in a second new gTLD application round in 2019-2020, we thought it would be a good time to take a step back, examine the data and survey the landscape to gain a more informed perspective on where new gTLDs are and where they may be headed. We also thought it would be a good time to explore and understand the corporate community’s overall thoughts on the topic as we get closer to a second round.
The Road to gTLD Adoption: Quality over Quantity
While the number of registrations in new gTLDs is one way to measure the success of the overall program, one other perspective is to consider who is using them and for what purpose. In fact, this alternative perspective is probably a better way to gauge current and potential future use and to gauge demand for a second round of new gTLDs.
Image is everything. How many registrations define success is an illusive concept. On the other hand, if companies who have a reputation for innovation and have significant technology-related brand recognition are using new gTLDs, a positive association with new gTLDs will likely be communicated to the broader Internet community.
The Cisco Umbrella 1M list – a rank of the 1,000,000 most popular domain names – provides us some interesting findings that support the view that who and what is potentially as important a factor in predicting adoption as is how many registrations.
According to Cisco’s data, new gTLD domain names account for just .99% of the top 1M domains. However, despite the small footprint, internet giants such as Google, Amazon, and tech companies such as SAP are using their gTLDs in meaningful ways and are appearing relatively high in terms of ranking.
The FairWinds’ New gTLD Survey
In addition to looking at data and measuring use, we also wanted to objectively understand how companies view the new gTLD topic at this point in time. In Q4 of 2017, FairWinds conducted a survey of a wide audience of corporate and non-profit brands and owners of new gTLDs to better understand how the first round of new gTLDs performed relative to expectations and ICANN’s stated objectives.
The goal of the survey and its subsequent research has been to gauge:
- How brands and companies view the overall success of the first round of new gTLDs as we move into 2018.
- How brands and companies view a potential second round of new gTLDs.
The primary message survey participants sent was that the brand and corporate communities do not think that new gTLDs have been successful. In fact, only 6% of survey participants thought that the current new gTLD program had or will achieve ICANN’s stated goals for the program.
These same communities also indicated a predominantly neutral or negative position on a potential second round of new gTLDs. In fact, 75% of survey participants hope that a second round is “delayed” or “very delayed.”
2018 New gTLD Landscape Predictions
Based on our analysis of Cisco’s data and our survey results we believe these 3 trends will occur in 2018:
- .GENERIC TLDs will continue to shrink, consolidation will continue, and prices will continue to fluctuate.
- .BRAND TLD growth will slowly continue in 2018 – usage will remain primarily limited to technical environments.
- .BRAND growth will continue to be tied to leading internet brands such as Google, Amazon and Yandex.
Additionally, while the next round of new gTLDs will certainly generate a considerable amount of revenue for service providers in the space, there does not appear to be significant corporate demand for such an event. The demand appears to be driven primarily by businesses within the domain name industry, rather than brands and corporations outside of it. As such, we strongly recommend that brands pay attention to, track and even get involved this year as the policy for a next round is developed.
Taylor is an active participant and speaker within the broader domain name and industry governance communities, is one of the world’s leading experts on new gTLD and .BRAND strategy, and currently leads several groups here at FairWinds that span a number of our lines of business.