Those hoping for a “big bang” of new TLDs are surely disappointed in how the rollout is taking place.
I’ve talked to a number of new top level domain name applicants who believe new TLDs need to come out with a “big bang.” A bunch of great domain options backed by big marketing budgets need to come out early on to make a big splash and give the program momentum.
It’s becoming more and more apparent that this isn’t going to happen. Instead of coming out with a bang, they’re coming out with a whimper. There are two main reasons for this.
1. The registrars aren’t ready.
Although 222 registry contracts have been signed with ICANN, and many domains are heading into sunrise, many registrars aren’t ready.
When it comes to sunrise, most registrars aren’t aren’t promoting it.
When شبكة. went into sunrise, I’m not aware of a single registrar that was accepting sunrise registrations from the get-go. It didn’t matter much, since only a handful of companies submitted Arabic strings to the Trademark Clearinghouse. But now the sunrise period for seven Donuts domain names ends later this month, and relatively few registrars are offering sunrise registrations.
Although many of the larger registrars are, they are making it fairly difficult to find the sunrise option. I spent time this morning searching for the option at many registrars. It’s buried and confusing.
It could be that registrars decided there’s not as much opportunity in sunrise registrations this time around, compared to previous TLD launches. They probably also figure anyone who has submitted to the Trademark Clearinghouse will take the initiative to find the sunrise options, where they exist.
Looking past sunrise, many registrars aren’t ready for the general availability period.
As of Monday, only 21 registrars are certified by IBM for the Trademark Clearinghouse database. Being connected to the database is a requirement for offering domains during the initial months of general availability.
Some of Donuts top level domains are entering general availability within weeks, and many registrars aren’t ready. Some of the mid-sized registrars (especially those outside the U.S.) haven’t even signed the 2013 RAA, so they can’t sell new TLDs at all.
It’s true that some large registrars have been aggressively promoting new TLDs, pre-orders, etc. But many are behind, and that’s especially the case outside the United States. It’s worth pointing out that may TLDs are specifically targeted to people outside the U.S.
2. The process is holding up many of the best domains for last.
There are a lot of things holding up the “best” domains. GAC advice resolution, objections, and most importantly, contention sets.
If you assume most of the best domains attracted more than one applicant, then many of the best domains are nowhere close to coming to market.
Relatively few contention sets have been resolved by private means. Google and Amazon haven’t resolved any. Some of the most contentious are still subject to community objections. I bet others will end up being held up by lawsuits.
There’s a glimmer of hope: ICANN’s auction-of-last-resort schedule will place auctions according to the best prioritization number, not the worst. Still, we’re months away from the auctions even starting.
What does this mean for new TLDs overall?
I’m not arguing that this initial “whimper” means new TLDs are doomed. But if you prescribe to the “big bang” theory, then you are likely disappointed in how this is playing out.
It seems that new top level domains are going to seep out onto the market rather than hit it with a big bang. In the eyes of consumers, there won’t be a big event where all the sudden they view that they have a lot of choice.
Will that hamper the more popular extensions that are a long way off? When they come to market, if the earlier extensions haven’t caught on, will people dismiss the better ones, too?
Or will the slow seep of new domain choice, as opposed to a big bang, not have any effect on the success of new TLDs?