In an interview with Telnic, I learned more about the top level domain and its benefits.
The first time I wrote about .tel was back in 2006 when it was approved by ICANN. I wasn’t a big fan of it back then. I wrote about it again earlier this week, and said I still think this domain extension is a longshot.
Earlier today I talked with Justin Hayward, communications director for .tel backer Telnic. My general opinion is the same, but there are some ways, if executed well, .tel could work out.
How it Works
Let’s say I register Andrew.tel. (You can see a sample page I created on the beta platform here.) I get a .tel account where I can input contact information such as my phone number, e-mail, web address, skype, etc. I can also add keywords that describe me, such as “domainer” and “technology”.
Then, anyone who accesses andrew.tel can view this information. I can keep some of the information private and encrypted, such as my e-mail address. If someone wants to e-mail me, they can submit essentially a “friend” request to access the information. (This creates a limited viral effect for the domain). I can make some of the information available to certain groups or even just individuals. So it’s not just a vCard. I can have an infinite amount of vCards based on who sees it.
Also, there’s no set format for the domains. I don’t need to register firstname.lastname.tel. I can register first.tel, last.tel, nickname.tel, etc.
My initial concern with the domain was that there would need to be a high adoption rate so that you’d have a reasonable chance of typing in a .tel to find someone. If I’m looking for Mark Smith, I want to have a good chance of typing in marksmith.tel and getting their contact info. (This is similar to .mobi. I need to have a reasonable assurance that typing in cnn.mobi will take me to CNN’s mobile web site).
This won’t work well for .tel because there’s more than one Mark Smith.
Hayward acknowledges this and says that Telnic doesn’t envision people guessing at .tel addresses much. To be found, it plans to penetrate Google with its structured information. It will also launch a search site.
Businesses can use .tel, too. They can upload IVR information, direct extensions, etc.
Technology — and the Mobile Phone Advantage
The data is stored on the DNS, not a web site. This makes it easier to integrate into other applications such as Blackberries, iPhones, and Microsoft Outlook. (You can see existing applications at dev.telnic.org.
Although I’m not completely sold that it matters the data is on the DNS, Hayward pointed out there’s a good percentage of the world population that accesses information via mobile devices rather than desktop computers. They need information fast and they need it to be low bandwidth. .Tel delivers on both of these with a total data transfer for a .tel domain of under 1 kb. This is also helpful to people “roaming” overseas.
“With .tel we’re providing people with a way of publishing to the internet that doesn’t need web coding and web hosting,” said Hayward. This applies to people in emerging countries as well as people who don’t have the expertise to create a web page. Although people who can’t code can create a Facebook page, Hayward notes that social networks are inherently closed. You can’t contact someone through the network without joining.
Many registrars will offer .tel domains for $15-$20 in March after the sunrise and early registration period passes. GoDaddy will sell the domains through its reseller program but has not yet signed up to sell them on GoDaddy.com. This could be a problem since GoDaddy registers about half of new domain registrations.
One reason registrars might not be excited about offering .tel is the limited cross-sell opportunity. You can’t sell web hosting or privacy protection to a .tel customer, and these are two cash cows for registrars. A registrar could offer voice services such as vanity phone numbers and efax, however.
Although Hayward makes good points about the potential for .tel, I still see major hurdles for it to overcome.
1. Adoption and critical mass. Even if people don’t find friends by just typing in firstlastname.tel, people need to understand what .tel is when they see it in order to be comfortable with it. .Tel needs heavy hitters to sign up for the service, and these people need to put .tel on their business cards. .Tel would be wise to offer free accounts to influential people and corporations.
In my previous article, I argued that social networks rendered .tel obsolete before it was launched. Hayward argues the opposite may be true — information is more fragmented than ever before, and much of it is locked up inside closed networks.
2. Competition. Telnic had to convince ICANN it could use the DNS to store the information directly. It took many years. But it would take less time for a competitor to convince ICANN of this. Perhaps even .name could enter the space. The second type of competitor would be someone using a software solution. Google? Facebook? Using the DNS offers some advantages, but could have drawbacks too.
Rob Sequin says
1. Great article. You did your homework but talking with the communications director? His JOB is to spin the company. Let’s hear from the CEO.
2. Still, my Contact Us page seems like it would work just fine. I am not going to register a .tel, set it up then tell people to go to robsequin.tel. I will give them my phone number, email address or robsequin.com and tell them to go to the contact us page.
Am I missing something?
.tel is .doa Simple as that.
Sure they’ll have the .me landrush bounce (but not even the .mobi landrush bounce) then just fade away with the .cc .travel and other .craps of the world.
This one is not even controversial or hard to predict.
Is there ONE person reading this that wants to try out a .tel? Just ONE? Please post here.
Rob – they won’t get the .me bounce because you can’t really speculate on these. You can’t monetize your pages. This is not made for domainers in any way.
Rob Sequin says
Interesting. So no bounce?
How are they going to make money? I figure maybe about 1000 end users will register a .tel so that’s what $10k?
They are not auctioning off any .tel for landrush or for TRAFFIC?
Who gets Andrew.tel? First come first served?
Yep, that’s what I’m thinking. I looked up .name registrations today and I think it’s about 400k. 100k of those are at GoDaddy. With 15 full time people and 10 contractors, let’s figure 2 million a year in people costs plus infrastructure and ICANN fees. If they’re getting $10 per domain, they need at lest 250,000 registrations/renewal a year to break even, let alone have a chance at returning capital to their investors.
Andrew.tel goes to the first person to register it. So there may be *some* money in getting “cool” one worders, but only if it really takes off.
They’re also using Neustar’s registry backend, so they can’t really offer registry services to other companies. One saving grace may be that they can apply for a couple other TLDs under ICANN’s new program. Or this could take off in developing countries.
One other thing, they will charge higher fees during sunrise and the “first launch” of perhaps a couple hundred dollars. But only trademark guys at big firms will push for doing this in my opinion.
Matt Mansell says
Guys. We are clearly biased as .tel accredited registrar (domainmonster.com), but a couple of quick points that you may interest you OR you can throw away! Dont shoot me down for commenting please! 1) Because .tel uses the DNS as the article points out, the transfer is tiny! This makes .tel’s Blackberry and iPhone applications double quick for looking up contact details (So much quicker than looking up via a device browser). Actually makes an alternative to the devices in-built address book as nearly as quick! 2) From the pre-order levels we have seen so far, this is going to be blow the recent .me and .asia launches out the window, whether domainer friendly or not. We haven’t really marketed the launch yet and are seeing pre-order levels equiv. to the entire pre-order level for those launches in just 4 days of being available to pre-order. Whatever the monetisation spin on it, I can tell you this will be big, just simply from that! Hope that helps you all.
There is no need for a separate TLD. The records are standard DNS-stuff (NAPTR and TXT basically), you can put this under ANY domain and ANY TLD. There is also nothing that prevents applications from using any other TLD.
$15-$20 for something that can be done perfectly well with any domain you already own. Jeez, can you say money cow? .tel is just another lame gTLD.
But not surprising, ICANNs business model seems to be
1) create new TLDs
Jeff Schneider says
We believe prudent domain investors, should upgrade their portfolios to the .com extension if at all possible. Ther are countless reasons for this that are self evident.
1. .coms owned by big dogs
2. .coms attract most traffic
3. There are only so many letters in the alphabet to own in each extension. If youre lucky enough to own and control letters of the alphabet it makes sense to own the universally accepted .com adressess. Valuations don’t lie, they point to the answer.
Matt – that’s great news. Can you give me an idea of the numbers or percentage difference we’re talking about here compared to .me?
Matt Mansell says
I shouldn’t really, but its basically exceeded the TOTAL pre-order level for .me in a matter of days; with plenty of time to go before landrush and GA! We were a top 3 registrar for the .me launch, so we are comparing Apples with Apples!
Couch Potato says
> so we are comparing Apples with Apples!
Not really. From what I understand, the .me registry signed its contract in February this year. They started open registrations in mid-July, five months later, after Sunrise and Landrush periods.
Telnic signed their agreement with ICANN 30 May 2006. By the time they start Sunrise they will have had over 2 years to get the word out about .tel.
I think the jury is still out on this one. It will be interesting to see what happens when the applicants who get their names begin to realize what they actually bought.
Matt Mansell says
Same goes for .asia launch though and this has a time-line more akin to .tel. We were 2nd with .asia at launch per the PR on their site and its out-stripping that in the same way as a I refer to .me.
I guess ultimately, I’m just trying to be helpful. I do appreciate we are biased in our position and am simply posting the information to give you guys a heads up from our unique position. I came across this thread, because like you guys I’m keen to read the different spins on .tel that are starting to appear now launch is so close.
Whatever the reason, good or bad, .tel is selling and its selling beyond all the prior levels we’ve seen. From my experience volume helps (not necessarily decides!) determine success. I’ll let you guys decide the opportunity, but do help I’ve managed to contribute a little inside information that I know the old hat “mainstream” registrars wouldn’t divulge without a ream of paperwork signed first!
We should all keep in mind that the success of .tel has nothing to do with domainers. This isn’t a domainers’ domain. However, it’s hard for new TLDs to generate revenue early on without domainers. The long term health of the domain may be stronger, but you need cash to survive. If you do the math, .tel is going to have to register a lot of domains to return money to its investors.
I think nearly all participants miss the point on this one. This TLD is the only TLD that will offer quick access to contact details accross the widest range of platforms with one click access for mobile users. With mobile device search volume anticipated to exceed pc base, this could be bigger than you expect.
Andrew Allemann says
@ T.Bergman – depends on how you define “quick”. Yes, it’s in the DNS, but that doesn’t mean pulling contact info in a structured format off a web site would take too much time given the data speeds that are coming out.
Rob Sequin says
Andrew, Right on point.
T.Bergmen, .tel has NOTHING to do with mobile use.
No matter who and how many try to talk up .tel, it’d dead.
Save your money.
You can’t even develop a site on .tel so who the hell is going to want their own .tel.
A stupid antiquated concept that will not live more than a few months past the speculation of the landrush.
I wouldn’t take a .tel if you gave it to me.
How many .tel buyers are NOT speculators and actually plan to use the .tel? 1%? Less than 1%?
Unless people actually use .tel (and I said this about .mobi) unless people actually develop (in this case simply use) .tel, it is dead.
.Tel will work well for business. But it is common sense that it wont work for individuals, there are millions of alis, john and only one person can hold that in the whole world. n second I dont think people like Bill gates or Donald trump would like the whole world to see their details, people who he wants to be in touch with already got his numbers. So for individuals, it might not make a big deal.
Barb Bender says
Hi: Just wondering if there is any update to the .tel in terms of registrations. I agree with some of the comments, that the .tel is actually going to work better for businesses, because they want to be contacted by their customers. It will be interesting to see how many individuals actually register their real names, vs nicknames – privacy rules with individuals.