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Pinky Brand Discusses the Past, Present, and Future of .Mobi

Pinky Brand explains what’s going on with the .mobi domain name.

dotMobiFrom the moment it launched, the .mobi top level domain name has been divisive in the domainer community. As people paid tens of thousands — even hundreds of thousands — for .mobi domain names at auctions, onlookers thought these people were crazy while the buyers thought they were getting a bargain piece of property on the mobile web.

Even though the rush has slowed down and people have had time to sort things out, people still stand on one side of the issue. A few months ago, .mobi domainers began to get frustrated and raised a number of issues.

This came as somewhat of a shock to me. After all, I can think of no other new top level domain names that has put in more effort or money into a launch than dotMobi. Whether or not it’s enough is another question.

Earlier today I connected with dotMobi Director of Global Sales Pinky Brand for an update.

Brand told me that, with close to 1 million domain names currently registered, the company is profitable. It is currently investing in add-on products, such as Device Atlas. (More information on current initiatives is available in dotMobi’s resource center.)

As for resale values of .mobi domain names, that’s a secondary concern to the company.

“I think by definition, domainers are a varied lot of individuals,” said Brand. “There are some who are very experienced and some that are new to this business. Depending on where you came in, you may have different expectations.”

Making millions quickly flipping .mobi domain names is probably not the right expectation.

“If a domainer buys a .mobi and they expect to flip it for 100x in a year, more power to them,” said Brand. “But we’re not guaranteeing that. That’s a secondary business.”

Brand doesn’t believe that the high auction prices .mobi domains commanded at early auctions set unrealistic expectations for domain owners. They reflected how the market valued the domains at the time.

One complaint you’ll hear about .mobi is that it isn’t being marketed to end users. Don’t expect a mass market push to mobile phone owners any time soon. As Brand explained, the company isn’t going to put an ad in the SuperBowl. This sort of marketing isn’t as efficient as getting companies — small and large — to use the domain and thereby spread the .mobi name to their customers.

If .mobi domainers are giving dotMobi grief over its marketing efforts, it will be interesting to see what happens when new top level domains roll out. Few TLD backers will have the financial resources dotMobi had at its launch. Brand noted that none of the newer top level domains — even all of them combined — have amounted to anything close to a fraction of .com.

“Someone who’s starting a new top level domain needs to think about that,” said Brand. He advises people to look at history. “They’re not going to sell ten million domains.”

As for .mobi, its registration numbers are much higher than any new TLD introduced since .info/.biz. But there is still legitimate debate about whether a TLD for the mobile web is needed given automatic device recognition, and if it makes sense to have two separate webs (one for desktop, one for mobile).

“We’ve accomplished the task of building a foundation,” explained Brand. dotMobi hopes to build on that foundation in the coming year.

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  1. John Berryhill

    “If .mobi domainers are giving dotMobi grief over its marketing efforts”

    That premise is fascinating.

    People who bought .mobi domains are upset that mTLD is not aggressively selling .mobi domains?

    There’s something odd about that… but I just can’t put my finger on it. Someone help me out here.

  2. Steve M

    “We’ve accomplished the task of building a foundation.”

    Um, right; but only if one can call a pile of sand a foundation.

    …and I ask again, just how many .mobi regs have been canceled due to none/improper use; like they threatened over and over again would happen?

    Any?

  3. Louise

    “Brand noted that none of the newer top level domains — even all of them combined — have amounted to anything close to a fraction of .com.”

    If that is true, why aren’t people concerned ICANN approved Verisign’s BTAPPA process for dot com’s and dot nets, modeled on dot biz? You can read my concerns at my website, RecoverDomainName.com .

  4. .mobi forum

    was this ‘interview’ even worth it. a few sentences from pinky
    what a waste of time imho
    not up to your usual high standards DNN

    more info on .mobi and that mtld are doing to further the extension are very much wanted.

  5. Tim

    Cleverly missing from this defensive interview is the abandoned trustmark issue; an early and attractive product benefit. mTLD quietly stopped the program and when pushed during a recent webinar, it offered nothing more than a firm NO on it’s future.

    That is at the core of many disgruntled domainers. And yes, the resale value is closely tied to that benefit.

    @berryhill
    visit mobility.mobi for a clear picture of why many big supporters are growing, or have grown, discontent with mTLD.

  6. Gary

    Liver:
    The dried up old cow metaphor is amusing but I do not agree with your outlook at all; the standardisation for mobile is evolving and m. is not maintaining market share; I believe that m. has been broadly used as a 1st base solution and based on market feedback it is becoming clear that as traffic builds and content improves the dotmobi domain is being adopted either as a stand-alone url or as a marketing friendly redirect to the existing mobile content.
    IMHO the dotmobi cow will continue to improve its yield for many years! 😉

    John:
    I’m not sure where you’re approaching this from but my take on this is that some investors are frustrated and looking for a scapegoat; the easiest being to attack the registry…. this is foolhardy as mtld never made any promises; (golden rule: buyer beware) however, mtld continue to meet businesses and form global relationships to promote the extension and in time I am sure this will bear fruit, indeed it is already – mtld is already the 6th largest registry on the planet and they are well funded with a committed, quality staff!
    I see a responsibly run company that will deliver over the long haul.

    Steve M.
    My guess is that you don’t believe the potential for dotmobi; the sand foundations you refer to are more solid than you believe, mtld is about a lot more than domain registry; they are global leaders in the ‘mobility’ market, the domain registry is almost secondary to what what they are achieving with their substantial resources for website owners, developers and businesses from China to Timbuktu.
    The policing of the internet is conducted by the public; 6 billion of us globally will judge if sites are good enough to deserve a 2nd visit so if any developers out there are stupid enough to build poor quality sites with useless content and excessively large graphics etc.. for a poor mobile user experience then what punishment can mtld dish out that is any worse than the public switching off to their sites?
    The mobile arena, just as the internet at large is self-policing! Build good sites with compelling content; it’s not rocket science!

    Louise:
    The fact is that the biggest market share a domain extension has achieved is around 7% compared to dotcom. I’m not sure if that figure is 7% total market share of all domains or is equal to 7% of dotcoms market share (which would give an even smaller number) so yes, dotcom is still king by any measure.

    I have been lucky enough to speak at length with Pinky recently and I am very happy to report that dotmobi still has it’s usp’s despite the fuss about compliance / Trustmark recently (Premium domains are still policed and subject to the trustmark).

    The truth is that dotmobi has its own zone file and dotmobi sites are whitelisted by all the major transcoders; this has seo advantages and what it boils down to is that the key to success is pretty basic – build mobile friendly sites with unique & quality content delivering a message / service (whatever that message / service is) effectively and quickly = a recipe for success.

    The mobile arena is growing by staggering 7x annualised at the current rate; from around 13,000 dedicated mobile sites in 2007 to an estimated 10,000,000 plus in 2010, if growth is maintained at this level there will be over 100,000,000 mobile sites in service by 2013 (even allowing for a slow down in the exponential growth we are witnessing now).
    Any technological investments are risky and domaining is certainly risky but the mistake made by 90% of domainers is impatience or seen another way; the lack of budgetting for the long-haul forcing the liquidation of investments prior to the market maturing.

    The mobility.mobi forum is full of this debate right now; the truth is that we are represented by a wide cross section of society from college kids through to mature business people; and it is clear that there are as many different opinions about dotmobi as there are colours in the rainbow!

    So you takes your money and makes your choice! But I believe that dotmobi will hold onto & improve on its marketshare as more and more sme’s as well as multi-nationals realise that the mobile space is going to be a very important space indeed.
    By 2011 or thereabouts smartphone penetration will be at much higher levels and I think we will see mobile sites becoming more and more ingenious, well designed and user friendly – replacing many apps along the way.
    Mobile banking, mobile payments, location based marketing, ecoupons, ecommerce, gaming etc… will become so commonplace that we will soon forget how disjointed the mobile space was in 2009!

  7. Bo

    .mobi is unknown to the average person/end user and is not worth the cost of registration. I had a few and let them expire. Thought they may gain value but was wrong, they will never have value.

  8. Food Recalls

    As Tim said, Dotmobi abandoned the trustmark which guaranteed that a .mobi address would provide mobile content – so buyers of .mobi domains no longer hold exclusive real estate and are unlikely to get the competitive advantage of being whitelisted by networks as being mobile friendly (and so not transcoded / mangled).

    Since Dotmobi themselves say they gave up on the trustmark in 2007, were they acting in good faith carrying on selling domains featuring the trustmark until well into 2009?

    Another valid concern for .mobi owners is the fact that of all the big name founders of the company – whose names were used to sell the product – only Nokia actually now use .mobi. Microsoft and Google do not.

    This interview is something of a missed opportunity- you could have asked about:

    1. mobi’s backers and their non-use of .mobi

    2. Dotmobi’s reported huge loss in 2007-2008 and failure to file financial statements for 2006-2007 and 2008-2009.

    3 When they finally will make a formal public statement releasing all mobi domain owners from the trustmark / compliance conditions on all mobi domains.

    Plenty of material there for a more investigative article next time.

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