by Kevin Murphy
The inaugural .nxt conference on new top-level domains wound up in San Francisco Thursday, with most participants seeming to agree that it was a success.
The two-day meeting attracted 196 sign-ups (about 20 of whom apparently paid but did not ultimately show up to collect their badges) and almost 20 sponsors, not a bad showing for a first-of-its-kind event.
The purpose of the conference was to provide a venue to discuss the business of new TLDs without getting mired in the endless, circular policy arguments that can plague ICANN’s meetings.
In that regard, it could be considered a success. Sessions on marketing, partnering, winning investment and creating new business models were lively and frequently entertaining.
My feeling following the first few sessions was that .nxt was like an ICANN meeting with a pulse. Panels were highly interactive, occasionally confrontational, and rarely dull.
Organizer Kieren McCarthy told me his intention was to create the kind of domain conference he’d want to attend, which may go some way to explain the generous coffee breaks and abundance of free candy.
But his goal to attract the wider business community rather than merely the usual “ICANN insiders”, did not appear entirely successful. Over the course of ten panels, most people I saw raise their hand to ask a question or make a comment were familiar faces to me.
But this may be due to the level of secrecy (and paranoia?) shrouding many TLD application strategies. Of the “outsiders” apparently at .nxt to to gather intelligence for TLD bids, some declined to identify their employer or even their industry.
The opening keynote speech was provided by Kurt Pritz, the ICANN senior vice president responsible for overseeing the creation of new TLDs policy.
Despite standing in for ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom, who inexplicably canceled at the last minute, Pritz’s speech was entertaining and contained just enough passion and information to provide attendees with encouragement that the launch of the new TLD program is on the not-too-distant horizon.
Many .nxt attendees now believe that ICANN will launch the program not too long after its meeting in March, which is also in San Francisco. That timetables would see ICANN start accepting applications probably no later than September.
Juan Diego Calle, CEO of .CO Internet, provided a bit more bang for the buck. His second-day keynote, which played to a packed room, was a surprisingly detailed and informative account of the launch of .co last year, widely regarded as the current gold standard for TLD launches.
Calle said he didn’t mind sharing .CO’s strategy with potential competitors because he believes that the introduction of new TLDs are crucial for the continued growth of the .co namespace.
He said: “Until ICANN creates a massive influx of new TLDs, disruptive TLDs… consumers in the grand scheme of things will never know that anything other than .com is possible. .CO cannot raise awareness alone.”