Can new TLDs increase demand for domain names, or will they merely take a percentage of the existing market?
A few weeks ago Dan Warner posted an analysis of sports related top level domain name applications. He compared the strings applied for (e.g. .baseball, .football) to how many of the 100 million + .com domains already registered include that term (e.g. BaseballFan.com and FootballGames.com).
He found that many, including rugby and cricket, had fewer than 15,000 registrations in .com.
Warner believes “that each new gTLD will capture a share of the existing market”, so domains like .rugby need to plan for only a fraction of an already small market for domain names.
Do you believe that as a newcomer registry that your brand is big enough to topple .com? Are people going to throw out all their business cards, forms, and stationary to change their brand for an unproven new gTLD? Are new buyers that haven’t had an interest in the last 20 years all of a sudden going to decide they have to buy a new domain name?
I tend to agree with Warner on this. But a lot of applicants are betting that there are new buyers who will come out of the woodwork. They believe that the total market size is greater than the number of currently registered .com’s that include the keyword.
Let’s examine some ways this could happen.
A certain number of trademark holders will believe it necessary to protect themselves by defensively registering their domains under a TLD, even if it’s not completely related to their business.
While Nike already owns NikeCricket.com, NikeRugby.com, and NikeTennis.com, it doesn’t own Nike.fans or Nike.coach.
And Verizon might register Verizon.baseball just in case.
The effect of defensive registrations will be greater with small registries.
Have rugby fans ever been targeted to register domain names in the past? I doubt it.
With a concerted marketing effort directed to rugby players and teams, it could drive a lot of domain name registrations.
Consider the baseball prospect in high school or college. He never thought to register firstlastnamebaseball.com for himself before. But if all of his friends are getting firstlastname.baseball and showcasing their talents, will he do it to?
Niche TLD backers will (or should) market directly to possible registrants at industry events, in trade publications, and online. Verisign has never gone to an equestrian convention and promoted to people to register domain names about horses. But I guarantee Top Level Domain Holdings will do that with its .horse domain.
One of the bigger hopes is that there’s demand for niche domains attached to relevant services.
Consider .Club Domains LLC’s application for .club. Sure, there are a lot of clubs out there. But do they really each need a .club domain name?
No. But what if you throw in club management software? A way to easily get your club online, collect dues, and recruit new members?
For many niche TLDs, the domain itself will be an afterthought. Most services like this don’t need to be a top level domain to operate. They could offer the same services under an existing .com domain. Still, it could boost the overall registration numbers for these domains.
The Cool Factor
I imagine the number of domains that include “ninja” are quite small. But Demand Media is pushing this domain a lot. Let’s face it, it’s fun. And while the geek in the cubicle next to you might never think to register HTMLninja.com, he might think snagging HTML.ninja before the next guy can is worth it.
I would never get myDogsName.com as a domain. But as a .dog? OK, I still wouldn’t. But many dog lovers would. Especially if a service is added on to it that makes it easy to showcase their dog, track them if they’re lost, etc. Instead of a dog tag with a phone number on, why not a URL? It’s something most dog owners would never think of unless they were told it’s an option.
And if someone thinks something is “cool”, they’ll be sure to tell their friends.
More of the upside
GoDaddy registers about half of new domain registrations. But it has much less than half of the market. That’s because a lot of domains were registered before it became big.
The same thing goes for new TLDs. .Com is big, and getting a big slice of the existing market will be tough. But what about the eight million .com domains registered every quarter? Will new TLDs get a bigger slice of that growth?