A lively debate – both on and off the stage.
Yesterday at the TRAFFIC conference, domain investors Rick Schwartz and Lonnie Borck squared off against new TLD backers in a debate over what new TLDs will mean for the domain name industry.
Tim Johnson of .kiwi, Jeffrey Sass of .Club, Frank Schilling of Uniregistry, and Monte Cahn of Right of the Dot sat opposite them.
It was a lively conversation in which Schwartz started by clarifying that “I’m not against dot-whatever. I’m like you, I’m an opportunist. I really don’t care what flavor opportunity comes in.”
On the topic of what new TLDs mean for .com, Frank Schilling noted, “As the owner of a lot of .com domains, I hope .com doesn’t go away.”
Schwartz pointed out that Schilling’s analogy to .com becoming like AM radio was different because FM became popular because it had stereo to offer. Schwartz said new TLDs have nothing new to offer.
Schilling responded emphatically that they do have something new to offer, and .club’s Sass said one of the things they have to offer is meaning.
But what about all of the previous “new TLDs” that haven’t really amounted to much? Schilling said that’s in part because the new TLDs we’ve seen to date have all be subpar. .Biz, which was supposed to be a professional domain, has a z, so it’s not professional, .Mobi would have been better as .mobile. .Travel and .Jobs were too complicated to register and had restrictions. Ditto for .pro. Schilling said .xxx was priced too high at $60 and the registry polarized the industry it supported.
To that point, Schilling compared namespaces to countries. Those that offer low taxes, low regulation, and a strong rule of law (so low registration prices, no registration restrictions, but protection against losing a domain) will prevail.
Schwartz said it’s certain there will be a confusion factor. Over time that confusion factor will go down, but it will never go to zero.
Borck recounted his experience buying e.co $81,000 at an auction. He had gone to New York to visit Elliot Silver.
“Before I got into the car on my way to New York I had never heard of .co,” he said.
But since e.co was being auctioned off in New York, he decided to go to the auction. He bought the domain and later sold it at a profit.
Interestingly, he said if he had to do it all over again he would not have bought the domain. He said it was a very big risk to buy a single domain in a “new” extension like that for so much.
Referring to new TLD applicants that haven’t been involved in the past decade of the ups and downs of the domain business, Borck said “I think there’s going to be a blood letting.”
One of the money lines of the session came from .Club’s Sass. Responding to the reality that few people know that new TLDs are coming, he asked how many people knew what twerking was before Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance? (Schilling raised his hand to much laughter.) Sass noted that it only takes one major event for people to become aware of something.
Although the onstage conversation was interesting, I’ve found the private conversations about new TLDs at TRAFFIC to be more interesting. New TLDs are coming soon, and domain investors and service providers all have an opinion about them. They range from .com is dead to .com will take a small hit to .com will increase in value to the world is ending.
I think the only thing we know with certainty is that a lot more people will be paying attention to the domain name industry over the coming year.