I don’t think they’ll change the world, but I don’t wish for them to fail.
I write a lot of stories about new top level domain names. Some are about the good and some are about the bad. Sometimes people read one of my positive stories and think I must be a new TLD supporter. Others read my stories about problems and challenges new TLDs will face and think I’m a new TLD hater.
So let me set the record straight: I don’t think new TLDs are going to radically change the way most people navigate the internet, nor do I hope they all go up in flames.
Let’s back up a little bit.
At one point I was against the rollout of new TLDs. That was before the program was approved and the community was still debating if and how to allow a major expansion of top level domain names.
I didn’t like the idea because I thought it could jeopardize ICANN as an institution and get it off track. I also worried that it would open up a can of worms for new and unwarranted intellectual property rights protections. In some ways this has happened, although ICANN hasn’t imploded yet.
But now that the program has been approved, hundreds of companies have applied, and domains are being added to the root, there’s no point in worrying about something that has already passed the decision point.
Now shift to today.
Do I want to see new TLDs succeed or fail?
I certainly don’t want them, or the businesses that run them, to fail. It’s not my practice of wishing that entrepreneurs’ businesses fail. I consider myself an entrepreneur. I’ve had my share of successes and failures. I spend much of my time cheering on and helping others that are trying to grow a business. I don’t understand why anyone would wish ill will on someone betting their livelihood on a venture.
The only reason I can think that someone would wish for new TLDs to fail is out of fear. If you fear that new TLDs will destroy your own livelihood, then you might hope that entrepreneurs trying to dethrone your business fail.
In the present case, that would mostly be a .com owner worrying that new TLDs will erode the value of your domains. I can certainly understand how, if you think this might happen, you will root against the success of new TLDs.
But I don’t have this fear, because I don’t think it’s going to happen. At least any time soon; at least not from this first round of new TLDs.
I don’t think the value of .com domains are going to plummet. I even think some of them will go up in value.
I agree with Frank Schilling when he says new TLD registrants, for the foreseeable future, will say to themselves “I really should get the matching .com, too.” There are some domains that I thought about letting expire this year, but decided to renew for another couple years because I think they could be helped by new TLDs that match a term in the domains.
In many ways, confusion over top level domain names could drive traffic to .com domains (or whatever is currently dominant in a particular country). It could be a boost for domain parking, which has seen a decline in the number of people typing in domain names for “direct search.”
A year or two from now, I suspect that most new TLDs will be measured in tens of thousands, not hundreds of thousands. (I’m not alone, as that’s in the business model of many registries.) Many will struggle to maintain more than 10,000 registrations. Some outliers will take off and be embraced.
Some will view this as a success, others will view it as a failure.
And if .com values are adversely affected by new TLDs? Then I’ll tip my hat to those that put up their money and sweat equity to try to disrupt the business, and I’ll find a way to make money from this changed world. I’ll especially applaud the little guys; the handful of people who have bet a substantial part of their own net worth on a highly risky business venture.
Once you remove the fear factor, you can look at new TLDs with an open mind. You can look for the opportunities. Whether you think new TLDs will succeed or fail, there’s a way to profit from their release. Right now.
So there you go. That’s what I feel about new TLDs. I hope you keep this in mind when I write about the successes, challenges, and failures of the future.