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New TLDs: is it an awareness, acceptance or demand issue?

Are domain registrants not aware of new TLD options or do they just not accept them? Or is there just low demand for each .com alternative?

My initial reaction to the underwhelming “out of the gate” registration numbers for new top level domain names this year was that it’s an awareness issue.

99.99% of people have never heard of new TLDs. Once they’re aware, they’ll start registering them.

After taking a look at registrar search yesterday, I’m starting to wonder if the issue is actually acceptance instead of awareness.

It’s not the 99.99% of the public not knowing about new TLDs that matters right now. What matters is how many people searching for domain names to register are aware of them.

I think most domain searchers are aware of new TLDs.

Search for a domain name at GoDaddy and the top search results (after the matching .com) are new TLDs. They’re slotted ahead of alternatives like .net and .info.

So if I search for a domain at GoDaddy right now, I’m aware of new TLDs.

Right? Or do I never look at the suggested alternatives if .com is already taken? Do I not accept alternatives to .com, so I just look for another domain.

I’m not sure. Startups have embraced alternatives such as .io, .co and .me. Will they start to accept other new TLDs once they see a hot startup using them?

I believe awareness in the general public is coming, and that will lead to an acceptance by domain registrants. When Realtors start using .realtor, New Yorkers start to embrace .nyc and a brand advertises its .brand, then the public slowly becomes aware.

At that point, someone searching for HomeRun might register HomeRun.today since Homerun.com is taken.

Yet it will be a slow climb, which gets to the demand question. How many people every year register domain names related to construction or biking or plumbing? Not many. Once both awareness and acceptance click, people will consider these domains instead of .com. They will siphon off a sliver of the 30 million .com domains registered each year.

But how much of a sliver? Is there enough demand to be spread across all of these TLDs? After all, there are only so many domain names related to each niche already registered in .com.

Awareness, acceptance or demand?

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  1. Robbie

    GTLD’s are artificially created demand, not industry demand. Everyone is aware, godaddy, enom, name, namecheap all email me when a new gtld comes available. They are all over front pages, all over search responses. They are visible, but they are a business within themselves which today nobody is really paying attention too. The fact that .com is a realm that works within that one ending, and GTLD’s can be created into the thousands of extensions brings together a certain top tier ranking.

    There are guys who buy plural keywords, with plural gtld endings, poor english, and second rate choices. The registries are getting smarter at holding the good stuff, and labeling tier 2 premium. The rest is usually 5x .com reg fee.

    The TOS on renewal rate increases is still unclear, and uncapped, so very dangerous.

    • CW>

      Good evening:

      Launching one new TLD in the midst of a global recession would be bad enough. Launching 100’s is … words fail me.

      It was clear five years ago that the demand for new TLDs was coming from the cities, the communities and the IDNs. As far as I can recall, nothing more.

      I have never seen a priori evidence of a demand for all these ‘generics’ and all those ‘brands’. ICANN has initiated ex-post studies of the evolution of the situation from the point of view of competition and consumer choice.

      No further comments. Wait and see.

      CW

  2. Joseph Peterson

    You’ve framed the question very well:
    Lack of Awareness or Acceptance or Demand?

    Really, it’s all 3. But I think the conditions with all 3 will change somewhat.

    True enough, it’s primarily the person on the verge of registering a domain whose awareness of the new extensions matters. And that person is most likely confronted by the new TLDs at the registrar, making him or her aware of them as options.

    But it’s not as simple as that. If this is the first real moment of awareness, then the nTLDs will mostly be dismissed as the novelties they still are. Even if the person finds an attractive nTLD option (which actually takes time searching), there will still be a considerable hesitancy due to uncertainty about customer / audience reaction: “I may like it, but what if my customers don’t get it, can’t remember it, or don’t like it? Better stick with .COM!”

    Since I work with clients who are in the position of choosing a domain, I’m very familiar with their general thought process at this stage. When they don’t have any budget, they tend to jump at whatever seems easiest, least problematic, and (above all) cheapest. Usually that’s .COM. And the clients who come to me with a budget large enough to guarantee some freedom of choice? Well, they invariably insist on .COM.

    And most of the time, frankly, .COM provides the best name options in terms of both quality AND price. Vanity extensions, thanks to registry hold backs, are frequently many times MORE expensive than equal or better .COM options.

    Basically, public awareness — of websites using nTLDs, not of nTLDs in the abstract — needs to grow before registrant acceptance kicks in.

    The market demand for these nTLDs was mostly overstated, fictitious, or delusional — depending on the extension. Nevertheless, there are cases where nTLDs ought to be considered good options or even ought to be used right now, today. So the demand is not zero.

    It boils down to a chicken-or-the-egg problem.

  3. todd

    When someone originally makes the choice to purchase a domain their logical choice is dot com. If the dot com is taken then it becomes an issue of confusion.

    Too many choices. The presence of choice may be appealing but too many choices makes it paralyzing for most. Walk into an ice cream store with only chocolate and vanilla and the choice is fast and painless. Walk into one with 50 different flavors and you’ll end up tasting every one and still not be able to decide.

    Once people have to move past dot com they become lost.

  4. JZ

    for me as a domain investor there is too much risk and not enough reward. you need a fat wallet to keep up with all the releases ..(well the stuff they actually let people register) and have to keep in mind you will be paying these ‘premium’ renewals until you sell (if you ever do).

  5. Sri

    Even .biz, .info .net is a failure compared to .com. How can the new tlds be a hit.

    Even Country Domains are heavily used only because, Google gives preference to country domains when people search from that country.

    So these .pizza, .etc., will become a hit, only when google gives preference to them. (for example, If i search for pizza, .pizza domains are given preference.) I dont think that is going to happen.

  6. Cyrus

    Awareness and acceptance will grow when the big brands roll out their .brand TLDs. Since the ’90s, people have been used to seeing .com as the definitive TLD, but when sites like maps.google, iphone.apple, movies.fox, shoes.macys, checking.bofa, news.cbs become ubiquitous, the average person might find widgets.buzz more appealing than thewidgetstoreinwestcovina.com.

  7. Domainer Extraordinaire

    >>Awareness and acceptance will grow when the big brands roll out their .brand TLDs. Since the ’90s, people have been used to seeing .com as the definitive TLD, but when sites like maps.google, iphone.apple, movies.fox, shoes.macys, checking.bofa, news.cbs become ubiquitous, the average person might find widgets.buzz more appealing than thewidgetstoreinwestcovina.com.

    This was the .mobiers battle cry.

  8. Tony

    FAILURE <- that's pretty much the extension we need to go after to serve as a reminder of these waste of no good TLDs.

    • Cj (GoDaddy Social)

      Tony, Interestingly enough .fail is already available.

      I work for GoDaddy and have been talking about the new gTLDs for months now. I’ve been trying to get a feel for what people know and want and I tend to agree that there’s a sort of “I didn’t know that existed response” in some groups, where others are of the “I don’t know what I’d do with that” or “That’s never going to work” type mind set.

      It is very difficult to make a guess as to when or if people will start catching on to these gTLDs and find the ones that will work for them, but I can say for people who have told me they can’t get the .com domains they wanted, they were happily surprised to find out that there was another option.

      It will be interesting to see what the future brings.

  9. Mark

    I think users looking to register a new domain name are overwhelmed by the number of new extensions, thus many times they prefer to play it safe with the well known TLDs rather than risking a new extension (is it going to work the same as a .com? will google reference my domain?)

    All they need to want to try out a new extension is to know about popular websites that use that extension. If they see big brands advertising their .rocks domain, they will want to register their own .rocks. If they see many people having a .club, they will want their own as well.

    But it seems likely that many new TLDs will never grow big and remain stuck at a few thousand registrations. Many do not sound attractive (I would prefer to visit a .com or a .web than a .supply, .supplies, .cleaning, .partners, .parts, .computer, …), and a lot seem too specific to ever gain a wide user base (.shoes, .kitchen, .coffee, .diamonds, .dental, …)

    Public awareness will come with brands and websites popularizing a few of the new TLDs. Probably only a few will be winners, with the others remaining quite confidential. People are never going to memorize all the new extensions, they will only have the few most popular in mind, and so I suspect that on a given search engine results page they will be more likely to click on websites which have a popular or attractive extension, rather than an unknown or unattractive extension.

    It is interesting to note that the number of new .com registrations has already started decreasing quite noticeably: there were about 40% less .com registrations between January and August 2014 than between January and August 2013 (taking the stats from http://www.hosterstats.com). If the trend keeps going there will soon be more new TLDs registrations every month than new .com registrations, and at some point the total number of .com registrations itself could start decreasing, with more names being dropped than registered/renewed.

  10. 吳霜毅

    .com is easier to remember
    for example
    If a site called
    WordPress.com
    All I need to remember is WordPress
    Then append the de facto tld: .com
    If it is called
    WordPress.net
    I need to remember that the tld is net

  11. John McCormac

    The net growth in .COM has slowed down this year. ( http://www.hosterstats.com/com-growth.php ) There were some claims that the slowing of .COM’s growth is due to the new gTLDs. This is not so. The slow-down in .COM has been onoing for a few years now. The problem for the new gTLDs is twofold – there is little awareness and there is hardly any demand.

    Many of the new gTLDs had their genesis in 2008. Domain Tasting was rife and it was difficult to get a decent .COM domain on the drop because registries and auction sites were hoovering up the day’s drop. It created an artificial scarcity. When ICANN was finally shamed into doing something about the abject abuse of the Add Grace Period, it killed a lot of the Domain Tasting in the main TLDs. However the perception that all the good domains were registered persisted.

    There are hundreds of new gTLDs that would have done well in the period of artificial scarcity created by Domain Tasting and many of them are struggling to break 100 registrations a day. The demand does not seem to be there and the marketing by the new gTLD registries is non-existent. It is almost as if the work in promoting the new gTLDs is being left to the registrars.

    This artificial scarcity was responsible for a spike in ccTLD growth as people become disenchanted with .COM and started registering domains in their own ccTLDs instead. Not only are the new gTLDs competing with the legacy TLDs, they are also competing with the ccTLDs. And outside the US, most new gTLDs are lucky if they get a few hundred registrations in some countries.

    The large brand gTLDs are irrelevant to the fate of the new gTLDs. The occupy a blindspot in the user’s mind. When people use Twitter’s url shortener, they hardly notice that it is a .CO domain. For most users of Bitly, the Libyan ccTLD is an irrelevance. When people use Google, they are either directed to Google.com or the local ccTLD version of Google. There is no such big traffic benefit for these new gTLDs (unless it is a city or regional gTLD) and even then people will remember the brand rather than the extension.

    One of the things that has been helping .COM over the last few years is the ccTLD/COM pairing. That’s where people registering their domain in a ccTLD will also register the .COM where equivalent. However as ccTLDs mature, the percentage of unique domains (domains that only exist in that ccTLD and in no other TLD) increases. This could be a factor in .COM’s slowing growth – people registering their ccTLD domain and not bothering with the .COM. As a global TLD, .COM dominates the market. However in country level markets, its dominance is gradually being erroded. Luckily for .COM, the US market considers it the de-facto US ccTLD. If .US starts to be marketed effectively in the US market, then it might well cause more problems.

    The one thing that drives growth in a TLD is development. When people develop websites, users see them and this creates an interest in the TLD. It also encourages more people to register and develop sites. However that is not happening with some new gTLDs. They are in their first year of operation and development trends take time to become established. Some of the new gTLDs are already showing signs of turning into Truckstop TLDs where users go before being directed to the registrant’s primary brand website in another TLD. But it is not all doom and gloom – some new gTLDs will survive and prosper. But the scale of the success may vary.

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