By Tony Kirsch
For a brief moment last week, I thought my days spent dreaming of hover-boards, flying cars and Biff’s elusive Sports Almanac were finally over. From reports circulating online, we had finally reached “Back to the Future Day”.
Those movie buffs out there will know exactly what I’m referring to. It’s the day Doc Brown and Marty McFly pumped their DeLorean up to 88 miles per hour and flew into the future in search of, well I’m not quite sure what… But it was cool whatever it was.
Being a guy that has long held a vision of cruising down to my local store decked out in a fluoro hat, self-drying bomber jacket and electric Nikes, it quickly came to me that Back to the Future day was, in fact, October 21, 2015. Great Scott! They had me going there for a second…
But it got me thinking. What would the Domain Name world look like if that crazy cat Doc Brown swung past in his DeLorean, with a fully-charged flux capacitor and a return ticket to October 21st 2015?
Well, you’ll never believe it…I put in a call to into an old Science camp buddy and he was able to get onto the Doc, pull him out of retirement and convince him to fire up the DeLorean, one last time, all for the greater good of the Domain Name industry.
Although I’ve kept a little secret or two to myself (like next week’s lottery numbers), below is a brief insight into what 2015 looks like for the industry:
• The new gTLD program has well and truly taken hold. Following the approval of the final version of the Applicant Guidebook at ICANN 39 in Cartegena, the 45 day registration period in early 2011 drew a massive 865 applications, including a range of generics, corporate, brand and geographic TLDs.
• 526 of those applications made it through to approval and launched. The auction process for generic TLDs created a word-wide buzz with the highlight being the 12 parties that entered into a bidding war for .web, which achieved a whopping $53 million price tag. The total revenue from the auction process was a staggering $437 million. Though much of this windfall was used to support a range of development initiatives around the globe, eyebrows were certainly raised when ICANN decided to purchase their own Airbus A380 (affectionately known as The Flying Starfish). This was deemed to be a cheaper option than sending their 430 staff to each meeting on commercial airlines, and it also solved the problem that it was becoming increasingly difficult to get to ICANN meetings as ICANN themselves had booked out all the flights. This problem came to a head at the October 2012 meeting in Vladivostok, where staff outnumbered participants.
• The kerfuffle about vertical integration is long forgotten. The Board finally lost patience with the GNSO in late 2010 and decided to allow full, unfettered integration between Registries and Registrars. Dozens of registries are creating and retailing generic TLDs with a range of innovative business models and with no detectable harm whatsoever to consumers. On the contrary, consumers and businesses now have a whole world of choice about how they construct their online identities. The massive increase in contracted parties however rendered the GNSO even more unwieldy and dysfunctional, and has led to yet another restructuring, which is taking some years to work out.
• In 2015 the definition of success for a namespace is no longer based purely on registration numbers. Registries have adopted “left of the dot” thinking to create portals that bind tribes of people together from across the globe. A focus on utility seems to have won over the more simplistic measure of volume.
• Those organisations that chose to utilise the full potential of ‘dot Brand’ TLDs and have built a strategy for implementation are reaping the benefits of leading the pack. Many industry watchers were aghast to discover that Facebook had chosen to pass up the opportunity, especially when they saw MySpace reinvent itself under the .myspace TLD, attracting more than 7 million registrants in their first 18 months of operation.
• The search market is no longer as all-powerful as it is back in 2010. The creation of ‘dot Brand’ TLDS has finally pulled users away from the clutter of search engines and back to direct navigation in its traditional and intuitive form. Marketers around the world are enjoying unheard of rates of recall and message efficiency.
• .xxx is still yet to see the light of day, despite being approved by the ICANN Board in late 2010, much to the delight of most of the adult entertainment industry. Meanwhile .sex and .porn are proving successful, even though a number of governments have blocked access to them.
• Linguistic communities across the world have followed the example of .cat and now hold a firm slice of the internet, while IDN TLDs have also been particularly successful. The Chinese language versions of .com and .org are both now well-established, with over 40 million registered names between them, happily co-existing in both Simplified and Traditional scripts. The .china IDN ccTLDs have helped to consign .cn to now almost complete irrelevancy.
• Also on the IDN front, the new IDNA2012 protocol included a number of new scripts and characters including Wing Dings and Vulcan that have caused great excitement in certain sectors of the ‘technical’ community. The inclusion of a number of additional punctuation marks as valid IDN characters also saw Yahoo! finally secure their domain name, including the exclamation mark.
• Many smaller and especially newer ccTLDs have struggled to maintain their relevance in the new Domain Name landscape having missed the window of opportunity to establish themselves before the release of the new gTLDs.
• Interestingly, the future of .tv is now in question, with the last inhabitants of the islands of Tuvalu moving to their new homes in Australia and New Zealand in late 2014 as the rising ocean engulfs the remaining dry land, and the United Nations considers what to do with a country that physically no longer exists.
But what of .com, I hear you ask? Well it’s still around and going strong, but has seen a steady decline in new registration volumes since the new gTLD program launched. A study released in late 2014 highlighted an increasing percentage of .com domains that were simply redirecting to new gTLDs.
And finally, AusRegistry International has continued to create the benchmark for ICANN meeting marketing with their wildly successful campaign involving personalised ‘TLD hover-boards’, unveiled at the March 2015 conference in Nuuk, Greenland.
So there we are, a little insight into what our world will look like when the real Back to the Future Day swings around in a little over 5 years time. While there was no reference to flying cars or talking microwaves, my time with the Doc opened my eyes to the exciting future of an industry that is driving innovation in the world’s largest media channel. I for one can’t wait to be a part of it.
Oh and according to page 286 of Gray’s Sports Almanac, 2010 is the year of Cadel Evans who finally holds on through the mountain stages to claim his first Tour de France.