By Adrian Kinderis
In January next year a revolution is set to usher in the most expansive and fundamental change to the Internet in its history. The new Top-Level Domain Program, administered by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), will see web addresses move beyond the traditional .com to .anything in a dramatic shift that will introduce a new platform for creativity and major new revenue streams for online investment.
For those not aware, the program will allow brands, entrepreneurs and governments to apply for their own version of .com – moving from pepsi.com to .pepsi for example – and secure a unique slice of Internet real-estate that will dramatically change the way Internet users around the world navigate to find content online. For more information, here is a video of an interview I did with Bloomberg Television about the program.
So, now that I’ve got you interested, you’re probably thinking about the best way you can gain a slice of the $5 billion dollar domain name industry. You might be an entrepreneur out to make your next million or a brand looking to make a statement of leadership in the digital space.
Here are my top six tips on how you can take advantage of this billion dollar opportunity and own a trusted, regulated slice of Internet ‘real estate’:
1. Don’t try to be the next .com
The biggest revenue-making opportunity under the new Top-Level Domain Program lies within the formation of generic word Top-Level Domains. Rather than trying to become the next .com, entrepreneurs should look to create boutique name spaces, turning over lower registration volumes, but at higher margins – the online equivalent of running an exclusive VIP country club.
Take .music, which would be created as a targeted name space specifically for the music industry. Such a name space is probably never going be a competitor to .com, however it will hold significant value to the music industry given it will be directly tied to the subject matter and the global music community. Imagine if you could capture even 20 per cent of the roughly 8 million music artists around the world and charge them each $US5 to promote their music under an official .music name space. That’s $US8 million in annual revenue before you consider other potential revenue sources from targeting users with content businesses like concerts.music and reviews.music.
So, rather than trying to be all things to all people, think very carefully about your audience before making the move. Because in this game an audience of “everyone” is a very risky move to make.
2. Offer more than just a domain name
You are securing a domain name space. You can do so much more that just sell domains. We call it “left of the dot” thinking. What more can you offer that will build value to your namespace? How else can domain names be used? Should you retain premium names rather than sell them and look to monetise those sites by building out content? You are starting with a clean slate here. You set the rules. Be creative and create something that will bring value to your market and provide something different!
3. Commercialise your .brand TLD
For brand holders, the benefits of securing a .brand Top-Level Domain are immediately obvious: Trust, leadership, customer engagement and improved message recall.
Think creditcards.hsbc, cars.ebay or justdoit.nike and you’re well on the way to capturing the opportunity presented by this unique change.
However, a .brand Top-Level Domain can deliver more than this. For instance, imagine eBay securing .eBay and selling a slice of that space to its audience of 94 million registered users at $US2 per vanity domain name fee. Also, with more than 600 million registered users, a username.facebook strategy of a similar nature should be an absolute no-brainer.
From a customer engagement perspective, imagine if BMW were to provide all customers with a john.smith.bmw domain name with the purchase of a new vehicle to allow access to critical information such as service scheduling and technical information. Not only would it deliver value to the customer, it would also play a role in the introduction of the customer to the BMW brand experience and lifestyle (car clubs, forums, social networking etc).
There will also be huge improvements in online security and trust. Take the bank Chase for example, it would bring clarity and security to customers with the simple message, ‘If it’s not .chase, it’s not us’. Not to mention making it easier for customers to find content online without using Google, because all they will need to remember is investments.chase, for instance.
4. Remove the language barrier
For the first time in history, new Top-Level Domains are available in non-Latin scripts and with 60% of the world’s population residing in countries where the native language is based on a script other than Latin, you could be one of the first to capitalise on this latest shift in domain name technology. Imagine what a relevant Chinese script Top-Level Domain could be worth to the thriving Chinese community?
5. Act now
The clock is ticking on this limited opportunity. The application window for new Top-Level Domains will open on 12 January 2012 and we’ll start to see new ‘.anything’ domains in operation from late 2012. If companies and entrepreneurs miss the application window (12 January 2012 to 12 April 2012), it may be a long time before they have the same opportunity again. Get moving now to make sure you don’t miss the boat. There is less than 155 days until the application window opens and you’ll need all of that time to make sure your approach is on the money.
6. Seek advice
The new Top-Level Domain program is not for the novice – there are few people who can run a slice of the Internet alone – so start with the idea and seek advice from an industry expert such as AusRegistry International who understands the application process, policy and technological infrastructure required to make the most of the new Top-Level Domain opportunity.
This is just the starting point.
The six tips explained above are just a starting point for a much larger analysis of your idea and associated business case.
At AusRegistry International (www.ausregistry.com), we are currently working with brands, entrepreneurs and governments across the world in a full service capacity that can cover your entire new Top-Level Domain project from strategy right through to technology and launch marketing services.
By Adrian Kinderis, Internet industry thought leader and CEO of AusRegistry International, one of the few companies in the world with the experience and technology to activate and implement new Top-Level Domains.