nTLDs 4 and half years later…

Top Level Domains (TLDs):

  • nTLDs =  new TLDs, like .blog
  • gTLDs = all generic TLDs, including nTLDs
  • ccTLDs = country code TLDs, like .uk

May 21st marked one and half years since .blog launched in general availability to all registrants. Here is an update of where the domain industry is at since the launch of nTLDs in January 2014,  four and half years ago.

Since then more than 1200 nTLDs have been delegated, of which 600+, like .blog, are ‘open’ and therefore available to the public. It is worth noting that between 1984 and 2013 only 22 gTLDs existed, with .com representing over half of all domain names registered combined (gTLDs and ccTLDs).

Quick Stats:

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There are many factors which affect the domain market but nTLDs appear to be influencing it as .com and ccTLD growth has slowed down in the past 4 years, while the group `Other gTLDs` has decreased by 4.4%.  With 23.7 mil domains, nTLDs represent 6.2% of the market.

Screen Shot 2018-07-03 at 2.29.51 PMFrom its height in 2016, nTLD domain name registrations have decreased by approximately 5 million domain name registrations or 19.5%. This is mainly due to declines (lack of renewals) in many new TLDs like .top, .win, .xyz, .loan, .vip and others that have focussed on near zero cost promotions as well as the unpredictable Chinese domain investor market.

(Note: China quickly entered the nTLD game as a high volume/ low-cost market with little to low usage. Their unprecedented domain growth was due to investors using the domain market to make up for shortfalls in other traditional investment sectors. Chinese investors prefer numerics (number domains), pinyins, consonants (without vowels or v) and any domain name that is relatively short.)

As you can see below, 8 of the top 20 nTLD registrars by volume are Chinese owned – Alibaba, Chengdu West, West263, Alibaba (Singapore), eName, Xin Net, Knet, and EIMS.

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ccTLDs:

According to Verisign, ccTLD domain name registrations were approximately 146.1 million at the end 2017. This was with an increase of 1.4 million domains compared to the third quarter of 2017. ccTLDs increased by approximately 3.4 million domain name registrations year-over-year.

Top 10 ccTLDs (as of Dec. 31st, 2017)

.blog:

.blog currently has 169,010 domains under management, with a 61.55% usage rate and a 65% renewal rate. It is growing at approximately 300+ new registrations/day and has been registered in 158 countries.

Here is a breakdown of .blog domains under management per registrar. As you can see, Automattic is overwhelmingly KKWT’s top registrar, followed by Tucows and GoDaddy.

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TLD Health:

Not all nTLDs are created equal. Aside from growth, there are 4 other main indicators for TLD health.

1. Usage rates: When a domain is used for a unique content site, both as a primary domain and redirected. Parked and inactive sites are excluded.

Screen Shot 2018-07-03 at 2.30.04 PM2. Renewal rates: Most nTLDs have a sub 50% renewal rate. .blog is currently at 65%. Unfortunately, I was unable to come up with reliable and comprehensive renewal rates for other nTLDs.

3. Spam and abuse: Malware, spam or are phishing sites. Less is obviously better. 4 of the top 15 nTLDs have the highest levels of spam and abuse. To date, .blog has 1 reported case of abuse.

4. Life Time of a domain: How long a domain remains registered. LT is difficult to calculate for nTLDs since they are relatively new to the market and the information is not always made publicly available.

Sources:

 

My Wife’s Small Business Domain

Before I get into how we picked a domain for my wife’s new small business, let me colour in the lines with a little backstory.

Taking advantage of Automattic’s distributed work culture my family and I moved to Halifax from Toronto last June. I spent 11 years in Halifax during and post-university years and despite my wife, Katie, not being from the region, Halifax is quite comfortable for us. It helps that she is from Boston! Us Newfs would say Halifax fits us “like a smack in da mouth”.

After settling in, getting the kids acclimated and integrated into school, sports, and extracurricular activities, Katie got the itch to go back to work. She has many years of experience in online marketing and website quality assurance.  But before jumping back into the workforce, she had a modest list (cough, cough) of criteria for any potential job. It included:

  • Must be enjoyable.
  • Can’t work before 9:00am or after 2:30pm. Katie loves to drop off and pick up the kids from school. It is the best part of her day.
  • Can’t work evenings or weekends.
  • Can’t work Professional Activity days for teachers (no school for kids).
  • Can’t work Wednesdays. That is day Katie has chosen to spend with the little one, who she takes out of daycare to go skating, swimming, to the library, bake, and play.
  • Can’t have deadline type pressure.

In other words, family and the kids mean more to Katie than anything (God love her for that!) and therefore her work criteria does not make her an ideal candidate for most jobs. But we also know she needs to stay busy. Working contributes to our household economy and is also important for mental health.

Enter my sister. Sis, who lives in the Southern US, has been telling us for years we should start a greeting card company…but with a twist. Greeting cards for your lawn. It is appealing to the masses, unique, fun, work your own hours, and can become a nice little second income. After researching the heck out of it and determining that placing a lawn greeting on someone’s lawn has no patentable intellectual property, we were sold. The timing was right, our location was perfect — with thousands of families in nearby subdivisions — and Katie has a background in building, maintaining and marketing websites.

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Now it was time to pick a domain, so Katie asked our in-house expert. That’s me, by the way! I have started a few businesses in my day as well and with over 12 years of experience directly in the domains space, this would be easy, right? Not so fast…

Katie should build her business on a .blog domain. We could find something short, memorable, intuitive and she could blog regularly about her experience starting the business while being Mom, creating unique rich content for search engines to eat up. Despite my best sales efforts, this was not appealing to Katie. She was envisioning something more traditional, starting with a brochure site and expanding it with added functionality over time. Maybe eventually using it to franchise her home business to other people throughout Atlantic Canada,  As hard as it was for me to not insist, it would be her business, so it was her choice.

To get us on the right track we made a list of criteria to find the perfect domain name for her. Katie wanted her domain name to be the business name as well so this even more important.

  • short
  • memorable / catchy
  • easy to spell
  • does NOT require global appeal, only local and Canadian
  • intuitive
  • creative

We agreed it would not have to be a .com and whatever it turned out to be the .blog equivalent would be also be registered so she could eventually start a blog with it and cross-link the sites.

Next, we broke down her business into the following keywords.

  • greetings
  • cards
  • greeting cards
  • special occasions
    • birthday
    • anniversary
    • baby
    • retirement
    • congratulations
    • welcome
    • happy
  • yard
  • lawn
  • letters
  • sayings
  • grass
  • halifax
  • bedford
  • local
  • moments
  • celebration
  • rentals
  • home

On our respective laptops, we entered variations of the keywords into WordPress.com’s domain search and suggestion tool. These included things like:

  • greeting cards for your yard
  • yard greeting cards Halifax
  • yard greetings
  • greeting cards for your lawn
  • lawn greeting cards Halifax
  • cards for your lawn

We spent hours searching, finding options, trying them on and testing them with different mediums. Nothing was sticking so we walked away from our computers to sleep on it. The next day Katie and I agreed we had nothing, so we talked through the business once again to simplify it. In short, Katie would be renting out greeting cards in the form of letters, decals, and emojis, and placing them on people yards for any required occasion. It will only serve Halifax and surrounding areas to start but should be able to scale and possibly franchise.

Focusing on .ca and .blog searches only, we narrowed it down to these available options:

  • yardgreetings
  • lawngreetings
  • lawncards

These had to be submitted in order of preference to the government to ensure the business name a was not taken in Canada. After submitting them and waiting a week the results came in the mail. Inside the envelope was a domain Katie would build a small home business around.

And the winner was lawncards.ca. I think it is absolutely perfect, filling all of the criteria for her business name. I am proud to say that in just 4 short weeks Katie launched her business and is now filling orders on a regular basis.  Though her blogging is yet to start she said it will become a focal point of her online strategy.

 

 

 

 

Divide and Conquer?

How can we expect there to be coordination across the domain industry around life-altering issues like EU’s upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) when major groups cannot even coordinate the timing of conferences?

It is common knowledge that we, industry folk, frequent these conferences to move the industry forward through policy and partnerships. We use them to connect and collaborate with other members of the industry to drive partnerships and forge new ones. They are global events that play an important role in how the industry stays connected.

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Cloudfest (formerly World Hosting Days prior to being purchased by GoDaddy) is the biggest hosting conference in the world. Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the group responsible for responsible for “coordinating the maintenance and procedures of several databases related to the namespaces of the Internet ensuring the network’s stable and secure operation”* has three meetings a year, often at peculiar locations across the globe — we will save the location of ICANN meetings for another post.

Next week our beloved industry has these two events at the same time. Cloudfest at Europa Park in Rust, Germany, a ‘planes, trains and automobile’ scenario to get to, and ICANN in Puerto Rico, a country dealing with the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria, with almost 1 million people still without power.

ICANN meetings (according to ICANN’s website) “offers the best opportunity for face-to-face discussions and airing of opinions among knowledgeable people dedicated to the continued stable and secure operation of the Internet.” I guess ICANN considers having 7000+ global hosting professionals in Germany while their meeting is in Puerto Rico as the best opportunity for face-to-face discussions and does not consider these professionals as knowledgeable or dedicated to the continued stable and secure operation of the Internet.

When we inquired about the timing of Cloudfest we told by one of their executives that “people will desert ICANN to go to Rust”. That will not be the case. Instead, groups like us, are forced to ‘divide and conquer?’ As my friend and colleague rightly pointed out, this means to divide your enemies then conquer them, not divide your resources to meet with more people, which makes you think, who is actually the enemy in this double-booking scenario?

* from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICANN
 

Travelling Home for the Holidays

After a long and eventful first full year offering .blog with Automattic, I decided to end 2017 with a little time off. Having moved from Toronto to Halifax, Nova Scotia earlier this year, I was eager to relive my university days driving home to Newfoundland, and introduce my wife and young boys to a `rite of passage` for Newfoundlanders — crossing the Cabot Strait at Christmas. I was eager to see how they will do rocking side-to-side for eight hours in swelling seas. (This might be another reason Newfoundland is called The Rock…huh!)

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But no matter where I go I can’t help but notice domain names. They stick out to me like the red colouring in The Sixth Sense – you see it and subconsciously know it is important, but you don’t always take the time to appreciate it.

The lineup at the ferry terminal can be quite long and loading the ferry takes a few hours. Passengers typically wait in their vehicles. So, to stretch my legs I ventured inside the terminal. Basically, it is a place to do your business, keep warm, and grab a vending machine delight to curb hunger pains when you run out of options.

The Nova Scotia ferry terminal also has a nice brochure stand for tourists, with plenty of booklets promoting Newfoundland — things to do, areas to visit, and places to stay. With nothing but time, I grabbed a few to show my wife. As we perused through them, two things popped out to me. The first was the beautiful photos of Newfoundland and it’s wonderful residents. It is truly a magical place with amazing people. Second, were the websites being promoted in the pamphlets. Here are a few as they appeared:

  • newfoundlandlabrador.com/trip-ideas/travellers-guide
  • alphabetfleetinn.com
  • http://www.birdseyeviewvacationhome.ca
  • facebook.com/NewfoundlandLabradorTourism
  • doctorshousenewfoundland.com
  • celticrendezvouscottages.com

Seeing this is encouraging because even the smallest businesses in Newfoundland see the importance of a website. These are all wonderful things about Newfoundland, but getting to their websites from promotional pamphlet poses its challenges when they aren’t easy to remember and spell. With hundreds of new domain extensions to choose from I am confident, there are better online signposts than http://www.dreamcatcherlodgenl.ca.

However, there was one exception that stuck out to me — battleharbour.com. And if you ever have the opportunity to visit Battle Harbour, do it! I promise you, you will not be disappointed.

New Top Level Domains in the Wild?

Man Having Be Happy Sticky Note on Forehead During Office Break

Some the earliest new Top-Level Domains (TLDs) entered the marketplace with a bit of a splash, albeit short-lived. In late 2013, many registrars shuffled around resources in anticipation of on-boarding the new TLDs in early 2014, driven by a fear of missing out on the ‘domain gold rush’ (no snickering). But as each new TLD entered the market their impact dissipated more and more than the previously released TLD, with the exception of a few notable extensions.

So, what happened?

Nothing. A product like new TLDs takes time to mature and develop and find it’s place in a market that has not seen much change in the previous 20 years. While the original TLDs like .com, .info, .org, and .biz are in their respective maturity lifecycle stages with high levels of awareness, new TLDs are in their infancy and just entering a mild growth stage, whereby usage and general awareness is low.

As each day passes more and more new TLDs are being registered all over the world, but ask any regular web user about new TLDs and they have no idea what you are talking about.

Though it has taken a while, it appears the general industry consensus is that usage of new TLDs is the key to growth and awareness. The more we see in the wild the better.

Each new TLD has examples of great use cases for their extension but it will take more than a popular music artist, actor, or online celebrity to help bring new TLDs to the masses. It will take a tech behemoth that’s brand is recognized worldwide and trusted by consumers. Hmmm….

Enter Amazon. Amazon is more than just an online store. Amazon is a tech giant leading the world in secure, affordable, cloud services. Amazon Web Services (AWS) was originally for techies but as the technology has evolved, Amazon has made the wise decision to move downstream and target the tens of millions of online creators, designers, and small business directly, with their “entrepreneurial spirit that views problems as hurdles, not as limitations” tv and online video ads.  And the call to action is none other than buildon.aws. To that, I say, bravo, Amazon, bravo. This might be just the thing we need to help new TLDs get us over the hump.

Teaching co-workers about domains!

“Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.”
― Aristotle

This past week I was once again at Auttomattic’s annual Grand Meetup (GM). For the second year in a row, it was held in scenic Whistler, British Columbia, Canada – a truly magnanimous experience, cradled in a bowl of nature’s beauty.

The GM is an opportunity for all 600+ Automatticians (what we call ourselves) to make new connections, spend time with work friends, work on projects, learn from one another in classes, and bond as freedom fighters who strive to democratize publishing to the web. Each Automattician has a different experience at the GM. It depends on one’s personality, team, role, interests, and desire to learn and meet others. Truly, I believe like most other things in life, we get out of the GM what we put into it.

Alongside my normal GM and team activities, I was also asked to teach a 15-hour class on domains and emcee our closing party. Both are exciting and challenging. The odd thing is I have extensively more experience working with domains. Having emceed a few events in my lifetime, I have only spoken in front of a few hundred people at one time. Despite this imbalance, as I prepared for both, I felt much more comfortable emceeing than teaching the one subject I can arguably be considered an expert in.

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“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
― William Arthur Ward

Earlier in the week I was asked what I was going to do at the GM – a project, a class or my own job? I said I was teaching a class on domains. A fellow Automattician asked, “is there enough material about domains to teach for 15 hours”? That question confirmed one of my fears about teaching domains. Most people, even in tech, have little idea of the breadth and complexity of domains. My response was a polite, “certainly” but my inner dialogue was screaming, “Are you kidding me? I can speak for weeks on DNS alone?”

There is the multi-layered food chain consisting of ICANN, Registry, Registrar, Reseller, and Registrant. Policy and compliance through ICANN is akin to having a seat at the United Nations. The technical intricacies of domains are, well…have you ever tried explaining how the DNS works? (…..Zzzzzz…). And there are things like WhoIS, domaining, lifecycle, drop catch, auctions just to name a few other topics. The terminology and acronyms alone are enough to make learning Mandarin seem easy.

“In learning, you will teach, and in teaching, you will learn.”
― Phil Collins

So how do you teach a subject like domains that is wide, deep, and dare I say, dry?

It is like building a house. You focus on building a solid foundation from which everything else is anchored, keep the design interesting and challenging, while the actual work fun. For domains, you must be passionate about the industry, have engaging stories that are interesting and relatable, and create an interactive space that bridges abstract concepts with physical and tangible activities.

Oh, and plenty of patience!

How much should you pay for a website?

Well, that depends. But for small business owners who provide services and not products to sell online, it shouldn’t be $6,084/yr. That is exactly how much my brother, a physiotherapist, was recently quoted by a very well-known listing company and all he wants is a simple brochure site. Here is what they tried to sell him.website

Online Products

  • Website – Management fee – $110 / mo
  • Sponsored Placement – Online Positioning with Logo, with Call Tracking – $159 / mo
  • Mobile Sponsored Placement – Prestige, with Call Tracking – $72 / mo

Print Products

  • White page listing – $0.00 / mo
  • Service regular listing (heading 1)- $0.00 / mo

Advertising Contact

  • Service regular listing (regular) – $0.00 / mo
  • White page listing (town) – $0.00 / mo
  • Service regular listing (heading 2) – $0.00 / mo
  • Illustrated Ad, 2 Columns, ½ page (heading 3) – $166 / mo

My brother lives in a small town in Eastern Canada with a population of 3,000 where he has a physiotherapy clinic. He also has another small part-time clinic in a nearby town with a population of 9,000.  He provides a service and does not require anything more than a simple brochure site. He is very good at what he does and so almost all his business comes from referrals and word-of-mouth. We discussed having an online appointment book and health questionnaire but he feels his clientele are much more small-town-personal and less technically capable, so it isn’t required at this time.

When he first approached me for advice on this I instinctively laughed at the quotation.  My brother did not. It was at that very moment I realized there are still some web development and hosting companies out there preying on honest, hard-working, small business owners who aren’t overly web-savvy.

I advised my brother to pass on this and I offered to build him a nice shiny new WordPress site, complete with email, SEO, backup, etc…all for a bottle of scotch.

When he informed the listing company of his decision not to renew his service (yes, he was with them for years…did I forget to mention that?) and have me build and manage his site, the salesperson took one last shot at keeping his business. She used an old-school sales tactic, ‘confusion and fear’ as if their quote with ‘free’ services wasn’t confusing enough – aren’t most of the print and advertising services they listed free anyway? She asked, “Will your new site be responsive? Will it keep up with Google’s algorithm changes? How will people find you?”

My brother knows every single muscle, tendon, and bone in the human body, including what they are used for but things like responsive websites and Google’s algorithm is nothing he needs to know. As for how will people find him?  Well, it isn’t in a paper book of company listings, that’s for sure.

When the sales person finally gave up she promptly took down his site, weeks before his current contract was to expire.

Well done, listing company!  How to run a company into the ground 101: Overcharge your clients and when they want to leave, kick them on the way out the door.