Standardization in Domains?

Will standardization stymie innovation?  Maybe not… if it is done right!

I was recently in Bangkok for ICANN’s GDD summit. During the event, we (KKWT) announced .blog will be moving the backend from Nominet to CentralNic. Though almost all registrars were ok with this pending change, several registrars voiced concerns regarding the work involved and cited a lack of standardization in the industry for this.

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This led me to think, ‘can standardization work in a global industry, with a high number of stakeholders, over a thousand products (top-level domains), guided by complex technical pieces like DNS, and legal frameworks like GDPR?’

Typically, standardization delivers services with a high degree of predictability resulting in sound products through consolidated business practices.

Standardization:

  • Familiarity
  • Stability
  • Predictability
  • Operational efficiency
  • Cost Effective
  • Less end-user confusion

This makes sense for domains, right? Hold on.

Flexibility, mostly associated with non-standards, allows for unique and customizable services for clients or end users. Flexibility is most beneficial for rapidly growing industries that may frequently need to adjust operational processes to accommodate changing market requirements, or drive innovation.

Non-standardization:

  • Flexibility
  • More robust offerings
  • A higher level of creativity
  • Increased innovation

Many of the 1000+ TLDs (new TLDs) today only came into existence since 2014. The market and appetite for the new TLDs were certainly overstated and thus far new TLDs sales have been below expectations. Therefore, TLD operators are trying to find creative ways to sell domains, and drive value for their shareholders through innovation and cost savings measures, which has not been easy for most TLDs.

This also makes sense for domains, right?

So, there is no easy answer to standardization for domains. We want the benefits of standardization along with innovation to move forward.

Therefore, as difficult as it is sometimes is to work within ICANN’S multi-stakeholder group format, a practical approach might just be to work together to find common ground on the high-level core processes to form a platform from which variations can be considered against.

From Vegas to Kobe!

Recently, I was in Las Vegas for NamesCon and then Kobe, Japan for ICANN 64. Yes, this industry will take you across the globe – a small price to pay for working in this industry :).

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I have been to Vegas many times, but this was my first time in Japan. As you might guess, they could not be more different. Yes, both are crowded. Yes, both have good food. Yes, both places have countless sights to see. And yes, both places have Eiffel tower replicas…but that is pretty much where the similarities end.

Any given day on the ‘Strip’ you will find all walks of life wandering the streets, many hustling you for a greenback. The streets and accompanying casinos are busy, while the shows have lineups longer than at any bullet train in Japan. Vegas feels like orchestrated chaos with the backdrop of bright city lights. Not a place you go to find yourself but rather lose yourself while placing all responsibilities on the back burner.

Unlike Japan, which has ‘ikigai’. It literally translates to life value and is best described as the reason somebody gets up in the morning—our reason for living. This is present in all aspects of Japanese life, from the morning sun cresting over the mountains, the delicious and nutritious cuisine fresh from the sea, the hospitable and polite people, organized and timely transportation, to the cleanliness of cities – you can’t help but notice how clean the streets are. So much so, that I everywhere I went I searched for garbage and in 8 days only found a small cigarette butt lying in a small crevasse between a sidewalk and a street.

But for me, the most noticeable difference between Japan and Vegas is my ability to use public washrooms. Yup, that’s right. Unlike in Vegas where your feet often stick to the floors, the urines reek, and the toilets aren’t fit to sit on, the bathrooms in Japan are exceptionally clean and all equipped with heated toilets that seem to have more tech than my Pixel 3!  They take this sh%t seriously (pun intended).  They even have an annual exhibition for toilets.

Can’t wait to see what Bangkok has in store!

 

TMA!

​​​​’Too Many Acronyms!’

Even after all these years in the industry, reading ICANN related documents/email still hurts my brain. They are littered with acronyms like Twitter on steroids.

“When the GAC asked the ICANN GSNO about the NOM, the IGO in the PDP who filed a UDRP, found some members of the BC violated the RRA changes proposed by the RySG and supported by the RrSG.”

See what I mean?

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It is so bad that ICANN itself has a large alphabetized section on their site dedicated to acronyms. Not for the uninitiated: https://www.icann.org/icann-acronyms-and-terms/icann-acronyms-and-terms/en/nav/A

Given that domains are technical and part if the internet infrastructure, the use of acronyms is compounded with techie code (API, IoT, LDAP, DoS, SEO, SQL…).

I get that most industries have their own shortened language, which can make communicating within the industry a little easier at certain times – by the way, pharmaceuticals is also another group guilty over using acronyms. At least for us mixing up an acronym doesn’t carry the weight of accidentally causing death.

When you get to a point where industry veterans can’t even keep up then there is a big problem. It is as if people ‘get off’ throwing acronyms around in a feeble attempt to either sound smarter than the poor recipients of this verbal diarrhea or flash a badge of a secret society. Both are idiotic.

Instead, let’s try to sound human again. Here are some common sense rules of thumb for using acronyms.

– Use abbreviations or acronyms sparingly. This means more words than acronyms!

– Only use abbreviations if they are widely known across the broad readership. In other words, know your audience!

– Use an abbreviation only if the term has three or more words. Don’t be lazy!

– To use an abbreviation, write the full name in the first instance and follow it immediately by the abbreviated version in brackets. Duh!

– Only the most common abbreviations that do not need to be defined may be used in titles and headings without the full name written first. How about only `ICANN’ in titles or headings?!

I am heading to NamesCon next week, hopefully, I won’t need cotton balls to stop my ears from bleeding listening to the alphabet soup game for 3 days.

What do you do for work?

I really detest that question. Why do we care? Does it really matter what anybody does for a living?

When that question comes from your young child, it does matter…to them.

I don’t often write about personal things but this is too good not to share. First, I have two children, six and four years old. Yesterday, my oldest son asked me,

“TaTa, what do you do for work?”

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(Side note: My kids both call me ‘Tata’ despite being an English-speaking Canadian family. It means ‘father’ or ‘dad’ in many languages and their first daycare was in Toronto run by a lovely Serbian woman.)

My initial reaction was to go into the tedious loquacity I spiel out whenever I get that question – people are often intrigued by those of us fortunate enough to work from home. I stopped. Thought about it for a few seconds and turned it back to him.

“What do you think I do for work?”

He paused for a moment.

“Well, I know you work on your computer.”

I encouraged him to go on.

“And you work in your office downstairs. You write stuff on your computer and you are on your phone a lot.”

“Am I a lawyer?”

“No.”

“A carpenter?”

“No, but you do build stuff.”

“A doctor?”

“No.”

“Well, what do I do?”

He looked me dead in the eye and said, “You help run the internet.  More specifically, you help run the new top-level domain extension for .blog, launched in 2016 and governed by a set of rules and regulations under the watchful eye of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers!”

Of course, he didn’t say that! He is only six…though that would have been amazing.

What he actually said was, “it doesn’t matter what you do for work as long as you are my Tata. I think I’ll just tell my class that!”

I smiled, soaking it all in, shook my head ‘no’ and went into my spiel.

Sometimes signs lead to nowhere!

I recently returned from a week-long blogging conference in beautiful upstate NY…Corning, to be exact. With half of my wife’s family from the Catskills, I have driven by on the 390 interstate many times while living in Toronto. However, I never knew much about the area, other than it is famous for Corning Enterprises, makers of the kitchen glassware I fondly remember burning my arms on multiple times reaching across the supper table. I also never knew Corning Enterprises is number 293 on the Fortune 500 list, or that they make glass for fiber optic cable and gorilla glass for phones, and even supplied glass for the space shuttle program!

The people of the Finger Lakes(aka FLX) Region are wonderful, much like the travel bloggers I had the privilege of meeting. And their wine region? Who knew? It was recently selected the number one wine region in the United States by USA Today readers.  Congrats!

As rich and scenic this area is, it somehow still lacks a certain cultural diversity amongst its dwellers. And this lack of diversity may very well be responsible for the abundance of traditional road sign marketing in the region – quaint and vintage but lacking an element of technological advancement, domains to be exact. Even in a place like the historic Watkins Glen Raceway, which has hundreds of thousands of race fans frequenting the track annually, very few domain names are visible to the public.

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If this is an oversight these brands need new marketers. For Watkins Glen, if this is policy then they should probably evolve as the race cars do.

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.

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From 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.)

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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)

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.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.

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2. 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.

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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.