Public education on new gTLDs is key to the future of internet success

Online users likely to visit a traditional web address such as a .com than a dot Brand online store.

Ofcom, the organization that acts as the UK’s telecoms regulator recently announced that it is going to make some changes to non-geographic telephone numbers to simplify the current situation that often confuses the general public. The announcement listed what the current issues were and identified solutions.

Compare that situation to the one playing out across the whole internet for the ‘go’ or ‘no go’, on the launch of over 1,000 new top level domains. Last week, the domain registry, Afilias, released details of a survey carried out with YouGov, which canvassed the opinions of over 22,000 adults in the UK and the U.S. regarding significant changes due to take place on the internet.  The results were hardly surprising to us who have been working in the dark for the past year, not knowing what the outcome will be on the new gTLDs.

For consumers in the surveyed regions mentioned above, knowledge of the new internet domains was less than 22% across all demographics. In the largest segment of online users (18-34 year olds) the awareness of was slightly higher at 30%.  However, this means that only one in three savvy internet users know that there is a big change about to happen in the way we will use the web in future.  Is that good enough though? Especially when ICANN, the organization behind this change, stated that one of the main reasons to introduce the new gTLD program was to give greater confidence to internet users.

Another stated aim of the program was to increase consumer choice.  From a brand perspective, the opportunity to own a part of the internet is very appealing.  However, the Afilias survey found that only 25% of adults would be slightly more likely to trust goods and services being sold on dot Brand domains and consider these to be legitimate.  In addition, almost three quarters of those surveyed in the UK said they would be more likely to visit a traditional web address such as a .com than a dot Brand online store.  The research found that the influx of web extensions would make it difficult for them to know which web addresses were official.

To me, the final report summary shows the failing in the industry as a hole. Traditionally, confidence in using the internet has come about over many years, and without the education of current web users, dot Brands have some work to do to ensure everyone is aware of the change.

So what can we all do?  Keep communicating with our clients, in a simplified, jargon-free language that is easy to understand, explaining what the changes are, when they will happen and what the impact will be on internet users.

The detailed Afilias report can be found here.

Written by Stuart Fuller, Director of Commercial Operations and Communications, NetNames

4 June 2013