Sunday is a special day for the people of Wales. Not only will they be greeting each other with a "Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!", but the day will also herald the general availability launch of not one but two new domain names specifically for the Welsh nation.
DotWales and dotCymru (the traditional name for the country) will celebrate St. David's Day on the 1st March by opening their doors for registrations from any interested party. Up until that date, names could only be registered by trademark holders or parties who could provide proof of use or affiliation with Wales. Initial registration numbers for the two TLDs were muted, with less than 250 names registered in the Sunrise and Limited Registration periods for each Top Level Domain, which included 20 Founders, companies and organisations big and small who were going to represent the digital future of the country.
Interestingly, many of those founders still haven’t started to actively use the new TLD. The Welsh Rugby Union, for instance, used the new .wales TLD in their in-game advertising during the recent 6 Nations televised game, yet the domain name simply forwards to their existing .co.uk domain. The National Assembly for Wales are the flag-bearers for the new TLD, proudly using it from day one. However, it will take more than one high-profile organisation to adopt and use the TLD for it to become part of everyday digital life.
Nominet, the registry behind the two new GTLDs as well as the .uk Top Level Domain will be hoping to overtake the comparable .scot TLD in the short-term which has around 8,300 registrations after launching in mid-2014. User awareness is the main issue that has been holding back all new gTLDs, with businesses unwilling to risk moving away from traditional Top Level Domains such as .com, .net and .co.uk for fear of losing vital search engine rankings.
Wales's First Minister, Carwyn Jones, understands the important of the launch of the TLDs on national identity. "The new domain names create a fantastic opportunity for Wales that support development of businesses, communities and the Welsh language online. It means we could use the top level domain names to establish a strong online presence, which truly reflects our national identity"
One final thought relates to the dotCymru name. One of the motives for the launch of this name was to keep a link with the traditional Welsh language in the digital space. Whilst it is early days for the TLD, we would imagine that a number of registrations will be made using Welsh language text – such as www.awnaedyn.cymru (made in Wales) or www.gwestaiyn.cymru (hotels in Wales). Such registrations would underline the NetNames view of a fragmentation of the domain name space into localised online communities of interest as discussed in our Internet 2020 research.