Domain Pulse 2015: New gTLDs Are Successful, But With Glitches, While They Can Help In Search Rankings

The programme of adding over one thousand new gTLDs to the internet has been a success said Thomas Rickert, lawyer, member of the ICANN GNSO and representative of eco, the German internet industry association, at the Domain Pulse conference in Berlin last month.

The event with around 350 attending is an annual get-together for the German-language domain industry hosted by the German registry, DENIC, in 2015. The Austrian (nic.at) and Swiss (SWITCH) registries also take it in turns to host.

Rickert explained to the conference the development of new gTLDs could be equated with the growth of a baby with the greatest development taking place within the first 12 months. At the end of these first 12 months there had been around 4.5 million domains registered and over 300 gTLDs have entered General Availability.

But Rickert also explained there have been problems. Some quite significant problems. These included the TAS (TLD Application System) which Rickert said was an “epic failure”, Digital Archery, the Trademark Clearinghouse, Public Interest Commitments (PIC) Specifications, dealing with name collisions and the sometimes curious decision-making process.

On the Trademark Clearinghouse, Rickert noted how trademark owners made a lot of noise over their concerns regarding potential trademark abuse in the new gTLDs when they were introduced. Yet when it came to using the TMCH “it was a failure”. There were nowhere near the numbers of Sunrise registrations that were hoped for to protect trademark owners.

Looking to the future, Rickert said not all new gTLDs will survive, just as in any industry. This was backed up in comments in the following panel session by Alexander Siffrin, founder and CEO of Key-Systems. Siffrin believes some of the new gTLDs will fail in part due to issues such as bizarre registration requirements.

And the new gTLD programme is necessary. “It’s extremely arrogant in the western world to ask internet users to change their keyboards to type domain names. I believe there is a need for growth.” And looking to the future Rickert said “stamina will be needed due to unexpected developments.” And we’re only at the beginning of a new era of the internet as the public gains awareness of what is available.

In another presentation, Martin Scholz from Searchmetrics explained how there can be advantages for registrants with using new gTLDs. While using a good .com or ccTLD domain is likely to be the best option for a brand owner to get a high search ranking, not everyone is able to get one.

In another presentation, Martin Scholz from Searchmetrics explained how there can be advantages for registrants with using new gTLDs. While using a good .com or ccTLD domain is likely to be the best option for a brand owner to get a high search ranking, not everyone is able to get one.

Small businesses might find that they can get a more targeted dotLondon or dotBerlin domain that will be advantageous. Searchmetrics, Scholz said, had found there are advantages with a dotBerlin domain for local Berlin businesses. They found dotBerlin domains rank higher than dotDe domains in local search results for businesses and other services based in Berlin.

The example Scholz gave was that if a business has well performing domain, like visitberlin.de, the one he showed, then there is not really a need to move the domain to a gTLD. But not everyone has a well-performing domain so a ‘better’ new gTLD domain more suited to their business may, but not necessarily so.

User behaviour also plays a part. On a simplified level one could say: the more internet users click on a link, the higher a website ranks. Of course, there are other metrics like bounce rate and time-on-site that have a huge influence. So generally, if internet users start thinking, as in the example used by Scholz, that a dotBerlin domain is more relevant for them, they click on it and spare more time interacting, this will affect the ranking by search engines such as Google and Bing. But the main focus of webmasters should not be the kind of TLD they use, but relevant content they should provide for their users.