By Stuart Fuller
I can assure that it's compete coincidence that I've visited four cities in ten days that all have their own city-related Top Level Domain. After Melbourne, Paris (and a quick pit stop back at home in London) I've headed to The Big Apple to see how the new gTLD programme has been embraced by the citizens and businesses of the five boroughs of New York City.
Unlike most of the other city-related TLDs, the restrictions on who can and can't register a dotNYC have extended into the general availability phase. That hasn't impacted registrations though, with the TLD being the second registered GeoTLD, behind dotBerlin which of course gave away a significant number of domain names in their first few weeks, and the eleventh most popular of the programme so far with just over 79,000 names registered so far. Based on "current form" it is the most popular GeoTLD when viewed in terms of growth, averaging 55 new registrations per day.
The requirements for registration are that the domain registrant has to have a physical address in one of the five boroughs that make up New York City. This has meant brands such as Apple and Nike have been able to secure their dotNYC registrations using their presence in the city despite their major corporate locations are outside New York. Apple for instance have used their store address on Fifth Avenue to meet the requirements.
Some major brands, potentially unable to register their brand due to location have seen their intellectual property fall into potentially damaging third-party hands such as www.porsche.nyc, www.mercedes.nyc and www.starbucks.nyc. Whilst these domain names do not yet resolve, brand holders may be concerned that the restrictions on legitimate registrations could simply make cybersquatting easier. Both Porsche and Mercedes have dealerships in the city which could have been used as the legitimate registrant addresses, whilst Starbucks seems to have an outlet on every corner in Manhattan. As it is they may have to look at Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS) or more costly and complex Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) to inhibit any potential damage.
In terms of actual usage of the TLD, there are currently dotNYC websites in the Alexa top one million websites. The highest ranked is www.digital.nyc (148,496) which is an excellent portal giving information for business start-ups in the city. Also included in the Alexa list are www.bike.nyc, www.dailyoverview.nyc and www.gaycitynews.nyc. However, the absence of any big brands is all too clear to see. Iconic points of interest such as www.empirestate.nyc and Whilst arguably the world's most valuable sporting brand, The New York Yankees have the domain Yankees.nyc (OK, it's actually owned by the MLB, the governing body), it's not being used in any way, shape or form - not even redirecting to their main website www.yankees.mlb.com. A brand like this using the domain name would do nothing but good for the digital future of the TLD and the Yankees.
Walking around the city, evidence of the new Top Level Domain is thin on the ground.
Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch said as long ago as 2009 that "DotNYC had the potential to be the best real estate opportunity since the Dutch bought Manhattan". He is absolutely spot on, but few brand holders have so far listened to his sage advice.