This week I'm down under participating in a conference in Brisbane on the Gold Coast after spending some time with our colleagues and clients in Melbourne. It is always interesting when travelling around overseas cities to see what, if any, new gTLDs are being used. Melbourne, like London and New York City, has its own domain name now so I'd hoped to find some local adoption of the new web address.
In terms of success, dotMelbourne has around 6,500 registrations as of the end of May 2015, ranking it in 13th in the Geographic new gTLD table. It is hard to really put any context into the rankings with dotBerlin far and away the most registered city new Top Level Domain due to its very generous launch offers last year that saw over 50,000 names given away free of charge. In terms of registrations per resident, dotLondon has 7.1 per thousand population whilst dotNYC is at 8.8 per thousand which is probably a better measure. Compared to these two Melbourne has 1.6 per thousand whilst dotSydney is slightly lower at 1.1 per thousand.
Wandering around the compact central area of Melbourne, voted the most liveable city in the world by Economist Intelligence Unit since 2011, it was hard to find any examples of the Top Level Domain being used. One of the Southern Hemisphere's tallest buildings, the Eureka Tower uses a dotMelbourne in some of their advertising but when you navigate to the TLD it forward to the existing DotAU name. Other ambassadors for the TLD are also doing something similar - www.bank.melbourne redirects to www.bankofmelbourne.co.au for instance. However, www.play.melbourne resolves as too does the tourist information site www.destination.melbourne. But there seemed to be a lack of public awareness or focused campaigns on the ground, which is the biggest challenge facing the new gTLD programme.
If consumers aren't aware of the new programme naturally they won't use the new domain names. And if the new names aren't getting consumer acceptance there is no compelling event for a brand holder or business to actively market or use them - the status quo remains.
The registry behind dotMelbourne are trying to utilise social media to spread the word. One nice touch they use is to tweet out the domain names and Twitter addresses of organisations who register a dotMelbourne. Social Media is the digital battleground where the acceptance of the new gTLDs will be fought, and hopefully won. With all of the other GeoTLDs Melbourne needs its pioneers who will lay their digital strategy and page ranking on the line for the longer term benefit of others. Finding that one or two brand holders is tough, with key stakeholders all with different agendas needing to be convinced that fully adopting the new dotMelbourne TLD is for the greater good.
For Digital Marketing they need to understand that they won't lose valuable searching ranking positions and that SEO strategies will work just as well under a different, but equally relevant TLD. More traditional Brand Marketers want to know that faced with a web address ending dotMelbourne will still drive traffic (and hopefully more than before) thus enabling them to measure any ROI on campaigns. The legal people need to ensure that using a dotMelbourne will make protecting a business's intellectual property easier.
Anecdotal evidence is slowly emerging that supports all three of these stakeholders’ objectives. Any thoughts the industry had of a Dot Big Bang have so far been muted to say the least. But every journey starts with a single step, or in this case, domain.