Whilst the new gTLD program is nearing its two year birthday, registration numbers are yet to really trouble the existing domain name base. New registration numbers in dotCom and dotNet are slowing down although that's not necessarily down to the presence of the new gTLD program just yet. In all revolutions there is a Tipping Point, a moment in time defined by author Malcolm Gladwell of his book of the same name as "the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point". So far within the new gTLD program we are yet to see what that moment will be.
We've so far seen the launch of around a third of the Top Level Domains that will make up the first wave of the program although in terms of open gTLDs that number is around 50%. It's hard to consider any of the most popular gTLDs as game-changers due to their launch strategies and marketing plans of giving away or heavily subsidizing initial registrations. Whilst dotXYZ is still the most registered new gTLD, at what point will it be surpassed and by who? What will be the dotBigThing of the next year?
There a still a number of TLDs in contention, meaning we are still no clearer on knowing who will run registries such as dotCPA, dotCruise or dotData despite more than three years having passed since the applications were revealed. This is one of the major failings of the process that ICANN have overseen and one that needs to be addressed before there can be a second round of applications. However, based on the story of the dotApp contention process, could any of the remaining TLDs in contention fetch in excess of the $25m that Google paid to run that TLD? We think there are four that have enough interest both in terms of branding and search ranking opportunity that could be the next dotBigThing.
Web – Currently in a seven-way discussion, the three character Top Level Domain could be a long-term successor to the popularity of dotCom. Whilst it is doubtful that in our digital lifetime it will hit the heady heights of over 100m registrations, with the existing gTLD space cooling down, it could be the perfect opportunity for brand-holders who are struggling to find available domain names to try something new. With the heavyweights of Google, Donuts and Radix in the mix for this TLD as well as Schlund Technologies, who own one of the biggest shared hosting retailers, 1 and 1, it could be an eagerly contested fight.
Music – The digital music download market is now worth an estimated $6.85bn, with revenues from digital channels now on a bar with physical format sales. No wonder that eight companies put in an application to run this Top Level Domain including, and no surprises here, Amazon and Google, along with Donuts, Radix and Famous Four Media. Some may be surprised to see Apple’s name not on here, especially as they have recently launched their Apple Music product, which you would imagine has been in the planning stage for more than a few years. Their gTLD strategy so far seems to be nailed onto the dotApple TLD they applied for. With Amazon’s download product set still going strong, we would expect to see some big bids being made for dotMusic.
Mobile – Yes we know that you could register a dotMobi which has been around since 2006, but mobile technology has moved on. The original TLD was backed and sponsored by companies including Google, Microsoft and Vodafone. Whilst registrations haven’t been stellar in the intervening nine years, there seems to be some interest in mobile domain names with applications for this new gTLD from Donuts, Dish DBS and Amazon. With the launch of their new Fire smartphone, could this be a major digital asset for Amazon or will it be a TLD too far in their ambitious online expansion plan?
Shop – In terms of e-commerce, there can’t be more relevant Top Level Domains than dotShop. In the words of Ronseal, this new gTLD will do “exactly what it says on the tin”. Organizations big and small will benefit from using the TLD to direct people specifically to their online stores, which in turn will help differentiate their online presence in terms of search. Online sales in the UK alone topped £100 billion a few years ago and show no sign of slowing down. Out of all of the remaining gTLDs to be resolved, shop could be the most important and would be our favorite to be the next dotBigThing with Google, Amazon (who are doing everything they can to own the online shopping space), Radix, Donuts and Famous Four Media in the running as well as little known Beijing JingDong 360 Du E-Commerce Ltd who may just be putting all of their TLD application eggs in one shopping basket.
There are others that could be interesting such as the future of the dotHotel/Hotels TLDs. With over 750 hotels alone in London, the potential for this Top Level Domain space is huge. In such a fiercely competitive market online, any advantage a hotel or hotel chain could gain could be worth thousands of pounds annually, so an investment in a domain name is a no-brainer. Once again, the process to determine who will run these TLDs has been fraught with delays but hopefully we will see a clear winner in due course.
Of course, there may be a dark horse somewhere out there that will take us all by surprise and be the next big thing in two or three years’ time. After all, who had heard of WhatsApp, SnapChat, Periscope and Vine back in 2010?