Brussels, the capital of Belgium, the heart of the European Union. The source of so much of today's head-scratching bureaucracy. But is it at the heart of the gTLD programme? Belgium has traditionally had something of an identity paradox, with the Dutch speaking Flemish and French-speaking Flanders regions dividing the country. Whilst the dotBE Top Level Domain has been around for seventeen years and can boast over 1.5 million registrations, it has fallen a long way behind over ccTLDs such as dotNL. The complex nature of Belgium life is reflected in its digital presence.
It came as no surprise that the city applied for their own Top Level Domain when the application window opened in January 2012. The most popular dotBrussels domain name is currently www.be.brussels, the website of the tourist information agency, a very well packed portal for any visitor to the city. There are five other dotBe domains in the Alexa top one million websites, all relatively public sector focused. The GeoTLD is currently the 17th most popular, sitting just above Cape Town and Cologne but some distance away from other European capitals such Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin and London.
Despite being the capital city, the dotBrussels suffix isn't the most popular Belgium-orientated gTLD. That honour currently sits with dotVlaanderen, the domain name for the Flemish part of the country. Both new gTLDs are run by DNS.be vzw, who are also responsible for managing the dotBe zone. They've published some interesting statistics on the demographics of the registrations so far.
Most of the people who have registered dotBrussels also hold a dotBE domain name (around 65% as of mid-June 2015), and 33% of registrants also have a dotVlaanderen domain name. About 64% of registrants have a residential address in the capital city, of which over 80% are businesses.
So what evidence can we see in the city itself for adoption of the dotBrussels gTLD? Alas on my recent visit I couldn't find evidence of any advertising using the new gTLD as I wandered the streets of the city. As you leave the safe confines of the Eurostar at Gare du Midi there's a perfect opportunity for some "in your face" branding. Visit Brussels, the official tourist information agency has numerous spots dotted around the city and own the domain www.visit.brussels (as well as www.chocolate.brussels) but simply forward them to their main dotDE websites.
It was also disappointing to find www.tintin.brussels, arguably the city's most famous resident available although www.themusclesfrom.brussels has been snapped up by an avid Jean-Claude Van Damme fan no doubt.
Brussels isn't unlike many major cities in the adoption of new gTLDs in the fact they do not yet have those one or two anchor clients or pioneers who are willing to adopt the new suffix and market it accordingly. That's what's needed to drive consumer awareness and ultimately usage.