Staying on trend in the digital world

Stuart Fuller

The ugly side of the world we live in has reared its head again. Following the atrocious terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels last year, we’ve seen further events hit the headlines in Istanbul and Dhaka in the past few days. Words cannot express enough sorrow for the victims of these attacks, but it seems that there are people out there whose natural reaction to such events is to register domain names.

Whatever the headline event, you can be sure that within minutes – if not seconds – someone, somewhere in the world will be registering a relevant domain name. Sadly, it’s rarely for the right reasons. With domain names now costing a few pounds, and sometimes just a few pence, they’re seen as a relatively risk-free investment for some people hoping to cash in on the grief, as well as the pleasure, of others.

In the wake of the events at Istanbul airport, registrations of domain names featuring the word ‘Istanbul’ rose significantly. The average daily number of dotCom and dotNet registrations in the 30 days before the attack had been around 15, but this doubled within hours of the event at Ataturk Airport. In addition, the dotIstanbul new gTLD has grown at a faster rate than before. In the case of the attack in Dhaka that took place on Friday, domain registrations rose from an average of three a day to 12 in the aftermath.

In the political world, we saw a major jump in the number of Brexit domain names registered since the results of the EU referendum were announced on Friday 24th June – peaking at over 250 registrations in the first 24 hours, compared to the two or three a day in the weeks leading up to the vote.

But what about the heroes and villains of the political aftermath in the United Kingdom? Domain name registrations featuring the word ‘Cameron’ didn’t affect the daily averages, ‘Farage’ peaked at an average of three a day last week (with one registration being trumpfarage.com), and ‘Boris’ peaked in the wake of the vote result and again after he announced he’d pulled out of the race to be the next Conservative Party leader. Spare a thought, though, for ‘Corbyn’, as there have only been a few domain name registrations featuring that name this week, including hascorbynquityet.com and isjeremycorbynstillleaderofthelabourparty.com – a mammoth 41 characters long.

We should bear in mind that our view here is potentially only the tip of the iceberg, as we can only look at registrations in dotCom and dotNet (thanks to Verisign’s DomainView tool), so it’s possible the numbers could be radically different when low-cost new gTLDs are taken into consideration. But the trends do underline the nature of the domain name industry; there can be little use for domain names such as those featuring ‘Corbyn’ if he loses a leadership election. Likewise, any domain names registered to take advantage of the Welsh football team’s superb performance at EURO 2016 (such as portugalwaleslivestream.com) have a limited life span.

Where brand holders find themselves inadvertently in the news, it’s important they have a strategy in place to stop the domain name speculators (or, dare I say, cyber-squatters) being in control of digital assets that could otherwise be used legitimately by the brand holder to enhance a positive situation or reduce any reputational damage in a negative one.