What happens when no one loves a Top Level Domain anymore? Is there a special corner of the Internet where TLDs that have no further use go to retire gracefully? And when should registries make a decision to withdraw a particular domain suffix from registration?
On 30th April 2017, CentralNic will formally withdraw eight TLDs, including dotGB.com and dotSe.com, erasing their presence from the Internet permanently. Any websites or email addresses that use these TLDs will cease to function. CentralNic gave registrars more than a year's notice that it would be removing these TLDs, but didn't give a specific reason. Based on CentralNic’s success in the new gTLD program, running back-end infrastructure for the likes of dotXYZ, it would seem to be a purely commercial one. The fact is that after years of seeing these dotCom subdomains pushed out to registrars as great alternatives to the real deal, in reality they offer very little value.
How long before other registries decide that they’re on a horse that isn't just losing but also riding round the track the wrong way? DotTel was launched to great fanfare (with a very clever marketing campaign) in 2009; most organizations wanted a dotTel even if they didn't quite understand what to do with it. It was unique in terms of the way it could be used – all dotTel names would resolve to a single contact page. The concept was sound back then, but the rapid growth in the adoption of social media channels and the cut-throat nature of the gTLD space among the mass-market meant that alternative ways to display data were cheaper and more flexible.
At the height of its popularity, the dotTel registry could boast over 300,000 registrations. Today, the number has fallen to less than 100,000. With the launch of the new gTLD program and TLDs such as dotContact, dotSocial and dotEmail, it seems that the future for the dotTel TLD is bleak.
Ironically, it could be used in a trusted environment to authenticate the user’s identity – similar to the blue tick on Twitter. In an age when fraudsters and imposters will go to great lengths to deceive online consumers, such a verification program may actually prove very useful.
Whilst Telnic, the organization behind the dotTel TLD, is unlikely to change anything in the short or medium term, there could be a number of new gTLDs that are either put up for sale or the subject of an approach to ICANN for special measures, due to registration numbers well below original forecasts. With a number of new gTLDs now in their second renewal cycle, it’s unlikely that some of the least popular ones will see the necessary growth to hit their business plan numbers, leaving the owners two options: sell up or consign the TLD to the virtual Internet graveyard – subject ICANN’s approval of course!