The new gTLD program introspective

Stuart Fuller

After two and a half years of almost weekly excitement and anticipation, the new gTLD program feels like it has stalled. We knew there would come a point when all the new gTLDs that could easily launch would have launched and the only ones left would be those in contention or with issues to resolve − and that’s where we appear to be today.

Since 1st September, we have only seen seven new gTLDs launch, with five of those being very specific IDNs. They’ve been too narrow to interest most of our corporate clients, and the other two launches, dotMakeup and dotCam, have also gained little traction. On the plus side, we’ve seen some genuine interest in dotShop, which launched into General Availability last month and is already the 30th most registered new gTLD, whilst dotBlog is due to launch for everyone shortly and will likely prove to be popular, but they are perhaps the exception to the current state of the program.

The gTLD program grew by just under 600,000 registrations in September − one of the slowest growth months in the past year. The slow-down was due in part to new releases coming at a trickle, as well as the glut of pricing promotions from some of the more popular registries and registrars that had fueled the high growth that we saw earlier in the year; such as in June when 4.5 million names were registered primarily due to promotions offered by Chinese registrars on the likes of dotXYZ, dotTop and dotVIP.

Many brand holders may now feel that the first phase of the gTLD program is at an end. It does feel in many ways that, with increasing talk about a second round of applications, the first round is tailing out with a whimper rather than the fireworks we may have expected. We do still have some interesting and potentially game-changing new gTLDs still to launch though, as detailed below. These gTLDs offer some exciting opportunities for brand holders, as well as some risks that need to be mitigated. That’s why the program still needs to be kept front of mind during these quiet periods.

Web – the most expensive new gTLD to date, and one that’s still subject to some controversy. Bought by Nu Dot Co LLC, and funded in part by Verisign for a price of $135m, dotWeb is seen by many as a natural substitute for dotCom.

Play – owned by Google after a deal was reached with Amazon, Radix and Famous Four Media, this gTLD could become very important within the streaming music and digital media market.

Music – the future of the highly anticipated dotMusic application is yet to be decided, with eight parties still negotiating its future, including two community applications that have differing aims for the management of the gTLD.

Africa – still subject to a number of appeals, which has probably generated more column inches than stories about any other new gTLD. The two applicants are still no nearer resolving the future of this one; however, based on the success of dotEU and dotAsia, when it is launched, you can expect a strong take-up from brand holders based on the continent.

App – back in the summer of 2015, Google paid $25m to win the bid to run dotApp from a field of 12 applicants. With the popularity of smart devices continuing to grow, the relevance of a specific gTLD is high, so dotApp’s appearance is eagerly anticipated and had been expected in the summer of 2016.

The short-term forward view doesn’t really indicate any new activity. Johnson & Johnson is launching the first of its new gTLDs – dotBaby − this month, whilst a number of dotBrands are also poised to launch. With conversations around a second round gearing up, it’s important that all stakeholders in the program try to stay focused and see the first phase applications launch.