The social presidency

Stuart Fuller

Today, the fight for the White House will be resolved after the most controversial and divisive political campaigns ever. Both candidates have tried to engage voters of all ages, using social media and online campaigns extensively to try to increase the number of people who will cast their vote, which has traditionally been around 54% of the electorate.

Back in 2011 when the applicants for the new gTLD program were announced, it was interesting to see that there would be a dotDemocrat and a dotRepublican new gTLD. It was too late for them to be released to make an impact on the 2012 campaign, but after launching in 2014, there was plenty of time for them to be used in the run up to the 2016 campaign.

The controversial Republican Party nomination Donald Trump decided to enter the race for the presidency in June 2015, after flirting with the idea in a number of previous campaigns. However, he was late in registering a dotRepublican domain name, with trump.republican taken by a private individual in Conyers, Georgia a few days after the gTLD went into General Availability, whilst donaldjtrump.republican was actually still available a few weeks after he announced his candidacy until it was registered by a chap in Encino, California. Neither domain name resolves to a live website today. Less than 1,000 dotRepublican domain names have been sold since its launch over two years ago, with no live website using a dotRepublican featuring in the Alexa top one million websites.

The Republican Party is often referred as The Grand Old Party, and it was interesting to see that an application for dotGOP was made by the Republican State Leadership Committee. That has proved to be marginally more successful than the dotRepublican gTLD, with over 2,000 registrations. At least the most popular dotGOP domain name, www.vote.gop, is being used actively.

On the other side of the aisle, the dotDemocrat has been no more successful than its Republican rivals, with less than 900 registrations to date; clinton.democrat is in the hands of a cybersquatting individual in Topeka, Kansas. In an age when technology would be a key battleground for both candidates and parties, it seems unbelievable that they both allowed the candidates’ domain names to fall into the hands (and remain there) of third parties.

Interestingly, Trump's people had purchased over 3,000 domain names in 2015 − many of them defensive registrations such as DonaldTrumpSucks.com and IHateTrumpVodka.com (but not IHateTrump.vodka, which is still available) − but restricted themselves to the old gTLDs rather than braving the new world of more descriptive suffixes. They did miss out on trump.org, which today resolves to a ‘Vote No to Trump’ holding page.

The whole social campaign has been full of dirty virtual tricks. When the Grand Old Party was deciding on its presidential nomination, Jeb Bush’s website (www.jebbush.com) redirected to Trump’s official page, and for a time www.donaldjtrump.gop redirected to www.hiliaryclinton.com and www.hilaryclinton.net forwarded to Republican candidate www.carlyfiorina.com for a time.

Twitter has probably been the most interesting battleground. Trump is winning the election based on Twitter followers, with 12.9 million compared to 10.1 million for Clinton. In fact, Trump has 1.8 million more followers than the President himself.

“Dad, husband and 44th President of the United States of America” is the description for the official presidential Twitter account @potus. However, come 20th January 2017, Obama will reveal the password for the account to the new President, although Obama’s timeline will be migrated to @potus44.

As for Instagram and Facebook, the incoming administration will have access to the White House username and URL (www.whitehouse.gov and not the former porn website www.whitehouse.com), and will retain the followers. As with Twitter, the new President will start with a blank slate on his or her timeline, with the contents archived.

Although the campaign has seen the most active use of digital resources in any presidential race to date, there will have been lessons learnt by both parties − none more so than the importance of securing the relevant assets before any stories are broken in the media. The presidency will not be decided in the digital world this time around, but who’s to say that in 2020 it won't be the case?