Paul Stahura has had a successful career in the domain business, long before the new gTLD domain names were available. If you aren’t familiar with Paul and his career, I think Ron Jackson’s article about Paul is a great place to learn more about his background.
Paul is the founder of Enom, which he launched in 1997. Enom went on to become one of the largest domain name registrars in the world, and the company was acquired in 2006. In 2010, Paul co-founded Donuts, and he serves as the company CEO. Donuts operates the largest portfolio of new gTLD extensions, and I think this gives Paul a unique perspective on the new gTLD space as well as the domain industry.
I asked Paul a series of five questions covering topics related to the new gTLD domain names and his company. If you have additional questions you would like Paul to answer, I invite you to post them in the comment section and perhaps he will find some time to answer them.
I appreciate that Paul was willing to be interviewed, and I hope you find the information he shared to be interesting.
Elliot: What Donuts accomplishments are you most proud of during the last 3 years?
Paul Stahura: There are many. First and foremost, getting our first set of new TLDs launched in 2014. It was a long process — years of silent work that finally came to fulfillment with increased consumer choice and competition. I’m proud of our innovations along the way: we pioneered the Early Access Program, which is a model being used by other registries now. We also created tiered pricing, again being used by other registries today, and the Domains Protected Marks List, a revered program used by the trademark community.
It’s also gratifying, as a member of this community, to see growth overall in new TLDs. We’re well over 23 million names now registered and that, coupled with the degradation in growth for .COM and .NET, tells us these new names are here to stay and are going to continue to grow over time.
It’s a good signal of the above to see that marquee not-com names are not only being registered, but put to use. There are famous and recognizable brands and entities establishing new and fresh presences on the Internet — names like Lady Gaga (.FOUNDATION), the Hunger Games movie franchise (.MOVIE), General Motors (.GREEN), Jimmy Choo (.SHOES and .BOUTIQUE), Under Armour (.TRAINING), and golfer Louis Oosthuizen (.GOLF). Small businesses are maybe the most prolific of those taking up new names, with examples like Affinity.PHOTOGRAPHY, CastleHills.CHURCH, Liquid.MEDIA, Marbella.VILLAS, and Republic.BIKE.
Elliot: Your acquisitive nature shows me that Donuts continues to be bullish on the new domain names. What excites you most about the new domain space?
Paul Stahura: We’ve always been excited for new domains. I have wanted to bring a registry to market since I got involved in the space for the first time. New domains are a great alternative to .COM and provide a way for companies to stand out from the pack. A crowded 130 million-plus namespace is a negative for our industry in the long run.
We have more of what you really want: Meaningful, memorable, names that give users affinity to the identities that are important to them. They’re unique, distinctive, short and, not inconsequentially, available.
We also are attuned to other uses for domains. Already, we’ve made investments in companies that employ the DNS for alternative uses. We invested in Netki, which uses the DNS to make blockchain applications more user-friendly, and in GeoFrenzy, which uses the DNS to define geofences, a rapidly growing technology. Both of these are under the guise of our Donuts Labs initiative, which will shortly be discussing other areas of collaboration and investment.
Elliot: Does the number of UDRP filings involving new gTLD domain names concern you and how can people be educated about not registering trademark domain names?
Paul Stahura: We’re always concerned about trademark infringement. The RPMs introduced under the new gTLD program have obviated the dire predictions of several years ago. We’re pleased about that and so should be the rest of the community.
Regarding education, it would be a stretch to “educate people not to register trademarks,” because globally, a fairly small number of the millions of active trademarked terms are actually well known. Add to that the geographic and product category limitations of most of these marks, and it’s nearly impossible to properly educate good faith registrants about their existence. In addition, education will probably do little to change the behavior of bad faith registrants.
The most effective solution for Donuts’ gTLDs is our DPML service. We’ve seen very little infringement in our 200-some gTLDs, largely because DPML is so affordable and effective. Protection will effectively expand for a DPML account as our zone totals grow into the multimillions. So DPML will cover larger and more popular gTLDs, where infringement may be more likely to happen.
Elliot: Who do you believe is ultimately responsible to promote the new extensions to consumers and how do you think this should be done?
Paul Stahura: To some degree, we all are, but primarily registrars and registries. These are the parties with the capability to actually reach consumer and business audiences who will put the names to use. While we think there have been and will be plenty of outreach efforts, you’ll also see adoption increase over time as businesses see new TLD usage for themselves and recognize the value. Use will beget further use.
Elliot: Can you discuss how Donuts’ recent investments (Netki and GeoFrenzy) tie in with its business strategy?
Paul Stahura: By seeking out new uses for domain names, we increase the addressable market for our core product. But a domain name, and the underlying DNS, can be used for much more than that.
We’re catalyzing that opportunity through Donuts Labs, our venture fund, which has an investment thesis centered on funding novel and innovative uses of the DNS and domain names. These concepts are at the center of some of the biggest current trends in technology — including blockchain, the rise of the “Internet of Things,” and other adjacencies. Business models that put domain names and the DNS to work in new ways not only are promising, but already support our overall ecosystem. After years of incumbents fighting to keep new gTLDs out of the market, we now have the chance to focus on real innovation in the Internet name space. This is an area where Donuts intends to lead the charge.