I don’t really enjoy making predictions for the new year, so I thought I would get off easy this year and do the asking this time. I asked a number of domain industry colleagues and professionals if they would be willing to share a prediction (or a few) for 2012, and many people were kind enough to offer their insight. Hopefully, this will be helpful to you as you close out the year.
I invite you to post your domain industry predictions in the comment section and/or provide feedback about some of these predictions as well.
2012 Domain Industry Predictions:
Paul Goldstone, iGoldrush – My prediction for 2012 in the domain business is a substantial increase in education and public awareness about domain names. Over the past year the business world has heard more about domain names than any other period in time. They learned about the possibility of new domain extensions, they heard from those for and against the new extensions, they heard examples of new extensions, and they heard about some of the players. With all this talk of domain names, what they have still yet to hear much about is how domain names can actually be of measurable value to their companies outside of a virtual street address.
Whether their opinions of domains, the players, and the potential of new extensions are positive or negative, once thing is for sure – we have their attention. I believe that 2012 is going to be a significant year where smart domain companies will join us in our mission since 1996, by educating the business world as to the value of using domain names to improve their bottom line. This newfound understanding and public awareness will in turn increase the overall value of domain names, a win-win situation.
Bill Sweetman, YummyNames – There is going to be an increase in the number of domains sold to buyers in Asia, especially China. The Chinese market is huge and rapidly-growing, and I see a bright future for domain sales into this market.
The Honorable Neil Brown QC, UDRP Arbitrator and Mediator – My prediction is that there will be more applications for new gTLDs than has been anticipated. There has been a widely held view that many companies will hold back and just keep an eye on other applications and see if there are any that affect them. So it has been thought that there may not be many applications. I am inclined to think that more than expected will actually apply, irrespective of what others do. Obviously the fees and costs of making an application will be quite high, but those involved will be well-heeled, so the costs will not deter them and consequently many will apply for gTLDs, no matter what the cost.
The reasons why they will apply are, first, the reasons already advanced and talked about and there is no need to repeat them. But I think there will also be quite a few applications for the additional reason that the “old” TLDs no longer mean as much as they did or as they were supposed to be understood. A .com domain name could indicate anything at all today and the new gTLD creates an opportunity to make it clear to the user and the potential customer just what is covered by a domain name under that TLD and what will be found on its website.
The consumer will therefore be more likely to go to a website where it is clear what it stands for, rather than any other website. Companies will have worked that out and realized that it is a great marketing tool. They will also know and it will be a fact sooner or later that the potential customer, the user of the internet, will think the security at the website at the new gTLD will be greater, as a well known company is standing behind it, guaranteeing its reputation and ensuring that it is safe as it can be and that there are no risks in the consumer using it. So the new gTLD will inspire confidence on the part of the consumer; companies will know this and will want to avail themselves of the advantage that can be gained by having a domain name and website that announces to the world that it is the company’s own, that the company stands behind it.
There is a lot of concern among ordinary people about computer and online fraud and having a new gTLD will reduce at least some of this concern .There are also other obvious benefits of having a new gTLD and, for whatever reason, I think the new gTLDs will do well. I have heard of quite a few applicants who are getting ready to lodge their applications, which they will do early and probably not wait to see what other potential applicants are doing. The other prediction I make in this area is that there will be disputes, but that the range of dispute resolution systems created by ICANN are so extensive and so good that they will prove very effective in resolving those disputes or encouraging a settlement.
Fred Mercaldo, Cities Planet – We will see, finally, major media getting involved with pure geo City.com brands.
Josh Metnick, Chicago.com – After some stagnation, the values of Geodomains will skyrocket with the final realization of marrying the academic concept of place-identity with those domains. Lawyer@chicago.com is probably worth 50k or more to the right person. Emails will be treated more like domain names, they are digital assets.
Brian Gilbert, Innovation HQ – With the Presidential election coming up we’ll see major candidates putting tons of effort and marketing dollars towards social networks. New ways to reach their audience effectively will evolve. Focusing campaign efforts towards social media will continue to raise awareness of the massive online community advertisers can reach. Marketers will be watching the campaign strategies closely and probably learn from their methods and make attempts to mimic those methods. Some advertisers/marketers will be smart enough to go after related domain names and be ready to pay.
Karen J. Bernstein, Law Offices of Karen J. Bernstein, LLC – I predict that in 2012 there will be substantial problems with the majority of Generic, Geographic and IDN gTLD applicants being approved by virtue of the complexities of the applicant proving it has the financial capacity in answering the ICANN gTLD Guidebook Questions 45-50. It is by far the most difficult part of the application process.
The ICANN gTLD Guidebook Questions require extremely detailed predictions and ICANN provides no benchmarks for what is an acceptable financial model going out three years in advance, which is akin to working in the dark. I believe that based on the laborious financial review process the timeline for ICANN to publish approvals of applications will be delayed by virtue of the financial complexities ICANN has created for companies seeking to become a gTLD registry. Brand gTLDs will most likely have little difficulty since their registry is “closed” to the public.
Tim Chen, CEO, DomainTools (These views are Tim’s and do not necessarily represent the views of DomainTools) – Increased competition in the registrar space: This may be stating the obvious. No disrespect to our regsitrar friends out there but to the general public this has been a one horse race for the last 5 years. There are good companies out there than can compete with GoDaddy today, and others that should. The recent uptick in 1&1 advertising is a harbinger. Web.com is circling the wagons with Register and Netsol. Enom has deep resources and a strong team, as does Tucows. Expect a lot more consolidation in this space in 2012, likely led by GoDaddy and the motivation and funds provided by their new private equity investors.
Brain Drain – This is both a positive and a negative. ICANN, Verisign, Oversee and Sedo turned over their CEOs this year (Rod Beckstrom in process). There were others as well. RIck Schwartz closed his blog and implied he may turn his attention to other industries. It hurts to lose experienced leaders from our industry. But the good news is it will allow for new energy and insight from a new generation of industry leaders. Given the talented, driven and now wealthy entrepreneurs that created this industry, I expect many more will move on to new challenges in 2012. It is worth noting guys like Frank Shilling and Mike Berkens who are iterating into adjacent businesses but sticking to domains. I’m rooting for them and hope others are as well.
Co-opetiion. I hate that word but it seems appropriate. It’s not too many years ago when it seemed we had domainers, registrars, parking companies, and drop/sales platforms. Now everyone is bleeding into each others’ business. We’re all trying to grow our businesses and leverage our installed asset base. It makes sense and happens in all industries. But that person you are catching up with over cocktails at DomainFest is very likely a competitor as well, much more so today than a few years ago.
Kathy Nielsen, Sedo (These are Kathy’s personal views, not necessarily Sedo’s) – I am really looking forward to 2012 and the changes may be in store in the domain world. There are so many interesting things going on. I have been amazed this year at how the mainstream media picked up such sustained coverage of the new gTLD potentials and launches. ICANN/.XXX/AMA, etc have brought the topic of domains to the general population. Even my 80 year old father asks me about the latest happenings at ICANN, yet he cannot tell you what I do for a living. This is an awareness that we’ve never seen before on this scale. I think it will translate into positive things for the industry. Bringing awareness of domains to the general population can do a lot of good things!
*Raise awareness that the market for premium domains exists (premium = registered) and has value
*Sets the stage for new gTLDs and potentially an openness or awareness to the population that they will very likely see something to the right of the dot besides .com.
*Finally, companies of all sizes are getting educated on the value of domains and what they mean for their organizations. This may not mean that they are going to run out and apply for a new gTLD, but it is forcing many of them to assess what they have, and see that there is value.
I think with the hype, marketing and excitement that surely many big brands will try to create with their new TLDs (hoping to see some launch in 2012?), this general discussion of domains, even beyond the brands, will keep this topic in the news, and in front of the average Joe. This in my opinion can only be a good thing for the domain industry. I think there are some amazing ideas out there for new TLDs and that we will definitely see some success stories in the years to come!
Charlotte Gilbert, Dobhran Development – Bing will sell another chunk off oft the chinese or Google will invest a significant amount of dollars to salvage their competition (much like Microsoft did with Apple years ago). Google will demand more out of website development with them releasing another serious Panda update..Mobile advertising will flood the market and users will continue to have adsense blindness forcing site/domain owners to be more creative with site monetization and design
Elliot Noss, CEO Tucows – In 2012 we will see continued efficiency come to the secondary market for domain names in two ways.
We will see existing distribution channels improve, primarily through more registrars and resellers integrating premium names into their results.
More importantly, we will see a significant increase in participation by large companies. Premium domains are moving from the legal department to the marketing department which is to the benefit of the whole market.
Braden Pollock, Legal Brand Marketing – With the launch of new TLD’s and domaining going a bit more mainstream, we’re going to see more players in the game and a lot more speculation of names. 2012 will be the year of the Registries and Registrars.
With parking revenues at an all-time low, new technologies will emerge that will breathe new life into parking and domain portfolios. (Hopefully, my new company will be leading the way)
Howard Neu C.O.O. and co-Founder, T.R.A.F.F.I.C. – I predict that the world will end, according to Mayan tradition on 12/12/12, so sell all your domains as soon as possible!
Juan Diego Calle, Founder .CO Registry / Straat Investments – .CO will continue a fast growth trajectory with a booming startup community building websites on .CO domains. The new TLD program will continue full speed ahead, helping us draw consumer awareness of the fact that legacy domain extensions are not the only option to build credible websites. Only a handful of TLDs will launch during the year (some brands & communities), but it will be step in the right direction.
Thies Lindenthal, IDNX (These are Thies’ personal views, not necessarily Sedo’s) – Bill Clinton’s wisdom “It’s the economy, stupid” holds absolutely true with domains. Predicting next year’s domain trends is as tricky as predicting next year’s economy. Domain markets are efficient, despite all randomness at the individual domain level. I do not claim that each domain is efficiently priced (yet), but general price trends for domains clearly follow the IT and advertising industry indicators.