NamesCon: Spotlight on Donuts

In advance of  NamesCon, I have been interviewing  exhibitors and sponsors to share more information about their companies. NamesCon will be held  January 11-14, 2015 at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are over 600 registered conference attendees so far, and we are expecting over 800 people to attend this conference.

Today’s interview is with Mason Cole, Vice President of Communications and Industry Relations at Donuts, whose company is one of the largest new gTLD applicants.

If you have any questions or comments for Mason or for the team at Donuts, you are welcome to post them in the comment section below.

Can you tell us about your company and how long you have been there?

Donuts was founded in 2010 by four long-standing industry veterans and has since expanded to a team of more than 30 in the US and Europe. We were the largest applicant for new gTLDs and in turn will become the world’s largest registry operator. Our model is one of openness and inclusiveness, while still maintaining significant protections against abuse and infringement. Our varied roster of new gTLDs offers consumers, organizations and businesses the widest possible choice in new Internet identities.

This is your second time at NamesCon. Can you tell us about your first time and what you got out of it?

NamesCon is a pivotal event in our industry, nicely providing a forum for discussion of a broad number of topics, ranging from the technical to investment to policy and nearly everything in between. The first event was impressive in that it offered a cost-effective opportunity to network with industry colleagues, hear from thought leaders, provide new perspectives and exchange views on the changing nature of the domain name industry. We’re looking forward to a similar experience this year.

This will be your first time sponsoring at NamesCon. Can you tell us why you are sponsoring this year and what you hope to get out of NamesCon?

Donuts is sponsoring NamesCon because we believe in the position the event holds in the industry. NamesCon’s roster of attendees includes the people who are leading our industry, contributing new ideas and transforming the DNS, all while helping maintain the security and stability that end users count on. ICANN has its significant role, as do investment-focused events, but NamesCon is inclusive of all sectors of discussion. We didn’t want to miss an opportunity to keep Donuts front and center at such an event.

What are your thoughts on the new TLDs?

Obviously, as the largest provider of new gTLDs, our belief is that this is a significant inflection point in the life of the domain name industry. For far too long, the existing namespace has been constrained with little in the way of new choices for those looking for a semantically meaningful web presence. The current round of new gTLDs is a refreshing update to a marketplace that has been stagnated for many years now.

Can you tell us about how your new gTLDs and associated services help deliver value to your customers?

We decided to avoid a monolithic approach to the market that meant trying to compete directly with .COM — lacking meaning as it does, it’s still by far the largest TLD by volume. Instead, we decided to build the equivalent of a shopping mall, with a few anchor tenants and hundreds of boutiques that appeal to specific niches with demonstrated interest in strong online identities. The value comes in specific and meaningful choices for end-users and registrants — attributes not found in legacy TLDs.

Donuts also has a firm commitment to operating safe and secure namespaces. In addition to the protections mandated for all new registries, Donuts invested heavily in protections of its own, including our Domains Protected Marks List, an innovative service that allows intellectual property holders defend their marks at a fraction of the cost of across-the-board defensive registration.

What are your thoughts about where new gTLD growth is going in the next year?

We’re very bullish on the growth of new gTLDs. While there has been widespread publicity about new online identity options, we’re still very early in the life of these remarkable services, and early as well in the growth curve of consumer awareness. Over the course of the next year, you’ll see Donuts and others work significantly to make known the utility of new gTLDs. We believe that not only will new registrations in new gTLDs grow organically, you’ll see a very healthy trend of renewals for purchased registrations in the new namespace.


  1. Hi Elliot,

    Nice interview. Thank you for publishing it but I have some additional questions that Richard forgot (or was too polite) to ask our friends at Donuts:

    1. Why should anyone trust you with their money and website when the tld expansion has failed in multiple earlier attempts?

    2. Can you please address widespread domainer claims that your extensions will only be causing confusion and helping the .com owners? Have you any evidence to demonstrate that this will not be the case?

    3. When the government introduced, traffic to surged. How can you justify this and expect us to believe that the same thing will not happen with the promotion of gtlds?

    4. You mentioned above that you are bullish on the gtlds, yet their overall growth curve seems to be slowing down and arcing. How do you reconcile this?

    5. Many public gtld registries have seen their stock prices plummet in recent weeks after analysts noted that the gtlds are not selling as anticipated. What have you to say about this? Would you recommend investing your retirement dollars in such a company at this point?

    6. It has been widely reported that many of the gtld registrations are from insiders and affiliate parties. Can you please enlighten us as to why other gtld companies felt the need to pad their registrations by having sister firms buy much of their inventory?

    7. Some gtld registries are giving their products away for free and still seem to be encountering resistance from consumers who are just not interested. Any comment on this strategy that some of your fellow registries seem to be using?

    8. Many of the gtld registries anticipated registrations of over 100K at the end of the first 12 month period. In a few weeks, we will be at that very point, yet few have over 10K registrations — and that includes the insider registrations. Many that do have over 10K registrations had a giveaway component. Can you please explain why this should not be of concern to us as registrants?

    9. Regarding .XYZ’s free give-away promotion in conjunction with Network Solutions, what percentage would you anticipate registrants will be willing to continue once there is a cost associated?

    10. Are you prepared to reimburse those who trust in you and build a business on your tld in the event that your firm files for bankruptcy protection? Can you enlighten us with the specifics and details of your contingency plan on file with ICANN in such an event?

    11. The gtlds were delayed by several years and interest seems to have waned in the meantime. Do you feel that ICANN’s delay let the stream out of your tires in any way? It seems that many of the gtld registries were forced to divert marketing dollars as a result.

    12. There was supposed to be a big bang to announce the introduction of the gtlds. Instead, it was more like a muffled thud. Any comments on this and what, if anything, is being done by Donuts to address this?

    13. When Overstock purchased O.Co and realized that the majority of their prospects were accidentally going to O.Com (a non-existent site), they quickly pulled the plug on the campaign after Alexa estimated the traffic loss at a staggering 61%. Why do you think that this same phenomena will not transpire with gtlds?

    14. Is it wrong to assume it will happen with email and backlinks too?

    15. When gtld registries first pitched the expansion concept and we all debated its benefits, the gtld registries told us (and ICANN) that it was the panacea for the lack of .com availability, yet you and the other gtld registries proceeded to withhold the vast majority of your better second level domains and charged uber-premium prices that recur annually.

    16. When geo tlds were pitched to the public (and ICANN), we were assured that it would be an open registration system, yet when .NYC went live, there was a residential component which had not previously been disclosed. Do you feel that this hurt the overall credibility and desirability of gtlds as a whole?

    17. When an an unprofessional sounding extension such as .GURU leads the tld pack, do you feel that this takes away credibility of the other extensions. Does the fact that .PRO is generally considered to be a failure change your answer?

    18. It has been pointed out that gtld registries would be within their right to raise renewal prices at any time. Can you provide us with any assurance that a gtld that we register for $20/year will remain priced as such? Many are worried that if a private registry faces tough times, its customers will need to bear the brunt of the financial pain.

    19. What are your thoughts on ICANN releasing both singulars and plurals of the same tld? Seems that that will exponentially increase the confusion factor that is already so high.

    20. Amazon’s application was denied after a successful appeal by Peru and Brazil to not have the forest associated with the retailer. Apple applied only for its name. Facebook, Dell, HP and IBM, nothing. Google has withdrawn several applications and “allowed” other firms to win contested tlds. In conjunction with last weeks re-iteration that they will not be awarding any SEO advantage, some have interpreted this as a lack of interest from the big boyz. Is this of concern to you? If not, why not?

    21. Many email scripts that have been written over the last two decades only recognize the mainstream tlds during the validation process. Attempts to use a gtld in an email address on such a form may result in an error message or non-delivery of the message. Do our friends at Donuts feel that this problem will impact usage and the overall attitude towards their gtlds?

    22. We have seen very few gtld sites actually developed original sites and practically no companies dumping a .com in favor of a gtld. One company that actually tried doing so, The Citic Group, soon thereafter announced disappointing results and has switched back to its original .com.

    23. In two articles I published on LinkedIn (, I have hyperlinked numerous embarassing faux paus in which newscasters, spokesmen, mayors, DJ’s and others with good intentions have all erroneously referred to .COM rather than their intended ( destination site. Why do our friends at Donuts feel that this will not continue to transpire on a larger scale if gtlds were to proliferate?

  2. Whew, that was quite a rant. I did want to echo one source of disappointment mentioned in #19, i.e. the release of both singulars and plurals. Like .gift and .gifts, .photo and .photos. The logic against doing something like this greatly outweighs any rationale for it. That was a head scratcher.


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