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Get on the Rightside of the dot

This story was a trip down memory lane for me. Specifically, it took me back several years to when I was covering ICANN’s proposed system for issuing a large number of new, generic top level domains (gTLDs). It looked like a long, expensive, complex process, and I lost track of the story somewhere along the way.

But finally it’s bearing fruit. Bill Glenn, VP of Marketing at Rightside, the Washington-based domain name services company, brought me up to date. “It’s eighteen months since ICANN opened up the opportunity, and many registries have spent the last twelve to eighteen months getting these products into market. They represent a value proposition for the digital marketer.”

Products? If you’re familiar with gTLDs, please skip this paragraph. TLDs are what you find on the right side (get it?) of the dot.  Obvious examples are “.com,” “.org,” and geographically-based tags like “.de” (Germany) and “.fr” (France). ICANN is the private, non-profit organization responsible, among other things, for the Internet’s domain name system. Despite ICANN’s non-profit status, the decision to release tranches of generic TLDs–interesting right side tags like “.live,” “.family,” “.coke” and “.google” represented a surefire revenue-generator for the body, given the cost of the upfront application fee of $185,000. The plan was to auction hundreds of these gTLDs, while creating a window for brands to buy gTLDs clearly associated with their name (“.volkswagen,” “.tiffany,” “.alibaba”) before they go on sale to the public. (Brands can petition against inappropriate sales.)

Why does Rightside care? As a registry operator, it secured 39 of these gTLDs in auction–including, indeed, “.live” and “.family,” as well as “.news,” “.video,” “.social” and “.attorney.” That may not sound like many, but of course once you add the left side name (“fox.news” as a made-up example), you can re-sell them over and over. “There’s a growing interest in two-name combinations,” Glenn said “not just to eliminate counterfeiting, or for reputation management, but because they’re more specific, more personal, and more relevant.” He called it “the personalization of the Internet.”

In fact, Rightside sells its products to the end customer through many registrar partners like GoDaddy and name.com; but it’s also deeply invested in helping brand registrars think about ways to exploit these new opportunities. “They need to work with marketing as well as IT and legal,” said Glenn, “to develop a portfolio as an offensive strategy.” For example, Glenn explained, a gTLD can represent a better investment in search than spending dollars on SEM. Remember, it’s not important that consumers are aware of the significance of right side names: natural search will get the hits. Complimentary distribution of “.attorney” and “.law” to 200 law firms provided evidence of the benefits, with one law office significantly improving its Google search performance under the terms “Jacksonville attorney” by adopting “jacksonville.attorney” as its TLD.

There are three main ways in which Rightside is spreading the word. Its marketing arm hosts a website, showcase.ninja, which displays use cases featuring the tags “.social,” “.rocks,” “.family” and “.live.” There’s a free eBook explaining the value of TLD differentiation. And it’s using live events–like SXSW (with partner Sedo) and the upcoming SiriusDecisions Summit in Nashville–to “promote new domains to attendees in a fun and hands-on way.”

Rightside works with its partners to set retail prices for its gTLDs. Glenn concedes it’s “a slightly higher price than $20,” a typical domain name fee, and that “certainly, select domains command a more premium price.”

You can watch an interview with Bill Glenn here.

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