Anyone who has created a website knows that registering the domain you want can be a very iffy proposition, especially if you want a .com extension. It’s not uncommon to have to go to your third or fourth choice, because the first two are already registered. That problem may be resolved if we all start buying into the idea of forgoing the likes of .com, .org, and .net, and adopting the generic extensions that are becoming increasingly common.
If your Web presence has to do with one of the two major political parties, for example, what would you think of using the extension .democrat, or .republican? Rightside Group, a domain name services provider in Kirkland, Wash., is gambling that lot of people would love that idea.
Rightside owns the .democrat and .republican extensions (otherwise known as top-level domains, or TLDs), along with 37 other generic TLDs, from .engineer and .lawyer, to .software and .video. In a recent interview, Rightside CEO Taryn Naidu explained how all of this works, beginning with the process Rightside goes through to acquire a domain extension.
ICANN opened up a process several years ago in which any company could apply to own the new TLDs by paying a fee of $185,000 for each application, Naidu said, adding that Rightside has invested around $18 million in applying for 133 new extensions.
“If you’re the only one that applies for that extension, you go through the process and you’re awarded that extension,” Naidu explained. “If more than one of you apply for it, ICANN basically says, ‘You guys go figure out who owns it, and if you don’t, we’re going to run a resolution process to decide who wins it.’ That’s basically an auction process.”
Naidu said that so far Rightside has secured 39 new extensions and is working on resolution for 13 more. The company has driven about 450,000 registrations with those 39 extensions, which have been launched over a period beginning about 14 months ago. The most recent launch was that of .family, in January, which has driven nearly 6,000 registrations so far. Prices for registrations vary by extension, and average around $20, he said.
“The ones where we have been successful, that have been really great for us, are things like .news, which we believe is one of the best extensions in the entire program—that launched last summer, and it’s closing in on about 70,000 registrations to date. It made over $1 million within the first couple of weeks of launching,” Naidu said. “We have .rocks, which was uncontested—we paid $185,000 for it, and it’s driven over 60,000 registrations in about a year. In Q4 2015 we launched .live, and it’s really been embraced by the live streaming community.”
Rightside has pursued a strategy of going after evergreen terms like .video and .news, and professions like .attorney, .dentist, and .lawyer,” Naidu said. “The other side we went after was areas with big addressable markets—things like .democrat, .republican, .army, .navy, .airforce.”
According to Naidu, Apple has started to become a user of these extensions.
“With the launch of their Apple News product, they provision all the articles through the domain, Apple.news.” he said. “That was pretty exciting for us, with millions of eyeballs realizing there’s a .news domain.”
Amazon is a big user of the domains, as well.
“They have domains like Funny.reviews, and Amazon.video, and they use those to go to specific segments of their site. So when you go to Amazon.video on your browser, it’ll redirect to their video library,” Naidu said. “But Amazon has also been a big applicant for new domains—they’ve secured a portfolio of over 50 TLDs—things like .book and .kindle. Google has secured a pretty sizable portfolio of different extensions, as well. So for us, it’s been exciting to see the big e-commerce and Internet companies really believe in the program as consumers, as well as building extension portfolios themselves. These guys really have the ability to raise awareness.”
Naidu said what Rightside loves about the new domains is that they’re so specific.
“What we’re realizing with the Internet is it’s become easy to create content, but hard to discover content,” he said. “Think of the billboards out there—you have three to five seconds to consume a billboard. It might show a phone number, but nobody remembers that in three to five seconds. So what we love about this is, it can show a memorable domain name, like ‘Go to bestbuy.sale’—somebody can remember that, and navigate to that. It’s also trackable by the advertiser, so they can track what their conversions are on traditional media.”
Naidu noted that the Los Angeles Times is using the .video extension for its growing content library on YouTube, iTunes, Twitter and Facebook.
“Instead of pointing you to [a long URL], they can point you to latimes.video, and redirect that to their YouTube channel,” he said. “So there’s a way for them to have a consistent brand on the left of the dot, and utilize the specificity of these domains to have something more memorable for consumers to navigate.”
As for its own website, Rightside uses the .co extension, not .com. I mentioned to Naidu that I found that surprising, because I have to think that a lot of people who hear about Rightside and want to check it out would type Rightside.com in their browser, which brings up one of those annoying notices you get when you’re using the wrong URL:
Welcome to: allcreative.com
This Web page is parked for FREE, courtesy of GoDaddy.com
It seems to me a lot of people wouldn’t bother to Google for the right URL after that, which potentially means lost business for Rightside. So why not just err on the side of caution and go with .com? It turns out the answer is pretty simple: Naidu said Rightside.com was already registered. Perhaps wanting to be consistent with Rightside’s vested interest in convincing the world that it’s time to move beyond .com, Naidu played down the attractiveness of the .com extension for Rightside.
“If .com had been available, we would have secured it,” he said. “I’m not sure we would have used it as our main site, but we would have secured it, and probably pointed it to our main site.”
Naidu said there are 120 million .com sites registered, so it’s hard to find your first, second or third choice. The availability issue aside, he said, a strategy of adopting complementary domains also makes a lot of sense.
“For us, if you want to know more about our investor relations, you can go to Rightside.market,” he said. “If you want to know more about our blog and our content, go to Rightside.news.”
To wrap up this portion of the interview, I asked Naidu if he could have one do-over since becoming CEO of Rightside, what it would it be. He said he couldn’t think of one.
“I think every bit of experience that you get is enhanced by the wins and losses that you’ve had. So I can’t think of any do-over,” he said. “I love the team, I love the organization that we’ve built, I love the employee base, and I love what we’re doing. Give it time to watch this business develop, and you’re going to see great things.”
Naidu also addressed the challenges that Rightside faces in operating as a domain registrar in a world where spammers and malware producers are flourishing. I’ll cover that in a forthcoming post.
A contributing writer on IT management and career topics with IT Business Edge since 2009, Don Tennant began his technology journalism career in 1990 in Hong Kong, where he served as editor of the Hong Kong edition of Computerworld. After returning to the U.S. in 2000, he became Editor in Chief of the U.S. edition of Computerworld, and later assumed the editorial directorship of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Don was presented with the 2007 Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity by American Business Media, and he is a recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for editorial excellence in news coverage. Follow him on Twitter @dontennant.