Value of generic top-level domains is sagging says Sedo Survey

When asked by a domain name exchange whether their companies are really into the domain name market these days, a huge number of American respondents said no. Reports By

It’s very rare that a consumer survey sponsored by a company providing a service to those consumers sounds a warning about the diminishing value of a chunk of that very service.  Back in 2012, ICANN launched its program to introduce generic top-level domains, or gTLD, into the Internet’s domain name system creating potentially endless new namespaces for registrants to secure their brands. With new gTLDs compartmentalized by subject matter or industry category (.coffee, .food, .invest), others being truly generic (.shop, .store) and others just plain ridiculous (.whatever)–the original promise was to create level playing fields for all types of businesses to become globally recognized.

But with as many as 1,000 new playing fields simultaneously competing with .com and with country-specific TLDs, as lawmakers including an FCC commissioner warned at the time, companies would be compelled or forced to register their brands with as many namespaces to prevent spoofing or “cyber-squatting.”

Sedo is a firm that could stand to gain from the multiplex gold-rush that ICANN promised. It’s a trading and exchange system for already registered domains; a way for registrants holding property on one of these namespaces to conduct auctions and reap profits. Yet a survey of some 1,150 of Sedo’s worldwide customers, both acquired and prospective, conducted via SurveyMonkey in May 2014 (.pdf) reveals that people whom ICANN believed should care about these new namespaces, largely don’t.

About one-tenth of Sedo’s U.S. respondents said they work in marketing or advertising, and only 48.2 percent said they’d ever purchased a domain name for themselves–so the sample represents a mix of folks who either are, or might be, in the domain name market at some point–not exactly Sedo’s preferred mix of domain name “day traders.”

Still, despite the presumed prevalence of “tech news” presumably shouting headlines about important technological things 24/7, only 33.2 percent of Americans polled said they had ever heard of gTLDs. Some 12.4 percent of the remainder said they thought they might have heard about them, but aren’t quite sure; the rest said no, it’s all news to them. By comparison, 34.3 percent of U.K. respondents were familiar with gTLDs, along with 44.7 percent of German respondents.

A colossal 73.4 percent of survey respondents from China were familiar, however, with only 3.6 percent from that country claiming ignorance.

So has the subject of whether it would be a good thing to buy more domain names in whatever namespaces there may be out there, come up in conversation at work? Only 11.3 percent of U.S. respondents answered yes, with 3.8 percent of Americans saying their businesses had actually done it. The numbers were similar for the U.K., and again, slightly higher for Germany.

Some 65.9 percent of respondents from China said their companies were either considering staking out their brands on other namespaces, or had already done so.

The Sedo survey is an indicator of the increasingly non-global nature of a part of the Internet that was once considered critical to its well-being. As Web functionality, including through HTML5, moves towards apps that can easily brand themselves, and whose URLs aren’t seen by their users, the need for corporations to invest in the representation of their brands in the address bars of Web browsers appears to be subsiding in North America and Western Europe. The survey would have been more instructive had it broken down respondents in Japan, Malaysia, and Korea. But China may be leading an opposite trend, toward doubling down on the browser-based Web.

For more:
– see the Sedo survey results (.pdf)

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