As of this writing, there are over 1.8 billion live websites in the world. In 1985, when the world’s first .com domain was registered, there were only six. Such an exponential increase in just 36 years is hardly a surprise. In fact, it seems like an obvious progression considering that launching a website today goes hand in hand with starting something new.
Fortunately, while the World Wide Web offers endless space for anyone to create a website, the same cannot be said for domain names. With a surge in domain registrations, the good old .com is becoming saturated. Nothing is perhaps more revealing of this saturation than Verisign’s own admissionjustifying that he needs the .web TLD because he lacks .com domain names.
It was to combat this overcrowding of legacy extensions and to expand the availability of quality domain names that new top-level domains (nTLDs) were introduced nearly a decade ago. For me, that too was a clear progression.
Historically, most naming conventions have gone through similar developments. For example, with the increase in population, the two-digit zip codes in the United States were replaced by Five-digit Zonal Development Plan (ZIP) codes.
Telephone numbers, too, are passed as many iterations like the phone itselfgoing from alphanumeric numbers to 5-7 digit numbers up to the now important 10 digit number.
Internet domain names are OG NFTs (non-fungible tokens).
1) They are digital
2) They are not replicable (only one person/entity can own a domain at a time)
3) People pay real money for them
— dharmesh (@dharmesh) April 13, 2021
Where are we at this stage in the evolution of domain names?
I believe we are going through the phase of Early Adopters / Visionaries (see graph below) for nTLDs at this stage. It hasn’t been easy for nTLDs to gain instant universal acceptance, especially since not all nTLDs are created equal.
At Radix, we have seen a clear difference in user trends and behavior for each of our TLDs. While .Tech was naturally embraced by startups, .Store and .Online were embraced by online sellers. .Site has been the nTLD of choice for professional services and .Space has been popular among artists, real estate spaces, outer space businesses as well as generic online businesses.
All of these target groups do not inherently know and understand domain names, let alone new domain extensions. For the majority of people all over the world, including countries like India, a website still means .com.
At the other end of the spectrum are global companies such as Viacom and Emirates that were early adopters of nTLDs. More recently, new-age startups such as Doordash (www.order.online), Aurora (www.aurora.tech), and even Netflix (www.netflix.shop) have strategically integrated nTLDs into their growth plans.
These are just a few of the many examples of visionary early adopters who are able to see the value of nTLDs that the rest of the world has yet to experience.
Skepticism towards nTLDs… and all other “new” industries
Personally, I find a skepticism towards new domain extensions similar to that faced by many other industries. Whenever something revolutionary happens, fear and resistance follow. It happened with electric car. The same narrative repeats itself with products that arrived long after an incumbent had benefited from network effects and was the de facto choice.
For all the potential of cryptocurrency, they also suffer similar criticisms, or misunderstandings. In fact, cryptocurrency has more than its fair share of naysayers that include the likes of Charlie Munger. It is difficult to ignore the obvious conflict of interests when those who benefit most from the established order are the first those who denounce the change.
But then, not all cryptos are created equal; neither are all domain extensions. Meme-crypto or penny TLDs are unlikely to last long term, and it is intellectually lazy to confuse all new domain extensions using a false equivalence, especially in the domain industry.
The same people who applauded El Salvador becoming the first country to pass a bill adopting Bitcoin as the official currency alongside the USD still unequivocally deny the growing importance of new currency extensions. domain. The cognitive dissonance of believing in a future with cryptos and not in new domain extensions is interesting to see.
Another parallel can be drawn with the exodus of tech talent from Silicon Valley to Austin and Miami.
The story of Silicon Valley is not that it moves from the Bay Area to another place.
It’s not about Miami or Austin.
It’s a cultural shift from “You have to be in the Bay Area to be taken seriously” to “It doesn’t matter where you are.”
It’s not going to reverse.
—Austen (@Austen) January 1, 2021
The tech community is fed up with anti-tech sentiment in California despite their contributions to the local economy. In some respects, this corresponds Verisign is calling people who buy domains to resell them at higher prices “domain scalpers”; prominent voices have expressed their disagreement with ever-higher taxes in California, something they find unjustifiable. This is similar to the efforts of communities like the Internet Commerce Association (ICA) who are standing up against .com price increase that they seem to have little say.
While the incumbent sleeps at the wheel, alternatives such as Miami and Austin are woo users and new businesses are springing up in these new “areas” – whether in the physical world or on the Internet. Eventually, widespread adoption and use (in the case of nTLDs) will alter perception and normalize these alternatives, making them obvious in hindsight.
Additionally, the current unrest situation in San Francisco reminds us that protecting the rights of end users is of paramount importance. Citizens of SF are fight to protect themselves from crime callback request the current public prosecutor. It’s akin to registries like us actively protecting our end customers by minimizing domain abuse within our TLDs. If we don’t secure our namespace, it will affect those who have chosen to reside there virtually. Letting your guard down is not an option.
Startups are often early adopters, and an interesting data point is the share of YC Demo Day startups that are on a .com has decreased by 15% in just a few years.
How Radix Helps Domain Names Evolve
At Radix, our vision is to build a world where domain names are less like phone numbers that need to be written down and stored, and more like brand names that are easy to remember. Every business deserves a short, relevant and recognizable domain name that adds brand value and improves customer perception.
However, premium domain names often cost up to several hundred thousand dollars. The high cost of premium domains as a trade-off for brand benefits is not always financially acceptable, especially for new and small businesses. There is an understandable apprehension about spending huge amounts of money up front. What if we made the wrong choice? What if the company decides to go in another direction?
This led us to change our pricing model for premium domains. With this, just like a SaaS model, end users can pay an affordable annual subscription instead of thousands of dollars at a time. This frees them from the burden of their marketing budget.
On the marketing side, our goal has always been to reach new communities to create creative awareness of nTLDs. In 2016, we launched startup league to engage with early-stage startups. Earlier this year, we launched Pitch Tech to engage with entrepreneurs in the idea stage. With Break the code we connected with programmers and with MyStartInTech we connected with tech professionals.
These are just a few examples of the many campaigns we have launched in the past. The ones the Radix team is currently working on are even bigger and more radical than ever; and I can’t wait for you to see them all launched soon.
What excites me the most, however, is working in an industry that has yet to reach its peak. Things are changing rapidly and will continue to change. We need to keep in mind that any change is meant to fill gaps in the system and that nTLDs bridge the gap between demand and supply while providing much-needed freshness. In the same way that remote work allowed people to disperse, the evolution of domain names democratizes the availability of good addresses to disperse beyond legacy extensions. The future of nTLDs is bright, and those who are late to the party (or haven’t heard of the party at all) will be surprised.
Written by Karn Jajoo Senior Manager at Radix. A version of this article originally appeared on DNJournal.com.