Last week in Las Vegas, a new conference, NamesCon, took place. Namescon was created in direct response to the expanding list of TLDs, a subject described briefly in the post Domain Names #1. Evidently, the subject matter hit a chord, as the conference had nearly 600 registered attendees, almost 50% more than planned.
In the past, there have been many Internet-related conferences and, within that broad category, there have been several specialized periodic conferences for those who speculate and trade in domain names (“domainers”). While domainers were one type of prospect for attending NameCon, other prospects included new registry operators, registrars, and brand managers.
By way of industry background: With 1000 or so new Internet gTLDs expected to go into service over the next couple of years (50X today’s count of 19!), each TLD will be managed by a registry operator. Each registry will require distribution to prospective registrants (domain buyers) – registries do this is by making their TLD’s domains available to their registrars (such as GoDaddy).
In promotional materials, NamesCon described itself as follows: “With over 400 attendees expected, NamesCon will be the largest Conference dedicated exclusively for the Internet Name Industry…There is no channel like the internet domain name channel, and 2014 is an amazing year of expansion, growth, change and opportunities in all areas of the registry, registrar and registrant internet name space.”
So, NamesCon content was created to appeal to domainers, registrars, and registries. Additionally, since 600+ companies have applied for their brand as a TLD, brand managers were another target market.
Namescon content was comprised of several talks and related Q&A as well as 30 panels with 3-5 knowledgeable participants each. Legendary domainer, Frank Schilling gave a keynote and conveyed his belief there are or would be abundant opportunities for all in the expanding namespace. A late addition to the presenters list was Matt Mullenweg, the leading evangelist for WordPress and an impressive entrepreneur who had just turned 30.
He touched on the growth of WordPress and had insightful comments on a range of related issues.
(If you’d like to learn more about the conference’s content, as of this date the conference program details remains accessible at Namescon.com.)
I attended as many panels as I could, including switching within sessions several times. So I probably sat in for some or all of 20 or so of the panels and listened fairly carefully (in many cases, to panelists who were obviously just guessing!). My perspective was that of an entrepreneur who was looking into whether there may be an opportunity for him in this rapidly changing environment. The short answer is maybe because, at this moment, a slam-dunk opportunity is not obvious.
(Sidebar: If there is an opportunity for me, it is most likely within the new gTLDs such as .music, .health, .baby, etc. The approach would be one of pure speculation – soon after activation of a TLD, acquire names that could be valuable in the future.
However, there’s a lot of risk in acquiring domains for hard cash so early in the game: one doesn’t know how well the gTLD will do generally – will the registry promote the TLD well and support registrars so they will be motivated to sell those domains to registrants? Will the TLD be popular? What will the neighbors (other domains within the TLD) be like? Will there ever be a true “user” of such a domain? Will that user surface soon enough and be willing to pay enough for the endeavor, acquisition and inventorying of names, to be worthwhile? How much time will it all take?)
Looming over the new gTLDs are the old gTLDs including the ubiquitous .com. Dot coms have benefitted from wide use and advertising, and are what most consumers associate with the Internet. It may take a generation or more for any given new gTLD to gain the mindshare it needs for any domain member to be the (or even a) “go-to” domain.
My conclusion on the new gTLDs is to go slowly. For any domain, it may be too long a time to liquidity, if ever.