Waiting for the Big Push on New Domain Names

Google DomainsAt the recent NamesCon conference in Las Vegas, much of the talk surrounded a big question: “When?” As in, when will consumers start to seriously notice the 500+ new domain choices (and growing) now populating the Internet? Though there have been ads on TV, and promotions from registrars like GoDaddy, research shows that only 25% of people are aware of the new domains

Internet users in New York may have noticed promotion for .NYC since over 72,000 names have been sold. The people in Berlin and London may have seen ads for those domains. The team at .Club have been busy and have a success story with Coffee.club, which sold for $100,000 and which has been quite successful for the owners, who migrated from a less-branded .Com name. Private equity-backed Donuts, which owns over 250 of these domains, promised more PR and promotion of the new domains at a keynote at NamesCon. The DNA report claims over 60% of people want more choice on domains – but there are significant questions as to whether businesses feel the same way. Some of the new domains have brought customer confusion, typo-squatting, cybersquatting on brand names, and even malware sites.

But the talk in the industry circles has returned to “When,” over and over again. That’s not to say that big companies haven’t already started buying their own Top Level Domains (TLDs). Barclays and BarclayCard, Marriott, Bloomberg, Coach, IBM and Citi are just a few of the household names waiting in the wings to launch their own domains. Also under-reported, L’oreal took control of .Hair last week, which likely means they’re going to use it for their own internal purposes, and not have everyone registering their own “LookAtMyBeautiful.Hair” domains on the open market. But we don’t know when they’ll lather, rinse and repeat the news. GoDaddy’s likely IPO this year may bring some of the domain news to the forefront.

Those who want to sell domains, and who have bought interesting names in these new spaces want the value of their holdings to go up – and that won’t happen till there is demand for those names. Those who provide services, like DomainSkate, (disclosure: where I consult and act as COO) which monitors company names, provides alerts if a brand name is taken in a new domain, and helps solve the issue, want to make people aware that they should be looking to purchase names defensively, and monitor the rest for trouble.

Others, who just wish to use these new domain choices for better branding if the can’t get a desirable .Com name worry that consumers will type in their “NewWebsite.XYZ” address or “NewSite.Website” and follow it with .COM by rote memory – sending traffic to the wrong place. People may not trust these new extensions, or buy them, or protect themselves if there’s not a big push by an industry player to raise awareness that these new domains exist and that they have value. At the conference, the word was that “several large brands” are planning “big moves” with new domains they own, but that we probably won’t see that till late in 2015, or at the 2016 SuperBowl Ad blitz.

This week’s win for Google of .App could immediately bring that domain into play. “App” is the generic name for the small programs we all download to our smart phones. Apple’s App Store made the company over $4.5B in 2015, and, according to the NY Times Bits Blog,  Apple’s store “Serves 1.4 million apps for iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch devices. Google Play hosts 1.72 million apps, according to App Annie.” While there’s likely a significant overlap between Apple and Android apps, and many companies sell more than one app, being able to sell .App domains to a potential 1+MM companies at, say, $20/year is a nice start – and a pretty quick payback on a $25MM investment. Not a significant sum of money when looking at Google’s bottom line, but remember, Google just started selling via its own registry this year, so they could take in a nice bit of change while selling their .App domains.

Let’s also remember that Google, which has stated that it doesn’t favor the new domains in search, has been known to change its algorithms and rules as needed. Buy a .App domain, get a little better result for your app when people search for it? Maybe in the future. And by the way, Google just started selling ads inside its app store. How convenient.

Whether Google is “the one” everyone is waiting for to promote the new domains, or one of the big household brand names starts the ball rolling, it is still unclear “When” people will become more aware of the new domains. How these names are treated will influence the level of trust that consumers have in typing in these names. While it is clear that all these choices mean more ways for brands to get creative on how they promote, there’s also more potential for confusion and mistakes. We will continue to report on what we’re finding, and share our research with you. Let us know what you’re thinking in the comments.

Why you should pay attention to Google+

Over on LinkedIn, Des Walsh asks about the value of Google+ for small businesses. A few people there note LinkedIn’s great business value. I find I’m using it less and less. LinkedIn has turned into a networking free-for-all with people connecting to anyone at all. I keep only people I know, for real, in person, in my network. It also helps me be sure that if someone I value asks for an introduction, I actually know both sides and can make a true introduction, not just a pass-along.
Then there’s Facebook. People question the value of a ‘friend network’ for business. But, Who better to recommend you business than real friends – which is where Facebook excels. I saw this post from Anthony Kirlew today on “How Small Business Owners Miss the Mark with Facebook” and it resonates for me in the direction of Google+. Both of these networks need to bring in the concept of closeness, reputation and trust before they’re going to truly see their value.

So, what is Google+, and why should you pay attention? It is  a social network, with circles of your contacts at the center. You can make a circle of work folks and “huddle” with them in a shared mobile text messaging type environment. You can “hang out” with your friends via a video and audio chat room. You can see news you care about via sparks (which needs a lot of work to get to the value of Google Reader). And there’s photo sharing, integrated from Picasssa. So, a lot of the same stuff as Facebook and Twitter.
Google+ can take a giant leap ahead if they take the circles concept and add some trust and reputation characteristics. For those not yet using Google+, the concept of circles is simple – you put people into circles like “Friends” and “Family” and you can filter what you see based on the circles. You can also filter what you share, so your friends see the fun night out pictures, while your family is unaware of them.
Of course, Facebook and Twitter already have Friend lists and Lists, respectively, but neither is very good. Twitter gives no tools to help manage the contacts you already have to put them into lists, and Facebook has tried to hide the lists I spent time making to make their interface “cleaner.” What they’ve done is make it harder for me to keep up with specific groups of people. I’m hoping Google+’s circles will force Facebook’s friend lists back to the front page where they can be effectively used.
Google may be “late to the party” with G+ but they are clearly working to learn from LinkedIn and Facebook and innovate on their own mistakes with Buzz.
Finally, there’s the “take over the world” strategy for Google+. I thought a lot about this when
I wrote about Google Wave in Mashable last year, but Mashable never published a chart I created. The chart was about Wave, so I’ll re-do it below.

Function In Google+ Now? Google Related Property
Picture Upload and editing Upload Picassa
Advanced Editing Limited Google Docs, Blogger
Collaborative Editing No Google Docs, Google Shared Spaces
Voice Chat Hangout Google Voice, Gtalk
Scheduling Collaboration No Google Calendar
Contacts Yes Related to your Google Address Book
Friend/Colleague Discovery Currently Difficult but they are working on it Gtalk, Gmail Contacts
NewsFeed Discovery Difficult to search, but easier to filter via circles Google search, new Google Social Search,
Video Sharing Embeds via YouTube YouTube
Content Sharing No, but just needs a simple bookmarklet or browser extension Predict this will happen very shortly, plus APIs to integrate with ShareThis/AddThis will happen quickly too
Mobile Access Android App, Apple App coming, HTML 5 interface available now Google Mobile Ads
MobileCheckins/Deals Checkins Show in Google+ Now, and the Android client shows “Nearby” activity already Google Local, Google mobile ads, Google social ads, Google Offers

The fact that they can bring in Google Offers (local deals) that connect to Google Places (location, check in and verified business listings), search and advertising (including mobile ads) and a “Nearby” function is in their network from the start, and you have a very powerful potential.

We’re telling them who we’re closest to, and according to some folks using Google+, they’re calculating interactions to see our actual nearness and interactions with each other. If they can figure out a way to keep user’s trust (which they lost with Buzz) better than Facebook (up there with used car salesman in the trust category) and let us discover and work with reputational information about each other (something LinkedIn could have done long ago), again, I see a lot of power.

I hope Google can realize the potential.

Bonus reading:

The Google Plus 50 by Chris Brogan

This is Just the Beginning by Paul Adams

Google’s Six Front War

Sex Problems at Google Plus (he means gender problems but sex sells, right?)