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Opportunity Missed: Hilton Checks-Out of New Domains Boom

Adrian Kinderis

American author Mark Twain once wrote: "I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one."

Last month we learned that Hilton Hotels & Resorts joined six other new Top-Level Domain applicants in withdrawing their application and exiting the program.

I was disappointed when I first heard the news. My initial thoughts were centred on the enormous potential .hilton offered the company and the innovative business opportunities they were now abandoning.

Just imagine the ease of content access Hilton could have delivered their guests through associating their products, locations and services with .hilton. Instead of Googling to find the nearest Hilton Hotel in a city (which I commonly do), guests could simply type newyork.hilton for example to find everything they need. Not only would this deliver improved trust, customer engagement and message recall with consumers, it would allow Hilton to localise and tailor their messages to suit guests' needs.

I asked myself, what circumstances could force Hilton into giving up on these benefits?

Some brands may have made decisions to apply for a new TLD based on fears about brand protection. Perhaps Hilton applied simply to prevent someone else owning .hilton?

I can understand why some applicants have withdrawn from the program, be it due to competition or GAC Early Warnings. However, none of these reasons apply to Hilton.

The truth is we don't know why Hilton withdrew their application because neither Hilton nor their representatives have offered an official explanation for the decision.

It is my proposition that Hilton lacked two crucial elements in their new TLD plans and that these were the reasons for their withdrawal: Expert support and intestinal fortitude.

Expert support

I find it odd that a lot of new TLD applicants hit submit on their application in early 2012 and naively thought the revenue and rewards of their hard labour would somehow magically start rolling through the door.

This couldn't be further from the truth.

There is an enormous amount of work to be done in order to transform your application into a fully operational component of your business.

Unfortunately, it seems likely to me that Hilton fell into this trap. They may have lacked the expert support needed to help them through ICANN's complicated processes and the authoritative guidance on how to build a successful TLD. Ultimately, they probably just needed someone to hold their hand.

My team and I have taken on this role with our own clients. While we are polishing our backend registry systems in preparation to launch new TLDs, we are also spending a significant amount of time consulting with our clients and helping them develop an operational strategy capable of delivering them the revenue and rewards they so eagerly seek.

Essentially, what we're trying to do is help our clients and other new TLD applicants stand up robust and successful businesses. Simple, right?

This involves tedious planning sessions and workshops to produce assets to execute a winning business plan. To do this, you'll need TLD policies, procedures for dispute resolution, integration with registrars and other third parties, technology support, operational guides and a host of other requirements. The reason we know this is because we have done this many times before for other TLDs.

However, it's understandable if the prospect of getting all of these elements in place scared the living daylights out of Hilton. They're leaders in operating hotels and resorts. Launching and operating a TLD is about as foreign as it gets.

They needed an expert they could rely on for support.

Intestinal fortitude

While getting the right advice is important, I've also been telling folks from day one that you've got to have intestinal fortitude if you want to be a leader — especially in the new TLD game.

By its very nature, everyone participating in the new TLD program is breaking new ground in an attempt to achieve greatness. This is where leaders and innovators separate themselves from followers. It takes guts!

I suspect Hilton lost confidence and didn't have the courage, determination and chutzpah to see it through. It's a shame really because they were sitting on a gem of a TLD that had enormous potential, particularly given the online nature of the travel industry.

My team and I are working hard for our clients to give them every confidence in achieving success. We do this by reducing the burden on our clients by providing the expertise they need at this crucial stage in a TLDs development. We will stand side-by-side with them and face every challenge together.

Opportunity realised

With the right advice and support from a trusted partner, combined with the intestinal fortitude capable of withstanding ICANN's ever flexible timelines, applicants should be set to achieve every success in this program.

The unfortunate reality for Hilton was that they were in an enviable position compared to many others. They just didn't know it. I wish they had given me a call before making the decision to withdraw.

Clearly, there is significant interest and demand in the program and the benefits are there to be seen.

It's true; one of my clients could come to me next week and ask to withdraw from the program. However, my team and I are prepared to get our hands dirty and work hard for every one of our clients to ensure they have the opportunity to realise success.

By Adrian Kinderis, CEO, ARI Registry Services. More blog posts from Adrian Kinderis can also be read here.

Related topics: Domain Names, Top-Level Domains

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Comments

If they type newyork [space] hilton into most any browser today .. Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Jan 25, 2013 6:48 AM PDT

It takes you to a search query for "new york hilton"

No, hilton's not losing out on any business by exiting this.  They're saving some money that could be much better spent lots of other places, sensible of them.

The same questions I had a few years back on the supposed worth of domain portfolios possibly being on the lines of the tulip bubble apply here.

http://www.circleid.com/posts/domain_name_portfolios_worth/

> guests could simply type newyork.hilton jeroen  –  Jan 27, 2013 3:01 AM PDT

> guests could simply type newyork.hilton for example to find everything they need.

First of all if they where stupid enough to think that people think they could do that (which clearly they are not as they fortunately dropped their request), they could already have done that today and the last decade with: newyork.hilton.com.

The big question though if one would have to type: newyork.hilton or new-york.hilton and various other versions of that. We are then also ignoring the fact that New York is not only the version in the Big Apple, but various other countries and locations.

Better example would be zurich.hilton, zuerich.hilton, zürich.hilton and is that the one in Switzerland or the various ones in Netherlands or the US?

Indeed, this problem is solved already by Search Engines, DNS is *NOT* the location.

It is always great to see though that people with titles like "CEO" of a Registry Service seem to want that people BUY domains (that is earn money), but who ignore the whole point where the customer has no advantage at all.

I guess my question would have to Todd Knarr  –  Jan 27, 2013 10:11 PM PDT

I guess my question would have to be, exactly what opportunity is Hilton missing out on that they could pursue in the ".hilton" domain that they can't pursue equally well in the ".hilton.com" domain? I just don't see one. The only one would be reselling subdomains under the TLD, and I can't see where (as you correctly point out) a hotel chain would really be able to do a good job of that.

Nobody these days looks for things by typing in domain names. If I want to find a Hilton in New York, I type "new york hilton" (or "hilton new york" or some other variation) into a Google search box and look at the search results. I do some cursory checks on the URLs I get for sanity (eg. I'm going to be suspicious of a URL pointing at newyork.hilton.com.ru because even I know the New York Hilton's web site isn't likely to be on a domain belonging to Russia), but I'm not going to care very much about the exact domain beyond that. *.hilton or *.hilton.com makes no difference to me, it's all reached by clicks on a Web page and the computer doesn't care whether there's 4 extra characters in the domain name or not. Once Hilton's got the domain, any domain, they can create subdomains to their heart's content within it (unless they're getting DNS hosting from somewhere that charges per subdomain/hostname, and any company as big as Hilton can easily get a DNS provider who doesn't).

So where exactly is the business value for anybody except companies in the business of running TLDs? Before I bought into a TLD, I'd want someone to clearly explain to me exactly how I could make additional money for my business with a TLD that I couldn't make equally well from a conventional 2LD. And spending money and resources getting into a completely new and unfamiliar line of business is probably not a winning argument.

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