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The Dot Green gTLD and the Domain Name Delusion That Foretells General gTLD Disaster

Frederick Harris

I admire Annalisa Roger. I know from my single email interaction with her that she means well. Nonetheless, dot Green apparently ranks below 330 in the list of operational new gTLDs with an apparent total of 117 domains, give or take a few. Why is this the case? It seems to me that dot Green is one the few new gTLDs that actually deserves support.

Annalisa states the following in her CircleID item on February 27 that "With [Dave Maddocks'] analogy, it's easy to understand that a brand name with a new gTLD extension isn't an either/or choice for companies; it's like a channel...". Annalisa repeats Mr. Maddocks' multi-channel gTLD thesis: namely, "...a channel [is] a path for positioning the brand in the minds of consumers. Dave [Maddocks] makes the comment about .green for transparency — that's positioning."

I respectfully disagree. The notion that most generic gTLDs [like dot Green] are already positioned to accommodate brand channel partners such as this or that 'brandchannel.green' is illusion. Aside from the fact that perhaps there are not that many truly 'green' products that market themselves as such, the problem is not because the stand-alone channel concept is merit less. It is because ICANN in its infinite wisdom, and infinite greed, apparently imagined that the entire new gTLD project with perhaps hundreds of eventual TLD name strings would thereby result in a gazillion second level domain name 'labels' snapped up by people who would actually pay for each one of them, and eventually renew them — was conceptually flawed in the first place.

I do not believe that a reasonable person will conclude that to date the concept's rosy crucifixion amounts to a marketing triumph. It is anything but that, and there's a good reason for it. ICANN had it ass backwards from a utility standpoint; and, unfortunately, dot Green appears to be a victim of ICANN thinking as well as the marketing delusions of numerous other gTLD entrepreneurs who bought into ICANN's thinking.

I expect to receive push back on this from some of the new gTLD entrepreneurs. That's fine. But, here is at least a plausible argument that explains the dilemma confronted by dot Green and, indeed, many others if one relies on the new gTLD marketing statistics to date.

The reason that nearly every one of the new TLDs is ultimately fools gold for the gTLD owners (other than domain speculators) is because most of the gTLDs can be more or less replicated in the DNS by purchasing a strategically formulated second-level name and then forwarding that name to a nearly identical generic name in the dot-com name space.

In other words, it seems to be the case that the persons responsible in ICANN for what arguably was a contemplated gold mine, did not realize that while generic TLDs seem to fit with a variety of anticipated brand name companions that appear to be natural modifiers for the gTLD — selling second-level names to anyone who wants one defeats the utility of the new gTLDs, unless of course the goal is to sell as many silly labels as possible and to hell with the companies that risked good money on an unrealistic premise.

The reason is not complicated. Dot. Green, to use an example, is a 'rubric', meaning a class or category of something whose utility as internet identifier basically exists in the mind(s) of people who are given to understand what the word "green" might signify. Thus, if Mr. Maddocks' thesis of second-level domain names as brand name channel modifiers was on point in terms of ICANN's present model, the phrase 'paint.green' or 'bicycle.green' or 'car.green' or any one of perhaps tens of thousands of different generic labels that could be hypothetically useful as brand channels, falls apart. Second-level domain names per se, as distinct from brand names which by definition are not generic, signify exactly nothing other than that which independently resides in the mind(s) of people who buy a second level dot Green or dot anything domain. What on earth can the label bicycle.green possibly mean? Or paint.green?

Another way to state this is that while Mr. Maddocks' brand channel argument is a plausible one, it follows logically that to signify any brand name per se as a stand-alone 'brand channel' the dot Green gTLD would have had to be originally conceived as a restricted enterprise that would initially embargo all level two labels. This is apparently the private strategy either used or contemplated by several successful brand name TLD applicants, and it will likely work well for them because they are brand name entities to begin with.

Using the dot Green generic example, a this-or-that second-level label will mean nothing to anyone unless the second-level name has been purchased by a brand. Even famous brand names can mean little or nothing at level two unless the second-level name already represents a familiar brand, say, ford.com; or, in the case of the dot Green example, ford.cars.green in the stead of ford.green which might mean anything, including someone's name. The same applies to bicycles.green or paint.green. The latter two labels are unlikely to become channels that signify anything.

A better combination would be ford.cars.green where the level-two domain name (cars) is embargoed by dot Green, or sunlight.soap.green where the brand name 'sunlight' addresses a specific product (soap which is ambargoed) and the fact that the maker claims that the soap product itself is 'green'.

Thus, and with some exceptions, for example, city names or club names and several others where the brand name itself modifies the generic name, rather than the generic name modifying the brand, as in myname.com, it is hard to see how something close to a majority of the new gTLDs will ever recover their purchasing costs and maintenance costs, unless people continue to snap up every possible domain name on earth, which is demonstrably unlikely.

Is there a takeaway from this that some new gTLD applicants ought to think about?

What ICANN appears to have done is set up a new gTLD system that was bound to create winners and losers for arbitrary reasons such as whether the chosen gTLD string captured something in the collective brains of the masses. If I were the person responsible for dot Green, I would ask each and very domain name owner to voluntarily return their name(s), hand back the money to domain name purchasers, and completely revamp the business strategy so that all new domain names were level three names. I surmise that this also is a strategy that many (non-branded) new gTLD companies should think about, except that for some of them it is probably too late.

In the dot Green instance there seems to be only a few domain name owners and, thus, it might be feasible to change the marketing strategy and then price the level-three domain names as channels, specifically for brands.

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While .green has completed its sunrise, it Kevin Murphy  –  Mar 03, 2015 2:44 AM PDT

While .green has completed its sunrise, it isn't actually generally available yet. Its number of sunrise regs is pretty much in line with what we've come to expect from new gTLDs to date.

.Green General Availability Robert Rozicki  –  Mar 03, 2015 2:48 PM PDT

"Nonetheless, dot Green apparently ranks below 330 in the list of operational new gTLDs with an apparent total of 117 domains, give or take a few. Why is this the case?"

Because general availability is on March 24. Phew, glad we were able to clear that up.

Until .green is available to everyone ie. Michele Neylon  –  Mar 03, 2015 6:38 PM PDT

Until .green is available to everyone ie. in "general availability" any article that purports to discuss its success, failure, merits or anything else is going to be based on conjecture
Of course there's a tiny number of .green domains at the moment - the only ones that would be live at the moment are those that are registry operated or part of their "pioneer" program. I'm not sure if any of the "sunrise" names would even resolve yet ..

Some valid points, but... Christopher Hofman Laursen  –  Mar 05, 2015 3:19 AM PDT

If we for a moment forget about that .green is still not launched, I agree with your points here in general. Yes, a new TLD which doesn't have a strong identity (natural naming) and a Registry which doesn't have a top tuned marketing plan will face a hard time getting the plane off the ground.

However, what I see far too often in these discussions is a black/white opinion. The colour should be gray. The new gTLD programme will not fail. All new gTLDs will not end up on the graveyard. The new gTLD programme will not be a success either. Nor will all new gTLDs be winners.

Using the general 80/20 rule 20% of the new gTLD should get 80% of the registrations, and I think that it will also be the case here. So which ones are winners? Some new gTLDs have a strong identity, fill out a gap in the market and is presented in the right way to the right people at the right time. Off the top of my head .Club, most dot city TLDs, .app and others in Google's portfolio, .bank for the banking community, Robert's ski are the ones which come to mind. Nothing has been decided yet. The majority of the mass market don't even know that there are other options than .com. Maybe Google will change that. Who knows?

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