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What Do Bitcoin, Cloud Computing and the New gTLDs All Have in Common?

Colin Campbell

I am a student of life, learning one hard lesson at a time. In fact, I actually dropped out of my last year of college to start a tech company in a new space called the internet. I was an entrepreneur running an online service prior to the advent of the world wide web in 1992, back when Pine, Usenet, and Gopher ruled the information superhighway. Over the last 25 years, I have learned a great deal about technology adoption cycles by launching six internet companies, each at the forefront of a new technology wave.

Time and time again we have seen similar patterns that emerge in the way that users adopt new technologies. From dialup internet to broadband, downloadable software to cloud-based computing.

To this day, no one has done a better job explaining these patterns than the preeminent technology writer Geoffrey A. Moore, who wrote the book "Crossing the Chasm" originally published in 1991. A quick search of "technology adoption cycle" on Wikipedia shows how Moore changed conventional thinking for tech startups over the last 25 years from a simple bell curve to one that shows a variation by adding a chasm and a tornado.

Overarching Model – Market Maturity Life Cycle (Source: TCG Advisors)

The early market is made up of technology enthusiasts like myself who buy anything that is really cool or bleeding edge. I own an electric car with autopilot, an iPhone X, my home is fully automated and controlled from my phone, and I even own a memory foam black ice infused mattress. I think you get the point. Early adopters tend to have the money and enthusiasm to acquire new technology at higher prices, helping fledgling startups get off the ground.

Then we have the Chasm.

I call it the dark days of a technology startup. A virtual nuclear winter. The enthusiast innovators who jumped on your product on day one have all moved on to the next shiny object. They are gone, and now all you have left are the pragmatists, the leaders of innovation - those who take a chance on solving a problem.

The fact is, there are just not that many leaders who are willing to take the leap into the unknown. Accordingly, relatively few companies to date have adopted the new gTLDs as compared to most expectations. While some are quick to label this as failure, the truth is that what we are experiencing with the new gTLD's is very much in line with historical patterns of innovation and new technology. More often than not, new tech startups tend to have sales declines or very modest growth after the initial launch. The excitement of the shiny new object begins to wane. This is no different for the dozens of new gTLD operators.

We don't know when winter will pass, but it will. Chasms have no time frame. In some innovations, it can go quickly, but more often than not it takes years. You may have heard the phrase; it takes ten years to create an overnight success. Well, despite how fast the tech industry moves, there is no difference.

Some chasms never end year while others take years. Think of the original Apple tablet, the Newton, a complete failure long before Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone and iPad. Did you know that bitcoin launched in 2009? Cloud computing started in 1999 - we called it an Application Service Provider (ASP), and then Software as a Service (SAAS), and now it is "cloud computing."
At Hostopia, my previous company, we were in competition with website building tools that were downloadable while we insisted on the crazy of idea of having customer's build their site online. In the early days, we were getting killed. Bandwidth costs, platform development costs, and changing technology made for a difficult environment. For example, in the early 2000's the web-based programming language JavaScript changed to new version rendering all prior versions inoperable unless you updated your browser. We literally had to choose between our old customers and new customers, incurring massive inconvenience for the small businesses using the site design tool. Technology hurdles, lack of demand, high operating and development costs all liter the landscape with remains of the startups caught up in the chasm.

When it seems like the winter will never end, it begins to thaw, and for those companies that survived, a tornado of demand hits.

In 2017 we saw bitcoin and crypto blow up. In the 2000's companies like Hostopia, Salesforce.com, and NetSuite all pioneered cloud computing. Today Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, Wordpress.com, Gocentral from Godaddy all are online applications helping small businesses establish a presence all with billions in market cap. Imagine asking a small business owner to download a software or buy a cdrom/diskette from a store to build their site?

Just as sure as the sun will rise, I believe that the new domain extensions will enter the early majority phase. In fact, we are nearing the tipping point as we continue to see momentum gaining with very recent sales like Casino.online for $201K, the.club for $300K, and home.loans hitting $500K. Usage is on the rise with more and more brands beginning to use new domain extensions.

Over the last few years I have attended dozens of tech startup shows which typically featured 90 percent of startups using a misspelled .com, with the rest using .io, .co, .us and a maybe 1 or 2% using one of the new gTLDs. Those who know me, know I've been to a lot of startup shows over the years.

I just got back from the North American Bitcoin conference with well over 5,000 attendees. I could not believe my eyes as I saw 6 or 7 of the 40 vendors featuring new domain extensions for their startup. This has not been my prior experience.

The new gTLDs are stuck in a chasm as gTLD operators struggle to make a profit. The lack of global awareness persists and challenges in technology adoption remain.

However, the tipping point is coming.

The sales, the usage by startups, and media impressions are all picking up. Many entrepreneurs are starting to see the benefits of a correctly spelled domain over a misspelled .com, including SEO potential and brandability. It is not dissimilar to the rise of great brandable names in the nineties.

Will new extensions become mainstream tomorrow, a month from now or even years from now? No one can answer that. But to be sure, the tornado will arrive.

By Colin Campbell, CEO
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