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Response to Inaccurate .travel Wild Card Assessments

Ronald N. Andruff

Bret Fausett's recent assessment of Tralliance's ".museum-like" wild card is just dead wrong. If Tralliance is so focused on monetizing its search results, why, then, would we not capitalize on the cornerstone of our registry, directory.travel?

The fact is .travel is a sponsored space on the Net that is designed to do one thing and one thing only: Serve its constituency. For years the community has heard me at the open forum microphone reminding the ICANN board of directors that the industry was anxious to have its own domain to enable it to improve business efficiency, access global markets, and provide for effective marketing capabilities while we waited and waited for the sTLD RFP to be released. Now, five years later, .travel has been operational for some eight months and while we can boast that almost every major brand is in the registry, there are still hundreds of thousands of place names (cities, towns, heritage and sacred site, national park and reserves) as well as travel industry SME's that have not yet registered. In the meantime the consumer media is picking up on the virtues of .travel and are writing stories, doing short television pieces and the like, which, in turn, is leading to people from all over the world to type in one thing or another into their browsers and put .travel behind it. The result? With only 20,000+ registrations to date, more often than not, instead of a satisfactory consumer experience (i.e., being taken to an advertising-free landing page where they would be given another opportunity to try to find what they are looking for), they get an Error 404 message!

Wasn't the whole idea behind new TLDs to better serve Internet users? I ask you, is the .travel Registry serving the user by frustrating them (and potentially rendering the .travel space useless in their minds) or by building a registry that fulfills the needs of both travel consumers and travel industry by giving users a second chance to locate that which they are seeking?

I can see Bret's skepticism regarding this being a money-making activity, but please, be realistic. There are two things that one should keep in mind. The first refers to directory.travel — the heart and soul of the .travel sTLD. As we have said from Day 1, directory.travel will have no advertising, no placement fees, no keywords sold. It will present search results in a uniform, unbiased manner, in random order based on the merits of the offering with all results matching the query 100%. A tall order, to be sure, but you'll find it in my first comments from five years ago. To become the effective and valuable tool for consumers and the industry alike that we envision, the directory needs to achieve critical mass. But, because the directory data is self-loaded (only each individual registrant can load their respective profile) and as this is a long-term migration, as noted below, the "full-blown" directory will take time. In the meantime, however, it is obvious that we also need to provide users with the information about .travel registrants that they are seeking and we are doing so via search.travel (which pulls data from directory.travel as well as a well-known search engine).

The second aspect, which Bret has identified in his blog post, is potential click-through revenue. I think that you may be confusing the promotion of www.canada.travel and www.utah.travel, which are presented for marketing purposes only, as click-through ads. That is absolutely not the case. We have stated both publicly and in our application that no "broken search" will ever land on an advertising supported page of any kind.

It may be that Bret truly believes that travel consumers are madly clicking on every ad they see, or it is assumes that Tralliance will garner the type of traffic that VeriSign sees, however .travel is clearly not in the same league as .com. Therefore — after a user has made the choice to proceed past the landing page — as is well-defined in our application to ICANN, any amount of money that may be earned through users clicking on well-defined sponsored links (and they clearly make their own choice to do so because of their relevancy to the query) will be virtually nothing when compared to the volumes of traffic and sums driven from such an offering in the .com space. Moreover, the simple reason that we are using the same format as Google, Yahoo and Ask.com (with sponsored links that come from our provider, not Tralliance) is because we live in a "googlized" world and consumers expect to see the same format in our search results pages as they see on the others. Therefore, on search.travel, Tralliance is delivering search results exactly as users have come to expect with the sole difference being that any and all .travel registrants that match a particular query are displayed (in random order) on the top of the search results pages with all other matches that use a non-.travel TLD, coming after them. All in service to our constituents.

In summary, in order to meet the wishes of the global travel and tourism community, we are asking ICANN to allow an end-to-end user experience in the same manner as .museum does. As our registrants go about loading their profiles into the directory — as part of the authentication and registration process (recognizing that the move from their existing domains to .travel is a migration of the global travel and tourism industry that will take years) — we will deliver users to a landing page devoid of both advertising and click-through revenue opportunities, giving them the option to continue with their research via search.travel, and soon, directory.travel. This will serve every traveler researching information on the Internet; it will serve every travel supplier that offers a matching product or service being researched by efficiently matching them to qualified buyers; and, most importantly, it will serve the long-term interests of the Internet by providing a complete end-to-end result instead of delivering users to Microsoft's site finder page or delivering them a fruitless Error 404 message.

Thank you for allowing me to set the record straight.

Ronald N. Andruff
President
Tralliance Corporation
The .travel Registry

By Ronald N. Andruff, President & CEO, dotSport LLC
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Re: Response to Inaccurate .travel Wild Card Assessments George Kirikos  –  Sep 20, 2006 8:48 PM PDT

With theglobe.com's stock price hovering around 10 cents per share, ICANN should make sure there is an adequate data escrow in place for .travel in the event theglobe.com (owner of Tralliance) ceases to exist.

As I'd mentioned in my .asia comments, metrics should have existed from the start to determine whether probationary new TLDs deserve to continue their existence in the root, or whether they should be yanked if they failed to meet minimum standards. With only 20,000 registrations, certainly .travel doesn't represent a successful rollout of a a new TLD.

If the wildcarding of .travel *doesn't* represent a moneygrab, feel free to send 50% of the audited advertising revenues to me. :) I will pay Tralliance $1 for that 50% perpetual royalty (good consideration is required to properly form a contract!). If the wildcard isn't a moneygrab, you're $1 ahead. Consider your response (or non-response) to my offer carefully.

Re: Response to Inaccurate .travel Wild Card Assessments George Kirikos  –  Sep 20, 2006 9:04 PM PDT

By the way, the words "virtually nothing" were used when describing the amount of money to be made by users clicking on ads. If that's so, why are there ads on CNBC marketing search.travel today? Certainly Tralliance doesn't expect to be losing money on those television ads if "virtually nothing" is being earned by those visitors, today.

It would be hard for one not to think that Tralliance is simply seeking free traffic to its own commercial website through the wildcard, to boost its own financial results. That's an advantage no other .travel registrant gets. If one is doing this "in service to our constituents" and one doesn't really care about the money, feel free to send half the "virtually nothing" audited revenues to me, in exchange for that $1 above.

Re: Response to Inaccurate .travel Wild Card Assessments Karl Auerbach  –  Sep 20, 2006 10:43 PM PDT

Woof.

You say .travel is on the net to "serve its consitutiency." Then you say that it is there to the "internet user".  Which is it?

Personally I don't give credence to the claims that a TLD, and the years of waiting, were necesary to serve the perceived clientelle of .travel.  There was absolutely no technical reason that clientelle could not have been served equally well years earlier via a name under a pre-existing TLD.  It's just having one's own TLD creates sex appeal and marketing hype.  So I tend to believe that the facts demonstrate that the higher goal was simply to get a TLD rather than to serve some community.

Now, as far as the claims about HTTP 404 responses - DNS is used for a lot more than web pages.  All the SSAC comments that were true about Sitefinder and how it badly affected other protocols, and even HTTP when no human user is present, are equally true about what .travel is trying to do.

Now I personally would not really care if .travel used DNS technology in abhorrent ways - that is except for one thing:  .travel went in, lobbied ICANN like the dickens.  It created a situation in which others who aspired to a TLD were displaced and left to wait - and they still wait - on the sidelines.  And for .travel to now change the rules would be unfair to those who have had to wait.

So, tell you what - If, with your active support, ICANN starts adding new TLDs at the rate of at least one per business day (200 per year) and backs away from beauty contests, technically irrelevant reviews of business plans of applicants, and drops the application fee to the cost of asking whether the applicant is willing to abide by published, broadly accepted technical standards, then I'll say its OK for .travel to turn DNS into a glorified spell checker.

Re: Response to Inaccurate .travel Wild Card Assessments John Berryhill  –  Sep 27, 2006 9:31 AM PDT

Can we all agree to stop referring to "404 error" when we are talking about "server not found"?

A 404 is returned by a web server when the file requested is not found.  When there IS no web server associated with a domain name, you DO NOT get a 404 error.

They are two entirely different errors.  Saying "404 error" in this context merely tells me "This person does not know what they are talkking about."

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