The biggest challenge for ICANN and the new registries is to get users to accept the new gTLDs, and service providers to implement support for the new domain endings in all corners of the Internet.
We are remarkably good at telling each other within the registry-registrar business, that an endless amount of business opportunities have raised, after the new gTLD program was launched to increase choice in the domain name space. But we keep forgetting the point, that if users are not comfortable using the new gTLDs, we are not going to see high enough renewal rates in the coming years, for this to be profitable for the registries.
Even within our own ranks in the business, we are not able to take the lead and show how it’s done. My very best and most worrying example is the Swedish registry .SE who has not yet implemented support for the new gTLDs in their EPP whois-update command for .se domain names. This means that domain owners are not able to use an e-mail address created on a new gTLD as the owner e-mail on a .se domain name. This is far from the only example and it contributes to consumers’ uncertainty about the new top level domains.
We cannot expect users to adapt and trust the new gTLDs if we do not show them how to, by making sure that the new gTLDs are exactly as accepted as any other more well-known TLDs.
I am fully aware that this cannot happen overnight, since a number of technical limitations needs to be handled in numerous different applications. However the industry needs to be fronting this, and take their responsibility seriously in terms of pushing awareness campaigns.
ICANN decided to move forward on the new gTLD program in 2005 – 10 years have passed and still the majority of the internet users does not know that a domain can have other endings than .com. According to a recent survey conducted by ICANN, 79% of the respondents in the US did not know a single one out of 14 new gTLDs they were shown. On top of that, it is noticeable that all of the 14 TLDs that were shown to the respondents are within the top20 of the most registered new gTLDs, so they represent a clear majority of the most visibly known new gTLDs.
ICANN together with all its numerous stakeholders needs to focus more extensively on telling the story about the new gTLDs, creating awareness around this massive change of the Internet, and making sure that the new gTLD program are not a fairytale of great opportunities that never comes through.