plans to roll out an unlimited number of new TLDs
has, for the most part, divided people into two distinct
camps. On one side there are the traditionalists who believe
the original extensions, led by the undisputed king, .com,
will continue to reign while hundreds of new gTLDs die on the
vine. On the other side are those who believe the introduction
of so many new gTLDs at once will finally break .com's stranglehold
on the public's consciousness and lead to widespread use of
have heard all of the arguments from both sides of the
fence, so we went looking for someone who might have a
more balanced view - someone with a stake in both .coms
and new TLDs who could weigh in on the pros and
cons of new TLDs for both camps. That led us to Ben
Crawford, the CEO at CentralNIC,
a company that owns the world's best portfolio of two-letter
.com domain names, including such geographically
oriented gems as US.com, UK.com, EU.com
and NO.com. CentralNIC will also be very involved
with new TLDs as you will learn in our interview.
ago CentralNic began using their top tier .com domains
as the foundation for a new sub-domain based namespace
of their own, selling names like newyork.us.com, london.uk.com,
etc. So, alternative naming conventions are ingrained in
their DNA, just as .com is. Here is what Ben had to say
about the hottest topic on the Internet today.
As CEO of a company that came up with its an innovative
way to expand name space, we were wondering how you felt
CEO Ben Crawford
introduction of an unlimited number of new TLDs and how
you think those will impact CentralNic’s business of
selling sub-domains of premium .coms. Do you think the
new alternatives will be more attractive than the .com
options CentralNic currently offers or do you think the
long-established .com extension will insulate you from
that new competition?
Crawford: You’re right that CentralNic has been an
innovator for sixteen years. Starting from an initial insight
that domains ending .uk.com are a viable alternative to domains
ending .co.uk, we have built a portfolio of 27 geographic
domain extensions, such as .US.COM, .EU.COM for Europe
and .CN.COM for China, as well as .LA for Los Angeles.
our domain extensions to stand their ground against
the new TLDs. In many cases our extensions are simply
better than the proposed alternatives. For example, I
believe that .com.de and .de.com are
better extensions for Germany than any of the
proposed German province or city name TLDs, because they
cover the whole country and they combine the worlds’
two most successful domain extensions. And obviously
when TLDs like .nyc, .miami and .paris
begin to educate consumers about city TLDs, our .LA domain
will benefit enormously (as no-one applied for any Los
Angeles-related new TLDs).
expand on that question, who do you see as the likely overall
winners and losers in the domain industry as a result of the
introduction of so many new TLDs?
Crawford: The main losers are the people who missed
out on the new gTLD round because, unlike successful domain
investors like Frank
Schilling, they couldn’t understand the value of
TLDs, or unlike Google themselves, they believed that new
TLDs wouldn’t rank on search engines. Other losers will
include anyone who entered the round with inadequate funding
and patience – as there will be a much greater investment
of time and money required before anyone sees a commercial
return. I’m happy to say that winners will include owners
of premium .com domains, as an expansion of the domain
market will continue driving up values.
the entire domain industry will need to contend with is the
potential that Google will win a large number of their 101
applied-for TLDs and start giving the second level domains away
for free. They already give away free third (and fourth)
level domains and site-building software through their Get
Business Online programs around the world, so we have every
reason to believe they will do the same with their new TLDs.
After all, a world where every small business has a website is
the perfect world for a company that derives 96% of its
revenues from online advertising.
view, it will actually benefit the domain
industry to have the resources of Google supporting
businesses in obtaining their own domain names and
websites rather than relying on Facebook pages.
As we’ve seen with the email market, Google and other
huge providers of free email services haven’t stopped
companies investing billions in paid email services, and
I believe the same holds true for domains.
On a side note, CentralNic has been developing an upmarket email
service using our premium .com domains, selling the best email
addresses in the world to people who value quality and can
afford to pay for it. So for instance my email address firstname.lastname@example.org
is not only a hugely valuable networking tool (because nobody
ever forgets it), but also quite the status symbol. Someone once
asked me if I’d been awarded my email address by the
While CentralNic is heavily invested in .com I know that the
company is also positioned to benefit from new TLDs by providing
backend services to new registry operators. I understand that
you have already signed agreements to do so with some operators.
What can you tell us about that business?
Crawford: “Backend services” is really only the tip
of the iceberg of what CentralNic provides. We have
developed and operate our own registry engine which
already supports 27 domain extensions and is above-ICANN
specification in every way, We also provide global domain
distribution and cash collection via 1,500 integrated
registrars and their 100,000 resellers. And we offer
in-house strategic advice, sales and marketing services, as well
as financing, and we are the world’s only certified carbon
|We expect to
experience a very high rate of growth thanks to
new TLDs. CentralNic is the registry service provider
for 60 new TLD applications – which I’m proud
to say is more than any other company headquartered in
Europe. Our clients fall into two categories – our
widely-copied DotBrand Solutions offering brought
us clients from across three continents applying to get
their own brands as TLDs - including several multi-billion
dollar businesses like Saudi Telecom and Kuwait
Finance House. Plus, we are the registry services
partner for a number of very savvy entrepreneurs
applying for about 40 different domains to be
sold through our registrar channel.
Did CentralNic give much thought to applying for their
own new TLDs to augment the many great .com domains
you hold? What were the pros and cons in your mind of
taking the company in that direction?
Crawford: Of course we gave the subject a great
deal of thought. Many of the applications we are supporting
are on a close partnership or revenue share basis with our
clients. But with regard to making cash investments, we
decided it would be wiser for us to come into the next round
of funding for TLD applicants, when it will be clear what the
competitive landscape looks like. I am pleased that we made that
decision and confident that we will be hugely value-adding
investors in some very successful TLDs. So if there are any
Applicants reading this looking for some additional investment,
give me a call.
With so many new TLDs
coming on line it look likes getting “shelf space” is
going to be one of the biggest challenges that new registry
operators will have to overcome. How do you think they can get
the visibility they need and what are the other key
hurdles they will have to overcome to become profitable?
Crawford: Obviously the actual string is only
a small part of what makes a TLD succeed or fail. Most
of the TLDs applied for by people who aren’t
CentralNic clients will be unprofitable,
domains that achieve millions of registrations.
The main reasons will be because they are paying too
much for registry services. Also anyone using a
back-end company that isn’t already fully integrated
with registrars and selling domains globally will suffer
a massive disadvantage. Many will also find out they
have to pay much more than they budgeted on sales and
marketing to achieve their desired sales figures
from registrars – because in a highly competitive
wholesale market, the retailers call the shots.
if you want profits from your TLD, I would advise you to
bring it to CentralNic. We could turn a profit on every
single non-brand domain applied for with ICANN, as our
marginal cost for launching new domains is very low
compared to anyone else’s. We launched four new
extensions in the last two years, so we also have more
recent launch experience that any other company.
In closing, are there any final thoughts you would like to share?
Crawford: I guess I would add that CentralNic is a
strong advocate of and believer in the future of .com –
after all, we are owners of an amazing portfolio of .com domains
ourselves, but we are also very aware of the great value
companies find in our alternative domains, like ACTIVIA.US.COM,
AVON.UK.COM, and PALMOLIVE.EU.COM. And registrants will also
find terrific value in new TLDs like .WIKI, .INK, .FEEDBACK,
.CONTACT and so on.
One of the
main benefits our alternative domains and new TLDs offer is availability.
Compared to .com and the major country codes, we have millions
more premium-quality domain names available at retail prices,
and millions more coming. Which means our customers can get the
names they want – whether it’s their business name, keywords
that their target audience searches for, or just the name they
the name you actually want is not just a “nice-to-have” in
business. In fact, Dennis Engel, the CEO of the UK’s
leading SEO consultancy, Web Marketing Group, recently
announced their conclusion that CentralNic’s extensions
“represent just about the only remaining opportunity to get
your target phrase into the domain, which can really help
shorten the SEO process.”
The way we
look at it, .com is like the world’s best restaurant, but
they’ve sold out of every dish on the menu. So come and try
one of our restaurants instead – we’ll serve you exactly
what you want!