Back in 2012, when nearly two thousand of new gTLDs’ applications were submitted to ICANN, InterNetX Corp. had anticipated the netizens’ need to expand their horizons and to have opportunities to become more active on the Internet, while adding value to the digital world through the creation of more businesses and reliable online brands.
InterNetX Corp.’s CEO, Thomas Mörz, who has built an impressive career in the domain industry for 20 years, shared with us his insights on the performance of new gTLDs in the European, Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) markets, based on his experience with the Registry side of the business. In this exclusive interview, Thomas compares and contrasts some of the different factors that play an important role in the way these two markets have embraced and taken (or maybe not yet) advantage of the new gTLD extensions. These factors provide each and all netizens with the opportunity to leverage them by claiming their piece of virtual real estate within an ever-growing namespace.
For 20 years, Thomas has built a very respectful career in the Domain Name industry, where he has played important roles. He has been the CEO of InterNetX GmbH since 1999 and he is also chairman of the company PSI-USA, Inc. Since 2001, Thomas Mörz has been a member of the board of directors of the Afilias registry. Through the target markets of InterNetX’s Registry business and all his experience within the industry in general, Thomas has learned about how the European as well as the LAC regions have embraced the new domain extensions. Keep on reading to get enlightened by his insightful perception of the discussed subject.
- Over the last couple of years, some of the new domain extensions have gained a steadfast level of acceptance in the European business world. When comparing the latter market with the level of acceptance from that of the LAC market, there is still an obvious gap. What kind of awareness boost do you believe is needed in the LAC region to help close that gap?
Due to the fact that the new gTLDs have brought about changes to the way Registries operate especially in the LAC region, it is to some extent, the responsibility of each Registry to raise awareness on its respective gTLD(s). That said, promotions and campaigns are crucial to increase awareness and, as a consequence, to also increase the demand for the new domain extensions in the region. Although it is very important to spread the buzz about the new gTLD being promoted, it is also essential to consider the aspect of retaining the existing customers. For that, providing great customer service and leveraging cross-selling opportunities with other attractive products/services will always be solid resources to keep customers happy and to avoid that they leave a domain name get expired. In turn, a combination of these initiatives will eventually have a positive impact in helping to close the gap of the new gTLDs’ current ranking of acceptance in the LAC region.
- From a Registry business’ perspective, what do you believe are the greatest challenges that affect the expansion of the new gTLDs in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)?
First of all, it is worth noting that the LAC region’s increase in Internet usage has led to more constant initiatives towards its digital transformation. The LAC population’s online participation (compared to a decade ago) has undoubtedly transformed the way it engages with the digital world, particularly, in the way its citizens do business. This is actually one of the main reasons why we, as a Registry, believe the LAC region is a promising niche for the domain industry. However, there are still indeed great challenges that obstruct the expansion of new gTLDs from the Registry perspective.
Here are a few:
- The sales channels: The lack of ICANN accredited Registrars in the region makes it hard for Registries to easily reach end-customers. The latter challenges Registries to become more recursive; almost redefining the sales dynamics.
- Awareness and visibility: As mentioned right above, between the lack of accredited Registrars and the resellers’ lack of confidence to offer new gTLDs to their customers, the awareness and visibility of new domain extensions are still pretty low compared to other regions. Then again, leaving the Registries with a job at hand to be handled more strategically.
- Fees: In the LAC region, the demand of a .COM domain is still notably high. The affordable price of a .COM, especially when the extension is offered in a convenient bundle by hosting providers, tends to obscure the value of an attractive new gTLD sold at a higher price.
- Payment options: On one hand, many resellers have not yet implemented easier online payment options which help facilitate the process of purchasing a domain name. And, on the other hand, this matter draws attention to a bigger issue - that is: a safer online infrastructure that is trustworthy enough for users to confidently perform online transactions.
- What are some consistent aspects that facilitate domain registrations under the new gTLDs in the European market?
Among some of the consistent factors that have facilitated domain registrations under the new gTLDs in the European market and that are worth highlighting are:
- A solid administrative infrastructure: the market is enriched with many ICANN accredited Registrars and also a huge network of local providers.
- A well-established technical infrastructure: nearly all EU countries/regions benefit from a stable and fast connectivity to the Internet. The latter being a factor that makes the registration of domains an easy and simple online process (this includes also the registration as a new customer, the billing, registration and renewals of a domain name, and so on…).
- Corporate email addresses and a professional online presence are high priorities in the EU market: the EU corporate scene acknowledges the importance of a serious and reliable online image/reputation which is used to represent themselves to customers and third parties. Additionally, the social media networks are being leveraged as channels to drive traffic to the companies’ websites as part of a marketing strategy, but so far most EU companies do not consider these platforms a replacement for their corporate websites.
- Local laws and regulations promote businesses to go digital: in the EU market, not only marketing-and-sales-related matters influence businesses to build an online presence, but also local laws and requirements that companies must fulfill once they are registered as businesses. Having a structured website makes it a lot easier for brands to abide by such laws, rather than just showing up on social media.
- Economic stability: Many of the countries in the EU region enjoy a solid economic stability. The local presence of renowned headquarters for global brands plays an important role in injecting the region’s economy. This is positively reflected in the index of EDB (ease of doing business) across the region. Therefore, for individuals and companies alike, something so standard in this digital era, such as covering the costs of annual domain registrations and fees related to maintaining an online presence (web space), doesn’t represent a financial burden.
- Data Protection & Privacy are top commodities: The EU region places great priority on the privacy and protection of data which in turn promotes trust among its “netizens”; and thus, their confidence to get more involved with online activities. The passing of the GDPR law, back in May 2018, shows EU’s level of commitment towards paving a safer and more private digital future
- In your opinion, are there still noticeable matters related to the Internet infrastructure and its development in the LAC region which may be challenging the population’s ability to participate online and – therefore – to register domain names?
From the Registry business angle, among the main factors, that still negatively affect in some extent the online participation of the LAC population, are: as I just mentioned above, the high correlation that still exists between the low quality cybersecurity policies and the users’ low levels of trust to make purchases online; economic factors that still impede certain nations from the region to benefit from broadband connectivity; a lack of language representation in the online world – where English is still the dominant language – resulting in a space that is not so inviting for the percentage of the LAC population that only speaks its native language (or dialect); the complexities that face international investors when doing business in the region. The latter being a dynamic that, if carried out successfully, promotes entrepreneurship; and thus, the creation of new business owners wanting to build an online presence.
- Do you believe that the strongest trends related to Internet usage in LAC, such as online activities performed through a mobile device and the increased engagement with social media networks, are similar to the trends in Europe? How could registries best leverage those trends to better penetrate the LAC market?
Even though in both, Europe and LAC, online activities are equally performed more and more through a mobile device, specifically through a cellphone – with Brazil, Argentina and Mexico ranking among the top 10 Facebook users worldwide – it is no secret that the LAC population is particularly social. Meaning that the time spent on social networks is significantly higher. Therefore, given that Registries have to be distinctly creative and strategic to penetrate the LAC market with the new gTLDs, a great way to quench the thirst of the so-called sociable netizens is to give them the content that they like to consume and to be present in the channels that they frequent. Through our experience, we have learned that the LAC population is more inclined to consuming videos (then YouTube is a great channel for promoting). It is also a community that shows a remarkable interest in learning about digital trends and tools. Thus, blogs and infographics posted on different social media platforms are always a good way of delivering informative and valuable content.
- In order to organize the large number of applications under the new gTLD program, that were submitted to ICANN back in 2012, different categories were assigned. One of such categories was called businesses’ domains (corporate identifiers). Why did InterNetX Corp. pick this particular category for its applications? What is special about it?
When the new gTLDs’ applications under the corporate identifiers were submitted to ICANN, InterNetX Corp. understood the need for a solution to the fact that the current TLD space had become saturated, also with business names; leaving companies with rather unsatisfying options to really be able to establish a meaningful and contextually relevant Internet identity. Therefore, InterNetX Corp.’s main purpose was to provide businesses that opportunity to establish meaningful and relevant identities while building a more professional and trustworthy online presence to promote their companies. It goes without saying that the nature of this opportunity is also available to allow companies to stand out in a web space that has become more and more concerned with the intrinsic value of reliability and professionalism when it comes to carrying out business relationships and activities. InterNetX Corp. anticipated capturing a percentage of those businesses that want to be early adopters of such opportunity to register a domain name in which significant effort will be put into in order to build unequivocal brands in the web space.