5 Questions: Brian Cute, PIR CEO, On the State of the Domain Industry and the Challenges Ahead

Domain Pulse is starting a series of quick questions on the state of the domain name industry and what 2018 holds. Our first guest is Brian Cute, CEO of Public Interest Registry, who touches on 2017, what are the big issues of 2018 including for .org, what are the growth areas for 2018 and will domain names continue to hold their relevance.

1. What were the surprises and challenges for PIR and the domain name industry in 2017? What do you see as the successes and failures?

From both an industry and organisational perspective, data and information security continue to be an area of challenge for the domain industry. For the non-commercial community on the .org domain, the internet plays a crucial role in helping to garner donations, spread awareness and foster relationships with stakeholders. Yet, we continue to see slow adoption of security, as evident in the 2018 Global NGO Technology Report, a report Public Interest Registry is a co-sponsor of with Nonprofit Tech for Good. Looking back on their technology and internet activity last year, more than 70 percent of global NGOs acknowledged accepting online donations on their website, but only 41 percent use encryption technology to protect their data and communications.

To help close this gap, in the second half of 2017 Public Interest Registry launched our NGOs and Data Security blog series that educated readers on information security themes relating specifically to non-commercial internet users, and we’ll continue to provide insight on additional themes that may impact these stakeholders in the year ahead.

2. Looking forward to 2018, what do you see happening and the challenges?

The upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) out of the EU will be a major challenge for the domain industry this year. While the most public facing change for the domain industry due to GDPR will be changes to the publicly displayed WHOIS information, the domain industry is working to come together on a model that will address all of the challenges presented by GDPR. GDPR will also be a challenge for NGOs. The regulation will impact the way non-profits gather personal information and engage with stakeholders on a global scale. Larger non-profits with IT resources will need to review and update their policies. Smaller non-profits, including those who are new to the online world, may need to seek out resources to make sure they comply with the regulation.

3. For PIR’s TLDs, how have they progressed in 2017, and what does 2018 hold?

The .org domain remains the third largest TLD, and we are proud that .org continues to be viewed around the world as offering a trusted online identify. In fact, 2018 marks the 15th year of Public Interest Registry’s management of the .org domain, and to continue to set it apart from other TLDs we will continue to educate new customers on the value of aligning with the domain’s brand identity.

4. What do you see as the growth areas going forward in 2018 and beyond?

From an industry perspective, a large growth area I see in 2018 is continuing to push for internet access to the 48 percent of the world’s population that does not have it. Public Interest Registry remains vigilant in continuing to raise awareness of this gap, and educating new and existing internet users about how to use the internet effectivity.

5. Will domain names continue to be as relevant as social media grows in prevalence and mobile phone apps become more popular?

We believe domains will continue to be relevant even as social media and mobile apps grow. However, we also believe there is an opportunity for registries and registrars to work together to understand what users need and what their pain points are in using the internet. We know different platforms are used to communicate online, but users may not understand the difference between a social media platform, domain and a website, and be able to activate each to their benefit. Armed with the understanding of what users are seeking from each platform, collectively the domain industry can better position and educate around our product.

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