Q&A With DOTZON’s Katrin Ohlmer on Year in Review, 2019, GDPR and Future of Domain Names

In the second of our series asking industry figures and companies to comment on their highlights and lowlights of 2018, looking ahead to 2019, the EU’s GDPR as well as the future of domain names, Katrin Ohlmer, CEO and founder of DOTZON GmbH, gives her views.

DOTZON is an international management consulting dedicated to digital identities. Since 2005 they’ve worked with companies, cities and organisations for the concept, application and operation of their own top-level domains. DOTZON helps their clients protect, establish and strengthen the digital identities of brands and companies. Since 2017 they’ve published the annual Digital City Brands study and since 2018 the Digital Company Brands study.

Domain Pulse: What were the highlights, lowlights and challenges of 2018 in the domain name industry for you?

Katrin Ohlmer:

A growing interest in domain names as such, both from the business and consumer side. We’ve noticed an increased interest by various stakeholder groups on Internet Governance topics, which might lead to a shift in the Internet Governance Stakeholder Map in the next few years.

Stolen data sets, as in the cases of Marriott, LinkedIn and others do not give consumers the security they need. Also, the whole domain industry could still improve in terms of customer experience and customer-centric marketing and communications. In 2019, we would like ICANN to focus again on their mission “to ensure the stable and secure operation of the Internet’s unique identifier systems”.

For sure all the new processes around GDPR, especially the closed public WHOIS.

DP: GDPR – good, bad and/or indifferent to you and the wider industry and why?

KO: Good for me as an individual since spam is extremely limited nowadays. Indifferent for a registry operator as no personal data is available to gain insights about their customer base in order to market the TLD. Bad for trademark owners who used to be able to contact registrants easily and negotiate a solution for a domain name without going to court.

DP: What are you looking forward to in 2019?

KO: I’m looking forward to seeing new creative use cases of .BRANDS following the ones we saw in 2018 like www.doc.new by Google and www.berlin.audi or www.weare.audi.

DP: What challenges and opportunities do you see for the year ahead?

KO: The challenge for the ICANN community will be two-fold: On the one hand, we will have to agree on how to handle the GDPR topic in the future. On the other hand, we will have to finalise the last steps in the review process of the last gTLD round and collect input for improvements for a new gTLD round, where we play an active role. I’m looking forward to seeing the results for both of these activities in 2019.

DP: 2019 will mark 5 years since the first new gTLDs came online. How do you view them now?

KO: Millions of domains under the new gTLDs have been registered and hundreds of thousands of great domains are in use. This is great news! But: Although there are many attractive new top-level domains, they are still a minority in the market, whether as brand, geo or generic TLDs. The market is only slowly adapting to this wider variety. However, it can be observed that the diversity is slowly but constantly increasing. We therefore expect an uptake in the long run.

DP: Are domain names as relevant now for consumers – business, government and individuals – as they have been in the past?

KO: The awareness of domain names among consumers has certainly decreased. At the same time more and more businesses go online and need a website. We therefore see a continuing demand in domains, which we can foster by delivering easy-to-use products whose features meet demands.

The first in this Q&A series was with EURid, manager of the .eu top level domain, and is available here.

If you’d like to participate in this Domain Pulse series with industry figures, please contact David Goldstein at Domain Pulse by email to david[at]goldsteinreport.com.