Criminal activities continue to be an issue and challenge for the domain name industry, and it’s one of the main issues addressed in today’s Q&A with Katrin Ohlmer, CEO and founder of DOTZON GmbH. Ohlmer cites it as a highlight and lowlight – a highlight because the industry is attempting to tackle domain name abuse and a lowlight with phishing, malware, botnets and pharming being threats to consumers putting the whole industry in a bad light and seemingly not interested in fixing the issue. Ohlmer also sees the growth in usage of .brand new gTLDs as another highlight while she says the whole domain industry could improve in terms of customer experience and customer-centric marketing and communications.
Domain Pulse: What were the highlights, lowlights and challenges of 2019 in the domain name industry, both for you and/or the industry in general?
A new awareness has been reached within the industry that many registries and registrars are responsible and taking actions against abuse, including the “Framework to Mitigate Abuse”. We started to communicate our efforts better to the community and will continue these efforts in 2020.
We noticed a growing use of domain names of .brands including the likes of .audi, .dvag and .mma – all with well beyond 1,000 registered domain names. We spotted quite a number of .brand domains “in the wild” – in print advertising, on vehicles and social media ads.
The ever-present existence of phishing, malware, botnets and pharming threats to consumers puts the whole industry in a bad light seemingly not interested in fixing this issue. The industry has to improve its communication activities within the community and to all stakeholders in 2020.
In 2020, we would like ICANN to focus again on their mission “to ensure the stable and secure operation of the Internet’s unique identifier systems”.
GDPR brought to our industry new challenges and burdens. GDPR and its consequences are an asset for our industry that personal data are not published anymore. Even though this negatively affects the interests of the trademark industry.
DP: What are you looking forward to in 2020?
KO: I’m really looking forward to welcoming the ICANN community to Hamburg in Autumn and showcasing the broad use of .hamburg domain names in the city. With and ICANN meeting taking place only for the second time ever, it will be a great opportunity for the local and national Internet community to meet the ICANN community.
DP: What challenges and opportunities do you see for the year ahead?
KO: As the next round of new TLDs is still ahead of us, .brands including some of our customers have the opportunity to showcase the many usage scenarios which they have already implemented and will be implemented in 2020.
The whole industry has to increase their communication efforts about DNS Abuse to demonstrate that they take abuse seriously. Further debates are likely whether registries and registrars will mitigate abuse beyond DNS like counterfeiting, but hopefully ICANN will stay within its remits.
Further consolidation will happen between registries, registrars and vertically integrated groups. We might also see further investments from equity investment companies within the industry.
Tech trends like Artificial Intelligence, Bitcoin, Internet of Things will improve our industry – whether process-wise, with new products or communication channels.
The topic how ICANN will consider in its actions the Public Interest – not only at the Board level, but also within the wider community – will be a challenge. A first step has been made with the proposal drafted by the Board, and further activities will likely happen in 2020.
DP: How have new gTLDs fared in 2019?
KO: We observed that the diversity of TLDs being actively used across the globe is slowly but constantly increasing. Therefore we expect a steady uptake over the next few years and establishing the new gTLDs as a valid alternative to former TLDs.
A number of the new gTLDs are doing very well – they are chosen by users because they have a meaning like .realestate, .consulting and .rich, some provide local and regional identity to users like .berlin, .bzh and .nyc, and some represent the brand online like .audi, .google and .edeka. The more generic TLDs are, the less differentiation and meaning they have making it harder to develop a long-term value proposition beyond the price.
DP: What progress do you see on a new round of applications for new gTLDs in 2020?
KO: We are currently finalising the last open issues within the Subsequent Procedures PDP Working Group. I expect that the substantive progress of our ongoing work will continue in 2020, leading to a final report being sent to the GNSO Council and later to the ICANN Board for approval.
DP: What one thing would you like to see addressed or changed in the domain name industry?
KO: I tend to repeat myself: I still think the whole domain industry could improve in terms of customer experience and customer-centric marketing and communications including lower barriers to set-up a website, easing the whole domain registration process, and setting up an email account.
For decades, customers were attracted by prices. This led to many registrations with no or very limited usage. Now it’s time to encourage existing customers to use the product they bought and improve processes for new customers making it easier to bring their website with their new domain online.