10 Predictions for Domains in 2012

The new year is upon us after a lot of exciting things happened this year. Normally domain news and events don’t crossover into mainstream all that often, but this year saw ICANN’s new TLD program, the .xxx release/controversy and the GoDaddy SOPA debacle. All three have been continuously reported on in mainstream media since they broke out.

It’s obviously impossible to predict a situation like the GoDaddy SOPA one coming about. That said, I can still offer some predictions on what I think will happen with domains – overall, certain extensions, certain facets of the domain industry etc.

My predictions for domains in 2012

1. The new TLD program will progress as planned despite opposition

This is tough to predict as the organizations against the new TLD program involve many huge corporations. That said, many have since gone from adamantly opposing the program to mostly just sorely complaining about it. Some of those organizations have even started demanding that it be opened up more and allow for more approved extensions vs. not wanting it to exist.

Note that the FTC, members of the U.S. Congress and some others have brought up the thought of doing a pilot release initially, which would mean far less extensions the first year. So far ICANN has given no indication of scaling back the first year, with applications being accepted weeks from now, so it would seem that the full program will be happening.

Note that no extensions will be approved or released until 2013. As for what will be applied for, I predict about 70% brands, 10% geo (mostly large cities) and 20% other generic terms (.ngo, .bank and .music are rumored already)

2. The .xxx hype will die down considerably

The hype has already seemed to slow somewhat after the release of .xxx. There’s only so many stories of “XYZ registered their .xxx domain” that mainstream will run with before readers become bored. Many mainstream entities will see how little support .xxx actually has in the adult space and will see little need to protect their trademark in the extension.

It was my belief that high registration fees and lack of adult industry support would ultimately do the extension in. Unless there’s massive development on the extension, only the highest tier of names will get the traffic needed for profitability. The registry will still have made a nice profit, but .xxx simply won’t be adopted enough to see it continue to grow. A significant percentage of them will be dropped after the first year.

3. The .co hype will die down even further with more drops

After O.co switched back to Overstock.com, the damage was severe enough that the .co registry had to make a statement filled with positive spin. Twitter’s use of T.co is only marginally good for the extension as it’s visible but not a brand or standalone website. Lack of companies using .co as primary brands will hurt it further, and more Super Bowl commercials won’t be enough to reverse the loss of hype.

As the first year of .co ended, they reported having a 68% renewal rate, which was fairly respectable given the massive launch efforts. I believe as August 2012 rolls around this year heralding year 3 of the extension, that rate will have dropped considerably.

4. Good short brandable .com domains will become hard to find available or for a reasonable price

As new entrepreneurs now realize that most of the larger sites online use short brand names, these names have started to be in high demand. It’s still possible to get reasonably short domains available for registration that aren’t awful, though not nearly as good as those taken and for sale. It will get much harder to find them and the good ones on the market will shoot up in price in the coming year.

Now that Facebook is an undeniable superpower on the same level as a Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon, social media may as well be as established as anything those other companies do. Higher quality short brandable .com domains will in turn start to become as much of a focus as the generic domains that have generally commanded the attention and sky high prices.

5. Extensions .me, .ly and others commonly used in social sites will continue rising

While .co never had a unique purpose other than to essentially be a .com knockoff, .me, .ly, .io, .am, .fm and others have gained steam in the meantime for social media sites. These extensions serve a unique purpose of creating numerous word, phrase and brandable domain hacks highly popular in social media sites. Even MeetMe.com thought it important enough to have Meet.me that they spent nearly half a million dollars on it.

There are issues to be aware of using such extensions, such as Libya’s unrest which has caused uncertainty in .ly domains. That said, as long as social media loves cute names, these extensions will continue to build registrations and success. The availability of these names has helped this trend.

That said, one extension that hasn’t really taken off as much in social that I believe still won’t is .in. Despite all the hack opportunities, the fact that it represents India and came out close to 7 years ago has worked against it for this recent trend. The good domain hacks would have been taken long ago in .in by speculators and lack of available names will get in its way.

6. Continued rise in larger sales due to investment money and savvy companies

Some of the more successful startups of the past couple years led the way this year in getting the .com of their names – Instagr.am, Box.net. Additionally, many have gotten better versions of their starting name, such as BankSimple.com buying Simple.com. This trend will perpetuate itself, with new companies seeing more examples like this and realizing they need to get a better name to compete.

Additionally, major forces like SalesForce.com have been buying more top tier domains, understanding the absolutely invaluable benefits that come from the highest tier domains. As returns from some of the traditional marketing methods continue to diminish and give way to online and mobile marketing, domains will shine as a way to catch attention, bring in valuable natural traffic and effectively corner a market.

7. Despite growth and exposure, domains still won’t achieve widespread “mainstream” status in 2012

The power of having a great domain will somehow continue to be a relative secret in 2012. Only the most savvy startups and established companies will be buying better domains on the secondary market. The rest will continue to respond better to GoDaddy commercials centered around getting a cheap domain. Domains will continue to simply be a means to an end vs. an opportunity for most.

Some progress will surely be made and more people than in the past will understand the gravity of their domain choice. Ultimately however, it will be many years if ever when domains will be taken as seriously as other mainstream industries. The good news is this still means that buying a better domain gives you an edge over most of your competitors that don’t know any better.

8. GoDaddy will survive just fine with little harm done

I’ve speculated in comments on other blogs that a significant portion of potential GoDaddy boycotters wouldn’t end up moving domains off. It introduced a sudden cost which can add up for hundreds of domains. Also, private registration would have to be removed before transfer, and I suspect many people using private registration wouldn’t ever want to turn it off.

The main reason they’ll still do fine is they understand what has already appealed to the mainstream market. February will bring another Super Bowl, another chance for them to solidify their stature in the domain world. Until other domain registrars step up and even remotely compare to GoDaddy’s marketing force, GoDaddy will continue to dominate.

That said, this is part of what illustrates point #7. I saw many people ask for recommendations of GoDaddy alternatives as the boycott heated up. It indicated that people simply don’t even know the other companies in the domain industry. GoDaddy has been the window into our industry, and even as NameCheap and other registrars win some of their business, the domain industry “pioneer” of recent years now has an even worse reputation to the mainstream world.

9. No major political domain sales will happen

Yes, 2012 will be quite an election year. 4 years after the last one and with the internet that much more a part of everyone’s lives, you’d think there’d be a good chance politicians might “get” domains. They haven’t yet showed that though, and I don’t expect them to start. Heck, Rick Perry even let his .com expire last year! (he uses the .org)

This means I predict that the infamous TeaParty.com that went up for sale this year won’t change hands in 2012. Would the political Tea Party get more out of it than the $1+ million price? Probably. Do they realize that? Highly doubtful.

Simply put, the leaders of these parties are entrenched in old world industries and ideologies and simply don’t understand the need for paying that much for a domain. Perhaps they should look at the example of the company with more cash on hand than the U.S. government (Apple) buying a brandable domain (iCloud.com) for $4.5 million as evidence of their importance.

10. A new “cloud”/”tube”/”blog” type word will become powerful

Cloud took the business world by storm over the past year and became quite a power word like tube and blog before it. It was around before that but really took off in 2011. There’s not necessarily one of these words every year, but I believe another one will arrive in 2012.

Of course, actually knowing which word will become powerful would be nice, but I’m no Nostradamus!

What do you think 2012 will bring for domains?


10 Comments on “10 Predictions for Domains in 2012”

  1. petrogold says:

    Hi Steve,
    Happy New year.
    Your predictions are invaluable. I do agree most. However, you did say nothing of .mobi.
    Many single words are dropped. What that means? will it die so?
    I booked a few names .mobi as found interesting. Of course. no traffic yet on single page developed. Please say something on .mobi or other ccTLD predictions.
    Also please say somehting about PPC companies’ future.
    Thanks & best wishes.

    • Steve Jones says:

      Hi Gr. Altaf,

      There’s not much to say about .mobi. It’s been a relatively dead extension for the past few years now. Smartphones pretty much sealed its fate, as there was no need for a mobile version of the web. Also, when m.domain.com can work just as well, there wasn’t really need for .mobi anyways. .mobi will stay dead.

      Other ccTLDs will stay on their current course and not have much major movement one way or the other except for the ones I mentioned.

      • Altaf says:

        Hi Dear Steve,
        Thank you so much for caring. I do appreciate. Tell me more on other extensions:
        .net, .org, biz. as I am a great lover of registering a few domains daily.-need great feedback from a great person like you. I read your posts regularly with special interests.

        Wish you to have a great year 2012.
        with best regards,


  2. Timm says:

    Nice list, Steve! The great thing about annual predictions is this time next year, nobody will remember if we were right or wrong. 😉 However, I disagree with your negative assessment of .CO domains. The .CO business seems to be accelerating, at least for us. .COM domainers are naturally threatened by .CO, but companies worldwide are embracing the .CO domain as an affordable alternative to the sky-high prices of .COM.

    • Steve Jones says:

      Thanks Timm. It’s certainly possible that any of the predictions could wind up being wrong. I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised if .co still stays relatively successful, but I believe it did take a huge hit once O.co rebranded back to Overstock. Obviously it’s still a great extension for URL shorteners, even if those single-letter domains cost those companies up to $1 million each. But for an actual brand on a regular .co domain, I haven’t really witnessed a major force yet. The extension needs successful sites on it to continue to be relevant.

  3. Very nice!

    I do believe, however, that .co will generate another hype, just because Godaddy is backing it strongly.

    • Steve Jones says:

      .co won’t die so to speak, but I don’t believe it will ever have a better fate than .biz for instance, which still isn’t a very respected or well-used extension. GoDaddy will back .co only as long as the .co registry is willing to pay them the millions of dollars they are – if registrations start to decline, they may not see the reason to do it. I don’t believe being in the Super Bowl a second time will help nearly as much as last year.

      Keep in mind when new TLDs enter the fray, if there are a significant number of “.com alternatives” among them, that could hurt .co. As it is, that’s its only purpose, so if there are more extensions available to fulfill that same purpose, those extensions will start to take some of those .co registrations away. But new extensions aren’t coming until 2013, which is why I didn’t mention that in the article.

  4. I’m no expert – I’m pretty new to the business of buying and selling domain names. But I strongly believe we will indeed see .XXX slowly but surely snuggle its way into the mainstream 🙂 It just makes sense. For as long as I can remember – Triple X has always been associated with Sex. In the very near future, anytime somebody wants to visit a porn site, they’ll type in “expletive.xxx” The world (the part of it that hasn’t banned the extension) will begin to catch on.

    • Steve Jones says:

      The only way people will ever mentally default to .xxx for adult sites is if there are well-known adult sites on .xxx. Thus far, nearly all well-known companies have stayed away from .xxx because they fear the consequences of the adult industry moving to .xxx.

  5. Sharon Hayes says:

    Reblogged this on Sharon Hayes Dot Com.

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