2013 was one of the most exciting and forward – looking years for our Industry, and here we are, right at the beginning of 2014. Shall we look into the crystal ball and see what the horizon up ahead likely holds for us? We hope and foresee that a lot of everyone’s hard work will eventually begin to pay off this year. We also believe that the industry will witness a huge change; opportunities and possibilities that were never before thought of.
1. The Year of Internet Innovation
Never before in the history of the Internet have we seen so much innovation set to happen in such little time. A large chunk of New gTLDs are expected to go live in 2014! We are about to witness innovation in business models, in marketing strategies, in partnerships, in technology and more in the year ahead.
2. Make Hay until the ‘Sunrises’
The Year-Over-Year Domain Market growth slowed down in 2013 compared to 2012.
The gTLD market grew by only 8% (19.6m domains) YOY this year (Q3 ‘12 – Q3 ’13) compared to 12% (26.4m domains) YOY growth last year (Q3 ’11 – Q3 ’12); down 4% points. ccTLDs saw only a 14% (14.7m domains) YOY growth (Q3 ‘12 – Q3 ’13) down 6.7% points, from 20.7% (18m domains) YOY growth last year (Q3 ’11 – Q3 ’12).
This year, being the year of many launches we see two possibilities. First, there could be a slight decrease in the growth of existing big gTLDs including .com and .net, but an overall increase attributed to New gTLDs. Second, existing gTLD Registries could get aggressive on pricing and marketing efforts early on in the year, to lock-in a larger customer base.
3. The Start of De-commoditization of Domain Names
A domain name is a domain name is – wait a minute – not-just-a-domain-name! We will start to witness the de-commoditization of domain names driven by the differentiation and unique identity value that New gTLDs promise to offer. While existing gTLDs will continue to rule for a while, category TLDs may this year set the stage for rapid future growth in their respective spaces. Finally, consumers will now know that there is more to the Internet and websites than .com.
4. Registrars will Differentiate
Registrars and Webhosts will be keen on integrating with most New gTLDs but may only invest in marketing a select few. Registrar shelf spaces will have much more variety and color, but each will have a signature set of preferred TLDs. Their choices will be based on their business goals, relevance and of course demand from within their existing customer base. So, no two Registrar shelf spaces may look the same now on.
5. Exploring New Markets
Registries will actively pursue entry points to customers such as the Web hosts and Registrar channels. Although, since New gTLDs are a win-win for both the Registry and Registrar, Registrars may also be keen to form strategic partnerships with relevant TLDs. For some niche category specific TLDs, tapping existing customer bases may only get them this far, so in these cases it will be interesting to see Registries partnering with entities outside of the Internet industry, in an effort to create new demand in uncontested market spaces. IDNs will begin to make inroads into non-English speaking markets.
6. Registry – Customer Direct Engagement
Registries will actively market directly to end-customers, automatically competing with Registrars. We will start to see Registries going so far as to position themselves as one-stop shops, providing domains within product-bundles such as website builders, hosting relevant to that specific TLD market.
It will be interesting to know whether you agree, differ, and if you have any more thoughts on these and also do share your own forecasts for this year in the comments below.
Happy New Year!