Nominet sees Opportunities and Risks

Experts debated what 2008 will mean for the domain name industry at last month’s registrar conference held by .uk registry Nominet, predicting strong growth for the suffix. There were also warnings from some quarters over the continued rise of the practice of domain tasting, and firms were urged to tightly manage their domain name portfolios.

Lesley Cowley, chief executive of Nominet, predicted the UK top-level domain would reach 10 million subscribers next year, but she added that trust and security would increasingly be differentiators for registrars as they seek to retain customers.

The issue of trust is going to be a key factor in this industry over the next year, and something we will continue to monitor, added Nominet chairman Bob Gilbert.

A new domain name industry report from Nominet also pointed to strong growth in the industry, with 60 per cent of businesses surveyed for the research saying they supported a .uk domain. In addition, firms were urged to ensure they have a clear timetable for registration of their domains, because any lapsed names could be snapped up by domain tasters.

Domain tasting is the practice of registering domain names immediately after they have expired, monitoring how much traffic they receive and then either dropping them before the five-day grace period expires and therefore avoiding a fee, or taking them up and monetising the site through advertising.

The practice is widespread in the .com domain, although Nominet said it has taken measures to prevent registrars doing this with .uk names. Nominet’s Phil Kingsland warned that roughly seven per cent of .com and .net names are subject to domain tasting, which amounts to around six million names at any one time.

Also at the event, Cowley predicted that proposed generic top-level domains (gTLDs) for geographic regions and cities could soon become a reality as Icann looks to liberalise the industry laws governing the creation and running of these domains.

There have already been thousands of applications for new gTLDs, including .lat for Latin America and .london, explained Cowley. I think [the domain] will probably happen because there’s sufficient demand, she added.

Jonathan Robinson, chief operating officer for internet services firm Group NBT, highlighted the role of domain names as central to the success of the internet.

They are at the heart of every single e-commerce and email interaction ­ a vital link between the online and offline business and a system that has remained remarkably stable, he added.

But internet consultant Jarrod Robinson argued that the proliferation of web search tools on users’ desktops means that many now bypass domain names completely when trying to find a business or service provider.

There was also apprehension among the registrar community about the possibility of Google, Yahoo and Microsoft beginning to offer domain name services. Group NBT’s Robinson encouraged registrars to find niches to operate underneath the web giants, in order to differentiate themselves.

Source: Phil Muncaster, IT Week – 29 Nov 2007

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