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The State of the Industry 2018: 24 Leading Domain Experts Analyze What Happened in 2017 and Tell You What to Expect Next

By Ron Jackson

Welcome to our 14th annual State of the Industry Cover Story! Every January, since 2004,we have called on leading experts from all corners of the domain industry to get their thoughts on the most significant trends of the past year in their sectors and what they expect to see happening in the new year ahead.  

We called on corporate leaders (including Founders, CEO's, Presidents, VPs and Business Development Directors), domain   investor/developers, brokers, monetization and financial services firms, attorneys and community advocates. The people we call on are some of the busiest 

Image from Bigstock

in the business so we sincerely appreciated the record high response rate we received this year, allowing us to assemble our biggest panel of experts to date - 24 in all -  for this special report. Of course, quality is our most important consideration and we think you will agree that this is a group of professionals that, by any measure, would be hard to top. 


Our 2018 Panel of Experts






















Row 1: (left to right): Tobias Flaitz (Sedo), David Warmuz (Trellian/Above.com), Brian Cute (PIR, the .ORG Registry), Jeff Gabriel (Uniregistry). 

Row 2: Anand Vora (Donuts Inc.), Sandeep Ramchandani (Radix), Nicolai Bezsonoff (Neustar), Joe Alagna (Afilias). 

Row 3: Mike Robertson (Fabulous.com), Michael Castello (CCIN), Morgan Linton (MorganLinton.com), George Verdugo (CasasBaratas.com).

Row 4: John Colascione (Long Island Media Inc.), Ray Dillman Neu (MERGE!), Kate Buckley (Buckley Media Group), Andrew Rosener (MediaOptions.com). 

Row 5: Ryan McKegney (DomainAgents.com), George Hong (Guta.com), Nico Zeifang )Team Internet/ParkingCrew.com), Michael Gilmour (ParkLogic.com).

Row 6: Brandon Abbey (Payoneer), Edward Zieden (NamePros.com), Enrico Schaefer (Traverse Legal), Zak Muscovitch (DNAttorney.com, Internet Commerce Association).

Domain Investors

Regardless of what sector of the domain industry you work in we believe you will benefit from reading the opinions voiced by all 24 of our experts. However, if you want to start with comments from experts in a particular sector we have grouped them in five categories for quick access. On this page (where you are now) you will find Corporate Leaders Tobias Flaitz, David Warmuz, Brian Cute, Jeff Gabriel, Anand Vora, Sandeep Ramchandani, Nicolai Bezsonoff, Joe Alagna and Mike Robertson

On Page 2 you will find Domain Investor/Developers Michael Castello, Morgan Linton, George Verdugo John Colascione and Ray Dillman Neu, as well as Domain Brokers Kate Buckley, Andrew Rosener, Ryan McKegney and George Hong.

On Page 3 we bring you experts from Domain Monetization & Financial Services Nico Zeifang, Michael Gilmour and Brandon Abbey, along with a Community & Legal Matters grouping that  features Edward Zeiden and top attorneys Enrico Schaefer and Zak Muscovitch (Zak also speaks from his role as Executive Director of the Internet Commerce Association).

Whether you pick Door #1, #2 or #3 as your starting point you are in for a great overview of the domain industry today, so let's get this party started!

Corporate Leaders

Tobias Flaitz
CEO, Sedo.com

Most of our corporate leaders have a hand in multiple areas of the domain industry making them the ideal point men for covering the broad stretch of ground this report encompasses. Sedo CEO Tobias Flaitz is a perfect example as the leader of a company that has been a pioneer in both the domain aftermarket and monetization spaces, as well as a key player in helping new gTLDs gain global recognition. 

Tobias Flaitz
CEO, Sedo.com

As far as significant events, Sedo visited 40+ events in 2017, worldwide and with industry focuses that varied from tech to marketing to our own industry niche. For us the most significant domain industry events to note were NamesCon, Domaining Europe, NameSummit and the WHD series. 

Now onto trends for which I have three different trends or areas impacting the last year within the domain industry and more specifically Sedo’s role as the leading domain marketplace within this landscape: 
a) New gTLDs being adopted by startups and the importance of legacy domains
b) crypto-currency related domains
c) India as an emerging market

New gTLDs

As we reported in our own newsroom there’s been further adoption of new gTLD extensions by startups. This is countered by a lot of reports of the decline of new gTLDs. Sedo has long been a strong supporter of new gTLDs but have always stressed that only through thoughtful and effective marketing will there be success. And as we enter the fifth year since these were first

on the scene it’s even more important to ramp up promotion around registrations and adoption in general. More and more names are past their “launch” phase and need to be looking at what they can do to further the life of these names as they enter their true usage phase. 

Crypto domains

Crypto-related domains especially the latter part of the year made headlines and boosted sales across all marketplaces and sales forums. Verisign recently reported that the last month of 2017 included nearly all crypto terms for its sales. This is the pattern we’ve seen all year long and is fueled by the momentum behind currencies among more than just the tech savvy consumer and investor. Especially the bitcoin and etherum currencies were in the spotlight of sold domains/most important keywords in domains sold.  


India continues to escalate its presence in the domain world. Like China, India has an ever increasing growing amount of internet users who are looking stake their claim on digital real estate. While the U.S., China and Europe are still the major players in our industry, India has seen some great strides in domain investing and technology. We attended the first annual WHD.India/Namescon India in Mumbai along with other conferences in India and were able to see firsthand how the passion and enthusiasm for domains is growing rapidly within this market. At Sedo, we also welcomed a new Indian Registrar Partner, EIG making access to this market easier than ever for our customers. 

Looking ahead to 2018...  

New gTLDs and legacy TLDs

As we have stated in the past, the adoption of the new names is an ongoing process that will take both time and collaborative efforts between service providers like Sedo, Registries and Registrars. Creating awareness for the importance of a domain name is of course not limited to gTLDs: the public still needs to be reminding that their domain is their home, no matter if it is .com or .shop in the end. Over the next year, Sedo will continue its support of registries through unique promotional opportunities such as our 2018 agency & event roadshow. We’ll be rolling out literally a new promotional tour in the Sedo bulli bus visiting conferences and fairs as well as marketing agencies and digital influencers. In addition to creating awareness about domains and Sedo in more traditional ways by visiting our event booths, we’ll be coming directly to prospects and customers like the clients of agencies via this out of the box way. The Sedo roadshow will spotlight not only our brand and how important domains are but will also feature our Registry partners and their names while educating on intelligent domain brand marketing.  

Our main focus is to highlight why companies need a strong domain strategy:

A domain is their unique identifier to their own virtual real estate and their control to represent their brand, campaigns, products or in general their business.  

All of the collaborative efforts in the works are fully supported by Sedo’s well developed global sales network and best-in-the business brokers.  

And in parallel to this interview we will be announcing a new partnership with Donuts to sell their exclusive platinum inventory (reserved, super-premium domain names) through our SedoMLS reseller network. In addition, this unique partnership will also support tiered pricing of domains carrying a premium renewal fee. This is a jumping off point for Sedo to establish similar collaborations with other Registry partners, too, showcasing their names to Sedo’s extensive customer base.

On top of that, we have several new registrar partners paving the way in 2018 towards further growth within our SedoMLS network: HiChina of Alibaba Cloud Computing Ltd., Webnames.ca and Rebel.com have now all implemented SedoMLS, helping sellers to sell their domains to an even larger audience and serving buyers to find their preferred domains easier than ever.  

Crypto Domains & more trends  

At Sedo, we’re close to sharing some big news on the Crypto front (so consider this an exclusive sneak peek!), we’ll soon be carrying .ETH names on our marketplace. These names are the gateway to the future of currency transfers avoiding long and cumbersome of traditional hexadecimal addresses by using the Ethereum blockchain technology. Sedo’s global reach to potential buyers, mainly end users, will help sellers of those domains to get more awareness for the crypto currency topic and its related domains in general. Please stay tuned for a more formal announcement of this to come. It will be exciting to see how domain sales with crypto related keywords will develop in prices. This is similar to domain sales under the TLDs .ai and .io: Those saw already an increase in sales volume in the past year. Sellers can count on this continue in 2018, especially in combination with keywords from the AI and Fintech industry.  

GDPR – the new Whois

It is unlikely that anyone from the domain industry is unaware of the GDRP topic that will impact every member of the domain industry this year: (https://www.icann.org/dataprotectionprivacy). It is our belief – backed by extensive data in our databases and very skilled and professional sales channels along with input from our solid partnerships with registries and registrars – that Sedo will prevail strongly through the challenges presented by this change. Even anticipated challenges require good solutions and cooperation industry-wide. Our marketplace will be prepared for the provided final solutions from a selling and buying perspective to ensure the continued ease we already provide within domain trading.  

David Warmuz

Founder & CEO, Trellian.com and Above.com

Trellian.com Founder David Warmuz celebrated the company's 20th anniversary in 2017. David, who serves as CEO of both Trellian its popular domain monetization, aftermarket and brokerage platform, Above.com, launched Trellian with his late brother Ren and their remarkable journey was detailed in the November 2017 DNJournal Cover Story

David Warmuz
CEO, Trellian.com & Above.com

The first key trend to emerge from 2017 was the record number of portfolio transactions taking place throughout the year.    

But the most significant trend is the substantial increase in demand for domain traffic coming from our direct advertiser network.  This resulted in higher revenue payouts for our Maximizer clients.  In some cases, our clients saw direct advertiser revenue increase well over 400% during last year’s holiday season.   Not only are our advertisers demanding more traffic, they are willing to pay more for each visitor.  

The most notable event in 2017 was the exit of two major parking services and the re-entry of SmartName, which created huge uncertainty that still remains for domain investors.

Looking ahead into 2018, early indicators point to a great year for Above.com and our clients with some high brokered sales such as Supernatural.com for $215,888.   

In our industry, we anticipate more of the same consolidation and further increases in demand for domain traffic from direct advertisers due to the high conversion results.  

The opportunity for Above in 2018 is having access to big data to optimize where traffic is sent and to provide the data to empower investment decision-making. This is a particularly relevant opportunity for domain investors who have challenges finding the time and resources to manage their portfolios.  At the end of the day, we develop technology for all domain investors as we want to see this industry grow and increase in value year to year.   

Brian Cute

CEO,  Public Interest Registry (the Administrator of .ORG)

Brian Cute oversees the Public Interest Registry, the administrator of one of the big three original TLDs - and one that many believe is the most trusted domain extension in the world - .ORG. While .ORG is often associated with non-profit enterprises it enjoys widespread use in organizations and enterprises of all kinds and that has made the TLD a reliable performer in the aftermarket as well as a popular choice among those registering new domains. 

Brian Cute
CEO, Public Interest Registry (.ORG)

In 2017, I believe data security was the most significant issue impacting the not-for-profit domain space. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), like many organizations, rely on technology to help them achieve their mission. In fact, according to the 2018 Global NGO Technology Report, 72 percent of respondents accept online donations, yet only 41 percent use encryption technology to protect data and communications. As the internet continues to evolve we see more issues threating online trust through hacks and data breaches. It’s more critical than ever to recognize the importance of online security and for organizations to ensure the safe keeping of the data entrusted to them from stakeholders. At Public Interest Registry, it’s a top priority to help nonprofits understand the risks they face online and provide education on the tools that can be helpful to create safe and secure connections with stakeholders, supporters and donors. While the surge of cyber threats is a concerning trend, it shouldn’t discourage organizations from using online tools to engage with key audiences.  

As we move into 2018, Public Interest Registry will continue to advocate for a safe and secure internet and be a voice for all users on the internet. We’ve implemented the Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) with the 

domains we operate to protect internet servers from domain name system attacks. We’ve also developed a strong anti-abuse policy that targets technical abuse, such as phishing, and will continue to be a resource for nonprofits working to keep their information safe and secure. For data security tips, nonprofits can reference our recent three-part blog series which includes best practices for preventing a data breach, the key elements of a data breach response plan, and what to do in the aftermath of a breach.

2018 is not only a big year for the internet, it’s a big year for Public Interest Registry. January 2018 marks Public Interest Registry’s 15th anniversary as the operator of .org. With this milestone, we want to continue to assist more people who are looking for a resource to help fulfill their missions, and grow .org to ensure it remains the primary domain and connector for mission-driven organizations. It’s also critical that we continue to educate both existing internet users and organizations coming online for the first time, about how to use the internet more effectively and the benefits of a trusted online identity like a .org. With social media platforms offering “free” services and networking, we need to educate users on the value and importance of a domain name and a website to control their messaging and how they interact with their stakeholders, supporters and donors.  

Another big item that will impact organizations from a variety of industries is the new European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance beginning in late May 2018, which will cause global organizations to operate differently. GDPR compliance will kick-start a renewed sensitivity to privacy and may present some operational challenges that global organizations will need to watch out for. The increasingly complicated environment surrounding privacy and security on the internet will also mean larger nonprofits with IT resources will need to review and update their policies, and possibly expand operational capabilities. Conversely, smaller nonprofits, especially those new to the online world, may need to pay close attention and seek out the resources they need to ensure they’re compliant.  

With these regulatory changes comes significant corporate and organizational challenges that will impact organizations both large and small in the year and years ahead. No matter the size, the .org domain represents noncommercial organizations around the world making a difference and Public Interest Registry remains committed to helping them navigate these shifts so they can continue making a positive impact on the communities they serve. 

Jeff Gabriel

Vice President Of Sales,  Uniregistry.com 

Jeff Gabriel, who was profiled in our February 2016 Cover Story, has been a major force in the domain aftermarket for many years and he still holds the record for brokering the highest priced domain sale ever made public - Sex.com at $13 million. At Uniregistry he oversees a powerhouse sales platform (founded by industry legend Frank Schilling) that books tens of millions of dollars worth of sales every year. 

Jeff Gabriel
Vice President of Sales, Uniregistry

There are two main trends that I have seen over the course of 2017. The maturity of the new GTLDs that are not so new anymore. Those who were early adopters have built matured, and successful businesses by leveraging the benefits of a GTLD. They have proven the concept. Other companies are following suit. The demand has risen, and thus average prices have gone up. Uniregistry and our competitors continue to sell big-ticket GTLDs, and such sales are becoming commonplace. We will have more sales to announce soon along with one huge one. 

We have also realized a healthy return of the Asian markets. In Q4 the number of sales we made as a company rose significantly in Asia in dollar volume, and in units sold. This was not just to China, but we had what could be the highest .IN sale of all time. Unfortunately, it cannot be disclosed.

Looking ahead to 2018...

A few years ago I was asked about what the next year will hold for the industry, and I said we would see a year where larger companies purchase other companies in the space.

That happened. It continues to happen. I think we are going to have more strings change hands than ever before. Additionally the Brokerage market will continue to grow, with .com remaining king. The large Brokerages and marketplaces will continue to innovate, and bring industry changing products to market. Uniregistry will certainly be one of them.

Anand Vora

Director of Business Development,  Donuts Inc. 

Anand Vora is the Director of Business Development for the world's largest administrator of new gTLD registries - Donuts Inc. Donuts has more than 200 TLDs in their portfolio. In November 2017 Deloitte named Donuts the fastest growing tech company in North America. They were in the news again as we were going to press with this article, having closed the biggest new gTLD domain sale ever reported - Home.loans at $500,000.

Anand Vora
Director of Business Development
Donuts Inc.

2017 was a terrific year for new TLDs. Some noteworthy trends

· Consolidation and expansion with registries / registrars. Donuts acquired Rightside in July, with a combined portfolio of 238 new TLDs, and is now the largest portfolio holder for new top-level domains. At the same time, new entrants included Wordpress, Baidu and Squarespace. New entrants make for new dynamics and fresh thinking: we welcome them!

· More high-visibility uses of new TLDs. Companies of all sizes are relying increasingly on new TLDs to promote their websites. Some examples: www.thecommuter.movie, www.io.games and www.tmobile.careers.

· New uses of new TLDs. Businesses are leveraging the power of “real words” for advertising and marketing. Often, this means use of a new TLD to redirect or deep-link traffic to a particular web page. Examples include:  www.home.credit and http://www.amazon.store. Others are using new TLDs as more meaningful pathways into social platforms. Example: http://www.fitlo.live (link to Facebook page).

These new uses are increasing the number of new TLDs per end buyer, too, as they realize the benefits of more consistently managing their brand identity across a variety of different environments.

· International growth – especially China. With government licensing of new TLDs finally under way by mid-2017, the Chinese market is poised for growth in 2018 and beyond.

What's in store for 2018...

· Quality becomes even more important. As businesses continue to form and expand, they will look to quality new domain names that help them manage their digital brand identity more consistently and more compellingly. In this context, “quality” means names that are meaningful, have been adopted by other quality companies, and are in active use for websites, advertising campaigns, digital marketing landing-pages, redirects and deep links to specific web pages, and shorter / more relevant links to social platforms.
Directly related to quality, we believe that new premium domain names will command even higher prices in 2018 and beyond, as businesses and domain investors alike recognize their  increasing value.

· New uses of new TLDs will continue (blockchain, voice apps). We are seeing blockchain start-ups embrace new TLDs for their digital brand identities, but we’re also seeing blockchain technology innovations that leverage the DNS. For example, Netki is leveraging the DNS for blockchain identity in compliance-related applications. GeoNetwork is leveraging the DNS for its highly precise, 3D geospatial mapping services platform.
Regarding voice applications, with the popularity of Siri, Alexa, Cortana and others, we predict that new domain names will be a very important way for companies to connect with customers. Think about it: it’s much easier to say a “real word” phrase such as “peets.coffee” than to say “peetscoffeedotcom”.

· More reasons for registrars / resellers to (re)engage with customers. The traditional model was to help a new business initiate its web presence, and then reconnect at subscription renewal time. But we predict expanded uses of new domains will increase the number of “buyable moments” in the end customer’s business lifecycle. There will likely be new kinds of value-added services (VAS) needed, to support these new uses. We predict that value-added services (VAS) will expand in scope and reach in 2018, and that will mean good things for registrars and resellers.

Sandeep Ramchandani

CEO,  Radix Registry (part of the Directi Group) 

Just this month Sandeep Ramchandani completed a 15-year rise through the ranks to become CEO at Radix Registry, the operator of nine new gTLDs and one re-purposed ccTLD and part of industry giant Directi Group. Radix now has over 3 million domains under management.

Sandeep Ramchandani
CEO, Radix Registry

As a nTLD registry, the most vital current trend is the increasing acceptance of the annuity premium model. A vast majority of our premium names sales are taking place through registrars who are selling to actual end-users. We had taken a gamble based on the logical reasoning that startups and SMBs would much rather take a low-risk, low-upfront cost, despite the recurring premium fee, vs making a large upfront investment.

●  Recent sales

Contrary to popular belief on the last Quarter being a slow month for premium revenue with the holiday season, we actually had one of the best months with December 2017 alone raking in more than $100k in annuity premium sales (recurring premium names). Among notable sales were 13 travel-related names in .FUN picked up by a VC. These are the kind of end-user sales that would really help consolidate the place of good new extensions in the mainstream.

We’ve seen a huge demand from China as well. In January, coin.STORE was picked up for $26k/year through Alibaba. While this could be a case of a solid sale riding the crypto wave, in case of more 

established vertical TLDs like .TECH, we’re seeing more and more 5 figure sales of nice, brandable one-word domains. For instance, edge.TECH sold for $17,500 in Jan 2018.

●   Actual Websites

As per data from Namepulse, of the premium names that were renewed in H2 of 2017, 20% have a developed website, with 66 websites that have at least 5 pages.  16% premiums have a placeholder and 14% redirect. These are really encouraging stats that show more and more end users who have purchased premium domains are putting them to good use.

In the last year, we’ve seen more brands pick up premium domains for fully developed websites (Intel using insight.TECH) or new projects (Google using business.site for Google My Business).

●  Celebrity Usage

Aside from premium names, many global celebrities have been using .STORE for their official merchandise stores and are now actively promoting those domains through their social media accounts. In .STORE alone,  at least 10 such influencers ranging from Dude Perfect (YouTube fame), NFL’s Antonio Brown to Grammy winning artists like Lorde & Gorillaz, have mentioned their .STORE on their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

●  Funded Startups

As per Crunchbase data, 15+ startups on Radix extension have raised more than $430 million in VC funding, with .TECH having more funded startups in Crunchbase’s top 10,000 list than any other new TLD. In November 2017, we supported more than 50 startups using a Radix domains at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal.

Another encouraging milestone, is the widespread availability of non-premium nTLDs. Just 2-3 years back, we faced quite a bit of skepticism when getting the registrar and reseller channels to actively sell our nTLDs. In a relatively short period of time, we now see almost every major Registrar and Reseller offering a wide portfolio of nTLDs. At the back of strong shelf conversion rates, many of the top providers, including, GoDaddy, Namecheap and HostGator are actively marketing our TLDs.  

Looking ahead to 2018...

Some of the trends that I forsee are:

1)  Consolidation among registries: I expect that single TLD operators will fold into portfolio companies. The portfolio companies enjoy a significant comparative advantage due to higher economies of scale. Single registries, which possess strong TLD assets will find suitors in the form of portfolio TLD operators which have an appetite for further investment and growth.

2)  High value premium domains: In search of higher revenues, I expect to see registrars significantly ramp up their capabilities to offer higher value premium names. A large part of this supply will be fulfilled by nTLD operators who are capable of offering premium names through EPP at recurring cost per year.

3)  Quality domains from China: I expect to see higher value transactions coming in from the Chinese market but unlike the speculative deals of the past, this time, these transactions will be purposeful and backed by an intent-to-use by genuine companies. So as opposed to seemingly random short series of alphabets and numerics, these domains will be of meaningful Chinese IDNs or English words. 

Nicolai Bezsonoff

Vice President & General Manager, Regsitry Solutions, Neustar

Nicolai Bezsonoff was a Co-Founder of the .CO Registry that was acquired by industry giant Neustar (the administrator of the .BIZ and .US registries and the registry sedrvices provider for many other extensions). Bezsonoff remained with the Neustar where he has been on a steady path upwards having just been promoted to his current post this month. 

Nicolai Bezsonoff
Neustar VP/General Manager,
Registry Solutions

For Neustar, 2017 was a year that did not disappoint in terms of exciting developments and innovations in the Registry space. The activity we’ve seen and the conversations we’re having with brands are showing that attitudes are genuinely changing. These organizations are becoming increasingly frustrated with their dependence on paid search and the third parties they have to go through to reach their own customers. The world’s biggest brands are demanding more insight and more accountability for their ad spend (see the comments from Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer at Proctor & Gamble), and this is leading some to see the potential for .brands to contribute to this and give them greater control of the customer experience.

As brands look for more innovative ways to get their message to customers, we saw a rare and highly-publicized advertising campaign from Amazon Web Services using buildon.aws as the call-to-action. Throughout the year we also saw

new and developed .brand sites from the likes of Google, Microsoft, Audi, Pioneer, Canon, FOX, BMW, and many more. The sheer power of the organizations joining this space speaks for itself.

Beyond .brands, we’ve seen a natural slowing down of growth rates in the new gTLD space as we move through the product lifecycle stages. However, this has also shone a spotlight on those TLDs that are leading the way and tapping into consumer needs. It’s kick-started a time of industry consolidation as market leaders emerge and less successful players reassess their options.

On a less positive note, but of great significance, we saw a number of security incidents that once again highlighted the importance, and growing complexity of the cybersecurity space. Data breaches and DDoS attacks reminded us how vital it is that the security industry remain ahead of the game and continue to innovate in threat mitigation.

Looking ahead to 2018...

Firstly, the momentum we saw throughout 2017 bodes very well for .brands in 2018. Marketers are waking up to the fact that the way we do digital today has evolved into an unmanageable beast, and we need to keep looking for better ways to reach customers and build connections online. I believe .brands have a huge role to play in this, and 2018 will see more widespread advertising campaigns featuring .brand domains like Amazon’s buildon.aws campaign.

As brands look for innovative new ways to connect directly with their customers rather than relying on social media gatekeepers and search, the value of these branded domains becomes even more crystal clear. We’re predicting 2018 to be the year when demand for a second round of new TLD applications truly reaches a deafening level. Particularly among those brands that didn’t apply in the first round and are seeing their competitors gain a first-mover advantage, and those global cities that want to truly become digital cities like .nyc, .london, and .berlin, we think pressure on ICANN to expedite the processes required for a second round will continue to increase and become more urgent.

For digital businesses around the globe, and of particular interest to us at Neustar, cybersecurity and its impact on business will continue to be a significant point of focus. With attacks becoming more and more complex, we’re continuing to work with clients and customers all over the world to create products and services that can out-maneuver the malicious actors – such as the impending completion of our DNS upgrade. We have significantly increased our DDoS mitigation capacity from 1.1 to 10Tbps (the largest in the world) in response to the growing magnitude of attacks. We’ve also implemented a highly distributed scrubbing architecture of 27 global nodes to effectively handle traffic and attacks from every part of the globe and at the same time significantly growing our SOC and Threat intel capabilities. Finally, we have moved upstream as well as launching our own WAF solution to protect not only the network but also the application layers of our and our clients’ infrastructures. With this ever-changing field of cybersecurity, we predict it will be another major focus of 2017 and we’ll continue to monitor, accelerate and defend the largest online brands from constantly evolving threats.

And finally, as the new TLD space continues to mature I expect we’ll see further consolidation within the industry from that in 2017. Now that most new TLDs have been launched and are either finding a niche or reassessing their strategies, the major players are looking at where they can add value to their organizations by taking on new projects and assets. The market leaders have truly started to emerge and I expect we’ll see this continue over the next 12 months.

Joe Alagna

Director of Business Development, Afilias

Domain industry veteran Joe Alagna is the Director of Business Development for Afilias,  the administrator of the .INFO TLD and a major provider of backend services to other registry operators. Dozens of TLDs around the world are powered by Afilias.

Joe Alagna
Director of Business Development

I think that 2017 will be seen as the year that "new" gTLDs have settled in. They're really not new anymore and that is a good thing because, over time, they will come of their own.  They won't just be driven by hype or newness.  They will be viewed more as niche than new.  As more users opt in for the niche TLDs, each one will find their way within their vertical markets.   

The fact that ICANN has baked in safeguards for the perpetuity of new gTLDs is important because any of them that "fail" will be taken over or purchased by gTLD aggregators like Afilias or Donuts.  At least consumers who bought them and built them up won't suffer.  

2017 is also a year where registries have consolidated to a large degree.  It doesn't make sense to go it alone today since the challenges of running a registry are too difficult and costly.  Scale makes it much easier to meet the unpredictable security challenges in the world.  Only the largest and best prepared operators can truly meet these growing threats.    

Finally, 2017 saw the launches of nearly all dotBrands. There are now many examples of brands leveraging their TLD to bring greater security to their customers and flexibility to their companies.  In 2018, companies that lost out last time will be pushing ICANN to open the door to them and level the playing field.

Looking ahead to 2018...

This year, my focus will be the promotion of ccTLDs.  I believe that 2018 is a year where many of them will come of age.  They are tried and true and a lot of these nascent economies and growing countries are now realizing that they have a wonderful, localized TLD for use by their citizens as well as, in some cases, other meanings to be adopted by people and businesses not within their borders.   

One example is how the company I work for, Afilias, just signed on to be the registry service provider for .PR (Puerto Rico).  .PR is an excellent ccTLD for so many reasons.  Surely it is important for businesses and the people of Puerto Rico, but it is also significant for companies related to Public Relations.  Gauss Research Laboratory, Inc, the registry for .PR, has recognized this for many years.  Now, they are standardizing on the Afilias platform to increase their security, stability, and scale.  They will also now be able to offer their ccTLD through a far reaching registrar channel connected to Afilias' platform.  

GDPR (Europe's new General Data Protection Rules) are going to absorb the industry in 2018.  Afilias is working on solutions that will protect personal information and take privacy to the next level without impairing the ability of law enforcement and others to address abuse.  Many smaller registries want to offer privacy solutions, but don’t have the internal tech resources to support it.  

Although many pundits are predicting that block chain will play a big role in the domain industry, I think it is being overplayed.  The fact that a new technology comes of age does not change the legal rights of existing industry players.  Just because someone can create a distributed registry at a low cost, does not mean that existing registries lose their place and their rights to manage TLDs.  Blockchain may play a role in future rounds or in future technologies but I think it is still quite a way out there and only in the realm of a new application round.   

As a member of the Domain Name Association, I'm looking forward to 2018 as a year where the industry focuses on real growth and collaborative innovation.  Since drivers of innovation include speed and convenience, I'd like to see the industry come up with standards related to how domain names interface with mobile scanning and voice recognition applications. Apple has built a QR code scanner directly into its photo app. Why shouldn't that app, for example, be able to read a domain name or URL as quickly and conveniently as it does a QR Code?  What standards should be created for voice recognition (related to domain names)?  Is there are standard way being used by the voice recognition industry to identify domains and URLs?  If not, there should be and our industry should be leading the way.  So these are some of the challenges and opportunities that I see ahead.

Mike Robertson

Director of Business Development, Fabulous.com & Directnic.com

Mike Robertson first gained industry fame during his years with popular Australia-based registrar Fabulous.com. He later left Fabulous and joined a highly regarded U.S. registrar, Directnic.com. As fate would have it, Directnic acquired Fabulous.com in 2017, putting Mike in charge of business development at his original home as well as his most recent one. 

Mike Robertson
Director of Business Development
Fabulous.com & DireectNic.com

For me, managing two domain large name portfolios and providing domain acquisition services for clients, the most significant trend I saw in 2017 was "end users" continuing to acquire premium, generic keyterm (predominantly) dot com domain names. Like in 2016, last year I worked with everyone from start ups and VC companies to large Fortune 500 companies and everyone in between, either selling them domains or acquiring domains on their behalf. Since taking on my role at Directnic.com three years ago, domain sales have continued to grow year upon year.

Another trend, within the domain sale aftermarket, is the willingness of end users to do lease deals or payment plans. A lot of my higher end sales have been on payment plans. I've also negotiated some exclusive perpetual lease deals - something industry veteran Brian Null first helped me with. I've found that by educating buyers about the various ways to structure deals, they feel more comfortable doing these higher value sales.

As for the overall industry, year in, year out, it's always the same trend, consolidation. Consolidation of domain name portfolios, and consolidation of domain name businesses and companies.

Looking ahead to 2018...

Continuing on from my comment earlier, I believe there will be continued opportunities for consolidation. I'm sure that 2018 will include reports of domain name companies and portfolios being acquired.

In my opinion, one of the biggest challenges the domain name industry is going to face in 2018 is disruption from other technologies- specifically, losing investments to other industries. I know first hand that many industry players are investing heavily in cryptocurrencies/blockchain.

One trend that I think we will continue to see in 2018 is that one word dot coms and 3 letter dot coms will be acquired by entrepreneurs and businesses. Among others, this year we saw Sumo.com (SumoMe.com), Freedom.com (Freedom Mortgage), Investor.com (Reink Media Group), Calendar.com (John Rampton, Due.com) and Outcome.com (Outcome Health) get snapped up, as well VOC.com (Viking Ocean Cruises) and CBA.com (Commonwealth Bank Australia). No doubt we'll be seeing a lot more end users being attached to domain name sales this year.

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