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August 19, 2008 Post

Here's the The Lowdown from DNJournal.com! Updated daily to fill you in on the latest buzz going around the domain name industry!

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Veteran domainer Rick Latona spends a lot of time traveling around the world. After a recent trip overseas where he saw many country code and IDN domains being advertised he came home wishing he had taken ccTLDs and IDNs more seriously. Latona wrote about that in a 

post on his blog today. Rick is one of the sharpest guys in the business so his blog is on my daily reading list, but I don't get a chance to leave comments at his and other sites I visit as often as I would like because of time constraints. 

I did comment on Latona's post though because, in addition to the subject matter being of interest to me, I felt I should respond to a comment earlier in the same thread that characterized my view of America's country code, .us, in a way that while well intentioned, was not quite accurate. After writing my response, I thought it might be worth expanding on it a bit and posting it here since many of our readers are interested in the prospects for ccTLDs as well.

Rick Latona

I have always liked country codes and with Internet penetration having now reached critical mass, allowing people to find a local provider of just about any product or service online, the various local ccTLDS are more attractive than ever.  I think the same can be said for IDNs which have many of the same characteristics as ccTLDs in that they identify a domain as being local in terms of language in the same way that ccTLDs identify domains as being local by the geographical location they represent. Over the past year or two I've noticed in the voluminous sales data that we receive a steadily increasing number of aftermarket sales for .es (Spain), .fr (France), .ca (Canada) and many other country codes in addition to the long-time ccTLD powerhouses .de (Germany) and .co.uk (Great Britain).

With respect to .us I do like the future prospects for the American country code and have a large portfolio of them, but I would have to temper the characterization of how I view them that was posted by someone else in Latona's comment section. They said I have been 

talking "passionately" about .us though I've actually written very little about the extension. However, when asked about .us (as I was recently by Forbes Magazine) I tell anyone who asks that I see a lot of potential there. 

.Com is so popular and heavily mined that many small to medium sized businesses have no chance of  getting a keyword or phrase relevant to their business in .com. If they are U.S. businesses I think the most logical alternative for them - as it is for businesses in other parts of the world - is their local country code. My .us sales have increased slowly but steadily every year (in both number of sales and the average value of each sale) since I started buying them in the spring of 2002 (shortly after the U.S. government opened the extension to all American citizens. 

However I have never said, as the commentator in Latona's thread indicated, that .us is going to be "huge" in the "near future." It can take many years for recognition of non .com extensions to develop (and for most of them recognition never does develop - one reason why I think the vast majority of proposed new extensions ICANN plans to start rolling out next year are doomed to fail - but that's another story). 

.US may eventually reach a "tipping point" where it has achieved enough recognition that adoption will accelerate (much as we have seen .ca, .es, .fr and others accelerate the past couple of years), but no one knows when or if that will happen. I personally think that it will happen, but if I had a truly reliable crystal ball I would be at the horse track right now rather than writing this post. 

You basically have to go with your gut instincts on how things will play out over time. Given how the rest of the world uses domain names, I see .us as a common sense long term bet for appreciation as the Internet continues to expand and people need relevant domains that mean something and are memorable to web users. The cost of entry is low and if Americans eventually follow the lead of so many other major countries, the rewards could be significant. 

It is becoming more and more about "local" on the web so as an American, if I cannot get the term I want in .com, I now lean toward .us over .net (which, with its much higher level of recognition, would be most people's preferred alternative) or other options. The .us extension imparts a valuable message in the domain name by telling surfers where I am based. In most countries outside the U.S., web surfers look to their local ccTLD first because they want to deal with someone from their country who speaks their language (same with IDNs). There is also an aspect of national pride there that ccTLDs benefit from.

To a large degree, despite our cultural and linguistic differences, people around the world are the same, so I think Americans, when forced to look for an alternative to a specific term they want in .com (due to lack of availability or the high cost of the .com domain they want), will increasingly give serious consideration to their .us extension. I don't think anything on the horizon is going to have any impact on the dominance of .com, but there are always opportunities in niches and I think all of the industrial world ccTLDs and the IDNs are among the most interesting and promising niches out there right now.
August 19, 2008)

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