We are very pleased to start the year off our first dotWhatever interview. We’re here with Frank Schilling, one of the best known domainers in the world, and a gTLD operator with his Uniregistry, as our inaugural guest here at dotWhatever. Frank was kind enough to share with us some of his insights and views into the new gTLDs that he will be releasing and more.
Thank you for spending some time with us Frank If we may ask..
Q: You have one of the biggest and best .com portfolios out there, could you briefly tell us ‘when and why’ you decided to commit to the new gTLDs?
Frank Schilling: I am a domain name guy.. I remember watching grainy video of Vinton Cerf stating that he’d like to save .Web for IOD in the 2000 round that saw the addition of .INFO .. I got the sparkle in my eye to run a registry at that moment. I wasn’t sure new GTLD’s were going to be a game changer until ICANN decided to open the space to an unlimited number of New TLDs in this round. Prior to this names got metered out just a few at a time. If that pattern were to continue, .com would have been biggest forever. But with so many new names coming it is a certainty that there will be even more new GTLDs in the future. As that happens we are on an inexorable march from a World where there is one big GTLD with a dominant number of domain names in it; to a more fragmented world of thousands of G’s with less domain-names in each extension. I just knew I was going to participate in that evolution.
Q: Can you share with us, what types of research you did prior, to justify your choice of and prospects for, your GTLDs?
Frank Schilling: I did limited research and used the same gut instincts that drove me to register hundreds of thousands of domain-names in .com. There is certainly science to domain names and in business, but the kids who are good with the numbers don’t typically do as well in naming as those with a feel for popular culture and the art of human behavior. For example.. many applicants heavily relied on the number of times a word shows up in a .com name, the price of PPC for a name etc. Those type of criteria matter but I don’t believe there will be as precise a correlation to the number of domain name registrations you’ll get when that word acts as an extension. There are outlying circumstances that will skew registration volumes in certain strings up and down. Ultimately we picked the strings we’d like to run.
Q: .sexy and .tattoo are your first released GTLDs. Do you have any restrictions on registering them, and will you be holding back any premium keywords?
Frank Schilling: There will be no restrictions. In order to obtain a fast-track to market, ICANN has mandated that we hold certain domain-names back from release for security and stability reasons. We had a choice of waiting till the cows come home to get through these security issues, or going live now and holding those names from the market.. here are some examples of the types of names we need to hold back.. You can see there are some good ones in there but also lots of junk. The size of the lists range from a few hundred to tens of thousands, depending on the extension. The rest of the names will be available at registration price.
Q: How and where will you be focusing your marketing efforts on .sexy and .tattoo? TV, newspapers, internet, radio… Do you have such plans?
Frank Schilling: What’s a newspaper? :- ) We will certainly advertise on the Internet and where people are looking for names, but there will be too many strings to justify doing large scale traditional marketing across all extensions right away. Eventually, Uniregistry will have a very large marketing department with hundreds of staff, but we will need to bootstrap into that by hiring as we sell names. Some of our initial plans are private but will coincide with the launch of our registrar in February. Stay tuned ; )
Q: Do you feel that the releasing of so many extensions at once over the next few months will bottleneck or stymie new GTLD registrations?
Frank Schilling: I think there could be a glut of great names in new extensions beginning early in 2015. I view that as a buying opportunity. By 2020 I think global demand will absorb most if not all of the registrations in new spaces.. Bringing more diamonds out of the ground does not lower the price of diamonds. That same dynamic will happen here. This is a marathon and I don’t measure success by the quarter. Ultimately we’re going to have a good outcome and I think Uniregistry will be one of the largest companies in naming if not the largest. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I’m relentless. I don’t stop.
Q: There is talk of the new GTLDs going the route of .tv pricing of past. Do you see that also, and do you think you will apply it to any of your extensions?
Frank Schilling: Great question. I don’t like that model and I think those spaces should be avoided. Uniregistry is not going to do variable pricing where the renewal costs the same as the acquisition. I believe in low predictable renewal prices for my registrants so they can afford to amortize the upfront costs of the name when they buy it from somebody like you who got it for registration price on the landrush. I believe the registry should get out of the way of it’s registrants and let those registrants trade, prosper and grow the namespace. The problem is that some of these TLDs will be expensive to acquire. I can afford to take a string like .sexy and put it out unrestricted with low prices because we got it uncontended. If one of my competitors pays 10 million for a string in an ICANN auction they need to make that $ back. I mentioned earlier that I’m far sighted and holistic in my thinking so I might be crazy enough to pay 20 million for a new TLD and then put it out for free to probe for a long-term model that works.. Other companies would never do that because they have to answer to the people who gave them the money. Generally speaking, the more expensive it is to acquire a GTLD the higher the retail price will probably be, and the more premium reserved names there will generally be; unless the owner of the string is a self-funded dreamer like me.
Q: What will be the next GTLD s that you’ll be releasing?
Frank Schilling: We have .Sexy and .Tattoo coming out right away. Somebody told me we got the first two fun ones. : ) .. then we are following with .Link .Photo .Pics .Guitars a month later. We just finished pre-delegation testing on those so we should go into the root with http://nic.link etc before Christmas. We have to leave that 120 days from the day we signed the contract then it’s a free-for-all —> .Christmas will follow shortly after that but it will have to wait for Christmas 2014. I really like .Link and .Photo and .Pics. Those could be BIG strings. .Christmas is a wild-card .. same with .BlackFriday. We have had a lot of closet demand for those. General availability will start on .sexy and .tattoo on February 23rd and on the next 4 at the end of March. Start saving your money – there is going to be real opportunity in those spaces and we’re going to do a good job running them.
Q: Is Frank.sexy reserved?
Frank Schilling: It’s not on ICANN’s reserved list above so frank.sexy will go out to another “Frank” at registration price or to an investor like you to sell to him for $15 or less at your favorite registrar or at Uniregistry.com on February 23rd.
We’d like to thank Frank Schilling for taking the time to participate in our first interview, and we hope you found it informative. Tomorrow our dotWhatever interview will be with Richard Lau.
Your moderated comments are welcome below.