EXCLUSIVE: DENIC & dotBERLIN go head to head

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To celebrate the launch of our German website, we’ve lined up executives from the two main players in the German domain industry for an exclusive interview. Introducing Carsten Schiefner from DENIC, the registry behind .DE, the ccTLD for Germany. With over 15 million registrations it's the most popular ccTLD. And we have Dirk Krischenowski from dotBERLIN, the registry behind .BERLIN, the feisty challenger and second most registered new domain extension.

Leaders in their field

Huge congratulations to your on your success, you have two of the most successful domain extensions out there. I’m intrigued as to why you think this is the case, how you achieved this phenomenal triumph, and your thoughts on the new gTLDs.

Is this a reflection of the strength of the German market, your fantastic business skills, or a special connection in Germany to geo-domain extensions?

dotBERLIN: I think it is primarily a clear demonstration of the strength of the German domain market, and with regard to our modest TLD, a proof of concept that there is in fact a healthy demand for short, intuitive, local identifiers.

DENIC: As far as .DE is concerned, I think we simply were at the right spot at the right point in time: when .DE domain names became interesting for folks beyond pure academia – for businesses, but also for individuals – they were actually able to register their wished-for .DE domain names due to an already back then, low price tag. DENIC is a non-for-profit cooperative – and simple and non-discriminating registration policies.

And yes – being an 80 million people country with a strong economy helps too, of course.

.BERLIN was one of the first geographic TLDs available and it went through the roof; how do you see others like .NYC, .PARIS, and .LONDON fairing? Can we expect to see a similar performance with other German regional TLDs (.BAYERN, .COLOGNE, .KOELN, .SAARLAND, .RUHR, & .HAMBURG)?

dotBERLIN: We fully expect the German Geo TLDs to be comparably successful, since the benefits of .BERLIN are true for these TLDs as well. As for our friends in other global cities such as London, Paris or NYC, we expect them to be high in demand, too, although the different characteristics of each of their individual markets will play a role as well.

.NYC should be a popular domain extension but is restricted so only residents can register. Both your domains are restriction free and available to everyone, why did you go this way? Are there any disadvantages?

DENIC: Restrictions are always a means of protection and exclusion – but DENIC’s aim was for .DE to be as inclusive as possible, allowing both, natural persons and legal entities, to register as many domain names as they wish.

And by the way: the more restrictions you have in your registration policy, the more you have to check for compliance. As far as .DE is concerned, we always wanted to run a registry – and not a policy compliance institution.

dotBERLIN: Obviously, having restrictions may lead to fewer registrations. At the same time, giving .NYC a certain exclusive status may make it more attractive to potential registrants. It will certainly be interesting to see how this will develop in comparison to other city TLDs.

With over 137,000 registered .BERLIN domains you guys have had phenomenal success. But as a local domain name, you only have a finite number of local residents and businesses. Do you think you’ll see your registrations plateau, did you plan for this, and did you have a target number of registrations in mind?

dotBERLIN: Any market has its limits, and the market for .BERLIN is no different. Beyond our local limits, Berlin is booming with start-ups, global companies establishing their European headquarters and students moving to Berlin. So the limit for registrations is far, if you for instance compare the numbers of our friends at DENIC, who have seen more than 20 years of growth and still have technically “only” 16 million names for 80 million Germans…

.BAYERN, .COLOGNE, .KOELN, .SAARLAND, .RUHR, & .HAMBURG all compete with .DE. Are they something to be afraid of or welcomed? And have you revised down your growth forecasts, as a result of the new gTLDs?

DENIC: I don’t really see the competition point here, I would rather see these registries living in complementary coexistence. It might be the case that somebody would register under one of the new German geographic TLDs alone, even if the corresponding .DE domain name was free. But for sure it won’t be left unregistered for a long time. And no less sure will anybody actively drop a .DE domain name in favour of one of the new German geographic TLDs.

As far as you refer to our growth forecasts, we have seen a decline in the growth rate over the years which is even likely to continue. Yet this seems in no way related to the advent of the new German geographic TLDs, but rather being rooted in a gradual market saturation for .DE domain names.

...and finally, what do you think the domain industry will look like in 10 years time?

DENIC: We have heard the domain name system being announced dead or at least irrelevant in two years max for the last decade or so. But still, both people and businesses have invested huge amounts of money during the last round for new TLD applications: some might actually fail – but would literally all of these people and businesses have bet their money on the wrong horse? I strongly doubt it. My peek into the crystal ball tells me that we will still have a sound domain industry in ten years – maybe a tad more invisible at the surface due to new overlay techniques but still strong at the core of the Internet.

dotBERLIN: If I had a crystal ball, I would tell you. But seriously, we strongly believe in the domain as a product which is elementary for anyone who wants to be recognizable and “findable” in the global Internet. We will see even more TLDs, in particular .BRAND TLDs, and we will certainly see quite a bit of consolidation in the domain industry over these next 10 years, both on the registry as well as on the registrar side of the business.

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