EuroDNS interview with Raymond King of .INK & .WIKI

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Top Level Design is the domain registry behind the new domain extensions .INK & .WIKI, both of which are now live and available. It's also filed applications with ICANN for an additional 7 TLDs, including .BLOG, .DESIGN, .STYLE, .ART, .GAY, .GROUP, and .LLC. We caught up with CEO Raymond King, to find out how they got involved in the new gTLD programme and what it's like to launch a new domain name.

Interview with Raymond King

How did you guys get into the wonderful world of domain names? What’s your background?

I had always been a bit of a domainer, not as a profession but as an interest. Domain names are unique, like property and art, and so they always made sense to me as something to pay attention to. My first business in the domain space was SnapNames, the drop-catching service, where I was the Co-Founder and CEO. It was a great experience, and we pioneered a number of technologies and services that are now common throughout the industry.

You’ve been out on the road attending all kinds of tradeshows and tattoo conferences. What has the public reception been like? Do non-domain people get the idea that web addresses are changing?

Anyone that is working around new TLDs has their own pitch, and I’ve definitely been perfecting mine for all sorts of audiences. The short answer is, “sometimes.” Most folks aren’t yet aware and some have heard of one or two new domains. A taxi driver in London surprised me last week when he replied, “Oh yea, new domains like .LONDON, right?”

The tattoo conferences are great. There are some really incredible artists out there, and people have a real enthusiasm for the opportunity of seeing them all come together in one place. The public reception is good as well; it’s fun because you can almost see it click in people’s heads when they realize a domain doesn’t have to end in .COM anymore. After having spoken with lots of tattoo shops and artists, I know that they feel like they missed out on some of the best .COM names because their industry was slower to move online. I’m really hoping to work collaboratively with them to remedy this for .INK - we have some of the biggest ink magazines moving to .INK, and so I think that will really help spread awareness in the community.

We’ve been running a sweep-stake in the office about which new domain extensions will be the most popular. But I don’t think any of us predicted the top five (.XYZ, .BERLIN, .CLUB, .GURU, .PHOTOGRAPHY). How did you go about choosing which domain extensions to apply for? Can you research something like this, or was it based on a hunch?

It was a lot of list making and analysis of the .COM zone file. For us, it was also passion based. I have a true passion for wikis and I knew that .WIKI would provide a further platform for this incredible technology to take hold in new ways. Many of the other TLDs we applied for also personally resonated with me and my family. I think that is what is important about new TLDs: they can not only add semantic meaning to your name and site, which is great in and of itself, but they can clearly mark you out as passionate and as an expert. Anyone that is motivated to get a domain name that helps to tell their story before you even arrive at their site clearly has something they are excited to share.

.PHOTOGRAPHY is the fifth most popular new domain extension (with over 39,000 registrations to date), and was also one of your original applications. Sadly you guys were outbid by another registry in the auction process. Any regrets?

I wouldn’t say “sadly,” but yes, it is a bit painful to know that perhaps we didn’t fully appreciate the potential for this extension. It is something we went back and forth on, and in the end, there is a lot of guesswork and dependence on things like the passion I described above. I think it is a great extension, which is why I applied for it, but when you get into evaluating an 11 character string with competition from other photo-centric new TLDs, like .PHOTO and .PHOTOS, it made sense for us to tap out when we did. In the end, I think awareness around new TLDs will float all boats, and the widespread use of the more broad strings will help the niche strings as well.

This year we’ve had almost 150 new domain extensions go live, and many more will follow. How do you think this has changed the domain landscape? And as a registry, is it difficult to make yourself stand out, what’s your strategy?

I think some of the strings that we’ve seen go live have to market extensively because it is not intuitive what the public should be doing with them. Others have been doing no marketing and are letting the TLDs sell themselves. As a registry, we want to be open to co-marketing and reaching our markets in new ways. It is difficult to make yourself stand out, but in the end, I want folks to be excited about working with .WIKI and .INK, and so we can let the registry itself take a backseat and foster organic interest around our channel and target markets.

OK, so this is your opportunity to get folks excited about .WIKI & .INK. Give me your best sales pitch!

.WIKI is the chance to own your passion. If you know soccer or poker or are a pastry chef, start a wiki on the topic and let other like-minded individuals come to you. You have a chance to own the ad-revenue and lead the discussion on something you may already be discussing or writing about on other Internet forums or wikis. We’ve seen tons of interest from folks that want to be, or already are, market and thought leaders, and .WIKI is the best place online to focus that discussion and let it flourish. Companies have long-realized the collaborative potential of wikis to coordinate with their staff, and I can already see that .wiki is bringing about a resource revolution for industry experts, hobbyists, fans, and the like.

.INK is three letters, easier to spell, and a whole lot trendier than “tattoo.” It lends itself to creativity and art more broadly than any other string available. I think it is one of the most unique TLDs that will come out, and there is no denying that it is niche. In fact, we are proud of that. Still, I have some friends that approach me about how good they think it is for blogging and publishing, and others who are excited that I landed on .INK rather than .TATTOO because it is where that particular industry is headed and how it describes itself.

And finally, what are your predictions for 2014? At the end of the year which new domain name do you think will be on top, and who do you think will win the World Cup?

Some of the biggest contention sets are yet to resolve, and I’m excited to participate in auctions for those from our own portfolio as soon as everyone is at the table. My best prediction for 2014 is that I will have to give my new TLD explanation speech less and less, and I will have more interactions like the one I had with the taxi driver in London. People will start to realize new TLDs exist and from there I hope begin to align with those that speak of their work, passion, and lives.

Instead of making a World Cup choice based on the teams themselves, I’ll pick the Netherlands, and be honest about the fact that it is mostly because I’m excited about the wikis we have been starting in house, including, which I think would be a hit in Amsterdam :-)

Thanks for your time, and congratulations on turning a question on the World Cup into a plug for .WIKI. It’s quite an achievement.

.WIKI has been one of the fastest growing new TLDs, powering fans, academics, and companies to create collaborative resources. .INK is widely applicable to creative folks, artists, and ink manufacturers while specifically relevant to tattoo artists, shops, and models. Both are now live and available for registration at EuroDNS.

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