Uniregistry CEO and owner of 350,000 dot-com domains, Frank Schilling was recently voted “the Most Influential Person in the Domain Name Industry”. He talks to us about dot-sucks, the growth of domain names and why the only way is up.
Q. What do you hope to achieve with Uniregistry both as a registry and selling domains as a registrar?
A. I have a dream that names will be easier to use, easier to sell, easier to trade, buy, manage. Registrars at the moment are structured on profit, it’s all up-sell. There is no one to help you use your name. That’s what we are trying to aspire to. There are others trying to do this as well but that’s what we want to do. And I have, you know, three artists who are working on the front-end, figuring out how we can make this look more Apple-like. I think it’s going to be a bit like a glacier, it moves very slowly but suddenly it’s upon you. In three years, I don’t think any of us will recognize this space. And that’s exciting.
Q. So the big talking point in terms of new gTLDs at the moment is dot-sucks. What do you make of it and is it a good or a bad thing for the domain name industry?
A. I like dot-sucks. If it’s curated correctly. I like the idea of there being a portal site, protest sites. That was the idea behind all this [the creation of thousands of new top-level domains]; to change the game. But it is definitely polarising. There are lots of ‘sucks’ sites under dot-com but it’s a rag-tag group and there’s no business behind it. In the age of Twitter and Facebook, here is a potential platform for people, and they [the registry operator, Vox Populi] are investing in that. It could be inspiring for people. If curated correctly.
Q. As CEO of Uniregistry you are now running multiple new registries. How do you see the future of domain names and the registry market?
A. So I think the namespace is expanding – but not that much. It is expanding just enough to keep up with demand. Let’s say my company is Prodigy Ventures, I might get ‘prodigy.venture’ and probably ‘prodigy.ventures’ if it exists, and then maybe ‘prodigy.finance’ but then it gets thin fast. There are only so many domains that will really be that useful. I do think the namespace will expand: from 200 million today to, say, 400 million. But we won’t see the same expansion in number of companies registering; I think more companies will own more names. Some will be redirected but I think businesses will use them to provide a choice.
Q. Registration figures for new internet extensions have been far below expectations. Should everyone prepare for the worst?
A. I do think that Donuts’ approach of having a large portfolio of names is the right model. There is not enough cash flow to sustain a business otherwise. We at Uniregistry are just big enough but I expect that some registries will soon be people operating out of their bedrooms. Many of the new names just don’t work. That said, I believe to my core that people will start using these new endings. At some point people will want to look hip and that will mean not dot-com. I’m not sure how that will play out – none of us are sure – but a lot of these new names just look better. And I am a staunch dot-com supporter – I have 350,000 dot-coms so I have a giant hedge and I would do much better if dot-com continues to do well and new gTLDs fail. But there are so many tasty, tasty names that are not taken yet. There is a big boon ahead based on what has already happened. When word gets out, it will be like wildfire. Next year with the be year of the name.
Q. And what about the coming introduction of dot-brands: how is that going to change things?
A. I think with dot-brands, maybe in 10 years, they may move and find viable uses for them. Companies will use them in some informed, structured way to get to their market. They will figure out some way to add utility to the names themselves and will begin investing in infrastructure. I think there will be people that copy what we are doing now [with generic top-level domains]. There is lots of growth coming, lots of investment.