This week, FairWinds’ new Chief Operating Officer Pete Langdon and I have been travelling around Switzerland for meetings with various companies. We’re actually attending 18 meetings over the course of the week. It’s not exactly grueling work – these meetings have given me the chance to catch up with some good friends and we’ve gotten to eat some delicious food. Here is a picture of Pete outside the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne:
We have a few more meetings to close out the week, and then we’ll be attending the meeting between the ICANN Board and the Governmental Advisory Committee in Brussels next week.
News about the political unrest in Libya has been flooding the airwaves since protests broke out last week. According to ZDNet, on Friday night, Libya was cut off from the Internet just hours before soldiers began massacring protesters, killing hundreds over the course of the weekend.
In Libya, the Internet is controlled by Libya Telecom & Technology, a telecommunications company chaired by the son of dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi. Until now, the country has enjoyed relatively open Internet access, at least as compared to other dictatorships like Cuba and North Korea. Those of you who are up on your ccTLD knowledge know that Libya’s country code is .LY – the TLD used for popular URL shorteners Bit.Ly and Ow.Ly.
Fortunately, especially for active Twitter users, Libya’s imposed exile from the Internet does not mean that .LY, and the sites hosted on it, will cease to function – at least not right away. .LY uses five root servers, only two of which are located in Libya (another two are located in Oregon, and the last is located in the Netherlands). These servers can keep .LY domains running for a maximum of 28 days. In technical terms, the servers are configured such that the Start of Authority Record expiry time to live is 2,419,200, or roughly 28 days.
If the Libyan government keeps the Internet cut off, .LY addresses will eventually die off as well. While it helps that there are .LY servers outside the country to keep domains up and running temporarily in situations like these, the Libya example shows that ccTLDs are not impervious to government-mandated shutdowns. Companies that choose to use ccTLDs for business purposes should be aware of this fact, and have contingency plans for such situations.
Virgin Islands News Online recently reported that LIME, the leading telecommunications provider for the Caribbean, will be moving from the domain Time4Lime.com to the shorter, simpler Lime.com. The new Lime.com site will be available starting on Friday, and hereafter all of LIME’s promotional materials will display the new domain name.
The company acquired the Lime.com domain to allow for easier recall among both existing and potential new customers. Because it is shorter and closer to the company’s name, it will be easier for customers to remember than Time4Lime.com. The new domain will also strengthen the LIME brand by creating more brand visibility and increasing brand recognition. Overall, this was a great acquisition for the telecom company.
Driving into work this morning, I saw an advertisement on the back of a city bus, pictured here. The domain name caught my eye, more than anything because I couldn’t seem to figure out what it actually said.
My first impression was that it was HamRadio.com, or perhaps HNMRadio.com. Neither was correct; the first domain hosts a site that sells ham radios and the second is not registered. As it turns out, the domain pictured here is actually HMMRadio.com. According to the website, the HMM stands for Hometown Media & Marketing. Unfortunately, the site does not offer much in the way of content (none of the links work) and I was unable to find any information on Hometown Media & Marketing.
Clearly, the company has invested in the HMM Radio endeavor, at least enough to advertise it on the back of a very public bus. So I’m finding it hard to understand why it chose a design that obscures that domain name to the point where it’s nearly illegible.
If an average person, sitting in traffic behind a bus, can’t read your domain name, then he or she will never be able to use it to reach your content online. Domains are an integral part of a strong marketing strategy, but they can only be successful when they are properly communicated to the public. If you happen to get a great domain, don’t shoot yourself in the foot by displaying it in a way that people can’t decipher.
Great news here at FairWinds – we recently acquired the domain name DomainStrategy.com. For the time being, we will redirect the domain to this site, DomainNameStrategy.com.
We were thrilled to get the domain DomainNameStrategy.com back in 2008 for our blog because it describes perfectly the topics we discuss here. That makes it easy for readers to remember, and therefore easy for them to find us. We also had a great deal of success in getting the blog to rank highly among searches for “domain name strategy” and related terms. In all, having a keyword-rich domain name has really paid off for us. Now that we have an even shorter domain pointing into the site, it will be easier for readers to direct navigate to our blog, since they will have less to type in. And it will hopefully give us the chance to attract some new readers among people who decide to type in DomainStrategy.com looking for information on domain name strategy.
Scammers are constantly searching for new and more deceptive ways to trick people into giving away their money. Most recently, FairWinds received this notice from the “World Intellectual Property Database” urging our DigitalDNA business, which brokers domain and website deals, to renew its international trademark registration:
Some of you might have picked up on the fact that the “WIPD” looks a lot like “WIPO,” the World Intellectual Property Organization. They even mimicked WIPO’s font and logo. DigitalDNA has an international trademark registration pending with WIPO, and that is likely how WIPD found us: the people behind WIPD appear to have pulled information from WIPO’s public database and sent fake notices seeking registration renewal fees from trademark owners. Aside from recognizing the obvious discrepancy in the name and acronym, what really tipped us off was the URL the notice directs to. WIPO – the real WIPO – would never use a .BIZ domain. As a specialized agency of the United Nations, WIPO uses the .INT extension.
We wanted to post this to make sure other companies are aware of this scheme, and to warn them not to fall for it. We have also gotten in touch with our contacts at WIPO to alert them, and they are working to stop this scam.
As advisors in the niche area of digital names and addresses, one of the key issues that we live with here at FairWinds is scarcity. One form of scarcity is in .COM domains names; for example, there’s just one retirement.com, just one cancer.com, just one music.com, etc. While this poses a significant challenge for many, from start-up entrepreneurs to strategic multinationals, there is another form of Internet-related scarcity that is quickly becoming a much more prominent issue. We are rapidly running out of IPv4 addresses.
The “IP” in IPv4 refers to “Internet protocol” – every device that connects to the Internet has an IP address, from the laptop you’re reading this blog post on, to the router that links your laptop to the Internet, to the servers that host your website, to the PayPoint your barista swiped your credit card on at the coffee shop this morning. IPv4 is the version of the protocol on which we are currently operating. The problem is that it is only 32 bits wide, meaning the total possible number of binary addresses is 2^32, or approximately 4.3 billion.
Back when IPv4 was invented, this was believed to be more than enough addresses, given that only a few institutions were connected to the Internet. But when the World Wide Web was invented in the 1990s and became all the rage, it became clear that the IPv4 addresses would run out much sooner than initially thought.
When the Internet was in its infancy, there was no regulation to how IP addresses were allocated, and as a result, many organizations that requested IP addresses in the 1980s received far more than they may have needed. But in the style of “waste not, want not,” they became accustomed to using all the addresses they had been given. It wasn’t until the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) took over the allocation of IP addresses that the process became formalized. IANA operates under ICANN (domain names, after all, are just easy-to-remember alpha-numeric representations of IP addresses), and distributes IP addresses to five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) around the world. The RIRs then distribute them to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other entities that require them for a wide range of Internet-related activities. Experts have been predicting that IANA will run out of IPv4 addresses very soon; a PCWorld article published Monday reports that IANA has in fact reached this point and will distribute its last five blocks of IP addresses over the next few days, one block to each of the five RIRs. (A “block,” sometimes referred to as a “/8” or “slash-8,” contains approximately 16 million IP addresses.)
Once the RIRs deplete their last blocks, any organization that applies for new IPv4 addresses will not be able to get them because there simply will be none left to give, period. This scarcity will add costs to building new businesses, as well as expanding old businesses, either through network restructuring or through the acquisition of addresses through market transactions. In other words, the scarcity is going to create an obstacle on the path to growth.
But luckily there is hope, in the form of IPv6, IPv4’s bigger, faster, stronger, 128-bit upgrade. For those of you trying to do that math in your head, 128 bits translates to 2^128, or about 340 billion billion billion billion, IP addresses. In other words, an enormous amount – enough to support all the Internet-connected devices we can dream of, and even some we haven’t been able to dream up yet. As Martin Levy of Hurricane Electric has said, “more than four quadrillion addresses for every star in the observable universe.”
Unfortunately, IPv6 is not all roses and lightening-fast smartphones. The main issue with the new version is that it is not back compatible with IPv4. That’s like buying a new generation of a video game console and not being able to play your old games on it. In order for IPv6 to play nicely with IPv4 devices, a lot of extra steps need to be involved, which ultimately harm the user experience.
Moreover, the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 will be extremely costly and will most likely take years. In my opinion, just like the IANA has underestimated the cost and complexity IP address holders will face in remapping and freeing up space within their own networks, IANA has also underestimated the cost and complexity of transitioning from IPv4 to IPv6.
Some places where IPv4 has been scarce from the start (China, for example, has only one IP address for every 4 people) have already begun pushing rapid IPv6 adoption. Here in the U.S., we’ve had more IPv4 addresses than any other country in any region, and thus have not felt as much pressure to make the switch to IPv6. But time is running out for us as well. The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), the RIR that allocates IP addresses to North America, wants all websites that face the public to be ready to support IPv6 by next January.
There’s a long road ahead of us before everything is switched over to IPv6. It won’t be easy and it won’t be cheap, but at this point, it’s the only way to continue to move forward.
A recent post in Advertising Age’s Digital Next blog ponders the question, is Google biased? Well, not really pondered, per se – the author took Google’s bias as a given fact. And in the fact that Google uses incredibly complex algorithms to rank its search results and keeps those algorithms secret as proprietary information, the author is right. We don’t fully understand how Google ranks its results. But ultimately, that’s not a bad thing.
We’ve written before about the importance of ranking high among Google’s search results. As a consultancy that specializes in online findability, we understand that search engines are an important way in which many consumers access content online. Companies invest a great deal of time and money into optimizing their brand sites to rank highly, and investing in valuable, keyword-rich domains to increase rank for a greater number of search terms. All of this is done in the goal of earning more spots than their competitors on page one. So in theory, it would be great to know how Google ranks its results, on any given day, in order to maximize SEO effectiveness.
Depending on what study you read, or which set of data you choose to examine, Google is depicted as either highly biased, purposefully manipulating the rankings of its search results, or highly benevolent. There are myriad studies and articles arguing both sides. Additionally, there is no proof that Google’s bias is necessarily undesirable – it may also serve to prevent developers with nefarious intentions from gaming the rankings system in order to spread malware or misinformation.
It boils down to this: whether it is biased or not has not prevented Google from continuing to dominate the search market; it is still the first place most Internet users turn when performing a search. It functions as a pseudo-monopoly, and under its own self-imposed ethos of “Do No Evil,” it should attempt to serve its users in the best way possible.
To reiterate, though, to the extent that we do not understand all of Google’s algorithms, we cannot definitively say if its results are biased or not. So for the time being, it seems like it would be more productive to accept Google as it is and work to make sure our pages rank highly given the tools available and strategies that have been proven to work. In the end, only white hat SEO strategies are scalable and predictable. This means that having quality, unique content hosted by good domain names with high-quality websites linking to that content will continue to pay big dividends whether you believe Google is biased or not.
Just four more days until Christmas. People are finishing up their shopping, wrapping gifts and, apparently, looking for Christmas online.
According to Compete, traffic to the domain name Christmas.com increased by over 243 percent in November. There is no real content on Christmas.com, just a bunch of pay-per-click advertisements. The domain has never been marketed, and because it hosts no unique content and has not been SEO’d, it ranks poorly in searches for the term “Christmas.” But because it is such a category-defining domain name, it still receives a significant amount of type-in traffic, particularly during the holiday season. Based on Compete’s graphic representation of the December 2009 performance, type-in traffic to Christmas.com will spike several hundred percent more this December.
When keyword domain names are used properly, they are capable of garnering huge amounts of traffic because they are so intuitive and much of that traffic is organic. For example, there are over 30 million broad searches for the term “Christmas” per month around this time of year. If the Christmas.com domain was ranked well, like it could be, the site could earn around 15 percent of organic click-throughs, or 450,000 visitors a month. It would cost an advertiser approximately $500,000 per month to access an online audience this size through sponsored advertising.
People navigate to Christmas.com not because they are directed there by a specific company, but because they expect to find Christmas-related content based on the domain. Companies should realize this potential and consider adding keyword domains to their portfolio of branded domain names.
Because ICANN’s new gTLD program will open up the domain name system on a scale that we have never seen before, there has been a great deal of speculation surrounding the implications of the program and the new domain names that it will produce. For example, some have claimed that domain names with new gTLD extensions will rank higher in Google that domains with traditional gTLDs like .COM.
I have to question the accuracy of this claim, and people’s readiness to accept it as fact as opposed to speculation. First and foremost, Google ranks pages according to a proprietary formula that rates a web page’s importance based on the number and quality of outside pages that link to it. This “page rank” is combined with a variety of other factors, including how often the search term (or its synonyms) appears in the page, whether the search term appears in the title, and whether the term appears in the URL of the page, to give each page a score. The pages with the highest scores appear at the top of Google’s results.
Presumably, people who assume that sites hosted on new gTLD domains will rank higher in Google believe this to be true because Google does account for the presence of the search term in the URL of a page in determining the page’s rank. This is why generic keyword domains have the potential to rank highly in searches. For gTLD domains, there will be an additional place for keyword (branded or generic) – to the right of the dot. So given what we know about Google’s ranking system, new gTLD domains could outrank traditional domains in certain searches. But so many other factors come into play that in Google’s ranking that it is difficult to make this claim with absolute certainty.
Moreover, there is no way for us to know what Google has planned for dealing with new gTLDs. Google is obviously highly innovative, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the company adjusted its search and ranking algorithms to account for the presence of new gTLD domains. But, we should not forget that .COM “challengers” are not new and keyword extensions like .TRAVEL have been around for years with little effect. I challenge anybody to show me a .TRAVEL domain that ranks well for popular travel-related search phrases.