New York-based startup Artsy has garnered attention from the media and investors for its Pandora-esque artwork discovery engine, but now issues with its Syrian domain name are causing the company problems. In the midst of the violent conflict in Syria, the company's principle domain name has suffered outages, and on Friday, Artsy announced plans to move operations to Artsy.net.
Founder Carter Cleveland had to endure a lengthy legal and governmental struggle to use the .SY extension, the country code assigned to Syria, to begin with. As detailed by TechCrunch, Cleveland was represented by a Syrian law firm in the country to help him deal with changing regulations and red tape from abroad.
In a press release issued Friday, Artsy explains that the company initially chose Art.sy, "because it is the shortest spellable English language domain that begins with the word 'art.'" The catchy name and simple domain name attracted media attention and helped grow the Artsy brand.
Now, however, Artsy might suffer from having chosen a domain name that was better for branding than operations. The Syrian extension brought Artsy significant attention, but it ultimately proved unreliable. With hundreds of new gTLDs on the horizon this year, reliability will be paramount. New gTLDs will present unprecedented domain name branding opportunities, but that is ultimately moot if they aren't stable.
Interestingly, Artsy.com is currently listed for sale by Domain Brokers, and it seems that it would be a wise investment for a company by the same name that exists solely online, especially after having to shutter Art.sy. Compete data shows that Art.sy hit a high of approximately 21,000 unique visitors in October, while Artsy.net is not even listed on the site. Artsy.com it should be noted, pulled just over 1,500 unique visitors in November, significant for a parked page.
For now, it appears that Artsy will exist solely on Artsy.net, but it will be interesting to see if the company ever purchases Artsy.com. How this situation will affect Artsy's traffic and business, if at all, remains to be seen, but it should at least drive some new traffic to Artsy.net.
A few days ago, a client sent me an email asking me to weigh in on what domain names her company should register to correspond with its presence in markets in the Middle East. While she was planning to register the core brand name in the relevant ccTLDs, or country code top-level domains (Brand.ae for the United Arab Emirates, Brand.co.il for Israel, etc.), her distributor in the region had advised her that local Internet users tend not to direct navigate to domains in their ccTLDs. Instead, she said that consumers typically type in the brand name followed by “ME” in .COM. So, the distributor advised, our client should register BrandME.com.
The client asked me if I agreed that this was a common practice, and if other major brands followed this naming convention. To my knowledge, it was much more common for brands to stick with ccTLD domains. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t think of any big brands that follow the BrandME.com practice my client had described. But it sounded interesting, so I wanted to look into it further.
I decided to take a sample of the biggest brands and see whether or not they used BrandME.com domain names. For a quick reference, I looked at the top 20 brands on Interbrand’s Best Global Brands of 2011 list.
Of those 20, I found that only four owned their BrandME.com domain names: Coca-Cola (Coca-ColaME.com, but not CocaColaME.com or CokeME.com), Google (GoogleME.com), McDonald’s (McDonaldsME.com), and Disney (DisneyME.com). Of those four, only two, McDonald’s and Disney, actually direct those domains to content. McDonaldsME.com redirects to McDonaldsArabia.com; DisneyME.com displays Disney content in English.
Of the other 16, some brands’ BrandME.com domains had been registered by third parties. Most pointed to Pay-Per-Click ads or parked pages. Others did not resolve to content. The rest of the BrandME.com domains were not currently registered.
Because the client is a cosmetics company, I checked about five other cosmetic brands’ BrandME.com domains as well. None resolved to brand content. In fact, none resolved to content at all.
So what did I end up telling the client? Basically, it won’t hurt her to make sure all her bases are covered by registering her BrandME.com domain name. But the standard practice is to stick to registering the brandname in the ccTLDs of the relevant markets. If a company has a presence in Saudi Arabia, in other words, it should go after Brand.com.sa.
Since it first became open to public registrations on the second level last summer, the Colombian ccTLD .CO has garnered a good deal of attention. Some have speculated that it will become a viable alternative to .COM, whereas others have written it off as a gimmick. In a recent New York Times article that explored how different ccTLDs are used by commercial entities, FairWinds’ Managing Partner Josh Bourne offered his opinion on the .CO issue: “As long as it doesn’t become well known that it’s just a bastardization of the country code for Colombia, it could take off,” he stated.
One entity that has been touting the virtues of .CO is domain name registrar Go Daddy, which offers registration services for .CO domains. The company, known for featuring attractive spokeswomen in its commercials, even decided to introduce a new “.CO girl” to promote the extension. In the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl this weekend, the company produced a series of ads to generate buzz about who this new mystery woman would be. And in the ad that ran during the Super Bowl, Go Daddy finally revealed her identity:
The new .CO girl is…Joan Rivers? Or at least, Rivers’ head digitally transposed on another woman’s body? I’ll be honest, I don’t think I want to go to GoDaddy.co to find out more. The commercial was weird enough for me on its own.
This kind of stunt, in my opinion, definitely points more toward gimmick than legitimate. This sentiment is echoed in a recent Fortune article, which points out that, as we’ve seen at FairWinds, the majority of registrations in .CO thus far have been defensive.
Over the course of doing some research for a client recently, I’ve begun noticing an interesting trend. The Finnish government has registered the word “Finland” in various ccTLD extensions and points the domains to websites for the Finnish embassies in the corresponding countries.
For example, Finland.is resolves to the website for the Finnish embassy in Reykjavik, Iceland. Finland.org.ua points to a similar site, but for the Finnish embassy in Kiev, Ukraine. From what I’ve observed so far, the government has registered these sites in the ccTLDs for the United Arab Emirates, Slovenia and Venezuela as well.
I think the Finns are smart to protect the country's identity and connect users with useful information in one step. To take it further, they could also promote Finnish tourism on these domains.
I just returned from a trip to Romania to visit friends and hunt geese, pheasant and partridge. I really enjoyed my time in the countryside down the Danube River. We also spent a day in Bucharest, a beautiful city with striking architecture and charming streets. It even has its own Arc de Triomphe, which, along with other French influences, gave the city the nickname of “Little Paris” in the early 1900s. One of my favorite spots in the city was the bar pictured here, Carul cu Bere, which reminded me of the inside of a cathedral.
The Network Information Center, Nic.ro, is the domain name registry for Romania. It offers eight different TLDs for different types of organizations: .COM.RO for commercial entities, .AC.RO for academic institutions, and others. Despite this unnecessarily wide variety, almost every domain I saw advertised simply had .RO as the extension. Registering in the ccTLD space can be challenging for companies who are not aware of local trends and tendencies, and the .RO ccTLD is an example where businesses may be tempted to over-register for brand protection, picking up domains in .RO as well as the others. However, it looks like simply owning .RO is typically more effective and cost-efficient.
Overall, it was a great trip. I enjoyed myself, and even picked up some information about the Romanian ccTLD in the process.
According to a recent article in Web Host Industry Review, the Swedish Bankers’ Association lobbied the Swedish Post and Telecom Agency (Post och Televerksstyrelsen) to prevent Internet users from registering domain names containing the word “bank” in the .SE ccTLD. The goal of the initiative was to allow only legitimate banks to register domains containing this term, which would cut down on fraud and illegal phishing attempts. According to this theory, consumers would know to trust only domains containing the word “bank” with their financial and account information, because only authorized banks will be able to own those domains.
The problem is that banning the term “bank,” or censoring the content of domain names in any way, simply will not work to prevent fraud. In fact, the initiative may backfire.
Phishing and other scams will still be able to easily take advantage of Internet users through the use of tactics such as spoofing emails from domain names, whether or not they contain words such as “bank.” At the same time, because of the initiative, people may be less diligent about keeping an eye out for potential scams—customers will be operating under the assumption that any correspondence or interaction with a domain name containing “bank” is safe. Cybercriminals are always adapting to new obstacles in the domain name space and it is overly simplistic to think this measure will protect Internet users’ financial information.
I received an email reminding me that the domain name truecostofcybersquatting.org had expired, and offering me the chance to renew it through a body called “ISP Renewal.” I found this odd, seeing as I had originally registered the domain with GoDaddy, and as far as I could tell, ISP Renewal had no affiliation with the registrar.
I did some more searching online and found that other people had received similar emails offering to renew recently expired domains. In each case, the renewal service had no ties to the registrar through which they had obtained the domain. And in almost every email, ISP Renewal was offering to renew the domain for around $80. One recipient of the email pointed out that ISP Renewal asks domain owners to give out their login information, which led him to believe that the group’s underlying goal is to steal the domains once it gains access.
Regardless of whether or not stealing domains is the ultimate goal, it is clear that these emails from ISP Renewal are a scam, and domain name owners should keep a wary eye out. It may not be immediately obvious that ISP Renewal is not a legitimate service. Do not be taken off guard if you have a domain name that has recently expired – acting quickly, without thinking, in order to avoid losing your domain plays right into ISP Renewal’s scheme.
We’re a lot smaller than the companies we serve, yet the various renewal scams that target FairWinds are the same scams that target bigger brands. We’re also targets of the same “tip” emails that frequently target bigger brands—these emails, which tend to come from China and Hong Kong, claim to give us a heads-up about ccTLDs containing our brand that will be registered to a third party unless we act quickly to register the domains ourselves. As a small company that specializes in domain names, we quickly ignore these sorts of scams, bigger companies can end up wasting a lot of time when people are forced to drop whatever they’re doing and reassure the CEO that there’s nothing to worry about and nothing that needs to be done.
It’s really remarkable how these scammers have the resources to target the tens of thousands of businesses in the world, from big companies to small businesses like FairWinds. They must be making an awful lot of money for this to be possible, and the registrars and resellers involved in these scams must really be raking in profits. I wonder just how much spam they will send and just how far the fraud will go before it is stopped. ICANN should address this behavior to do away with the bad actors and discourage registrars and registrar resellers from future bad behavior.