On my way back over the Atlantic and just wanted to sum up some experiences and view/ideas that came out of NamesCon in Las Vegas on 14/15 January 2014. It was certainly one of the best and most organized conferences I have ever attended. Richard Lau and his team did a great job in setting this up, which resulted in record attendance 2-3x more then what was originally expected. Talks were running in parallel in 3 different rooms so it was not possible to attend all discussion but that was not too much of an issue.
What caught my attention the most were the keynote speeches. Jennifer Wolf set the stage with her opening keynote speech covering new TLDs and the paradigm shift we are about to experience over the coming years and decades. She explained that the new TLDs should not be viewed as replacement technology to current technologies but as complimentary technology providing the opportunity to develop a new range of custom digital experiences for users. These new custom digital outlets facilitated by new brandable TLDs will in time allow for much greater analytical insight that will lead to the arrival of disruptive technologies which will ultimately cause a paradigm shift to occur. The result of which will be a better user experience.
Another keynote speaker on day 2, Jodee Rich of dotCEO talked about how many of these new TLDs will act as social outlets or domain identities. He explains that social media through services like facebook and twitter have trained the consumer to the social landscape and how TLDs will offer a valuable extension to the social behavior by allowing the user to create an identify online like never before (similar to what apple did with the iPhone and iPad … a trained iPhone consumer could not get enough of the iPad). Identities and interest groups facilitated by social media and new TLDs will empower the user and allow a much easier, faster, more effective and customized approach to expressing themselves online. His marketing approach to getting users engaged to new TLDs was a questionable one in my opinion but a very smart approach. By collecting all twitter twits (billions of tweets) and doing big data analysis, he will be able to pinpoint users that maybe interested in a certain TLD and pre-build custom new TLD identity pages for those users using data they have uploaded to the cloud. This will act as the “bait” that will be launched in cyberspace and be indexed in search engines and eventually be noticed by the user where they will have the chance to claim the page and the domain. Not sure on the ethical nature of this approach and how search engines like Google would feel about this. It could backfire on dotCEO TLD through search engine penalties. It will not be the first time it has happened and with the billions of new pages coming online and the 1000’s of new TLDs Google will have to deal with, extreme caution needs to be taken as algorithms are going to get more and more stringent.
Two interesting guest speakers I had the chance of meeting were Jeremy Shoemaker (Shoemoney.com) and Matt Mullenweg (WordPress co-founder and new CEO). Both had very inspirational talks. Interesting fact from Jeremy was the decline in facebook users at 20% per month (he is a facebook board advisor), which is a very scare fact for facebook and the rapid rise of Google+ at 20% per month. He claims that Google+ will become the new reckoning force in social media with the arrival of technologies like google glass. The future will be all about capturing user information and building data around those users, which can be monetized or sold. It’s something that has been happening a long time (think of google, facebook etc) but these were the pioneers of a new generation of big data monetizers. As for Matt, I understand why he is now the CEO of a billion dollar company and why wordpress grew to what it is. A great inspiration.
As for me, I believe the future of monetization online will be in the data, not the traffic. I think when traffic starts to bounce in and out of new TLDs, which are closed systems, there is going to be an increasing difficulty to track and understand a users details. The future is going to be about access to user data, which is going to become more and more fragmented with the introduction of new TLDs. Many TLD operators in the future will have to adjust business models not on the number of registrations they make, but the amount and quality of data they hold about their communities. If you look at the large acquisitions made in recent years by google and facebook, they were often not about the technologies they were acquiring; they were about the user-base they were acquiring. Facebook’s acquisition of Instragram for 1 Billion was purely for the users, and their recent rejected offer for SnapChat of 3 Billion was also for users….not the technology, which is quite simple to replicate for a company like facebook.
Traffic monetization companies are going to have to seriously re-think their business models and start preparing for this inevitable change. It’s a paradigm shift and its going to disrupt many business models and the ones that can see ahead of this curve are the ones that are going to transit successfully through this change. We have about 2-3 years to re-think and prepare. This paradigm shift will be slow (in internet time) and relatively silent as models get tested and consumers adopt, but 5 years form now we will start to really feel the change and a decade from now we will be dealing with a completely new Internet to the one we have been use to.