A common assumption among companies is that once their applied-for new gTLD is launched, they will be working with the registrar that currently handles their domain names to manage the domain names within their new gTLD as well. It’s understandable – it’s a matter of convenience to have all domain name registrations handled in one place. With that in mind, it might make sense for brands to stick with their corporate registrars if they are sure that they’re running a closed registry (i.e. for their private use).
If a brand is planning on running a semi-open or an open registry, though, they should definitely be thinking about partnering with a different kind of registrar. Running any level of open registry will involve a lot of customer interaction and functionalities that corporate-facing registrars are just not equipped to handle. Imagine the customer relations that would be necessary for an airline that creates .MILES and decides to give away domain names to customers, or a record label that creates .ROCK and decides to make a go of selling domain names to rock n’ roll fans. Internet users that hold these domains will require a user-friendly interface and customer service representatives who can provide guidance on activating websites and troubleshooting email problems for potentially hundreds of thousands of people. Retail registrars, such as Network Solutions, already have these capabilities and can be great technical partners for brands that are contemplating one of the many variations of the open registry model.
In those instances where a brand is considering a gTLD application for purely defensive purposes, it is less of a priority to partner with a registrar at this point in time. Although ICANN requires all domain names within a gTLD to be registered through an ICANN-accredited registrar, there are some backend registry infrastructure providers that have indicated that they intend to apply to ICANN to become an accredited registrar in order to provide applicants with a single turn-key solution. It could, therefore, be cost advantageous to use the registry partner for the registrar functions as well in purely defensive or minimal use scenarios.
Brands shouldn’t put the cart before the horse by signing up with a registrar for new gTLD-related technical services before they know just what they are going to need.
If you plan to apply, another thing to take into account is the team that will be assigned to working on your application. Many registrars are staffed with sales and service professionals who do not have the training to produce a solid application. When evaluating the services being offered, it is important to consider the fact that new gTLD registry owners will be strictly held to the terms written in the application, since those terms will be hard coded into their contracts. Even minor changes will require a time-consuming push through ICANN and will be subject to a public comment period. The number of gTLD registries is expected to grow by 50 to 75 by 2013; being in the back of the line at an ICANN contracts and compliance logjam is not where a global enterprise wants to be.
Getting things right from the beginning is key. If a new gTLD strategy is worth developing, it's worth doing it right – with an in-depth, thorough evaluation of the best options and a meticulous execution of the chosen strategy.