HEXONET recently had the opportunity to conduct an interview with .CLUB Domains, LLC, the company behind the application for the new gTLD .CLUB, which recently won the rights to .CLUB in the first ever ICANN private auction for new gTLDs. The domain is anticipated to launch in early 2014. HEXONET would like to thank Mr. Jeffrey Sass, .CLUB’s Chief Marketing Officer, for taking the time to share his thoughts and insights on .CLUB
Questions and Answers:
1) Can you please highlight the mission of .CLUB?
Ultimately, the goal of .CLUB is to be the best way to find, join or start a club. Everyone has something they are passionate about, and we think a .CLUB name is a great way to bring people together around a common interest or passion.
2) What will be the key benefits to registrants, Internet users and others?
What is interesting about the word club is that it is spelled the same and means the same all over the world – in Germany, China, Denmark, Japan, just about everywhere, CLUB is CLUB. As a result the word is in ubiquitous use on a global basis. As a top level domain name, .CLUB adds inherent marketing value to anything to the left of the dot. As soon as you add .CLUB you know it is about people coming together around a common interest. As a result, one of the benefits of a .CLUB domain name is that it immediately adds meaning, which was not necessarily the case before, even with a .com. This is one of the advantages of the new verticalized TLD’s. Not only do businesses and consumers have a chance to get a name they may have missed out on as a .com, but they can get a name that is truly a better fit in describing their business or interests
In the case of .CLUB we see tremendous benefits, not just to the millions of existing clubs and membership organizations, but to businesses and retailers who have loyalty and affinity programs, where a “yourstore.club” URL is the perfect address to consolidate your customer community. Then there are all the sports and entertainment uses of club – golf.club, tennis.club, poker.club, book.club, fan.club, and on and on. Also, we live in a social, connected world, where it has never been easier for people to form communities, large and small. There are literally hundreds of millions of “groups” on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google and Yahoo, many of which are essentially clubs that could greatly benefit from a .CLUB name they own pointing to their online presence.
3) Will there be specific restrictions in order to register a .CLUB?
No. .CLUB is a completely open domain, with no restrictions or required qualifications. Everyone has something they are passionate about and everyone should be able to express it through a .CLUB name if they want to.
4) We heard that .CLUB will be launching an online software platform to help clubs establish themselves on the internet. Can you please elaborate on this?
Our plans for .CLUB include offering a social platform that will make it very easy to start and manage a club online, with many features specifically geared toward a membership organization.
5) We understand that your organization won the rights to .CLUB in a historic first private auction for new gTLDs. You were going head-to-head with some major players in the industry. Can you briefly walk us through the process of what it was like and what brought your team to success?
We were one of three companies that applied for the .CLUB gTLD. The other two companies were Donuts and Merchant Law Group, and in early June we participated in a private auction, where .CLUB prevailed. In fact, we caught the moment we won the auction on video and you can see it on YouTube. Don’t tell anyone, but I am the guy holding the camera and yelling “seriously?” We were all very excited, as it had been a long and expensive journey. I do think part of our success so far can be attributed to focus. Unlike our competitors, who applied for multiple gTLD’s (8 in the case of Merchant Law and over 300 in the case of Donuts) .CLUB is the only string we applied for. Our entire business, and all of our resources, including the $8.2 million we raised, is focused solely on the business of acquiring, launching and supporting .CLUB. We are laser focused on the success of .CLUB and nothing else. As our founder and CEO, Colin Campbell likes to say, “We’re all in on .CLUB.” That certainly helped us. Everyone has a passion, and we’re extremely passionate about .CLUB.
6) The number of Internet users that continue to access the Internet via mobile devices continues to explode. How do you intend to leverage this trend?
Before joining .CLUB I actually spent many years in the mobile industry, so this is an issue that is close to my pocket. You may have thought I was going to say “heart,” but my pocket is where my Android smartphone is. The truth is, I believe that we’re almost at the point where mobile doesn’t matter. It’s the Internet that matters; it’s connection that matters, and consumers want access to it at any given moment, from whatever device or screen that is convenient at that moment. Smartphone, tablet, laptop, smartwatch, desktop, it’s all about easy, ubiquitous access to our online stuff, everywhere, all the time. So if the Internet is everywhere, having the right domain name for your Internet presence is more important than ever. And thanks to the proliferation of connected devices more new people are coming to the Internet who may never have had computers before, especially in emerging markets. This growth is good for all constituents of the Internet ecosystem, including the new gTLD’s. And of course, everyone’s Internet presence needs to be responsive to all possible screens a user may access it from.
7) Hundreds of new gTLDS will be launched in the months to come. They will of course be vying for digital ‘shelf space’ with various domain registrars. How do you plan on embracing the registrar community?
Again, I think we have the advantage of being singularly focused on .CLUB. We have the resources to provide a great deal of marketing support for .CLUB inside and outside the registrar channel and our marketing efforts won’t be split or diluted across multiple TLD’s. It will certainly be challenging, as this is new territory for all of the new gTLD’s, but it is a challenge we are excited about.
8) Once your TLD is launched, what are the key challenges / obstacles you foresee in the short term?
I think a challenge all of the new gTLD registries face in the short term is to create awareness and demand for all new extensions. Those of us who have been battling through this lengthy ICANN process are living in a bit of a fishbowl. We are intimately aware of all the new strings coming, but that is likely not the case outside our fishbowl. Once people become aware of .CLUB they seem to get it and see how they could benefit from a .CLUB name. Our challenge and goal is to raise that level of awareness. Another short term challenge is to partner with some great brands who will use .CLUB early on as part of our “Founder’s Club.” If you’re interested, give me a call!