Domain Name Searching Sucks
Over the last few years we have seen a tremendous influx of new top level domains (new gTLDs), some successful and many not. Prior to the launch of these new gTLDs there were many controversial discussions around the topic of consumer choice and the driving of market demand. Even with these uncertainties, HEXONET participated in nearly every new gTLD launch over three years believing the respective registries had done their homework and had reasonable business models. Looking back, many registries had no business rational for their new gTLD whatsoever. And even though today I can say that more extensions and consumer choice is a good thing, it's clear however, that too much choice of TLDs without a business purpose is causing confusion, ultimately leading to consumer frustration. The net result of all this frustration has lead to consumers sticking to what they know and trust.
If I had the cool DeLorean from "Back to the Future" and could go back in time, I would have spent more time on evaluating the business models of the new gTLDs before investing one more second or dollar on any "questionable" registry. Instead of blindly launching new gTLDs (every week at it's peak) it would have been wise to take the time to compare what we know of real customer demand against the business model touted by a new gTLD registry. Today, HEXONET is paying the price in two ways for implementing every new gTLD. First, we need to spend even more time and money dealing with migrating away from failed registries (which had flawed business models in the first place). Second, we lost a lot in opportunity cost, where our engineers could have been working on economically better and more viable areas of the business. One of those areas of business is intelligent domain name search technology, which is now clearly needed in our industry.
With all these new gTLDs, where are all the promised and anticipated domain name registrations? If you think about it, more choice is more confusion and more frustration! And a big contributor to why the registration numbers haven't materialized is that "domain name searching sucks". Stuffing 400+ new gTLDs into an old search framework, originally designed for a handful of domain extensions, is obviously going to fail - it doesn't facilitate registrations, it actually makes finding the right domain more difficult. Surprisingly, only a small number of registrars understand this problem and have invested in developing new search technology and frameworks, for the most part though, our industry as a whole still doesn't understand.
HEXONET, approximately one year ago, started investing in new domain search technology. The goal was a simple one, help customers find the EXACT domain name they want. A simple statement but difficult to achieve. Therefore, we focused on search relevance, just like modern general purpose search engines do. Relevance became our objective in the sense of providing the customer with the most accurate search results based on the keywords they used. This meant utilizing new gTLDs, traditional gTLDs like .COM and .NET, ccTLDs and domain name sources from specialty distribution channels (preorders, registry premiums, aftermarket, etc.). HEXONET's domain name search technology is built on three main technological pillars to quickly deliver the most relevant domain search results possible:
1. Faster than Fast:
The search needs to produce results within seconds. Our search even starts providing real-time results as the user is typing (like Google Search).
2. Provide Everything in the Domain Universe:
Our goal was to provide a wide selection of everything available. This means the following:
- Provide what we call the original gTLDs (generic top level domains), such as .COM, .NET, .ORG, .BIZ, .INFO, etc.
- Provide a large variety of ccTLDs (country code top level domains), such as .DE, .TV, .CA, .UK, etc.
- Provide as many new gTLDs as possible (new top level domains), such as .GURU, .CLUB, .VIP, .ADULT, .MARKETING, .SERVICES, etc.
- Provide IDNs (internationalized domain names), such as müller.de.
- Provide customers with the possibility to pre-order upcoming TLD launches or better place an Expression of Interest.
- Provide customers with Registry Premium Domains
- Provide customers with Aftermarket Portfolios - domains of individuals/corporations that are offered for sale via Aftermarket providers
- And lastly, provide customers with the best possibility to backorder domains that have already been registered
The Domain Universe is to deliver a helpful and positive experience to the user by always having one or many good answers. To display the word "TAKEN" without any further action or alternatives, in our opinion, results in a poor customer experience. We want to help our customers find the domain they want and/or get an alternative that makes them equally happy.
3. Context and Advanced Ranking Engine:
In our search, we take the following into consideration:
- Geographic location
- Various keyword sets
- We run the keywords through a "related TLD matrix"
- We consider synonyms
- We split the suggestions into categories to make domain search navigation more understandable
HEXONET's research and development has led to our successful and sought after domain search technology. We believe it's an excellent step to help make the new gTLDs more relevant and applicable to our customers needs. Also recenly, we have been experimenting and implementing new user interfaces to make domain searching more intuitive. For instance, our Help Me Find My Domain wizard is a cool and interactive chat based search that guides customers through a set of questions to quickly narrow down the results. Try it out and let us know what you think. Keep in mind that it is still in development and regular updates using data and feedback are applied.
A well-matched TLD, that is relevant in its application, benefits us all.