There is much talk about how ICANN’s proposed changes to domain names may revolutionise the internet. But no matter how many blog posts, column inches or airtime space is devoted to such speculation, the truth is that no one really knows what will happen. Ultimately, only time will tell what impact these changes will have on the internet (not to mention online brand identities, user experiences and search engine functionality).
As we wait for these changes to unfold, some country code domain name endings will continue to be used and to grow. New Zealand’s .nz - will be one of these.
Here are a few reasons why:
Firstly, there is still a lot of choice within the .nz domain name landscape. If you don’t believe me, try this exercise: make up a dozen or so fictional domain names that someone might actually use for their business or service and write them down. Now search for those under both the .com and .co.nz variations. You’re almost certain to find more availability for .co.nz ones. While it’s true that the .com ending will probably remain the most used domain name ending for the foreseeable future, for domain name purchasers with a New Zealand focus, .nz will continue to offer possibilities that .com cannot. Put another way, if domain names can be seen as online ‘real estate’, .nz is still a relatively unchartered land. As such, people will continue to recognise this and purchase them.
Secondly, people know that .nz domain names both work, and are available, now. This is not true for other domain name endings that have been applied for through ICANN. What does this mean in the real world? Well, for the sake of the argument, let’s say you sell organic oranges. Now, would it be worth your time trying to secure your domain name and sell your product at, say, www.hawkesbayoranges.organic when you know you can already sell it at www.organichawkesbayoranges.co.nz (FYI: .organic is one of the new suggested domain name endings)? Seems like a lot of work for something that might not bear any additional fruit. My guess is that a lot of businesses won’t give a .jot (also a suggested domain name ending).
Thirdly, and here’s the real clincher, registrars and domain name resellers understand that country code domain name endings are more than just a passing trend and are good for business. As private companies who are mindful of profits, they want to grow sales on products that are already available and trusted. The domain name ending .nz is one of these products and studies show that New Zealanders have confidence in it. This is because New Zealanders intuitively feel that web addresses with .nz endings are more honest, approachable and convenient than .com ones. For New Zealanders speaking to local audiences this will remain important. It is also important for international brands that want to develop relationships with New Zealanders. Oxfam, Coke and Dell are just a few examples of those who are currently using .nz domain names to build brand relationships with New Zealand consumers. At the end of the day, brands care about gaining customer acceptance. Geographically appropriate domain names are essential towards achieving this.
As of January 1 there were 517,037 active .nz domain names. This time next year there will be more, no matter what we speculate about the internet’s future.
Patrick Watson is a communications advisor at the Domain Name Commission