Was the DNA formed in response to introduction of the new gTLDs?
Adrian Kinderis: "Not directly, but it was a factor. There was a group of companies that wanted to see an association that could look at the bigger picture. As a mature industry, the domain name sector needed its own lobby organisation. The idea was first floated about three years ago, here in Amsterdam. The arrival of the new TLDs was certainly a catalyst, insofar as it accentuated the need for cooperation."
What has the DNA achieved so far?
Roy Arbeit: "The DNA has achieved much in just three years. Member engagement is increasing all the time, and we are getting more ideas from the network. We're going from strength to strength. We are involved in the discussion of technical standards and we liaise with organisations such as ICANN. Then there's the Healthy Domain Initiative, which we've started with a view to promoting best practices, tackling abuse and providing a vehicle through which the industry can work with governments and lobby groups to define a set of basic parameters for self-regulation. Another initiative is creation of the website www.whatdomain.org, which provides information about the new gTLDs. We're also using the website www.inthewild.domains to promote use by showing people just what you can do with domain names."
What's on the agenda for the period ahead?
Roy Arbeit: "The search for a suitable replacement Executive Director took six months, so first I want to reignite a number of initiatives. We're creating an on-line community for members and have launched various communication vehicles, including a newsletter. I completed a first 120-day Strategic Plan that was recently approved by the Board and we are now implementing it."
Adrian Kinderis: "Our primary objective remains advancing the industry's collective interests. We want to be as representative as possible. And, for us to speak effectively for the whole industry, we need to get companies from right across the industry involved. So it's important that we build up a network. Today's informal meeting is a good example of how we're looking to do that. We're aiming to arrange a similar gathering in the wings of each ICANN meeting. The idea is to provide an opportunity for people from the domain name industry to exchange ideas. We're very grateful to SIDN for arranging this lunch for us. We currently have fifty members… and, after today, it's hopefully going to be fifty-four!"
Roy Arbeit: "The DNA isn't exclusively for big players. We aim to represent enterprises of all sizes. The fee structure makes membership affordable for everyone. If there's one message I'd like to get across to people active in the domain name sector, it's this: join us and get involved!"
What are your long-term goals?
Adrian Kinderis: "Reputation, Innovation and Utilisation. First, to enhance the industry's image. In the past, a number of bad apples have sadly tarnished the reputation of the sector. It is time to show that the industry doesn’t want them to participate and to actively highlight that they are not in the majority.. It's also important to encourage and propagate innovation. One example is the use of Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) – domain names written in non-Latin scripts, such as Arabic or Cyrillic. These are vital for the continued expansion of the Internet. Another big issue is universal acceptance of all domain names. Say you send an e-mail utilising an IDN in your email address. At the moment, due to antiquated systems and lack of technical education, you can't be sure that your address will be seen as valid all around the world. If domain names are going to continue to prosper, that sort of thing has to change."
What are the main threats to the domain name industry?
Adrian Kinderis: "Various developments and new technologies have the potential to diminish the significance of domain names. QR codes, for example. Then there are apps and 'walled gardens' like Facebook. We need to make people aware of the implications for the richness of the internet experience. My mother is on Facebook all day long. It's as if she thinks that Facebook is the internet, when of course there's so much more out there! I used to think that search engines threatened the use of domain names too, but I've changed my mind about that, because search engines respect the domain name structure."
What are you doing to protect against those threats?
Roy Arbeit: "The main thing is to increase awareness. We need to reach marketeers, internet companies and advertising agencies. If we can show them just what's possible with domain names, creative use and acceptance by the general public will follow naturally. That's what happened with domains such as .com and .nl. When people got used to seeing those extensions in adverts, they embraced them."
SIDN was one of the first members of the Domain Name Association, which has been promoting the interests of the domain name industry since 2014. SIDN's CEO Roelof Meijer sits on the Association's Board of Directors.