A look at the world of domain names
If you want an on-line presence, a domain name is a must. But what's the best domain name to use; what options do you have now that so many new extensions are available, and what can you do to protect your domain name? For answers, we've been talking to SIDN's Michiel Henneke. Henneke also describes the latest trends and developments and suggests what you should do if the domain name you want has already been taken.
SIDN manages the .nl domain. "That involves registering .nl domain names, of course. And making technical arrangements to ensure that registered .nl names – of which there are now more than 5.6 million – are always reachable for internet users around the world. For that, our systems handle more than a billion search queries a day," says SIDN's Michiel Henneke. "We are a private non-profit organisation, with no corporate affiliation, meaning that we are completely independent. As well as managing .nl, we look after the .amsterdam and .aw (Aruba) domains."
According to Henneke, the Netherlands has far more domain names with its national extension than most other countries. "There are 5.6 million .nl domain names, making our domain the fourth biggest country-code domain after .cn (16.8 million), .de (16 million) and .uk (10.6 million). Of the 5.6 million .nl domain names, about three million are registered to companies and about 800,000 are linked to commercial websites, including about 100,000 with payment facilities. A lot of new extensions, known as nTLDs, have recently become available. For example, the city of Amsterdam has its own extension, which is proving popular," explains Henneke. "The .amsterdam domain is one of the world's top five city domains, after Tokyo, Berlin, New York and London. First and foremost, the domain helps our capital city stand out on the internet. It's increasingly common for events in Amsterdam to have landing pages with .amsterdam addresses."
Brands as domain name extensions
On the Dutch market, the .amsterdam extension is something of an exception amongst nTLDs. None of the others have so far proved very popular, Henneke says. It's all down to timing, he believes. "By the time the nTLDs came on line, the marketplace was very crowded. I'm sure that, if they had been around ten years earlier, their impact would have been much greater. As it is, I think many will remain marginal. Of course, some new extensions definitely offer something that people want. The nTLDs open the way for catchy domain names that weren't possible before, such as coffee.club or coffee.shop. Naturally, coffee.com was snapped up long ago. Some companies are also setting up their own gTLDs. This year, Hitachi will launch a 'brand TLD' and so will Dutch company Wolters Kluwer. Google has applied to create a .google domain as well. It'll be interesting to see how other companies respond. Will we see .philips replacing philips.com, for example? Or KPN doing something similar? A lot's going to depend on how successful the innovators are."
In recent times, Henneke has seen webshop proprietors becoming increasingly security aware. "We give added value to secure digital living by drawing on the knowledge we've built up over the years. Knowledge in fields such as internet governance, internet security and the stability of the .nl domain. We also have at our disposal a wealth of data about our domain, which provides insight into the way .nl domain names are used. Then we've developed special algorithms, which we use to analyse our data and quickly identify fake webshops set up for dishonest purposes. Another way we help is by working with SSL providers to enable them to verify their certification activities."At the 2015 Webwinkel Vakdagen ('Webshop Trade Days'), a lot of visitors were interested to learn more about SSL certificates because of their significance for Google search results. "If you've got an SSL certificate, you score better," acknowledges Henneke. "It's a shame, though, that that's the only thing that persuades some entrepreneurs to implement such a basic security measure."Fortunately, more and more people are recognising that security should be the priority. When selecting a hosting service provider, it's important to look not only at price and volume, but also at the level of security. If you go to internet.nl, you can run a scan to find out how well your webshop scores in terms of compliance with a number of key 'open standards' on security. We did scans for visitors to the 2016 Webwinkel Vakdagen. A lot of webshop proprietors who thought that they had all the security angles covered were surprised by the findings. We advise all webshop proprietors to run the scan, which is funded by the Dutch government."
Another important issue in the world of e-commerce is privacy. "Dutch on-line entrepreneurs are good at taking the initiative, but do sometimes need to be reminded of their responsibilities," suggests Henneke. "In the Netherlands, we have more than a million commercial websites, of which we believe about 600,000 process personal data. Yet only 150,000 have a privacy statement of any kind, never mind one that ticks all the relevant content and quality boxes. In other words, a lot remains to be done where privacy is concerned. The law on security, privacy and personal data has recently been tightened up. Since 1 January 2016, the reporting of data security breaches has been mandatory in the Netherlands. Firms that don't follow the rules face large fines. So I'd advise everyone who does business on line to make sure that they know what the rules are and stick to them. The Chamber of Commerce operates on-line forums called ondernemerspleinen, where you can get a lot of useful information."Henneke is keen to emphasise the strength, security and stability of the .nl domain. "Those qualities make our domain very attractive for webshop proprietors and others looking to establish a positive on-line presence. Cybercriminals find it hard to use our domain for abusive practices." He also has a tip for anyone looking for the ideal .nl domain name: "Ask your registrar or hosting service provider about .nl Retro. It's a database of 3.5 million .nl domain names, which people have registered in the past, but have later let go. You can benefit from other people's bright ideas and pick up something really good."
This article was published on May 11 at OnlineRetailer.nl.