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Farewell to new gTLDs : Former dot .Cloud executive on sabbatical

Domains & Corporate Careers

The former head of registry operations at dot .Cloud has left the company, and is currently on sabbatical.

From that safe spot, Francesco Cetraro, recently blogged about his current views on new gTLDs, innovation, ICANN and other related tidbits.

While dot .Cloud recently celebrated its 100,000th domain registration, this is just “numbers,” according to Cetraro:

“A recurring theme is the problem of declining growth and the need to promote new TLDs (and domains in general) more aggressively to keep “hitting the numbers”.

When I look at the volumes achieved so far though, and particularly at their composition, I can’t help but think that the domain industry lives very much in denial. The obsession with volume for the sake of volume reminds me of a similar debate a few years ago in the mobile app industry: having millions of downloads might make your slide deck look fancy, but it is user engagement that ultimately decides if your business is sustainable or not.”

Cetraro’s advice to potential applicants in a new round of gTLDs, is rather stern:

“Do you have the cash to pay for your application fee?

After years of discussions, we ultimately decided that “the market” would be the sole arbiter of the nTLD program, so we never questioned whether the numbers provided were realistic or the business plans viable. As long as applicants were able to provide enough money to cover all the costs, the answer (with a few exceptions) was pretty much “just go ahead and do as you please”.”

Quite surprisingly, Francesco Cetraro’s position on the innovation aspect of new gTLDs is rather unflattering:

“That said, I have to admit that every time someone (usually with a not-so-covert agenda) talks about “the innovative power of new TLDs” I throw up a little in my mouth. Let’s be honest: having more options to call your website is not innovative, it’s novelty at best.”

We aren’t sure what type of “innovation” Mr. Cetraro is anticipating from the domain name space; after all, domain names are just pointers to IP addresses, that can be used as mnemonic shortcuts.

Unless Internet users are savants, able to memorize IP addresses, domain names and new gTLDs in particular, offer a myriad of possibilities to address this lack of phenom qualities.

That, in itself, is quite innovative.

Despite his quest for innovation at the very birthplace of new Internet domains, ICANN, Mr. Cetraro seems to view the role of ICANN as separate from assisting with their active promotion:

“ICANN currently sits on a lot of money and it’s money that many would like to see used to “promote nTLDs”. But ICANN’s job is not to “sell domains”, but more so to serve the community of internet users that trust it to manage this common resource for the greater good. Needless to say, and instead of subsidizing “a solution in search of a problem”, perhaps that money would be better spent supporting true innovation in this space.”

In closing, Mr. Cetraro’s op-piece on Linkedin seems to indicate that he’s personally bored, or perhaps tired by the domain industry he worked for:

“From my perspective, I have to admit that over the years a sensation of “more of the same” has been slowly eroding my motivation. Quite frankly, I am bored of “selling domains for websites”, and I long for getting my hands dirty building cool stuff that people find useful and that make a difference.”

Looks like a career change is in order, which may lead to bigger and better things; we wish Mr. Cetraro all the best.

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