At first, we wanted to publish an old-fashioned press release about a million-domain milestone, but in the end, we opted for something that was more in line with what we do and how we feel about .ME . That’s how this blog post came about! A million domains is still considered an outstanding achievement in the domain industry, but once you get there… yeah, I am not sure what happens next. What I wanted to show is what brought us here instead.
Yes, we have over a million domains in the registry. Yay! But, at the same time, some new domain extensions have already reached that magic number. So we thought, “Hmmm…Maybe a million domains is not really showing who we are. We are much more than that! The story on how we got there and what resolves across these million .ME domains is much more important! As they say, “It is what is on the inside that counts”. That’s also what I say to my kids if they are not the best in something they wanted to be the best at. 🙂
And there ARE some things that are more important than numbers. Our work is also about being recognized for certain values we promote, the image we nurture and about encouraging the development of high-quality content on .ME domains.
As I am in charge of reporting to the Board of Directors (read, data-obsessed and influenced by the wonderful wizard of Moz) I prepare regular reports and analyses for the Board of Directors. And I thought, since much of the reports we send contain really interesting data, why not share it with you too. On top of that, I am, we all are, a little bit too emotional about what we do so, I am going to share something more than data here. You have been warned! 🙂
And that is why a press release is not really us. Due to its restricted form it certainly cannot convey how we feel about our first million or .ME. And that’s why I wrote this, rather unconventional, post. I divided it into sections so you can skip some parts and read the others, or just read everything if you really want to:
1. The Domain Market
Year 2015 will be remembered as a start of a new domain revolution. Hundreds of new domain extensions opened up for registrations. The goal was to diversify the market and give different options and opportunities to people who want to register something new. It was in many ways similar to what we were doing – explaining the usage, working on creativity and encouraging people to express themselves online, get personal and stand out from the crowd.
At this point, there are around 1000 different domain extensions you can choose from (don’t worry about the exact number, it changes). More than 16 million new domains have been registered to add to the pool of the existing 130 million domains…Maybe it’s time we ask ourselves “How diverse is too diverse?”
This year, many companies in our industry went public. Some of them got crazy investments and, as everybody knows, a lot of them will fail to meet the expectations. Some of them are already failing. We probably won’t see a huge crash of domain name industry, but many will not survive. The ones that will survive are those who think long-term, who invest in new markets, who follow the tech evolution and who work on increasing the demand and educating users. Not the ones who look just for the short-term gain. So, yes, we are definitely seeing more competition in the market. As always there is some healthy competition and some that may be described as disturbing. Hi everybody!
As a team, we are very good in some areas and quite bad in others. We struggle with the corporate culture, but we are proud of our team spirit. We are transparent and we speak openly on who we are, although the information we give sometimes gets misinterpreted or manipulated with. We feel bad about it, but we still speak our mind, and often get our brain picked.
We think that, in the near future, the demand for personal domains will dramatically increase, which means that, literally, billions of people will need a domain of their own. If social media services such as Facebook have more than a billion users, and they are the first step in controlling our online brands, isn’t it expected that people will want to take step forward and get a platform of their own? That may not happen so soon, as only half of the world has Internet, but the demand will definitely grow. We plan to be there when it happens.
2. Focus on the Consumer
We decided to accept the notion that the domain might not be the most interesting thing in the world and that it is difficult to get people excited about it. So we tried to make .ME interesting and explain why everyone needs one.
But there are the steps we’ve done before we started weaving our story:
- We defined three different groups of people (so called “personas”) – who would need a domain.
- After we found them, we talked to them, and crafted a message for every and each one of them.
- Then, we partnered with different companies to help us deliver the message. Together we came up with the story about our domain and dived into the wonderful world of SEO to make sure that our website is consistent with the story.
- Finally, we worked on the flow of our website. We wanted people that came form search engines to encounter a seamless experience – from reading our blog to searching for a perfect domain and registering it with our registrar partners. It feels like greeting a curious young lady at the entrance of your handbag shop, presenting the models you have, and wishing her goodbye after she finds the perfect one.
Marketing is not just advertising. Education is marketing. Support is marketing. Organizational culture is marketing. Values are marketing. That’s what we came to understand. We measure everything. We make adjustments. And we try to get better at that each and every day.
3. The Numbers
Everything we do in terms of promotion and education can be described in numbers.
This simple graph describes our growth. Looks impressive, right? This is how our portfolio increased since .ME’s launch in 2008. I will leave it here, as I really think it doesn’t need any further explanation.
Or it almost doesn’t. There is one thing that impressively stands out. You see that spike in October (and November)? It’s what we call “the China Giant Awakening”.
4. The Change in Geographical Distribution – the China Giant Awakening
Since September 2015 .ME domains have become very popular in China. According to some sources .ME is the fourth most popular domain in China. It’s not only about numbers of domains registered but also about the usage. What makes us proud is that you can see food-delivery bikes with ele.me’s logo around Beijing. Chinese men buy flowers to their girlfriends through songhua.me website. Chinese people are starting to understand and accept the idea of personal branding online promoted by the .ME domain.
Can you imagine how it feels when you go to a distant land and you see your product being used there? You are overwhelmed with pride and sense of accomplishment. So overwhelmed that you are too slow to pick up the phone and take a photo…
5. The Dark Side of The Growth – Spam
You see, domains are often seen as real estate. You buy land to build a house in a good neighborhood and expect that the value is going to increase. However, if you buy land and build a house in what turns out to be a bad neighborhood, you might end up doing everything you can to get rid of it.
We are obsessed with the quality of our neighborhood. We think the only value that counts in the long term is a good neighborhood. The better the neighborhood, the more land people buy (and eventually start building bigger houses). Most importantly, we want our users to feel safe in the .ME neighborhood and that is why we have a neighborhood watch from the day one.
That means that we are actively suspending domains that are being marked as spam. These domains are not active anymore. We lost those customers. We won’t see them renewing our domain, or registering new ones. That was a choice that affected our bank account, but it’s a long-term choice we are proud of.
6. The .ME Team – the More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same
We have established our values years ago. We have built our team around those values. We think that the digital age is the right time to express our personality and take control of our online reputation. We want to help students feature their skills and accomplishments online, encourage bloggers to create content on platforms they own and assist entrepreneurs in building a memorable brand for their business.
And yes, as a team we do make mistakes and even sometimes keep stubbornly repeating them because we believe the results will change for the better. Here, I am speaking about our trust in existence of certain kind of people and certain kind of companies. On the other side, sometimes we are smart and we learn and I think we have the best partners and the best peoples to work with.
The market changed a lot, but we stayed the same, confident in what we are doing and in what we want to achieve.
We are a team of 5 + 1, meaning 5 in Montenegro, 1 in California. We are a team of 4 + 2 meaning, 4 girls and 2 boys. And we are also a team of 250+, if we account for a bunch of partners that helped us on our road to success. That’s right, we consider our partners a part of our team. and we love our similarities and our differences.
We are all defined by our values.
Nurturing The True Value of .ME
In an everlasting search for the higher cause we do not choose between the dollar value and real value. We believe that the dollar value will come after we invest in real value. The million domains we have demonstrate it the best.
And I promised some data. So here it is, all nicely packed in the infographic below. (I love infographics!)