National Association of Realtors Sees Slow Uptake of .realtor Domains

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By / Mar 30, 2015
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Registrations for .realtor domain names have declined, but the low level of interest could point to larger issues with how generic top-level domains are being created and marketed to consumers.

More than four months after the National Association of Realtors (NAR) announced that it would offer its members .realtor top-level domains, few Realtors have taken advantage of the exclusive perk.

NAR instituted the .realtor domain benefit, along with a variety of extras, in the hopes that it would set apart its licensed real estate agents and provide them with professional clout.

“When consumers visit a .realtor website they will know that they have reached a source of comprehensive and accurate real estate information, as well as someone with unparalleled insight into the local market,” NAR President Steve Brown said in a statement last August.

However, the number of .realtor domain-name registrations has plateaued at about 95,000 since they first became available, far below the 500,000 personalized domains that the organization had planned to offer.

A poll conducted by Inman last year indicated that more than eight out of 10 readers of the real estate news site planned to apply for their own .realtor domains, suggesting that, in theory, 800,000 new websites could have been registered.

NAR has a ways to go before it reaches anywhere near that number. At the current rate of registration—around 60 registrations per day, according to Inman—it would take NAR 18 years to give away its 500,000 .realtor domain names, according to nTLDstats data.

Part of the problem could lie in the restrictions that NAR places on the use of these top-level domains, according to Inman. Users must follow NAR’s business rules [PDF] in registering domain names, limiting their creative options.

And the .realtor name and concept don’t appeal to everyone. Last fall, Inman contributor Teresa Boardman wrote a column, “Why I Don’t Want To Be a .Realtor”, in which she argued that “[t]he domain names are more about real estate, not about me.”

“I never wanted to be part of a big national company,” Boardman explained. “I always wanted to be the local real estate agent helping others in the community.”

Despite the lull in .realtor registrations, NAR remains optimistic that the offer will entice more members. NAR Spokeswoman Sara Wiskerchen told Inman that the association is “pleased with the number of .realtor registrations, which are going well and higher than expected.

“We anticipated continued and steady growth after the initial rush of registrations, and believe that ongoing education and launching association and brokerage domains in the near future will keep .realtor front and center,” she added.

Top-Level Troubles

And it’s not just NAR that’s struggling to make its personalized domain names attractive to consumers; .realtor is only one name drowning in a sea of top-level domains that have yet to gain significant traction online.

One of the major issues is compatibility with existing devices and software. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is scrambling to adapt to the deluge of generic top-level domains cropping up online, from .pizza to .lol, Forbes reports.

“New types of domains and email addresses break stuff,” Brent London, Google’s representative in an ICANN working group, said at a meeting of the organization, according to Forbes. “Just to send an email from one person to another, you’d find yourself in a situation where an operating system, mail servers, routers, mail service providers, security software, all need to work properly.”

Speaking at the domain-names industry conference NamesCon 2015, Akram Atallah, former chief operating officer of ICANN and current president of its global domains division, explained the roadblocks preventing generic top-level domains from flourishing.

“New [gTLD] registries are still trying to find their footing,” Atallah said, according to The Register. “We are seeing a lot of new entrants.”

Additionally, big brands are also waiting on the sidelines for others to get in on the domain-name game. Generic top-level domains are a complicated new territory to navigate, and businesses may be hesitant to be pioneers of this form of digital marketing.

“This is a new way of doing things online so it’s mostly a competitive issue: A lot of them are sitting around the pool waiting for the first one to jump in,” Atallah said, as reported in The Register.

For now, all that associations can do is be patient as the technical difficulties and marketing challenges of top-level domains are ironed out. It could be awhile before .ninja is as wholly embraced as .com or .org.

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Julia Haskins is a contributor to Associations Now. More »