What Didn’t Stay in Vegas – Highlights of NamesCon 2015

What happens in Vegas…and you know the rest of the world-famous ad slogan about Sin City. But when it comes to NamesCon, which has arguably (and rapidly) become one of the domain industry’s most important annual gatherings, the entire conference is designed to be shared in ne arly real time on the Internet.

This year’s NamesCon conference, held at the Tropicana in Las Vegas, featured plenty of standard fare, from keynotes by industry leaders and deep dives into hot topics, to interactive panels with professionals from both inside and outside the domain industry. A few highlights of the conference are covered below.

What was particularly notable about this year’s event is that it attracted almost 1,000 attendees from around the world, up from roughly 600 in 2014, the first year the conference was held. One could place a reasonably safe bet that 2015 will be the last year this conference sees fewer than a thousand attendees. The rapid growth in attendance is likely driven by mounting interest in the new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) of the sort Rightside and other domain name services companies were there to discuss and/or promote.

Throughout the week, a consistent theme emerged around gTLDs being on the cusp of being embraced and adopted by the population at large. Interestingly, the most enthusiastic fan of new gTLDs, Howard Lefkowitz, former CEO of Vegas.com and current CEO of online travel company One Degree World, hails from well outside the world of domainers. Howard likened legacy extensions such as .COM and .NET to the original Big Three television networks—with new extensions, from .XYZ to our own .ROCKS, being akin to the upstart cable networks that eventually knocked the Big Three off the media throne they’d enjoyed for decades. “The biggest lie is the one you tell yourself,” Howard cautioned from the stage at the event’s biggest and splashiest keynote, encouraging those present to acknowledge the wave of change that’s coming to the Internet and to get out in front of it. Howard spent a good deal of time describing how all the many websites under development by his team at One Degree World are being built exclusively on new gTLDs, primarily .BUZZ, .VEGAS, and Rightside’s .NINJA. (You can see the first of the batch to launch, and our personal favorite, at www.Vegas.ninja.)

Echoing the theme in his keynote on Tuesday, Donuts VP Dan Schindler reminded conference-goers that “use begets use.” As more recognizable businesses and high-profile people utilize new gTLDs, we can expect more domains to gain mainstream popularity. (An example of that we’re most excited about is digital evangelist Guy Kawasaki’s use of www.artof.social, the companion site to his new book, titled The Art of Social.)

Excitement for new gTLDs was also in evidence at the live domain-name auction at NamesCon. Out of the 87 domains that sold, only 21 were .COMs. The auction sold $990,851 worth of domains.

From panels to breakouts to the jam-packed (and usually noisy) exhibitor hall, this year’s NamesCon exuded optimism about what’s in store for new gTLDs in 2015. There is a lot of work ahead for the domain industry to increase gTLD awareness and adoption, but if the enthusiasm on display at NamesCon was an indicator, plenty of smart people are at the tables placing bets on this year being a big one for the program.

To see the best stuff shared via social media at the event, check out www.NamesCon.social, built in partnership with the social-engagement experts at Parllay. Here are a couple of our favorite tweets:

Tweet from Tony Kirsh

I’ve left #namescon even more positive that 2015 will be the year of the #ICANN #NewTLDs. Our patience WILL be rewarded industry friends.

— Tony Kirsch (@TonyKirsch_ARI) January 15, 2015

Tweet from Mike Sallese

Truly great & memorable experience at my first #domain conference- the whole #namescon team did an awesome job! Thx! pic.twitter.com/f5AbiRncPq

— Mike Sallese (@mikesallese) January 15, 2015

And congratulations to Michele Neylon on winning the coveted domain.ninja contest!

Tweet from Michele Neylon

Remember the @namedotcom domain competition at #NamesCon ? Apparently I won! :-)

— Michele Neylon (@mneylon) January 17, 2015

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