With the LandRush for the .Co just a little over a month away, we got this exclusive interview with Juan Diego Calle who is the CEO of .CO Internet S.A.S., the company which is operating the registry for the ccTLD.
Juan, thanks for taking the time to educate myself and my readers on the .CO extension.
1. Tell us a little about yourself and your career background.
A: I was born in Columbia and come from a very entrepreneurial family. We moved to the US when I was fairly young and by the time I got to high school, it was clear I was going to follow the entrepreneurial path myself. My first real business was installing stereos from the garage of my parents’ house for friends from school who wanted 10, 12 or 15 inch speakers installed in their cars. The work was fun — and some of the projects so complex that they helped to get me into engineering school for college. At the age of 22, I started my first Internet company – a search-advertising network for Latin America called TeRespondo. We had a wild ride – with incredible ups and downs and we managed to survive the bubble by the skin of our teeth! The company started growing fairly quickly in 2003 and we sold it to Yahoo in early 2005. PPC had become the big thing for Yahoo and Google so it felt like the right time for us to exit. After that, I went back to business school and started contemplating my next career move. It wasn’t long before I started to focus my time and energy on investments in domain-related ventures. Through my new company, STRAAT Investments, I began acquiring and developing valuable “virtual real estate” — like FederatedTravel.com, which is a lead generator in the travel industry, where the underlying asset is a beautiful portfolio of generic geo-targeted hotel booking domain names. I guess you could say that I’ve been in love with the domain industry ever since.
2. How did you get started with the .CO registry and how did the new rollout evolve from the previous handling of the TLD.
A: Given my background and skills, I suppose I was the right person in the right place, at the right time.
Although the process to change the administration and liberalize the policies of the TLD started 10 years ago, I didn’t get fully involved until 2006. During that year a new law passed giving the Ministry of Communications regulatory oversight of the TLD and paving the way for a change in administration.
Seeing that things would soon change, I started investing in a small portfolio of .COM.CO domains with significant development value. However, in the process of doing that I learned a lot about the process and it became clear that we could add significant value if awarded the registry contract. While large industry players from around the world were hovering around the terrain, we happened to have a strong local presence, domain industry experience, investment capital, and a proven track record of running a multi-national Internet company.
Between 2006 and 2008, the Ministry held several public forums to determine the fate of the TLD and the outcome was a new Administration Policy, finally approved in July 2008. To implement it, the government published an extensive RFP in early 2009. We responded to it with Neustar under a new joint-venture called .CO Internet S.A.S. Neustar would run the technical operations and we would administer and market the TLD.
In August of 2009, after presenting a 1,165 page bid, .CO Internet S.A.S. was awarded the contract to serve as the designated Administrator for the .CO ccTLD for the next ten years. While we were up against formidable adversaries, our competitive advantage came from the strong sense of national pride that fueled our team to work 24×7 for months on end to make it happen.
On February 7th, 2010, the transition from the previous administrator was completed – safely, securely. I’m very proud of how smooth the transition was – and I think it’s a great testament to the technical and operational capacity of our team.
3. In your marketing of this extension, some are calling this “the biggest launch since .com”… What are your thoughts and the reasoning why you think .CO will be huge.
A: It’s exciting to see those comments and judging by pre-registrations, it is shaping up to be very significant. I’m not sure .CO will be the biggest considering we are working hard to keep the space clean (the irony!), but we are marketing it to a much broader audience as compared to previous TLD launches. You may have seen our marketing at domain related events and websites – that group represents only 5% of our total media spend in 2010.
As to why it will be big: I think there’s tangible demand for a global, recognizable, and credible TLD. A decent domain, critical to online success, is nonexistent – or simply too expensive for today’s entrepreneurs to afford. This is where we believe .CO will thrive – in this new era of the Internet that millions of new Internet users around the world are flocking to daily. We like to call this “The .CO Era”.
4. What do you say to those who think that .CO’s value is just as a typo?
A: I certainly appreciate the interest we have from people that know what a “typo” is. But, those are not the customers that will make this extension successful in the long term.
In the offline world, the two simple letters “CO” are recognized the world over to mean company and/or corporation. In the online world, more than 20 countries currently use .CO in their third level TLD designation (e.g., .co.uk, .co.il, .co.jp, etc.). In essence, before investing a single dollar in marketing, .CO is already meaningful and recognizable – in multiple languages and cultures.
With that in mind, our customers are the millions of people around the world coming online for the first time that need a global, recognizable, and credible branding option for their online presence. Or those who have had to settle for sub-par domain names and are excited to get a second chance to get the names of their choice.
Long term, we are targeting people with dreams, ideas or content they want to share with the world – whether based in the US, India, Brazil, China, Russia – or anywhere else – that need a global TLD instead of something local. We’re also interested in the companies that already have a local ccTLD presence, but now want to extend their brand to have a global footprint. For them – .CO is a great complement to their existing local website.
If you add these up, you have a tremendous market – “typo” or not.
5. What do you say to those who think that .co is just .cm all over again?
A: I’d say the facts tell a different story. Other than both starting with the letter “C” – there is really nothing in common between .CO and .CM.
Product, team, technology, marketing, distribution; there really isn’t much to compare.
6. Some legitimate domainers might look for typo traffic from generic, non trademark terms say eduction.co or insurance.co for example what are your thoughts ?
A: As long as the rights of brand owners are not being infringed, we do not have an opinion on the factors that investors should or shouldn’t consider when buying .CO domains.
As a personal note, I would encourage domain investors to go after names that have development or branding value way beyond their traffic potential. I believe registering names from the primary market for purposes of traffic is the equivalent of playing poker with your eyes closed. Only a few individuals out there have access to the data necessary to make the right acquisitions during a launch. Publicly available data is largely inaccurate. Hence, I can’t stress this enough: Unless you know what you’re doing, don’t waste your money!
7. What measures is the registry taking to protect large trademark holders from having their domains squatted on such as Verizon.co, Dell.co and Google.co?
A: Essentially, we are implementing most things ICANN and the IRT have been debating for years in its new gTLD process. As a ccTLD we have the benefit of being able to cherry pick and modify to our specific needs – keeping the interests of the TM community, legitimate investors, and those of end users aligned. Obviously, the end goal is to deter security threats such as phishing and pharming, making the space safer and more valuable to all those involved.
If you’re a TM attorney and want to learn more, visit us during INTA – http://www.cointernet.co/INTA
8. What about “country risk? What’s the risk of the new policy changing, the government changing, the government passing rules or restrictions on the extension?
A: I’d encourage anyone who is concerned about “country risk” to read up on Colombia and its history over the last 50 years. There is no doubt that in the past we’ve had our share of security threats due to the drug war – but that issue is largely behind us and the risk today is minimal. In fact, the investment and political climate are incredibly strong! Today, Colombia is thriving thanks to international trade, innovation and strong democratic leadership. The US, Israel, and the UK, are all countries facing significant security threats (albeit for different reasons) — yet they all enjoy strong government institutions. Colombia today is absolutely the same.
The decision to make .CO available as a global TLD was not taken lightly. The government conducted a thorough review process in its decision to provide the .CO ccTLD to the global community as an “open-ccTLD”. Actually, the question was considered and debated for more than ten years – reflecting the government’s intention to make the move thoughtfully and in a sustainable way.
As an added level of protection, an Advisory Committee that is comprised of international, government and business leaders will oversee all policy matters relating to the .CO domain. The initial concession contract to .CO Internet SAS will last for 10 years, expiring in 2020, with an option to renew for another 10.
Michael, I hope you will invite me back for another interview 10 years from now, as we are getting ready to complete our first successful term as the administrator of .CO!
9. What makes this different than .biz, .info, .mobi .me, .tel or any other TLD?
A: The TLDs you mentioned all enjoy specific niche markets – which is great if that’s what you need for your online branding. .CO is different in that it is more general in meaning and is not niche specific. It’s a globally meaningful, memorable and broadly applicable domain platform.
Beyond having a good product, we are also launching a multi-million dollar global marketing and communications campaign to help drive demand by educating small business owners, web developers and entrepreneurs about leveraging .CO to build their business or brand online. For example, check out: Pitch.co
These aspects, coupled with broad distribution through the largest and most well respected registrars are significant points of distinction.
10. Can you briefly talk about the domains that existed in the prior TLD administration.
A: We inherited 28,000 domains from the previous administration. All were third level domains such as domain.com.co and domain.net.co. Given the policy restrictions of the past, most were company names or trademarks.
We will continue operating and marketing these names to a local audience. However, as was done in other countries, the new policy gave existing 3rd level registrants (prior to July 2008) priority to register the 2nd level equivalent. Because of this, about 4,000 names were “grandfathered” during March of 2010.
11. Some domainers have raised the issue that some valuable generics have already been registered. How is that?
A: After the new law passed in 2006 a new administration policy was clearly imminent and people started registering third level domains hoping to one day get the second level version. From that point until July of 2008, there was a speculative “landrush” where approximately 1,500 valuable generic terms were registered. It’s a small number because the policy restrictions were extremely complex and the registrations costs very high. Specifically, you could register generic terms if you had a trademark or matching company name.
As I mentioned in your second question, that is in fact how I became involved in this process.
12. Can you talk briefly about the rollout. You have Sunrise that is opened now, how can one apply for it and what documentation do they need. Then comes Landrush which is pretty much a priority service. If you’re the only applicant during Landrush you get the domain. What happens if there is more than one Landrush application for the domain?
A: We put in place a very structured Launch Plan in an effort to make sure there is a stable and orderly distribution of domain names. The plan starts with a comprehensive Sunrise period for trademark holders, a Landrush period for those interested in names of high commercial value, and finally General Availability.
Global Sunrise began on April 23rd and continues through June 10th. Trademark holders within valid jurisdictions can apply for exact match domain names. Trademark applications will be validated by Deloitte and multiple applications for the same domain name will be resolved at auction. To apply for a domain name during Sunrise, you need to submit evidence of ownership of a trademark of national effect from any country in the world. Evidentiary requirements are higher for generic terms and dictionary words.
Then, Landrush will be held from June 21st through July 10th. Anyone can apply for a domain name of high commercial value during this time. Single applications will be awarded at the end of the Landrush period and matching applications will be resolved at auction.
General availability will begin on July 20th, 2010 on a first-come, first-served basis.
If you’re interested in all the rules, you can download the Launch & Registration Rules here.
13. Those who have pre-reserved general registration domains will be out of luck if someone puts a landrush application on the name correct?
14. On pre-registrations each registrar seems to be only accepting one application per domain is this correct?
A: Every registrar has its’ own business practices and procedures. I can’t say for certain whether this is true with every registrar – although I do know for many registrars it seems to be the case. It certainly makes good sense to manage the process in this way.
15. Which registrars are currently taking pre registrations?
A: We are working with ten core accredited .CO registrars, and their respective reseller networks. Our ten core partners include: GoDaddy.com, Register.com, NetworkSolutions.com, Dotster.com, eNomCentral.com, Tucows (OpenSRS.com), MelbourneIT.com, United Internet (1and1.com & InternetX.com), and two local registrars in Colombia – Mi.com.co and ClickPanda.com.co. These Registrars have committed to following international best practices to ensure the integrity and value of the name space for all who participate.
Some of the registrars that are reselling .CO domain names in our extended network are Mark Monitor, CSC, DomainMonster, Key-Systems and Moniker, to name just a few.
Most are taking pre-registrations already and aggressively marketing .CO domains – including featuring .CO on their homepages.
16. What’s your vision for .CO? What should we expect to see in 5, 10, 20 years?
A: In the long term, I’m confident that it will become the world’s leading domain extension in terms of new registrations.
Keep in mind that during the next decade, most Internet growth will come from outside the US and .CO is perfectly positioned for that because of its global significance.
From a marketing standpoint, we’ll be working hard to position .CO amongst the fastest growing Internet markets around the world as a platform for secure Internet commerce and 21st century innovation.
17. Finally, this is a topic of particular interest to domain investors: Will .CO’s be treated differently by Google/Yahoo in the SERPS?
A: There is a lot of misinformation about this subject matter so I’m glad you’ve brought it up.
It boils down to this: Google/Yahoo and search engines in general, do not determine the policy aspects or intended use of a specific TLD. The governing body that has oversight for the TLD determines it.
Therefore, if there are in fact algorithmic weights applied towards extension types (whatever they may be), we’ll be working with the relevant parties so that they are not in conflict with the intended use for .CO. We are certainly not the first ones to face this issue and are working to ensure our registrants don’t face issues here.
Juan we wish you the best of luck for a successful launch and operation of the registry.
Jim Holleran says
I met these guys at DomainFest in January and they hosted a great party the first night and are great people.
However, .co (IMO) is worth taking a risk on for only top spanish words, like
Juegos.co, Musica.co, Peliculas.co, etc. And only expect that traffic to mostly come from Colombia.
Also, it will get typo traffic as well like .cm so speculators might do OK on that front but that’s not my thing. Good luck to .co and people who invest
though. Maybe it will pick up steam like .es is for Spain within the next couple of years.
M. Menius says
First, good interview. Actually a great interview, very specific questions.
I’m not that familiar with their marketing campaign, but glad they understand the importance of it because it WILL be required in order to establish a broad-based footprint.
One small point of disagreement with Juan (and I may be proven wrong), but he described .co as not a niche extension … but being rather broad. That was not my initial reaction when I learned of .co. The association with “company”, “corporate” (assuming the masses make that connection) makes me think more of an established company’s website like FordMotor.co, or Google.co. Maybe an address I might visit to learn of job positions within the company. Conversely, something generic in front of it like Hotels.co, or Apartments.co, leaves me wondering what would I find on a site like that.
Anyway, best of luck to Juan. Sounds like .co have tried hard to learn from the mistakes of past rollouts of other tld’s.
I think there are a ton of businesses that would like to be known using a generic domain like plumbing.co, construction.co, computer.co or hosting.co.
99% of the multi-billions users/multi-billion$ iPad/iPhone-like markets will use LCD displays says
the prices to register a .co are too high to see millions of .com owners buy the .co version but some people with lots of cash will surely buy many of the best generic .co domains
99% of the multi-billions users/multi-billion$ iPad/iPhone-like markets will use LCD displays says
about pitch.co … the site has one of the best graphics seen but I feel hard to win the single $50,000 prize … it’s best to have (e.g.) TEN $10,000 prizes
.CO has every right to exist as ccTLD and a specific gTLD as well. It certain.ly has a market or two. All will depend on how they are going to develop it. If they can sell it in China – expect a big boom indeed. If they do something similar to .jobs or .cm – no one will be talking .co, this is how it all works.
Steve M says
Congrats on the nice interview, Mike; and your time, thoughts, wishes, and dreams, Juan.
That said, these are by-and-large the same new-extension arguments we hear over and over and over again:
“We’re/this one’s different.” “We’re going to spend millions marketing & supporting it.” “Trust us; the rules won’t change.” “The future’s great.”
But in the end, the market will prove such pronouncements wrong again . . . with .co proving to be a wonderful extension . . . but only for companies doing business w/in Columbia itself.
iPod Accessories says
Thanks for sharing this info. Would a .co domain rank just like a .com, .net or .org general domain? or it would rank only in Colombia?
Is there a risk that the Colombian Gov’t would some time in the future decite to change rules and take away all domains .co ? How are the owners of .co domains protected against such a scenario?
Good point Don!
Also there is huge conflict of interest already exposed – one fo the .co Directors (and his family) already adquired some of the premium names , he candily admitted that, same goes for registrar employees.
Juan Diego Calle says
@ Jim Hollerman – Thanks!
@ Me Genius – Thanks also! You bring up an interesting point on the matter of niche vs. broad. We feel that starting a business (or company) is a fairly broad interest within the internet community. But I can also see how you’ve interpreted this as niche.
That said, notice that we are NOT expressly saying that it means “company” in our branding – our tag line is “Create you Opportunity” which hopefully appeals to any type entrepreneur – whether they are thinking of starting a COmpany, a COmmunity, publishing COntent (blog), whatever it may be.
@ 99%…. – Glad you like the graphics. You might also appreciate the video on http://www.e.CO (I’m particularly happy with that one). To your point on the prizes, it’s hard to make a splash nowadays with 5 prizes @ $10k each. We went with $50k because it get’s peoples attention.
@ Brands-and-Jingles – Hopefully we’ll get it right…! 🙂
@ Steve M – I won’t try to make you a convert. 🙂 Btw, if you like domains for Colombia, look into .COM.CO. It’s widely trusted within the local community and there are plenty available (and cheaper). Registrations are growing at a decent pace.
@ iPod Accessories – Good question. Mike addressed that in question 17. We’ll be working with the major search engines so that they understand the policy changes in the administration of .CO. That’s IF in fact there are differences in how they rank based on extension.
My personal view (based on previous experience with SEO in our travel business) is that the overriding factor in ranking are the linking patterns. If you start a .ME site (a ccTLD) for your personal blog, and most of your links come from your friends in France, you’ll rank well in France. Not in Montenegro. A .CO site should be no different.
Particularly with the launch of new TLDs, and that ccTLDs throughout the world are being used in very creative ways for major sites, I think search engines will have to be (must be) extension agnostic to function properly.
@ Don – Another good question addressed in answer 8, but let me give you a different answer. Prior to investing in the registry (although I’m the CEO, I’m personally invested in the company as well), I asked myself that same question. Many times.
1) At a macro level, Colombia is very much reliant on international trade. 2) This has been a highly publicized & documented process involving international agencies (ICANN), large international players, publicly traded companies, etc. 3) From the very beginning, the RFP we answered positioned .CO in a global context. Put those 3 elements together and you quickly gain a sense of comfort that the Advisory Committee would not change the rules. Doing so is the equivalent of committing commercial suicide… not just for the registry, but in the broader context of the country’s public procurement efforts and international trade.
Other than taking the CEO role, that’s why I decided to invest in the Company.
@ DomainMan – No director and/or employee of the registry owns domains other than me. As I mentioned in the Interview (question 2) that is how I became involved in the process and then decided to go after the registry contract. Had I not invested early in space, I probably wouldn’t be in my current role – I’m quite happy I did.
Juan , thanks for your quick answers.
I have another question what is your policy regarding premium domain names like one-word domains like CAR.CO for example
Sponsoring Registrar RESTRICTED AND RESERVED NAMES .COINTERNET
Sponsoring Registrar IANA ID 672943168
Registrar URL (registration services) http://www.cointernet.com.co
Domain Status inactive
Registrant ID RESERVEDNAME3
Registrant Name Restricted and Reserved Names .CO Internet SAS
Registrant Organization .CO Internet S.A.S.
What is your policy regarding such domains? Are they gonna be auctioned or sold thru landrush?
Juan Diego Calle says
Premium domains will be sold through auction or at a premium fixed price at a later date. Compared to other launches, our list of premium domains + grandfathered domains is relatively small (+/- 5,000). Many great names will be available for General Availability. The original .TV and .ME premium lists contained approximately 25,000 names.
If you are interested in all the rules, read the Launch and Registration Rules. The link is available in question 12 above.
.LY of course! says
.ME had much less than 5k premium words. Many were system or so called reserved names.
Juan Diego Calle says
@ .LY of course! Ah …interesting. Seems like they do have a similar number (my bad). Do you have the info for other launches? – juan AT cointernet.co
Btw, your site is pretty cool.
MOST premium domains are either reserved or owned by InterNetX.
Im curious how did InternetX come into possesion of thoose domains?
I think it could be the next big extension. I wish you well with it Juan.
Stuart Snyder says
we respect your vision and forsight..What a fabulous opportunity to Brand your industry or product…I see this as 6 stars….and wish you well!
Juan Diego Calle says
@ Alan InternetX (United Internet) is one of our accredited registrars. If you see them in WHOIS for a specific name, it’s probably in the line that says “Sponsoring Registrar”.
If it’s reserved by the registry for auction or some other form of sale, it will be labeled as “Reserved Name – .CO Internet SAS” (for example: car.co).
For more info on premium names that are already registered, see question 10 & 11.
@ Bjorn & @ Stuart Snyder: Thanks for the positive note!
Thanks for the response.One last question, when will .CO domains be avalible for use?I mean as in actually putting content on them?
For example if i participated in the Landrush phase will I have access to my domain sooner than July 20th(General Registration)?
As soon as the corresponding stage is over – unless your domain goes into an auction in the case of Sunrise or Landrush. For GA, they go live immediately.
In April I applied for 4 domain names Car.co, TEA.co, Fish.co and ABC.co for the Landrush fee through GoDaddy
Now back in April Godaddy’s system allowed me to register for those(now they changed it and it doesnt allow applying for ‘reserved’ .co names).
Sure they knew they belonged to the so called ‘reserved’ list from the .CO registry.
Now they say they cannot go ahead and apply for them on my behalf and refunded the money less the $10 application fee.
I’m not happy with that. I find it not fair. Because they KNEW you wouldnt be apply to apply on my behalf for these names in the first place yet they allowed me and other people to pre-register these names and charged big money for them, kept the money all this time and then just refunded it keeping the $10 per each.
I am sure there’re many people who were misled by GoDaddy’s system allowing to apply for these names back in April and then rejecting these applications based on the fact they were on the some reserved list
Juan, can you tell me if this practice by GoDaddy was legal, sure they knew you had a reserved list? I want either get those names or get the full refund
Awaiting your reply
Thanks for your note. We have actually been investigating this case since you first sent it in to our support email a day or two ago.
In the case of TEA.co and ABC.co, those were registered as part of one of the previous stages (Grandfathering or Sunrise). Naturally, they are no longer available for Landrush or GA. In terms of refunds, each registrar treats these cases differently depending on their terms and conditions.
In the case of FISH.co and CAR.co, those two have been in our Premium List since April. They require further investigation on my part so I’ll provide feedback by email later this afternoon.
Jim Fleming says
“I think there are a ton of businesses that would like to be known using a generic domain like plumbing.co, construction.co, computer.co or hosting.co.”
In the 1990s, people claimed… “There would NEVER be a Domain Industry”
Still, in 2010, people claim there is no interest in new TLDs
Very Interesting – This Blog edits comments ?
Yes the blog edited comments, and also blocks comments
We don’t allow people to offer domains for sale on the blog, its a blog not a forum and we don’t allow people to post comments simply promoting their sites.
Your comment already has a hot key back to your site, so you can’t end every post by putting a link in back to your site.
Interesting…what do you do with the ZOOM:// Scheme URLs ?
Note: No .COM or any TLD
Common URI Scheme Names
…wonder why they are FREE and TLDs are $185,000 ?… or more
I have no idea of what your talking about
Simple rule, don’t put a link to your own site in the post for the pure purpose of self promotion
“for the pure purpose of self promotion”
Interesting… Did not know that TPS* had reached the .USA
*TPS – Tall Poppy Syndrome – Common in Australia, Canada and the UK
Australians also refer to it as… “Trimming the Poppies” they are masters at it
As for URI Scheme Names – Would you rather own HTTP:// or TV:// ?