No Clear Favorite Emerging in Legal Domains Market
One of my more popular posts was a longish look at domain name registrations by large law firms in the new(ish) .law top-level domain.
A relevant development occurred several weeks ago, when several federal legislators complained that a proposed .cpa top-level domain should not be operated in a manner that allows any member of the public to register a domain name in the .cpa space.
The congressmen, in a letter to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (PDF), argued that open registration of domain names in the .cpa top-level domain would create an unreasonable risk to the public. They want restrictions in .cpa along the lines of those proposed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, one of several applicants for the .cpa domain. Basically, the legislators want domain name sellers to verify the credentials of registrants in top-level domains associated with regulated industries and to limit registrations to credentialed applicants (licensed doctors in .doctor, licensed lawyers in .lawyer, veterinarians in .vet, et cetera).
ICANN has already rejected this argument — for .cpa and for many other domains targeting other professions and highly regulated industries. So far, so good within the legal profession. Lawyers today can choose among several inexpensively priced domains for use in their marketing campaigns.
As you can see from the table below, the .lawyer, .legal, and .attorney domains — all wide open — are competing well against a restricted .law domain operated by Minds + Machines Group. Competition seems to be keeping registration fees low, even in the relatively pricey .law domain, which cut registration fees in half since launching in 2015.
|Domain||Domain Type||Registrations||Registration Fee||Renewal Fee|
It’s difficult to see a clear winner among this group. Not included, of course, are the freely available commercial standard .com, and .pro, a domain that accepts registrations from “professionals” of all sorts. Still more competition could be coming from Google, which owns the right to sell domain names in the .esq top-level domain.
Looking over the zone files for the new law-related domains just now, two types of registrations pop out: defensive registrations and exact match domains. Low prices make these strategies possible.
Other Restricted Domains Still Pricey
Contrast the legal profession’s situation with the banking and pharmacy industries, where the best new offerings are restricted domains that are priced quite high.
For example, domains names in the .pharmacy top-level domain, operated by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, cannot be registered without an extensive application process. Domains in .pharmacy are selling for $1,049 (with an additional $975 annual website review fee). Two hundred seventy-one .pharmacy domains have been registered.
In the financial services sector, fTLD Registry Services also requires applicants for .bank and .insurance domain names to undergo an application process as well. Domain names in .bank cost $850. The .bank top-level domain has 2,812 registrations. In .insurance, 207 domains have been registered at $800 each.
It’s interesting to speculate why .bank and .pharmacy have been willing to keep prices so high, while .law (apparently) was forced to respond to competition from cheaper, open top-level domains. Perhaps the situation would be different if the American Bar Association, or a coalition of state bar associations, had been able to acquire rights operate the .law domain. Right now here’s no compelling business reason to law firms to move their operations to .law, and no strong regulator to coerce them in that direction either.