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Consumers Don't Trust .ninja and Other Newfangled Domains

There has been a rash of new domain names lately—everything from .ninja to .rocks to .london. But consumers don’t seem to like the new nomenclature: Over half of them (52%) express discomfort in visiting websites ending in new domains.

According to research from NCC Group’s Trust in the Internet Study 2016, carried out by IDG Research in the UK and US, attitudes to the fresh generic top-level domains (gTLDs) can only be described as wary. The lack of trust of the domains represents a big increase on last year (49%); and just 2% of consumers in the survey claim to be extremely comfortable visiting them.

ICANN—the organization responsible for the management of the domain system—has been rolling out new domain endings since October 2014, in response to the existing range of .com, .net, .org and .gov internet addresses being used up. Following 1,930 applications, more than 900 are now live on the Internet, with users able to visit sites ending in the likes of .club and .rocks.

A study from Cloudmark last year showed that surfers have a reason to uneasy: The research shows that the cheaper the domain registration, the more likely it is to be abused by spammers, with free TLDs being almost entirely used for spam. Two outliers for this rule are .science, which is attractive to spammers because it sounds reputable, and .xxx which is attractive to spammers because it sounds disreputable.

“Trust in the new domain endings is getting worse,” said Rob Cotton, CEO at NCC Group. “This will put organizations off from moving on from legacy domains, which is a problem for registries whose businesses hinge on selling them. If the new endings are to be successful, they need to somehow establish a reputation of trustworthiness.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the NCC survey shows that consumers are most comfortable with .brand domains such as .hsbc.

“.brand domains are faring the best when it comes to consumer perception, but there aren’t enough currently being used for this trend to continue,” Cotton said. “Doing nothing isn’t really an option as this comfort will erode through lack of use. For the generic domains the message is clear: you need to differentiate on more than just the name, otherwise consumers are very wary.”

There were some factors that increased confidence in new domains. Half of consumers felt more confident if companies clearly communicated the steps taken to secure personal data, while 46% said a branded logo indicating the site was safe would boost confidence.

Cotton continued: “Security is clearly an important issue for consumers. While ‘secure’ logos have in the past proved to be nothing more than logos, the appetite for them from respondents shows that companies need to do more to show that the safeguarding of customer data is front of mind.”

Photo © Malchev

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